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Aug 18, 2006

Through The Binoculars


For years, there has been one constant at Monmouth Park.

Whenever they put up the big bucks, those arrogant big-name jockeys from New York come in to take the money.

Back when, it was Baeza or Ycaza or Cordero. In 2006, it's Johnny V (the Haskell) and Santos (the Oaks).

Some things don't change.

The local riders can only watch mournfully from the jocks' room or from the backs of also-rans as those New York superstars come in and take what's theirs.

This brings us to Saturday's 71st running of Monmouth's $250,000 Iselin Handicap, a Grade 3 (down from Grade 1) for 3-year-olds and up.

Unlike in most big-bucks races at Monmouth, there won't be a single New York rider making the trip to the Shore. Fact is there will be only one out-of-town rider - Ramon Dominguez - in the race.

And he was leading rider at Aqueduct last winter.

The other eight riders in the Iselin, named for ol' buddy Jimmy Iselin's father, are local.

If ever there was a chance for a local guy to take home a big purse, this is it. So wouldn't it be the height of irony that the outsider wins it?

Hey, it's a wide-open race, and who's to say Dominguez won't win it on Master Command? After all, his trainer is one Todd Pletcher, and the horse drew the rail - a major plus going nine-furlongs down the shore.

I recall that when the very same Master Command came to Hot Springs last April for the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap, every jocks' agent worth his pad and pencil fought to get the mount. All for naught because jockey Luzzi, who shipped in to ride (and win) the Apple Blossom that day on Spun Sugar, got the mount.

Master Command had the misfortune to draw outside that day, and wound up racing four-wide on both turns as Buzzards Bay and Magnum (posts one and two) dominated the race.

I made a mental note to play Master Command back wherever he showed up, and, sure enough, the horse won a stake at Pimlico on Preakness Day.

And from the one-hole!

Next time, Master Command was favored in the Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows - from post nine. He raced wide throughout, and finished sixth.

For those who think post position means nothing, maybe they should take a look at Master Command.

The inside-outside rule also can apply to one-turn races - only in reverse. Look no further than Chace City.

In the Bashford Manor for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs, Chace City was left hung and dry from the one-hole, and got beat five lengths.

Trainer Blasi (see Asmussen) brought the colt back Thursday in the Saratoga Special, and said colt proceeded to wire the field from post five. After the race, Blasi blamed post position for getting the horse beat at Churchill Downs, and cited the better post for getting the W Thursday.

Not incidentally, the Special was indeed a special race for followers of this columnist's world-class phone service at 1-888-612-2283.

Said columnist gives out three selections on the phone service daily at the Spa, and Chace City yesterday completed a clean sweep. Obviously, my readers bring cash. Although not a single handicapper in Daily Racing Form, the New York Post or the New York Daily News had Chace City on top, Chace City paid a mere $6.30 -- as the favorite!

This columnist's other winners yesterday were the second-race cold exacta ($16.80) and Elusive Fox (inside info from Monmouth) who paid a mere $4.50 although only one handicapper in the above-mentioned three publications had him on top.

Chace City was the best bet on my phone service, spiking the Spa best bet record to 5-1-0 from the last seven plays.

Obviously, there are worse things in life than dialing that 1- 888-612-2283 number.

Trainer McGaughey, who has major-player Survivalist in the Iselin, will run the favorite, Pine Island, an hour later in the $600,000 Alabama at the Spa.

This could be a big payday for the Shugster, who has had better years. Hard to believe that, with two-thirds of the year gone, the Hall of Famer has won only 16 races. It's also hard to believe that a horse (Pine Island) who has never won a stake can go favored in an Alabama, but that's the nature of the beast.

A one-dimensional closer, Pine Island will be a vulnerable favorite over a racetrack that currently is favoring speed. For instance, in six of the seven main-track races on Thursday, the winner was in front at the stretch call - the exception, the fluky Baymont.

As always, the Alabama is not a race to be played in short pants. The participating trainers are, in addition to the Shugster, Lukas, Pletcher, Jerkens, Dutrow, Stewart and Biancone.

On two occasions at the meeting - the Go For Wand and the Sword Dancer - Pletcher successfully employed the services of a rabbit to get a double-digit winner home - Spun Sugar and Go Deputy.

Ol' Todd no doubt will try the same strategy in the Alabama. In this case, his target is Wonder Lady Anne L. But the rabbit will help Pine Island as well.

And no doubt there will be some folks who will box the three Oaks winners: Coaching Club Oaks winner Wonder Lady Anne L, Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever, and Delaware Oaks winner Adieu.

PIESEN CUES: It's nice to see that A-Rod still has friends in the New York media. The other day, announcer Sterling said that A-Rod is a cinch to hit .300. According to my high school math, that means that A-Rod will have to hit .340 over the last third of the season to get to .300. And twice this week the Yankee Stadium official scorer (a media person) took away well-deserved errors from A-Rod.

Just so the reader doesn't think I'm a Yankee-hater, I want to go on record as taking Jeter over Ortiz for the MVP. There are many reasons but "defense" is the major one.

Jeter spends half his time manning the single most important position in the game whereas Ortiz spends half his time on the bench.

I don't know on which group to waste my sympathy for - the fans or the bettors.

The Giants beat Kansas City, 17-0, last night at The Meadowlands before an announced crowd of 76,000. I'm thinking that Coach Herman could have at least had the decency to announce that his team would not be showing up.

Seven first downs! 111 total yards!

While we're at it, the line on tomorrow's Redskins-Jets game dropped from Skins -6 to Skins -3 -- at the same time that the Jets announced that QB Pennington will not play.

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