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Oct 13, 2006

Through The Binoculars


I can't understand, I have no logical explanation why any rational individual would want to play the New York tracks without first consulting my world-famous telephone hot line (888-612-2283).

Take the last two weeks for example.

I am presently making two selections daily at Belmont Park on the phone service. Over the last 10 days, I nailed 10 winners (and five seconds) from 20 selections. And several of the winners were in the $8-to-$10 range, as were several of the seconds..

This is not meant to pat myself on the back. Anyone who followed my career at the New York Post and Daily Racing Form knows that I check my ego at the front door - at least when it comes to handicapping. My prowess at softball, driving trotters, not to mention parallel parking is another matter.

That brings us to Saturday's action, and the NTRA National Pick 4. The races, in order, are the Frizette (Belmont); the First Lady (Keeneland); the Champagne (Belmont), and the Queen Elizabeth II (Keeneland).

The four races hopefully will be shown by ESPN during the 4-6 p.m. time slot.

Unlike last week when three of the four NTRA Pick 4 races had odds-on favorites (all won), Saturday's Pick 4 races are all wide open. Not to worry. I will put up my 1-2-3s for each race later today on the phone service.

I just thought you needed to know.

In the meantime, let's take a look at the four races.


Of the ten 2-year-old fillies in the race, only one is a graded stakes-winner. That would be Meadow Breeze who won the Matron (Grade 1) in the last jump at 34-1. Players will need to answer the age-old question: If you miss the wedding, why attend the funeral?

Seven of the 10 fillies are coming off a win. Does that mean you box the three coming off seconds? Three of the 10 are unbeaten, but only in a combined five starts.

If Todd Pletcher and/or Beyer numbers float your boat, you have to lean to Awesome Ashley. This daughter of Unbridled's Song also is the only filly in the field who has won at the mile distance of the Frizette.

The sheiks have only one filly in the race - Allude. And she gets the outside post, although the DRF says that's a bad thing, and she goes back to jockey Castellano.


Gorella has won her last three starts - all graded stakes - with her own sex,, and she has been working lights-out. But she's cutting back from 1 3/16 miles to a mile, she's packing top-weight of 125 pounds, and she'll have to navigate through and around nine horses.

Trainer Biancone exudes confidence.

"I'm not concerned about the turn back," he says. "Her turn of foot is very dangerous at a mile. Plus she is fresh."

Sweet Talker, Karen's Caper and Gorella, who finished 1-2-3, heads apart, in the Queen Elizabeth II last year, likely will be the first three choices in the First Lady.

Trainer Mott has a dangerous uncoupled entry - My Typhoon from the inside, Wend from the outside. My Typhoon will get the trip with hot jock Gomez; Wend is the horse for the course, but notice that Gomez, with a choice of the Mott mares, takes My Typhoon. Espinoza, the best of the west, is a worthy sub on Wend.

It will be interesting to see how far LAD shipper Our Love will take them.


I would have to say that the most impressive performance by a 2-year-old male this year in New York was turned in by Nobiz Like Shobiz. The Albert the Great colt, debuting a month back at Belmont, rallied to win by 10-plus lengths with a mile in 1:35 1/5, earning a Slew-like Beyer number of 96.

The owner-breeder is Elizabeth Valando, who gave us Fly So Free back in the early '90s, and the trainer is Barclay Tagg, Mr. Funny Cide.

It is a rare horse who goes from maiden-breaker to Grade 1 winner in two starts, but Nobiz Like Showbiz may be that rare one. From post two, he may sit a trip behind California shipper Liquidity, who looks the one to catch and beat.

Trainer O'Neill doesn't run many in New York so you have to respect him when he does. Normally, jockey Prado would have the mount, but Edgar is at Keeneland on Saturday so Coa - the next-best thing - gets the call.

Of course, Pletcher has the horse to beat. That would be Scat Daddy, who had a terrible trip for second to mate Circular Quay in the Hopeful at Saratoga.

Six of the 10 horses are unbeaten - and only one Pegasus Wind - has ever finished worse than third.

Clearly this is the best 2-year-race of the season to date. It would be no shock if the winner goes to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile as the favorite.


Naturally, trainer Pletcher has the favorite - a filly named Magnificent Song, who has four wins and a rough-trip second from her last five starts.

Handicappers can take the easy way out, and put her on top - or they can try to beat here.

Certainly, Pletcher doesn't have to win. The 11-filly field is loaded top-to-bottom with quality. In fact, it's so strong that Vacare, 3-for-3 by open lengths at Arlington, and the best young grass filly out of Chicago in years, is 20-1 overnight.

What to do with the four Europeans? Box them? Toss them?

Of the four, the most accomplished is Germance, who is 5-1-0 in France. She may even go favored.

But what about Mauralakana? Her France form doesn't compare to Germance, but in one race on U.S. soil, she was a fast-closing third to Karen's Caper in the Noble Damsel at Belmont. And that was against older horses.

On the other hand, Mauralakana was beaten four lengths by Germance at Chantilly, and she's drawn outside - in this case a minus, not a plus.

Look out for Biancone. He is running Trick's Pic as a rabbit for Mauralakana.

PIESEN CUES: You won't find jockey Nick Santagata in these big-bucks races, but that's OK. On Wednesday evening, Saint Nick reached his second milestone within a week. A week back, he rode career winner 4,000 at Philadelphia Park, and on Wednesday at The Meadowlands, he became the first jockey in the 28-year history of the track to reach the 1,000-win milestone.

Santagata, 49, reached 1,000 with Mizzou Tiger in race five.

"I'm happy and relieved to get it done and over with," Nick said. "It meant a lot for me to do it in front a lot of my friends and jockeys I ride with. Now it's time to get on to the next thousand."

I've mentioned this before, but it deserves repeating.

Nobody in racing performs more charity work than Santagata, especially with sick and underprivileged children.

Nick would make a worthy recipient of the annual Mike Venezia or George Woolf awards.

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