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Jul 06, 2006

THRU THE BINOCULARS

By: JOHN PIESEN


A friend of mine loves to tell a story about the late, great jocks' agent Lenny Goodman.

 

Goodman made a very nice living as the agent for Braulio Baeza, Jeff Fell, and, a fellow named Steve Cauthen.

 

One day at Belmont Park, Goodman took my friend aside, and told him: "Bet everything you want on Steve in the seventh race".

 

Cauthen won six that day.

 

His only loser?

 

The seventh race.

 

Now, I can relate to that story.

 

Todd Pletcher, my nemesis for years, ran five on the Fourth of July program at Belmont. I picked Keyed Entry for my telephone service, and tossed his other four.

 

You saw what happened. Pletcher went four-for-four early. Keyed Entry? He checked in dead last in the Dwyer mostly because he had the bad fortune to get left at the gate.

 

Before the races, Pletcher was the guest of Mary Ryan in the in-house TV prattle. Todd played down Keyed Entry's chances. He suggested that the only chance his horse had was if the other riders would take back, and give Keyed Entry an easy lead. He said that Keyed Entry cannot be rated, and needed an easy lead.

 

Needless to say, Pletcher's analysis was not very encouraging about Keyed Entry's prospects.

 

At the end of the interview, Mary asked Pletcher if he had anything to say to the fans.

 

Pletcher's response was interesting.

 

"There are a lot of nice horses on the card," he said, " enjoy the day."

 

Interesting that, as it turned out, most of the "nice horses" on the card came from the Pletcher barn.

 

That brings us to another sad TV tale.

 

Last Saturday, ESPN gave us a one-hour racing show from 5-6 p.m. Eastern. The promos for the program said that it would show live the Suburban and Mother Goose, both Grade Ones, from Belmont, and the CashCall from Hollywood Park.

 

First things first.

 

ESPN had slotted a World Cup soccer match from 3 to 5 p.m. It was only by the grace of God that the game ended at 4:55 with one side winning 1-0. If the game had gone overtime (two OT periods and a shootout), the entire racing show would have been pre-empted.

 

Sound familiar?

 

Fortunately, the racing show got to go on in full.

 

But hang on.

 

The Mother Goose was shown on tape delay, and only the stretch run at that. And, five minutes before they showed the tape, one of the talking heads congratulated expert analyst Hank Goldberg for "selecting the $8 winner of the last race."

 

Well, let me add my congratulations to Hank Goldberg. Let's give him credit for finally picking a winner on TV even though his pick was made public after the race had been run.

 

If this wasn't the Mother of all Gooses, it clearly was the mother of all stupidity.

 

At least, when I picked such winners last weekend on my phone service as Piñata at $16,

Quarterflash at $36.60, and Soulshine at $33.60, they were done before the race.

 

A word about Piñata.

 

After winning her debut at Pimlico back in May, old friend Jerry Brown bought her for the proverbial undisclosed sum, and sent her to California for last Saturday's stake, the Landaluce, at Hollywood.

 

Piñata’s Beyer number for the Pimlico race was a mere 67, compared to 93 for Baffert's  Landaluce filly.

 

So it came as no surprise that Piñata was dismissed at 20-1 in the DRF, and 12-1 in the track program.

 

Piñata was bet down to 7-1, presumably thanks to my subscribers, and got up by a neck. While pulling up, jockey Pedroza fell off, and the filly was vanned off in the horse ambulance.

 

"Talk about going from the penthouse to the outhouse in no time," said one of her owners, "but the filly is fine, and we plan to run her back at Del Mar."

 


Some baseball thoughts.

 

Like him or hate him, how can you have an all-star game without Barry Bonds?

 

How can you take the all-star game seriously in view of the fact that Manny Ramirez has already decided he won't play because of injury?

 

And how 'bout Tom Glavine?

 

Last week, Glavine was pulled with the Mets leading Boston, 2-1, in the home sixth with. Sox runners on first and second with none out. TV then gave us several shots of a glum Glavine sitting on the bench. And when the Sox tied the game on a sac fly, thereby denying Glavine the win, the camera caught Tom depart for the clubhouse.

 

If there ever was a moment that embodied the me-me element of professional sports, this was the one.

 

And I never saw or read a work about from the drive-by media.

 

One other all-star game thought.

 

A few years back, Fox TV, hoping to spark ratings, came up with the idea of the winner of the all-star game getting the home field for the World Series.

 

You can really tell by looking at the results of the games played since that the National League really cares about home field in the Series. Maybe the NL has a chance this year because pitcher Liriano may not make the AL squad.

 

Here's an idea that makes more sense. Why doesn't the league that wins more inter-league games get home field for the Series? At least, in this case, real games - and not an exhibition - will decide who gets home field.

 

I guess home field does man something because 20 of the last 25 World Series winners had the home field.

 

I finally caught "Cinderella Man" on TV the other night, and although I'm not a big boxing guy, I know something about Max Baer, and I was upset at how he was portrayed as a miserable human being in the film.

 

Obviously, Hollywood has to have a good guy-bad guy theme, and there never has been a better guy than Jimmy Braddock. It was just unfortunate why Hollywood (director Ron Howard) had to portray Baer as a jerk and a villain.

 

Notably, the film suggested that Baer was delighted that he killed two men in the ring. In truth, Baer was devastated, and, in fact, quit the game for a year.

 

I didn't realize, until I did some research this week, that Baer died long before his time.  At age 50.

 

Like Braddock, Baer was a study in heartbreak.

 

I am looking at the odds for the first college football weekend, and I'm thinking that there is something wrong with the USC-Arkansas number.

 

USC beat Arkansas by 10 touchdowns last year, and yet is a mere -10 for their Labor Day rematch in Fayetteville.

 

As some readers must know, I'm a big Arkansas guy. But let's face facts. USC has more talent on its cheerleading squad than the Hogs can put on the field.

 

Minus 10 looks awfully good from here.

 

 Finally, don't be surprised if there will be no Meadowlands Pace this year. If the New Jersey shutdown doesn't end by Saturday, they will have to scratch that evening’s elimination heats.

 

And that would require some fancy footwork to get the race in.

 

What's more, with the Breeders' Cup only a year-plus away at Monmouth, the BC suits can't be happy about the present situation.                                                          

 



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