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Mar 09, 2007

Through The Binoculars


So much for annointing Nobiz Like Shobiz a lock to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed.

Sent off at 3-5 in the Fountain of Youth, No Biz finished third, beaten a half-length and a nose by Scat Daddy and Stormello. If No Biz had been just another 3-year-old Derby hopeful, rather than the reincarnation of Seattle Slew, we'd all be saying he ran a
terrific race.

Or to put it in dollars and cents, if Nobiz had been 12-1 instead of 3-5, the media would be raving about his race. Instead, he has fallen from first to a consensus fifth in the Derby  Top Ten polls.

And, what a coincidence. Fifth is where No Biz was in this space last week - prior to the Fountain of Youth.

It's tough being right all the time.

Well, some of the time anyway.

Now, No Biz goes back to New York for the Wood Memorial where he will have to re-establish himself as the top dog in the Triple Crown hunt. He presumably will have to handle Summer Doldrums, as well as one or two Pletcher mercenaries in the Wood, so
that will be no gimmee.

At least, it's good to see that there is some loyalty left in the game.

I notice that old buddy Jack Knowlton still has No Biz on top in his Derby Top Ten. He insists his choice has nothing to do with the fact that trainer Barclay Tagg won a Derby for Jack with Funny Cide...the same trainer Tagg who has No Biz.

Good for Jack. Maybe I'll congratulate him on his loyalty if he again makes it to Hot Springs this year. He sure enjoyed the sights last year.

Speaking of Hot Springs, the Triple Crown Prep Race of the Year (to date) no doubt will be the Rebel on March 17 at Oaklawn Park.

Consider the fact that the field will include Flying First Class, Hard Spun, Curlin and

And measure this for size: all four know only one way to run - and that's on the lead!

If per chance the Oaklawn racetrack is speed-biased for the Rebel, that should be quite
a fast half-mile. And no one will want to see that happen more than Bob Holthus. Holthus, who won the last two Rebels with Greater Good and Lawyer Ron (remember him?) has a colt named Officer Rocket cranked up for a big stretch effort.

But more on the Rebel later.

Looking back at the Fountain of Youth, I have to believe that, of the four horses involved in the blanket finish, the most impressive was Adore the Gold, who finished fourth.

From post nine, there was no way that Adore the Gold would ever see the rail. And that's what happened. Prado did all he could to save some ground, but the colt was wide from stem to stern while, in harness terms, racing uncovered.

I don't know if Adore the Gold wants a any part of a mile and a quarter, but I imagine he'll take some beating in the Florida Derby.

Of course, we are presuming here that Pletcher won't win every Derby prep race.

I guess his enforced vacation didn't hurt Todd anyway. Did you notice he sent out nine 3-year-olds on Saturday...and five of them won. He also won stakes with Half Ours, who is the quietest 6-for-6 you'll ever see (more on him below), and filly champ Wait A While.

Todd of course won the Fountain of Youth with Scat Daddy, and the Hutcheson with King of the Roxy, although the bettors expected him to win it with Out of Gwedda, who checked in third as the favorite.

Coming up this Saturday is the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, and Pletcher has Circular Quay and Soaring By primed for that. Did anyone say a Velazquez-Prado exacta?

Of Pletcher's armada of Derby prospects (I guess he wants to break Zito's record of five Derby starters), jockey Velazquez likes Circular Quay the most. By far. I get this on good authority.

But Johnny V. is facing some logistics problems this weekend.

On Friday, he will journey from south Florida to Hot Springs to ride Magna Graduate in the Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn.

Then it gets tricky.

Johnny V. wants to get to New Orleans on Friday in order to get a good night's sleep prior to riding Circular Quay, Master Command, and three or four other Pletcher bullets at Fair Grounds on Saturday.

Since there are no flights from Hot Springs to New Orleans on Friday night, thought was given to driving. But even the fastest limo would take eight hours.

So who should come to the rescue but William Farish - the same William Farish who will have Queen Elizabeth as his guest at Churchill Down for the Derby.

Farish is providing a private plane Friday for trainer Neil Howard and jockey Albarado from New Orleans to Hot Springs and back. So maybe there will be room on the flight back for Johnny V., who will be in a rush to get to New Orleans in time for Circular Quay, who will be 3-5.

Howard is bringing Student Council from New Orleans for the Razorback.

"It's a tough race," Neil told me.

"Why?", I queried.

"Magna Graduate," he replied.

Of course, Magna Graduate is trained by the Pletcher guy.

Pletcher's domination of the racing game (where have all the sheiks gone?) extrends to the sprint division as well.

At this point in time, Pletcher trains the two best sprinters on the planet: Half Ours and Keyed Entry. And who wants to say they won't run one-two in the upcoming Carter Handicap at Aqueduct?

Meantime, it says here that Round Pond, one of the rare good horses not in the Pletcher barn, this year will finally win an Eclipse Award. Somehow, the voters failed to realize that Round Pond was the best 3-year-old filly in 2005, and the best 4-year-old (and up) filly in 2006.

Trainer Mike Matz is taking his time with Round Pond in the wake of her Breeders' Cup blowout last November. She worked a half-mile in a bullet :46 last weekend at Palm Meadows, and will kick off her 5-year-old campaign  in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn
Park, where she has enjoyed considerable success in the employ of trainer John Servis, Derby winning trainer (Smarty Jones).

For those scoring at home, Round Pond is owned by Rick Porter, who also will have Gasia in Saturday's Azeri at Oaklawn. If Gasia performs as well as expected, trainer Jones will run her back in the Apple Blossom.

And that will present a problem for trainer Jones.

"Maybe Round Pond will miss her flight," he says.

"Just kidding."

Speaking of Jones, last week he voiced one of the great quotes of the year in the wake of Hard Spun's fourth-place finish in the Southwest - a performance not unlike No Biz's third in the Fountain of Youth.

Said Jones: "I just want to thank all those many folks who were nice enough to give me advice on how to train my horse."

On another winning note, I hit a huge exacta Saturday at Gulfstream with Lucky To Cope and Dead Red in the 8th race for $561.60.

Derby prep action continues this Saturday featuring The Gotham at Aqueduct, Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, and El Comino Real at Santa Anita. Their are 7 weeks of prep races left remaining ending with the Kentucky Derby Saturday, May 5th. If you haven't yet, you can sign up for all the preps, over 20 races, here online at or by calling toll free 1-888-612-2283.

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