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Sep 22, 2006

Through The Binoculars


Talk about celebrity justice!

Two years back, a high-profile major league outfielder was charged for punching out a city cop in a bar room brawl at 3 in the morning before a day game.

I believe they call that felony assault - against a police officer no less. The story briefly made the papers and the sports talk-shows. It was more or less a big deal for 48 hours…and, on the third day, the whole incident was forgotten.

Then on Monday, following months of investigative reporting, I learned the truth. The whole truth.

The player in question never served so much as a day in jail. Instead, he wrote a check for $150,000 to the police officer, and went home to the wife and kids.

And a month later, he was traded.

Case closed.

With his luck, the guy probably had Oregon straight-up, Auburn and Tennessee last weekend. And the Dodgers on Monday night!

Oops. I forgot. Pro athletes don't bet on sports.

That brings us to Paul Lo Duca, our kind of guy.

Following the Mets' above-the-fold clincher on Monday night, it seems that Lo Duca uttered the dreaded F-word during a live TV interview. Seconds later, he apologized, saying he meant to say "freakin"."

A day earlier, while my beloved Buccos were capping off their sweep of the Mets, horse owner Lo Duca ran a 2-year-old filly at Belmont Park. And the filly, named Guts Game, ran a huge second at 4-1 to the odds-on Second Marriage - clearly a hunch exacta for Lo Duca.

Obviously, judging by what we read about Lo Duca over the summer, the guy has a way with fillies.

Here's some free advice for Lo Duca:

He should run Guts Game right back in the $250,000 Oak Leaf Breeders' Cup Stakes on Sept. 30 at Santa Anita, right down the block from Dodger Stadium where Lo Duca starred for years with the Dodgers.

A victory in the Oak Lead, and it will be right on to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs, a week after the presumed Subway Series.

Can you believe the soft draw the Yankees will have to get to the Series. No Red Sox. No White Sox. No Angels. Heck, they'll be 1-9 against the Tigers!

Back to Santa Anita for a second.

The new director of racing at Santa Anita is Sherwood Chillingworth so you know right away that anyone named Sherwood Chillingworth has to be a good guy.

With that in mind, I rang up Sherwood Chillingworth this morning to get some insight into the Santa Anita race meet, which begins next Wednesday:

I got right to the point:

JP: "Tell me, Sherwood, how many Breeders' Cup winners have come out of Santa Anita?"

SC: "Thirty one!"

JP: "I am impressed. But, I must point out that's barely more than one winner a year."

This is where I found out that Sherwood Chillingworth is more than just a pretty name.

Read on…

"John," he said, "there isn't a race meeting world-wide that can match our history of top performance on Breeders' Cup day. Since the inception of the Breeders' Cup in 1984, Santa Anita has been the premier location for horses prepping for the event."

Whew. The next time I'm accused of felony assault, I want this guy defending me.

This reminds me of one of the great lines ever.

Two years back, a filly named Lady Tak won the Test Stakes at Saratoga. She should have been disqualified because her rider, Jerry Bailey, smacked another horse in the face with his whip, cause for automatic disqualification in New York. But after a long discussion with the Involved jockeys, the stewards let the number stand.

The next morning, I asked old buddy D. Wayne Lukas for his take.

"All I can tell you," Wayne said, "…is that if I'm accused of murder, I don't want F. Lee Bailey defending me.

"I want Jerry Bailey!"

That said, Sherwood Chillingworth reminded me that daily first post at Santa Anita will be 12:30 p.m. Pacific.

Closer to home, they will run the $500,000 Super Derby late Saturday afternoon at Louisiana Downs, and half of Hot Springs, fresh from surviving 7,000 bikers last weekend, will drive the three hours through the speed traps for the race.

That's because hometown hero Lawyer Ron will be odds-on under freshly-scrubbed jockey McKee. Lawyer Ron is the horse for the course, and he's working lights out since his post-midnight victory last month in the St. Louis Derby at Fairmount Park.

Just last Saturday, Lawyer Ron, with McKee up, drilled five eighths in a bullet :59 3/5.

"He worked great," said exercise rider Betsy Couch. "He's doing better than ever."

Trainer Baffert is bringing Affirmed Stakes winner Point Determined from the left coast for the Super Derby, and has engaged top jock Victor Espinoza to ride.

And John Ward is sending Strong Contender down from New York for the race.

It is not a good omen for Strong Contender that jockey Prado opts to stay in New York to ride the Belmont card rather than make the trip to LAD. Robby Albarado is a worthy replacement, but he's no Prado, who, incidentally, was just announced as the winner of the annual Michael Venezia Award.

Our congrats to Prado.

And we'll be keeping an eye on Edgar's Saturday business at Belmont.

Speaking of business, those of you who boast the good judgment to subscribe to my world-famous phone service (888- 612-2283) are advised to play my selections across the board and/or in the gimmicks inasmuch as 14 of my last 15 selections at Belmont and Monmouth have finished no worse than third.

We do our best to get prices, but some days it's difficult.

One of those days was last Saturday, when favorites went 16-for-20 combined at Belmont and Monmouth.

It could have been worse.

I could have had San Diego on Monday night, and stayed up to 2:30 Eastern to watch.

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