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Jan 06, 2006

RACING TODAY

By: JOHN PIESEN


Yes, there is wall-to-wall football on this holiday weekend, but there also is wall-to-wall racing so let's concentrate on finishing up a highly-successful handicapping year with a flourish.

My New Year's Eve full-card selections for Aqueduct can be found merely by dialing 888 484 3300. Even my bad days are better than the competition's good days. Thursday was an example when I nailed a $302 exacta.

But there also is good New Year's Eve racing going on elsewhere, notably Florida, Louisiana and California.

So let's take a look.

FLORIDA

Calder, which closes Monday, will run its annual Grand Slam on Saturday, featuring a quartet of $100,000 races carded as the ninth through 12th races. It's an all-stakes pick four, and offers the opportunity for instant gratification.

Race 9 (The Frances A. Genter for 3-year-old fillies at 7½ furlongs on the grass):

Trainer Pletcher and jockey Velasquez look to close out record-breaking campaigns with Ready's Gal. If this filly runs back to her stakes successes at Saratoga and Monmouth, she'll take some catching. She has been training well at Palm Meadows, and gets the best of the draw. With a short run to the first turn, the outside horses are at a huge disadvantage.

Asmussen, who will probably finish second again to Pletcher in the Eclipse voting, counters with More Than Promised, who has won her last four starts, all on the grass, three of them stakes. Overall, she is 5-3-0 from nine turf starts.

Ironically, Ready's Gal and More Than Promised both are by More Than Ready.

PIESEN'S PICKS:

# 10 More Than Promised
# 9 Champagne Ending
# 2 Ready's Gal

Race 10 (The Chaposa Springs Handicap for fillies and mares, 3 and up, at seven furlongs).

In a race packed with early speed, trainer Wolfson holds a strong hand with a pair of aces - Menifeeque and Kuanyan. They have complimentary styles. Kuanyan will be burning on the lead; Menifeeque (by Menifee, who should have won the Derby), will be closing fastest under Chop Chop, who is having a great meet.

Trainer Catalano ships Injustice from Chicago for this race, and the filly will be first-time Johnny V. Midtown Miss, Malibu Mint can provide an M%M gimmick.

PIESEN'S PICKS:

# 1 Menifeeque
# 6 Malibu Mint
# 4 Midtown Miss

Race 11 (The Pete Axthelm for 3-year-olds at 7½ furlongs on the grass).

Pete Axthelm was a great sports writer and a good friend. My favorite Pete Axthelm line: "the only trouble with betting hockey is you have to watch it".

Axthelm would have loved to bet this race. Lamor has never raced in this country. Her connections are Bill Mott and Rick Pitino. B.B. Best is the class, but has never raced on grass. Touched by Madness won the Jersey Derby and the Kent for trainer Allard. Makes first start since August for new trainer O'Connell. Military Major won the Oklahoma Derby for The Boss, but is unproven on grass. Drum Major, Therecomesatiger and Silver Moose would prefer inside posts.

PIESEN'S PICKS:

# 6 Touched by Madness
# 4 Lamor
# 7 Military Major

Race 12 (The Stage Door Betty Handicap for fillies and mares, 3 and up, at 1 1/16 miles).

Only five pounds separate the entire field in a wide-open two-turner. First three finishers and beaten favorite American Miss return from the Charon Stakes. American Miss sheds seven pounds, switches to Bridgmohan, and gets the rail. Sweet Lips, winner of 500K Sunshine Millions year back, has been training bullets for Betthany Frankel's father, gets Prado, and has never raced this light. Mocita beat lesser by seven here month back at this distance, but Chavez takes off to ride Potra Clasica.

PIESEN'S PICKS:

# 1 American Miss
# 5 Sweet Lips
# 3 Special Report

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LOUISIANA

Jockey Borel is warming up for Oaklawn Park with a solid Louisiana Downs meet.

On Saturday, Borel has live mounts in the seventh, eighth and ninth races.

In race seven, Borel rides Dynastorm, an improving 2-year-old cot from trainer Turco and owners Jack and Christine Henry of Memphis. The Arky-bred was very impressive breaking maiden first-time grass as the stick last out at Remington, and will take some catching despite class and distance jump.

In race eight, Borel rides Commander Pat for Bob and Bonnie Holthus, and owner Rosenblum, whose wife is a former Miss Arkansas. As a maiden a year back at Saratoga, Commander Pat was second to a nice colt named Silver Train, and later was third in the Victoria Park at Woodbine.

In race nine, Borel rides Last Toots for Team Smarty. Last spring, Last Toots won back-to-back looking like Smarty, but then tailed off. Trainer Servis brings her back on fast grass, and she'll be very hard to catch with inside trip.

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CALIFORNIA

Fourteen fillies were entered for the $250,000 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs. The favorite from post 13 will be Leave Me Alone, who won the Test Stakes by eight lengths at Saratoga.

As the 123-pound highweight, Leave Me Alone will be asked to spot weight to talented field that includes East Coast shipper Trickle of Gold, owned by John D. Murphy, trained by Mike Gorham, and ridden by Jeremy Rose.

Murphy owned '90s star Formal Gold, and Rose, who will be making his Santa Derby debut, rocketed into stardom last spring on Afleet Alex. Rose acquired the mount on Trickle of Gold after regular rider Potts broke his back in a spill.

Says Jeremy:

"I have all the confidence in the world in my filly. She has a lot of gas out of the gate, and she's got a lot of stamina. I haven't really gone to the whip on her."

PIESEN'S PICKS:

# 12 Leave Me Alone
# 9 Trickle of Gold
# 10 Thrilling Victory



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