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Jun 09, 2006

Through The Binoculars

By: JOHN PIESEN


Before I get going on the Belmont Stakes, I need to point out that this horse racing columnist/handicapper is on a winning streak that defies all logic.

Since June 1, I have made 52 horse selections at Belmont, Monmouth and Churchill for my world-famous phone service (1-888-612-2283) at no charge.

A total of 28 of those 52 horses emerged victorious!

Yes, I know you're saying "sure Piesen. They all pay $3.60?" Sure, some did. But most of the winners were in the $7-$8 range, and six came back double digits. And, for example, Repeat the Truth, my $10.40 best bet blowout Sunday at Monmouth, was the 1A (the #1 was scratched off the program).

It makes you think the kid knows something.

Congratulations if you have been on board. If not, it's not too late. I'll have full-card picks for Belmont up every day, and spot plays at Monmouth and Churchill.

I can't promise 28-for-52 every week, but I'll do my best.and hope my best continues to be good enough.

Turning to the Belmont Stakes, already I'm perplexed.

In the Kentucky Derby, you will recall that Bluegrass Cat, at 30-1, beat Steppenwolfer

(16-1) a diminishing two lengths for second. Bluegrass Cat enjoyed a perfect trip. Steppenwolfer endured a very imperfect trip.

Bluegrass Cat will be the morning-line (and presumed post-time) favorite for the Belmont, and Steppenwolfer will be no better than third or fourth choice.

They call that value.

Steppenwolfer moreover is a stone closer who should love the mile and a half of the Belmont. That doesn't mean he will. But it's something to think about.

And, speaking of value, how 'bout Deputy Glitters?

The last I looked, Deputy Glitters beat Bluegrass Cat fair and square in the Tampa Bay Derby, and then was 11-wide in the Kentucky Derby.

Bluegrass Cat, as noted, will be the Belmont favorite.

Deputy Glitters will be 30-1!

And Deputy Glitters is getting something of a positive rider change for the Belmont - Prado for Lezcano, although there is nothing wrong with Lezcano.

Lest we forget, Prado won the '02 Belmont on Sirava, and the '04 Belmont on Birdstone.

Then there is the speed factor.

If Sweetnorthernsaint was in the Belmont, and healthy, he would be the absolute class speed of the race.

But he's not.

As a result, there is a noticeable lack of pace in the projected 12-horse field. The exception is High Finance, and he's never been more than a mile.

On the other hand, High Finance is a grandson of Conquistador Cielo, who had never been more than a mile before wiring the 1982 Belmont by 14 lengths. Then there's the fact that High Finance boasts the best last-race Beyer in the field, and that he was once second to a nice colt named Bernardini.

From this perspective, the fact that Bernardini is not in the Belmont is a bigger blow to the race - and to the concept of the Triple Crown -- than the absence of Barbaro, which obviously couldn't be helped.

Unlike the deal with Barbaro, his Middle East connections really have no excuse not to run Bernardini in the Belmont.

Certainly, money is not an issue. The same Sheiks who own Bernardini also happen to own the winner of the '06 Dubai Cup, the purse for which was six times the Belmont.

Hey, I wouldn't be surprised if we read in the next couple of months that Bernardini has a bruised fetlock or something, and will be retired to stud. Why risk running him again when he's already worth gazillions at stud in the desert?

Then there's the Baffert factor?

When a NYRA press person called Baffert yesterday for an interview with Bullet Bob, the silver-tongued trainer hung up in his face.

"Too busy to talk," said Baffert.

Not a good signal for Bob and John, who just happens to be the only Grade 1 winner in the Belmont field.

Win or lose the Belmont, Baffert should win at least one race Saturday. He has the super-fast Too Much Bling in the Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup, formerly the Riva Ridge.

After some lengthy research, I discovered that the 12 Belmont horses have combined won a grand total of 26 races.and that seven of the 12 have yet to win a stakes.

Yes, I know.

So much negativity.

Even the Racing Form, which is in business to sell newspapers at $5 a clip, admits on page one Wednesday that 1) there is no buzz for the Belmont, and 2) the Manhattan Handicap on the grass may be -- "with due respect to the Belmont" -- the best race on the Saturday program.

Just a reminder --

Post for the Belmont Stakes will be 6:33 p.m., which will give you just enough time - traffic permitting - to make the double at The Meadowlands.

NYRA officials are looking for 60,000 with a break in the weather, which it looks like they will get. Since they can announce any number they like, I predict the official count will be closer to 70,000.

And for those who were inconvenienced when Monday's eight-race grass card at The Meadowlands was cancelled, here's the good news:

They already have announced they will tack on an extra day to the Monmouth meeting in September.

Finally, I hope you are as angry as I am that the State of New York, after being turned down the first time, has filed a new indictment against poor Braulio Baeza.

Baeza, one of the greatest jockeys of all time, is accused, in his role of assistant clerk of scales, of under-reporting jockey weights at the three New York track, thereby, according to the prosecutors, "defrauding racing fans of vital betting information.

"We feel," they tell us, "that we have extraordinary and compelling evidence against Baeza, whose job was to ensure the integrity of racing in New York."

These prosecutors expect us to believe, for example, that a jockey would weigh in at 124 pounds for race six, and 114 pounds for race seven.

It is beyond ridiculous that Baeza, one of the classiest racing people in the game, would be involved in such a scam. Baeza, it seems to me, is owed an across-the-board apology.

And if, somewhere down the road, Baeza brings a law suit, I'll be the first one in line to testify on his behalf.

And, in the meantime, if you're looking for winners, permit me to remind you to check out 1-888-612-2283.



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