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Aug 28, 2003

Racing Today

By: John Piesen

During my long and tumultuous career as a chronicler of thoroughbred racing, I have maintained the theory that a good 3-year-old is going to beat a good older horse every time.A minority opinion to be sure. But I have tons of evidence to back up my opinion. But not this year. I believe the 3-year-olds of 2003 are an ordinary bunch, several cuts below the good older horses. Last weekend’s Traversty was proof positive. When the perfect trip winner (Ten Most Wanted) runs the last quarter in a tick under 27 seconds, you have to know these are not great horses.Take nothing from Ten Most Wanted, but the horse is 0-3 against Empire Maker this year!And please understand this is not sour grapes on my part. I loved Ten Most Wanted in the Travers, picked him on my phone service, and did noteven get excited when the race fell in his lap.That reminds me. Last Saturday was a pretty good day for this handicapper .In addition to hitting Ten Most Wanted, I nailed Valid Video at $17.60 on the phone service; nailed the Iselin Handicap exacta in this column, and, in anearlier column, quoted jockey Richard Migliore as saying that Trademark was“a freak” and would win the Fourstardave. He did so at $7.50. It made for a nice Pick-3 that paid $303.50.All in all, for those keeping score at home, not a bad day’s work.That brings us to Funny Cide.Here are two things to know about Funny Cide:1) He is 30-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic future book.2) He will probably win the 3-year-old title despite the fact that he will likely finish the year 2-for-7, or, at best, 3-for-8, if he wins the Empire Classic for New York-breds next month at Belmont Park.Historians will note that the last five horses – War Emblem, Point Given, Real Quiet, Silver Charm and Thunder Gulch – to win two-thirds of the Triple Crown, were voted 3-year-old champion. And the only reason the streak isn’t six is because Tabasco Cat, who won the Preakness and Belmont in ’94, was knocked off by Holy Bull, the Horse of the Year.Unless Empire Maker jumps up and wins the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic, Funny Cide, although he is 1-2 against Empire Maker, will be the 3-year-old champ.This will be good news in Sackett’s Landing.Meanwhile, Ten Most Wanted, who posted a 112 Beyer number in his perfect-trip Travers, is headed for the $500,000 Super Derby on Sept. 20 atLouisiana Downs.I covered several Super Derbys for the Form in the ‘90s, and found, as long as you can handle the insufferable humidity, and the riverboats in Bossier City, that the race often sends fit horses to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. See Sunday Silence, Alysheba, Tisnow and Deputy Commander (Ten Most Wanted’s sire).But win or lose, I will find it hard to give Ten Most Wanted more than a puncher’s chance against the terrific older horses – Mineshaft, Medaglia d’Oro, Congaree, Volponi, and Candy Ride.Especially Candy Ride.Not since Alysheba and Sunday Silence have I been more impressed by a racehorse than I was watching Candy Ride win the Pacific Classic on Sunday. The Argentine-bred overcame a stumbling start and losing ground to Medaglia d’Oro on both turns, and blew Medaglia away in the upper stretch to win in hand, giving Julie Krone her first victory in a $1 million race in the United States. (When Julie won the 1993 Belmont Stakes on Colonial Affair, the race was worth $750,000).Candy Ride broke the stakes record with his 10 quarters in 1:59, and the Beyer boys gave Candy Ride a 123, by far the biggest number of the year.Not surprisingly, Candy Ride is now the 6-1 second-choice (behind Mineshaft 5-1) in the B.C. Classic Futures, but there is no guarantees the owners – diet gurus Sidney and Jenny Craig – are going to run him. After all, it will cost them $800,000 to supplement.And, if Candy Ride does run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, there is the question of the rider. Will Krone keep the mount, or does Gary Stevens, who presumably will be healed by B.C. Day, get the mount back?And a special kudo to Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally. He bought Candy Ride for the Craigs for $900,000 last January in Argentina, and told the Craigs they would win the Pacific Classic with him.Talk about a call.But I would expect nothing less from Ron McAnally, who has risen from the depths of a northern Kentucky orphanage to become one of the giants of thoroughbred racing. And, unlike some of his contemporaries, he has done so with the utmost class.Speaking of contemporaries, what happened to Bobby Frankel last weekend. Frankel, a gimmee for a fourth Eclipse Award, ran eight horses in stakes at Saratoga and Del Mar, all were first or second choices, and he got shut out! That’s a good five or six million at the windows down the tube.One explanation is that Empire Maker wasn’t the only horse in the barn who was sick. More likely, it was the law of averages catching up to him. No one wins forever. Not even Bobby Frankel.One trainer who has been winning forever is the Maryland-based King Leatherbury. A public trainer for 40 of his 70 years, Leatherbury last Saturday won his 6,000th race with a maiden named Cherokee Sunrise at Timonium.Leatherbury, who has made a career of training from home, becomes only the third trainer to reach the 6,000 milestone, joining Jack Van Berg and Dale Baird in that exclusive club.Makes you wonder why Leatherbury is not in Racing’s Hall of Fame.WAY TO GO ESPNWhen it comes to sports, I must have different priorities than ESPN.Last Saturday, I drove two Piesens back to college at Bucknell, which is located 10 minutes from Williamsport, Pa., where they were playing the Little League World Series. But I passed up the LLWS to go to Penn National, a 90-minute drive, to catch the Travers simulcast.Obviously, ESPN has different ideas. The network was scheduled to televise the Travers during a 5 to 7 p.m. slot, but pre-empted the Travers telecast to stick with the LLWS, at which time some Japanese 12-year-olds were beating some Belgian 12-year-olds by something like 15-4.The Travers finally came on at 5:50, prompting broadcaster Randy Moss to say that the audience was lucky the Little League game didn’t go extra innings.But this is typical – and always has been – of the disturbing racing coverage by the electronic media. I consider it a miracle that we actually got to see the Pacific Classic the next day.

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