People are typically surprised to learn that as much as I love the racing in Saratoga, I have another passion that is a close second when I’m up here: outdoor cooking.
Over the years, we have acquired both a wood oven and a ceramic smoker for the backyard here at the Little House on the East Side and the presence of the latter means that I make a lot of barbecue in the summertime: ribs, pork shoulder, lamb shoulder, salmon, brisket (though in full disclosure I haven’t been brave enough yet to serve the latter to a Texan for fear of being judged).
Barbecue is great because it’s suited to post racing communal dining. I’ll occasionally sacrifice going over there, watch on TV, and cook all day – with 37 minutes between races it’s not that hard to do both. The spreads can serve a handful of folks with copious leftovers or feed 20-30.
The fact is, with horseplayers, plans have a way of changing at the last minute. Sometimes you get DQ’d in the last, obviating the need for dinner, other times, you win that photo and want to rally a group of eight to celebrate. That would be tricky for a sit down dinner, not so for barbecue.
This spring, I ran a half marathon in London to benefit two charities: Make-a-Wish UK and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. As part of the fundraising, I included a “guess the time” challenge.
You might be amazed to learn that of the 20 or so participants, three of them guessed the same time, 2:24 (two hours and twenty-four minutes), the number which ended up winning. But it makes sense when you realize that Secretariat completed his historic Belmont win in 2:24 (two minutes and twenty-four seconds).
These winners didn’t study the form to come up with a good guess, they simply defaulted to Big Red’s winning time and got the money.
I paid off the third and final of these winners on Thursday night, hosting a barbecue that attracted a field of roughly 20. I did a whole bone in pork shoulder, a hybrid of Korean and USA styles.
Smoked in apple wood with a southern dry rub, served with kimchi and coleslaw. I made three sauces: ginger scallion, ssam, and plain old hot. There were potato rolls and lettuce wraps.
Rain put a damper on the initial plans to hang out in the backyard by a bonfire, but we turned a negative into a positive, as we like to do. My six-year-old daughter found a vintage horse racing game called Stretch Run and rallied a group of six to play it with her.
She loved rolling the dice and moving the pieces. The adults were more into than she was! Pro horseplayer Duke Matties’s eyes lit up when he saw the game had a track bias element.
Soon the vinyl was spinning and the dice were flying, and the game players were erupting with cheers and laughter. Perrin was the big winner but we all had a blast. Near the end of the evening my podcast cohost Jonathon Kinchen had the best line, “This is so fun we almost don’t need to go to the track.”
In Race 5 (8:21), TUMBLING SKY is probably worth a bet. The Competitive Edge firsters have been running well and Steve Asmussen is a master when it comes to getting them ready first out. The worktab is strong and steady and with a couple of others certain to take money in here he might be solid value.
In Race 6 (9:01), I thought SAINT MOON had a good chance to win from on or near the lead under aggressive turf rider Luis Saez. The Jorge Navarro barn is having a strong meet and two of today’s rivals near the top of the market are closers exiting races with fast paces where they still didn’t win.
I’ll try two in Race 8 (10:11), the Saratoga Special. ZYRAMID was an impressive maiden winner earlier in the meet, making our horse watch list. He’s worked four times since and another forward move would make him very dangerous against this group.
I will save with GREEN LIGHT GO. Jimmy Jerkens trainees often improve second time out and he’s worked well since. Looks too good to let him beat him.
In Race 9 (10:46), the featured Fourstardave, Chad Brown holds a very strong hand. From a betting point-of-view, I’m most interested in the other-other Chad Brown of his three, MADE YOU LOOK. It’s a simple case of supposing that he hasn’t appreciated the cut in the ground in the last two races.
Three back in Poker, he ran a big number when second to Oscar Performance in an effort that could win this. The wager here is each-way on Made You Look at what should be double-digit odds given the money his stablemates Uni and Raging Bull will take.
Uni is one of my favorite horses in training and would be a must-use in USA-style exotics.
For more from me, check out inthemoneypodcast.com and be sure to watch all the action from Saratoga live on Sky Sports Racing Stateside.