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Sep 11, 2003

Racing Today

By: John Piesen

Four and one! Eighty per cent! This writer finally decided to make spot football picks this season for the web site.The first-week results were fantabulous. I nailed four winners, all blowouts: Boston College, the Atlanta Falcons, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Tampa Bay Bucs. There was even a favorite in the bunch (Seattle). My only loser was the St. Louis Rams, and, as we all know, there were extenuating circumstances. Maybe it"s just as well. Five and 0, and I probably would have demanded a raise. Please do not consider this beginner"s luck. Football has always been my second favorite sport. I covered some gridiron epics in my years at the New York Post and Newark News. And, handicapping wise, I went head to head with Paul Zimmerman for years, and whipped up on him.

The only reason I became a racing writer rather than a football writer is because there were - and are - a lot less racing writers out there than football writers…and they weren"t - and aren"t - nearly as good. (For example, a racing writer wrote in a major New York daily (the News) on Monday that Lunar Sovereign paid $10 in the Man O"War. The horse actually was 10-1 and paid $22.) And, no, I can"t say I had it. But I did nail the Woodward tri cold.So, here"s the real deal. Obviously, I can"t guarantee eighty per cent every weekend, but I"m going to pick a lot more winners than losers. Check out (please insert phone number) for details.A couple of other football points caught my attention over the weekend.A report in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette said that the Steelers" punter (Josh Miller) makes $825,000 per annum, or $75,000 more than quarterback Tommy Maddox, one of the five best QBs in the league.Please explain that to me.I"m a big fan of the ESPN show Pardon the Interruption so it pains me to write the following:At the end of the Monday show, Tony Kornheiser asked co-host Mike Wilbon whom he likes in that night"s Eagles-Bucs game.Wilbon replied, and I quote: The Eagles, because they"re home."So here"s a case of a major sports columnist for a major newspaper (the Washington Post) picking a team because it"s home.

Who cares who has bettter personnel, a better defense, better special teams, whatever? His choice is made because they"re home!And, Wilbon isn"t the only one. I"ve heard Boomer Esaison and other "experts" pick Team A because it"s "home". If life were only that simple.Then there"s the matter of the Chicago Bears. Have you even seen a worse performance by an NFL team (and an NFL quarterback) than the Bears turned in against the Niners in losing 49-7 last weekend? It would have been 98-7 if SF didn"t call off the dogs. That said, the average ticket price for the Bears" home games at a renovated Soldier Field this season will be a league high $65, up from $51 last year.The second biggest ticket in the NFL is the Eagles, and can you imagine what will happen if the Patriots score first in Sunday"s epic between two teams who were beaten a combined 48-0 in week one?

And, speaking of Philadelphia, when the Phillies scored once in the ninth and once in the 10th to beat the Mets last Sunday, this was the first time all year they won a game when trailing going into the ninth inning. They had been 0-55! Back to racing, it was sad to read about the death on Monday of Harold Rose in south Florida. A public trainer for six decades, Rose, a New York native, captured the nation"s attention when - at age 89 - he won the 2000 Florida Derby with the ultimate rags-to-riches horse Hal"s Hope. Rest in peace, Mr. Rose.On the racetrack, the weekend was notable for two events:Mineshaft confirmed his superstar status in winning the fourth fastest Woodward ever run. But maybe I"m being premature. He stillhas to beat Empire Maker in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Candy Ride et al. in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Did you notice that $1.7 million was bet to show on Mineshaft in the Woodward, $300,000 of which was wagered by the Pennsylvania-based Mad Bomber.The Bomber is on quite a roll. It"s been two years since he lost one of his frequent six-figure show bets.

The Pat Valenzuela-Julie Krone Match Race attracted 20,000 to Del Mar on Sunday, and it was a beaut. P Val got Chester"s Choice upin the last jump to nail Julie, who was on Woke Up Dreamin.The result leaves Pat two-up on Krone for the Del Mar title. Bad news for that fellow who took 1,000-1 on Julie in Vegas.Speaking of Del Mar, Bob Baffert will be trying to win the Del Mar Futurity for the eighth straight year on closing day Wednesday. As opposed to last year, when he ran five horses in the race, Baffert will run only one - Cooperation - this time.A $200,000 son of Halo"s Image, Cooperation broke his maiden in his start, winning off by seven with 5 ½ furlongs in 1:03 3/5.The streak obviously is important to Baffert. He"s bringing Jerry Bailey from New York to ride Cooperation.Cooperation may be a monster, but he"s going to have to run some to beat Perfect Moon, already a two-time stakes-winner. Valenzuela has the return call on Perfect Moon from the ideal outside post in the seven-furlong Futurity, the winner of which likely will be the favorite for the Breeders" Cup Juvenile. It will be quite a story if Perfect Moon gets the job done. The gelding is a $4,700 yearling buy.

PIESEN"S PICK: 1) Perfect Moon 2) Cooperation 3) Gulf of Mexico

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