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Aug 25, 2006

Through The Binoculars

By: JOHN PIESEN


THE MAN OF THE YEAR

No one outside of racing pays much attention to Eclipse Awards. In fact, quick:

Who was Horse of the Year last year?

But this year, I am willing to make an exception. As far as I know, there is no Eclipse Award for Man of the Year. But in this case there should be. And the winner, hands down, should be Dr. Dean Richardson.

No one gave Barbaro a chance at survival after his right hind leg was shattered when stepped on by a trailing horse in the Preakness. But, thanks to Dr. Richardson, racing's saddest story has become racing's feel-good story for the ages.

No, the gallant Barbaro is not out of the woods yet. By any means. But every day that passes is money in the bank.

With that in mind, get a copy of Monday's New York Times, and read Joe Drape's page one piece.

Drape writes:

"No one close to Barbaro is predicting a full recovery, but they remain optimistic and seem grateful for each good day. By the cards and gifts that continue to arrive, they know that Barbaro has touched people far beyond them."

Again, Dr. Richardson and his staff should be recognized for their magnificent work with Barbaro.

And this is not a one-shot pony.

There was a piece in the paper over the weekend which reported that a polar bear, who broke his leg while playing with his buddy in a zoo, is being sent to Dr. Richardson for repairs.

We wish the polar bear as much luck as we wish Barbaro.

Way to go, doc.

Changing gears, on the racetrack, as well as on the diamond, sometimes it pays not to ignore the obvious.

They ran three major races over the weekend, and the even-money favorite won all three: Pine Island in the Alabama, Park Avenue Ball in the Iselin, and Lava Man in the Pacific Classic.

In each case, I tried to beat the favorite on my phone service 1-888 612 2283 - with Lemons Forever in the Alabama, Master Command in the Iselin, and Magnum in the Pacific Classic.

Obviously, I shouldn't have bothered. Although all three horses raced well, the bottom line is sometimes in this game, it pays not to fool with Mother Nature.

There are times in which the same can be said for baseball.

On Sunday, for example, favorites went 12-1 in babseball. Twelve and one! The only favorite to lose was Detroit, which blew a 6-0 lead. Obviously, this was a bad day to be a book - or a Red Sox fan.

If you stayed up to 1:30 this morning, and watched manager Francona implode, you know what I'm talking about.

Although I plead guilty to blowing the big races over the weekend, I can take pride in Finlandia, my Saturday best bet at Saratoga. Finlandia, benefiting from a perfect trip, and a well-judged ride by Desormeaux won the Yaddo at $9.90.

Anytime you can nail a $9.90 best bet in a Saturday stake at Saratoga is a good thing. And this best bet-winner stretched my streak to six of eight winning best bets on my phone service.

And it's only fitting that the race was the Yaddo. Without going into detail, I must report that the Yaddo has provided some of my most cherished memories at the Spa.

On Monday I hit with Motor West, who ran to a $13.00 victory in race 6, and nailed the exacta too with Mor Chances, and it paid $110.50!

Finlandia, incidentally, is trained by Tom Bush, who is now 6-for-17 shipping up from Belmont. And Bush Run Red Run, already a winner over the track, in the Albany Stakes on Wednesday.

Again, this is another stake with a drop-dead favorite. That would be Ferocious Won, who, by virtue of his victories in the Mike Lee and New York Derby, will be looking to lock up the Triple Crown for New York-breds.

Let's be honest here. The Albany tops a really dreadful program. In fact, if you didn't know better, you would think you were looking at the Aqueduct inner track in February.

It doesn't seem that far back when you wouldn't see a claiming race on a Saratoga card.

Now take a look at Wednesday. There are six claimers -- plus two maiden-specials, and the Albany for New York-breds, with a 3-5 favorite.

Maybe they are just saving all their quality for Saturday, Travers Day.

Who knows? Maybe the Empire gang will do a better job down the road.

Back to baseball .

I want to go on record here as saying that Ollie Perez will be the pitching star of the post-season.

Maybe you missed it, but Perez, a personal favorite in this space in '04 and '05 while a member of my beloved Buccos, came to the Mets last month in the Nady deal, and was sent to Norfolk. On Saturday, he struck out 11 Charlotte batsmen in seven innings while tossing a one-hit shutout.

Guaranteed, it won't be long before Perez is called up by the Mets, and, in the absence of Pedro and Glavine, look for Perez to be the Mets' ace by Labor Day.

And I wouldn't be surprised if Perez is the starter in game one against the wild card, and/or against LA in the NLCS.

Finally, a football note:

Did you realize that Seattle coach Holmgren was never fined or otherwise punished for his zebra-bashing following the Super Bowl? Among other things, he said he didn't realize that his football team had to beat the zebras as well as the Steelers in Detroit.

What does that tell you?

It tells me that NFL tacitly admits that Seattle - not to mention the bettors -- got screwed.

Big time.

This year, the NFL zebras are wearing new unis. But as far as I can see, they aren't changing their stripes. I noticed that at least two pre-season games last week were decided by offensive holding calls.

In the meantime, let's keep those best bets rolling.



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