The good news is that last Saturday's third edition of the Sixty Minute Six produced a $3,749 payoff...despite the fact that the biggest win mutuel was $7.80. That's a heckuva price considering that all six were winners were the first or second choice.
The bad news is that this writer didn't have it. Didn't come close for that matter.
Can't understand it. Grouping six races from four Eastern racetracks within an hour time frame is a terrific concept. I just didn't have any success the first three weeks, and as we all know, that's gonna happen from time to time in this game.
The Sixty Minute Six is scheduled for every Saturday through at least August 30...so here's hoping for better days.
As pointed out in this space last week, the Sixty Minute Six folks were looking at trouble last week since three of the six races were scheduled for grass, and rain -- heavy rains -- was forecast for the Eastern seaboard.
And, sure enough, the rains came, and washed the three races off the grass to the dirt.
This game is tough enough without guessing who will run, who will scratch, and on what surface the races will be run.
The uncertainty was reflected in the betting handle. The total handle was $71,450, well short of the $100,000 guaranteed, meaning that the four participating tracks had to dig into their own pockets to make up the difference.
For the record, the six winners were Overextended ($7.80); Wilderness Trace ($7.60); Ambience ($7.40); Plea Bargain ($3.60); Max's First ($6.60), and O'Gulch ($6.20).
Speaking of chalk, did you notice what happened at Belmont Park over the weekend?
Eight favorites won Saturday, and six faves won on Sunday. That's 70 per cent for the two days. And, what's more, the faves won all of the Pick Six races on Saturday, producing a $301 payoff.
So, by comparison, that $3,749 payoff for the Sixty Minute Six was off the charts.
What's more, the first and second choices won all five of the graded stakes on Saturday at Hollywood Park.
And those races were something else!
First...Azul Leon circled the field from last under a hand ride to win the Hollywood Juvenile.
The son of Lion Heart, second to Smarty Jones in the '04 Kentucky Derby, flies the silks of Joseph LaCombe, who campaigned Horse of the Year Favorite Trick back in '97.
Wonder what Vegas is offering on Azul Leon in the '09 Derby futures.
Second...Zenyetta, despite trying to pull herself up when she made the lead, remained unbeaten with a surprisingly narrow victory over a troubled Tough Tiz's Sis in the Vanity Handicap.
Outside of Curlin, Zenyetta, the Apple Blossom winner, is the best racehorse in North America, but her connections don't want to run her against the boys. And the Breeders' Cup will present a problem because she wants no part of synthetic surfaces...and the Breeders' Cup will be run over a synthetic strip of some kind at Santa Anita.
Third...The CashCall Mile produced the best finish of any stake run thus far this year in the United States.
Ventura blew past Diamond Diva from the outside leaving the furlong pole, and opened up a half-length. But incredibly Diamond Diva re-rallied, and got up by the slimmest nose you'll ever see.
One of my biggest gripes is when the track announcer foolishly tries to call a finish that's too close to call. And, sure enough, in this case he called Ventura the winner.
As for the favorite, defending champion Lady of Venice, I guess she forgot to bring her running shoes from Long Island.
Fourth...Pure Clan, the pride of Oaklawn Park, and the first-ever California starter for trainer Bob Holthus, found a seam between horses in mid-stretch after looking hopelessly trapped, and shot through to win the American Oaks by a length and change.
"I guess," Holthus told me Monday morning, "...it took the folks in California 56 years to find a race I could win."
Pure Clan, a sweetheart of a filly, is now 6-for-9 and counting. Her only losses have been to Eight Belles (twice) and Proud Spell.
Trainer Holthus said that Pure Clan will be flown back to Kentucky on Tuesday, and then return to California for the Del Mar Oaks. She will then complete her season in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Keeneland, forgoing the Breeders' Cup.
"Pure Clan is better on grass than on dirt," Holthus said, "so we plan to keep her on the turf."
Last winter, owner Lewis Lakin sold a controlling interest in Pure Clan to IEAH, the same group that bought Kentucky Derby/Preakness winner Big Brown last Fall.
But obviously the IEAH boys don't have the same interest in Pure Clan that they have in Big Brown.
Mike Iavarone, the top honcho at IEAH, was on a cruise ship Saturday, and except for a lone California-based IEAH lady, no one from IEAH bothered to show up for the Oaks.
Also, you have to think the graded stakes committee would have to consider elevating Oaklawn's Fantasy Stakes from Grade 2 to Grade 1. After all, this year's running was only won by a filly named Eight Belles...and Pure Clan was third.
And, if you watched the Oaks on TVG, you heard Hall of Fame rider Chris McCarron say that Pure Clan was washed out going to the gate, and had no chance to win.
Evidently, enough folks were paying attention to Chris because Pure Clan dropped from favorite to second choice in the last two flashes.
This is what Holthus had to say to me Monday morning on the subject:
"Now we know why those guys wear a four-hat and a three-shoe. They have nothing invested but their mouth. They don't know what they are talking about. If anyone had asked, I would have told them that Pure Clan was sweating because we gave her a warm bath before bringing her to the paddock. In that heat, we wanted her to sweat. It was the best thing for her."
Where else do you get this stuff?
Incidentally, although Zenyetta and Pure Clan gave Oaklawn a one-two punch on Saturday, it could have been a hat trick since two-time OP winner Palanka City was geared up to win the Prioress at Belmont Park.
But you'll never believe what happened.
Palanka City got caught in traffic in the trip from Iowa, and was late getting to the detention barn. By law, horses are required to arrive at the detention barn no more than six hours to post time.
Instead of bending the rule, the stewards ordered Palanka City to be scratched.
Oh, yes...back to Holly Park for a fifth.
Street Boss made it four straight with an impressive last-to-first run at 3-5 in the Triple Bend Handicap. With the possible exception of Indian Chant, this looks like the best sprinter in training.
And kudos for Elite Squadron, who was pushed hard all the way from the one-hole, and hung in gamely for second.
As for the best horse in training, Curlin breezed a half in :50 and change Monday morning over a fast main track at Churchill Downs, and trainer Asmussen plans to run him this Saturday on the grass at Belmont Park or Arlington as a prep for the Arc.
Another good one we saw this weekend was the 3-year-old first-starter Discreet Treasure at Belmont Park.
With Prado up, the half-brother to Discreet Cat broke a step slow, then sliced through the field to make the lead at the eighth pole, and roll home by a dozen lengths.
Wonder how long it will take the sheiks to buy this one.
Two more pieces of disturbing news broke Monday morning.
It was reported that old favorite Denis of Cork -- the winner of the Southwest at Oaklawn, third in the Derby and second in the Belmont -- has sustained a hairline fracture, and will be sidelined at least 60 days.
That means no Jim Dandy, no Travers, and no Breeders' Cup Classic.
Hopefully, Denis will make it back at 4...but I won't hold my breath.
And it was learned that a meeting of New York and industry officials is planned for July 29 at the Fasig-Tipton facility in Saratoga -- at which time the subject of installing synthetic surfaces at the New York tracks will be discussed.
You can't make this stuff up.
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