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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Colucci's Calls: Saratoga Review

Thoroughbred Blog 27 August 2011

by Ralph Colucci

We have been writing a lot about Slevin lately and that key race, The Noble Nashua Stakes – (Belmont Version) – 19 June 2011. Yesterday, Smokin Hero finally ran back in the 4th, The Easy N Dirty in the 4th Race at SAR whilst our dear Slevin took on what appeared to be a load of fringe Stakes runners in an N3X/OC $75k carrying a $75k tag as he didn’t fit the allowance conditions.

Smokin Hero ran very well to be third in the minor stake, driving into the lead on the inside off the turn but clearly needed the race as he was a bit empty in the stretch coming home for the 7f in about 1:22:4 on a track that was about 2 seconds slow for the sprints and a little slower for the middle distance races.

Slevin on the other hand turned in another superb effort in the 8th Race at SAR, his last for Richard Dutrow as Gary Contessa claimed him for $75k (he didn’t fit the condition so was in for the $75k OC tag). Going around the far turn, Slevin was closing on To Honor and Serve however when he got to within about a quarter of a length to To Honor and Serve, To Honor and Serve kicked into high gear to win by 8 lengths whilst Slevin hung tough to beat the rest of the field in a very respectable 1:49:4 on a track that had to be over two seconds slow around two turns..

Slevin turned out to be a very nice claim for Dutrow for $50k last October, banking about $115k in purses and $25k on the claim for a total of $140k gross however he may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater as Slevin can run on anything and still has from 15 to 27 months of racing in him before he turns 8YO. With only 25 lifetime starts the best indeed may be yet to come for new trainer Gary Contessa and this son of Belong to Me, at one time the toast of NY sires that actually drew mares from Kentucky to New York in his heyday, out of a Silver Deputy mare (hence his ability to run on anything including the Aqueduct Inner Dirt in winter).

If Contessa runs Slevin in 25 NY bred Stakes over the next 2 1/3 years, earnings of a million dollars are not out of the question once the NY slot machine money starts to roll in. you have to love the way this horse competes, getting up by a whisker in the slop last time, bounced around like a pinball in the Noble Nashua and still holding fourth. But the real story in this race was To Honor and Serve. Is Bill Mott losing his edge or his nerve? He is not having a typical 30+ % meet like he usually does at Saratoga.

Off since The Florida Derby at the beginning of April, To Honor and Serve obviously needed the Amsterdam. He came home for 9f yesterday in 1:48:3 on a track that had to be over two seconds slow around two turns. Coil, the M/L second choice for today’s $1mm Travers is coming off a win in the Gr1 9f Haskell in 1:48:1 where he was still running pretty green. How fast was the track at Monmouth on Haskell Day? Fast enough for Force Freeze, a sprinter of unknown ability, to go 6f in 1:07:3 at $16.50-1. Fast enough that the slowest 6f in a sprint, including claimers, starters & 1st level allowance was 1:09 & change while most were 1:08 & change. Fast enough that I think every single winner won in their fastest time ever whether on dirt or turf. Definitely a Zero-variant Day.

M/L favourite Stay Thirsty is coming of a victory in the Jim Dandy here at SAR July 30th in 1:48:3. How fast was the track that day? The DRF lists the variant as 06 (it rated Coil’s Haskell a 05, how, I’ll never understand) that saw a 2YO Giant’s Causeway colt break his Maiden first out at 6f in 1:10:1, $20k claimers going 5 1/2 f in 1:04 & change, F&M claimers going 81/2 f in 1:42 & change. Certainly a faster track than yesterday. We think Mott made a very poor decision. To Honor and Serve certainly deserved to run in the Travers which, had he done so, would have given Dutrow a winning send-off for Slevin, while To Honor and Serve would have likely gone off as one of the favorites, finished in the top 3 with a tremendous shot at winning $600k instead of the meager $34,200 he picked out of Slevin’s pocket yesterday. Congrats to Contessa to stepping up to the plate and dropping $75k on Slevin and shame on Mott denying To Honor and Serve the chance at the honor of winning the mid-summer Derby.

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