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May 12, 2007

Through The Binoculars

By: JOHN PIESEN


PRE-PREAKNESS DIARY

Growing up on the mean streets of Brooklyn, I kept a personal diary, chronicling every thing from my stickball prowess on East 19th Street to my first kiss. Notice my priorities.

 Too bad I'm still not doing so because these Two Weeks in May would provide an infinite supply of horse racing material.

Consider:

May 3 - Filed Oaks, Derby, and Derby full-card picks on John Piesen Hot Line.

May 4 - Nailed Oaks trifecta ($131) on said hot line.

May 5 - Nailed Derby trifecta ($440) plus three double-digit winners on supporting CD card on said hot line.

May 6 - Was tipped that jockey Borel was invited to join the Prez and the Queen at White House State Dinner on May 7...and broke the news on "www.JohnPiesen.com".

May 7 - Larry Jones, calling from his cell on a West Virginia interstate, told me how he really felt about 17 Derby jocks giving Calvin an E Z pass. I suggested to trainer Jones that he should let me enter Hard Spun for Preakness (remember Smarty Jones?), but Larry didn't seem all that  interested. He also passed along the bad news that his good 3-year-old filly Street Minstrel broke down, and was retired. "She's in Kentucky," he said, "and hopefully they can breed her."

May 8 - Attended Monmouth Park luncheon emceed by Dave Johnson, and listened to several racing bigwigs concede that Jersey racing needs slots to survive. Congratulated former colleague Ray Kerrison for picking Derby winner. Heard Greg Avioli, president of Breeders' Cup, say: "I have no idea why there have been rumors that we are bailing out on Monmouth Park. We are definitely coming to Monmouth...unless we get a bio-disease outbreak."

May 10 - Learned that trainer Jones would be doing Preakness diary next week for New York Post. Maybe Larry can reprise his fabulous post-Derby quote: "I think I think more than y'all think I think."

May 11 - Will attend opening day at Monmouth...following Max's hot dog.

May 16 - Off to Preakness.

May 17 - File Preakness and full card picks on hot line.

May 18 - Nail Preakness ( I hope you'll join me for my Preakness Weekend Selections. Friday there are 5 stakes races at Pimlico including the Black-Eyed Susan, and then the Full Card at Pimlico (and Belmont Park) for Preakness Day. I hit the exacta ($101.80) and trifecta box ($440.00) in the Derby, and feel confident we'll have another stellar Preakness next week. Sign up for your picks here online, or call me toll free at 1-888-612-2283.


 In all the coverage of jockey Borel's visit to the White House, no one mentioned the fact that Calvin was the first jockey so honored. As I said here on Monday, my invitation was lost in the mail so I had to get my information second hand, mostly from old bud Jennie Rees in the Louisville newspaper.

  "I was nervous," Calvin told Jennie, "...but the President just grabbed me by the shoulder, and really made me feel relaxed. He was like, oh, this is the man I've been waiting for. It was unbelievable when he did that. I kind of felt back home.

"We just started talking about Street Sense, and if I thought he could keep going, make it to the Preakness and Belmont. He said we'll pray."

Calvin said he was drilled about how to address the Queen. The White House instructed him to call Prince Phillip "Your Royal Highness" and the Queen "Your Majesty."

Done.

Calvin said that Laura Bush told him that she extended the invitation because she was so impressed with the care he showed for Street Sense while pulling up, particularly the sponge bath.

Finally, Calvin said that because the press was spending too much time with him, and ignoring Nancy Reagan, who was on deck, that the White House staff had to rush him through.

My first thought after reading this?

Is this really the same Calvin Borel who had to be told (by me) to put his pants on for a TV interview back in January at Oaklawn Park?

I guess Calvin knew what he was doing when he took off five days at Oaklawn (costing him the riding title) in order to travel to Florida and Kentucky to work Street Sense.

This just in: Back in January, he told a certain Oaklawn media person that "Street Sense was the best 3-year-old in the world, and a lock to win the Derby"

You can look it up.

As predicted in this space last week, the press is anointing the Derby winner a cinch  to win the Triple Crown.

My favorite post-Derby line every year is: "...and now so and so ONLY has to win the Preakness and the Belmont to take the Triple Crown."

If only it were that easy you would think that we wouldn't have to go all the way back to 1978 for the last Triple Crown winner.

 Personally, I would imagine that Hard Spun will take some catching in the Preakness, that Curlin will run a much improved race off the Derby, and that the new shooters (maybe Chelokee and C P West) will have something to say about the Preakness.

Speaking of Curlin, I mentioned in this space last month that his four owners are rotating their silks for his races. Curlin raced in George Bolton's colors in the Derby, thus will race in Kentucky attorney Shirley Cunningham's black and blue silks in the Preakness.

Curlin, it is worth noting,  is named for Cunningham's great grandfather - a confederate slave before the Civil War.

Incidentally, Steve Asmussen, Curlin's trainer, had an interesting experience on Oaks Day.

According to sources, Steve's rental car was stuck in traffic on Central Avenue, outside Churchill Downs. As a result, Steve, who was pressed for time, ditched the vehicle in the middle of Central Avenue, and walked to the track, getting there just in time to saddle a horse.

Among his other achievements, Asmussen this year dethroned defending seven-time champion Cole Norman as the leading trainer at Oaklawn. He was able to do so because Norman was ruled off.

 The reason?

On Feb. 5, Norman's Cadillac crossed a divider in Hot Springs, and fatally injured 86-year-old Virginia Heath, a cousin of former president Clinton. According to toxicology reports, Norman was driving under the influence of several strong narcotics.

Last week, Hot Springs prosecutors charged Norman, who was not injured in the crash, with manslaughter. Norman also is the target of a law suit filed by the victim's family in civil court.



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