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Jan 19, 2006

RACING TODAY

By: JOHN PIESEN


First things first.

There was a remarkable coincidence this weekend in the wonderful worlds of sports and entertainment.

On Saturday, Lawyer Ron scored at Louisiana Downs. On Sunday, Doctor Ron scored with Teri Hatcher on Desperate Housewives.

I'll save the good doctor for another day. As for Lawyer Ron, he jumped right to the top of the 3-year-old class with his eight-length blowout in the $250,000 Risen Star Stakes at LAD. The chestnut colt from Team Holthus is now four-for-four on dirt, by an average margin of six lengths, and he'll be prepped at Oaklawn Park for the Rebel, Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby.

No wonder jockey McKee cut short his Hawaii vacation to get to Bossier City to ride Lawyer Ron. The colt was spectacular opening up on some nice horses from the Pletcher, Asmussen, Stewart and Barnett barns, and had plenty of gas left in the tank while coming within one tick of the long-standing 1 1/16-mile track record.

Trainer Holthus, going strong at age 70, has been looking for years for another Proper Reality. Looks like he's found him.

Incidentally, the folks who had the good judgment to wager on my selections in the LAD Pick Four in this space last Friday caught Lawyer Ron at $7.40, and the Rodeo's Castle-Beau's Town $72 exacta cold.

(Obviously, tis a mere coincidence that all three horses are stabled at Oaklawn, from where I'll be reporting the next three months.)

And while Lawyer Ron was heading to the top of the charts, Stevie Wonderboy fell from grace when he was beaten by Brother Derek (as predicted here) in the San Rafael at Santa Anita.

It's not the end of the world for Stevie. He's certainly eligible to improve off his race. But he had been working bullets for the San Rafael, he had the length of the stretch to haul in Brother Derek, and he couldn't come close. If nothing else, the race proved that Stevie is a mere mortal.

Elsewhere on the racing front.

Let's take time to shed a few tears for old buddy D. Wayne Lukas.

D. Wayne, it seemed, hired a guy to drive his car from Kentucky to California. The poor schlump checked into a roadside motel, and when he came out in the morning, he discovered a window smashed, and D. Wayne's entire wardrobe - including his thousand-dollar Armani suits - gone, never to be heard from again.

And you thought you had problems.

I don't often read wedding announcements, but one on page 56 of Sunday's New York Post caught my eye.

The pictured bride was a lovely lady named Edie Libutti of north Jersey.

Why do I know that name?

So I rang up Tony Stabile, a long-time trainer/agent at the New York tracks.

"Why do I know Edie Libutti," I asked Tony Stabile, who knows all.

"Maybe Devil His Due," Tony replied.

Yes, that's it. A couple of lifetimes ago, Edie Libutti owned Devil His Due, who won many meaningful races for trainer Allen Jerkens. There was a scandal at the time over the actual ownership of the horse that found its way into the crosshairs of the Post and the Daily News.

There was no mention of Devil His Due in the Post piece, but it did point out that Edie's favorite food is beluga caviar.

I got a call yesterday from Jack Kaenel. You remember Cowboy Jack. He is the youngest jockey to win a Triple Crown race (the '82 Preakness on Aloma's Ruler), and the father of current New York hot bug Kyle Kaenel.

Jack is in Hot Springs, working as an exercise rider while harboring hopes at age 38 of a comeback. At least Jack was working as an exercise rider until he was notified by the powers that be that he will be denied a license because of past transgressions. Like who doesn't have past transgressions?

In a perfect world, Jack will get his license, and eventually go on to ride Grade 1 stakes with his son.

Incidentally, ex-jockey Jill Kaenel, Jack's daughter and Kyle's sister, currently is engaged as an exercise rider by trainer Servis at Oaklawn, and has galloped Rockport Harbor and Round Pond, both of whom surely will be heard from again.

Now, let's get to the gridiron.

Dave Anderson (one of the good guys) writes in Monday's New York Times that Pete Roselle would have been delighted to see two wild cards in the NFL final four, parity and all that.

Personally, I beg to differ. The way I figure, all four weekend games went the wrong way for the NFL suits.

Within 24 hours, the NFL lost its two biggest TV attractions - the Colts and Patriots - and two of its biggest markets - Chicago and Washington. I don't see a Pittsburgh-Carolina matchup breaking Super Bowl ratings records.

Personally, I liked all four underdogs. I went 2-2 but with any breaks from the zebras, could have gone 4-0. I just wish that they would call the home-field advantage what it is - the zebra advantage.

What a shock! The home team got the critical calls in all four games.

An offensive holding call (the only such infraction in the entire game) deprived Washington of the tying TD at Seattle, and certainly the cover.

A bogus pass interference call cost the Patriots 10 points, and the game at Denver. You know I have been the biggest critic of bogus PI, but this is the first time one actually cost a team a shot at a third straight championship.

It's not unusual when a visiting team has more penalty yardage than yards rushing. In this case the Pats were minus 90 in flags, plus 84 on the ground.

The zebras, according to Pittsburgh LB Joey Porter, did everything they could to get the Colts home. We're talking the INT reversal, and the offsides. Joey's message probably will cost him 50K. The truth can be expensive.

I am amazed they didn't call PI in the end zone on the final Indy series.

And, in game four, the zebras somehow found a reason to penalize Carolina on what seemed every Chicago third down in the final quarter. I'll discuss this with referee Walt Coleman at Oaklawn.

And, finally, I thought it fascinating that Fox was in the middle of a crowd shot while Carolina was missing the crucial last extra point.

Since the road teams currently stand 5-3 straight-up in the playoffs, I would think it's about time that the experts get off home field advantage.

But sure enough, I heard Sean Salisbury say the following on ESPN this morning:

"Steelers-Broncos is a tough game to call. I really have a problem with it. But I'll take Denver -- because they're home!"

Finally, I've always felt that running back is the most over-rated position in football. Except for Jim Brown.

Just look at the weekend. Running backs Alexander and Foster went down, and their backups filled in admirably leading Seattle and Carolina to victory.

Incidentally, Seattle opened 5½ over Carolina, and, within an hour, Coffeetown was bet down to 4½.



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