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Sep 25, 2003

Racing Today

By: John Piesen


The defection of Candy Ride from the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Classic has to be the

biggest setback in racing since, well since Funny Cide and Empire Maker failed to

show for the Travers.

And I’m not just talking about the scores of betters who played Candy Ride in the

Futures. Hey, that’s part of the game. Risk and reward and all that. I’m talking about racing

needing stars.

We got two this year in Funny Cide and Seabiscuit, but it’s obvious that the general

public’s interest in racing has tailed off since the summer. I bet if you took a poll, you’d be

lucky to find two per cent who could tell you that Mineshaft won the Woodward.

After the Woodward, there were rumblings that Mineshaft’s people would skip the

Breeders’ Cup Classic, which will cap off the eight-race B.C. on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita.

I won’t be surprised if there’s a change of mind, now that Candy Ride is skipping the race.

Same goes for Perfect Drift. His people also may have a change of heart with the news that

Candy Ride is out.

But the bottom line is that Candy Ride, the exciting blowout winner of the Pacific Classic

in his United States debut, was going to be the hook for the Breeders’ Cup.

And now he’s out!

Certainly the media interest will still be there, and the Cup will draw a big crowd (and maybe big ratings),

but it’s going to be hard to work up a lot of excitement for Ten Most Wanted and Medaglia d’Oro.

Maybze Azeri can save the show.

There has been widespread speculation that some undisclosed injury prompted Hall of Fame

trainer Ron McAnally to advise Candy Ride’s owners, diet gurus Jenny and Sidney Craig, to

pocket the $800,000 check needed to supplement.

If this were any other trainer, I’d probably believe the same thing. But McAnally has always been

a straight shooter. I want to – and do – believe him when he says:


“I just think it’s in the best interests of Candy Ride not to run. This is solely my idea. He’s such

a genuine horse. It’s not often one comes along like this. He’s something special. I don’t want

to hurt him. He’s been in training nearly three years and could use a rest. The time off will do

him some good.”

So there you have it. If Candy ride was to win the Classic (and he would have been 6-5 to do so),

he’s Horse of the Year and champion older horse. Instead, I don’t see how he deserves a vote

in either category…although he will get some.

It’s too bad Candy Ride is staying in the barn on Oct. 25.

But life does go on.

BAD BREAK FOR PITINO

Last week, I wrote about Joe Torre winning a Bay Meadows stake with his very first

horse – a 4-year-old filly named Cellamare.

Unlike Torre, a newcomer to racing ownership, Rick Pitino, another sports icon, has

owned horses for 25 years…without winning a stakes race of any kind.

Pitino’s misfortune appeared over last Saturday when his newly-acquired Art Variety – like

Cellamare, a South America import – went wire to wire at 13-1 in the $200,000 Kentucky

Cup Turf at Kentucky Downs, a backwater track near the Tennessee border.

Art Variety gamely held off the stretch runs of Rochester and Quest to prevailby a nose and

a neck. It took 10 minutes to develop the photo.

Then came a stewards’ inquiry. And after a 20-minute delay, they took down Art Variety, and

dropped him to third behind Rochester and Quest Star. It was a ridiculous call. Sure, there

was some brushing through the lane with the three horses in close quarters, but nothing to

deserve a DQ.

“I thought it was a very small bump, certainly not enough to warrant a disqualification,” said

Ken McPeek, the trainer of Art Variety.

I don’t feel sorry for Rick Pitino and Ken McPeek. They are big boys, and make a comfortable

living. But if I had action on Art Variety, I know I’d be ripped.

PINCAY SUES

I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not going into details in the issue, but I was shocked to read that Laffit

Pincay Jr. is suing Santa Anita Park, claiming negligence in the wake of his carrer-ending back

injury sustained in a spill last spring at the California track.

After all, during a remarkable 40 year career, Pincay won hundreds – make that thousands -- of

races at Santa Anita, and pocketed millions. Then, after he announced his retirement, the track

threw a huge farewell party for him.

It just seems outrageous that Pincay would respond with a law suit. Again, I’m not a lawyer. I just

hope this isn’t all about money. But what else could it be about?

BASEBALL BEAT

There were several baseball items that caught my attention the last week.

The minor-league Brooklyn Cyclones needed a venue for their year-ending team party, so they chose

Scores, a prominent Manhattan
strip joint. Were you expecting the Metropolitan Museum of Art?

No, that’s fine. But you’ll never guess who the Cyclone players ran into at Scores. None other than

Mo Vaughn, the dandy first baseman who is collecting an $18 million paycheck for not playing with the

New York Mets this year because of injury.

I guess the injury can’t be that bad because there was Mo Vaughn getting lap dances up to 5 in the

morning, from the girls at Scores…and, yes…treating the Cyclones to same.

I just want the fans paying Mo’s salary to know.

The Cubs, locked in heated pennant and wild-card chases, kept their hopes alive last Sunday when

they beat the Pirates, 4-1, in Pittsburgh.

After the game, the players gathered around the TVs in the clubhouse. But were they hanging on every

pitch of the Phils’ and Marlins’ games? Are you kidding?

They were watching the NFL!

“We just have to win our games, we can’t worry about the other guys,” explained Cub second-sacker

Mark Grudzielanek.

The Cleveland Indians’ radio announcer happily noted the fact that there were hundreds of Red Sox

fans who made the trip from Boston to Cleveland for last weekend’s Sox-Indians series.

“Getting out of Fenway must be a treat for Red Sox fans,” the guy said. “At the Jake, they get to use

restrooms that actually work.

“And the smells at Fenway. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.”



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