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Jun 15, 2007

Through The Binoculars



Now that the Triple Crown is history, we can start looking ahead to the next big event for
3-year-olds on the racing calendar - the $1 million Haskell Invitational to be run on August 5 at Monmouth Park.

"This has the potential to be the greatest Haskell ever," says Dennis Dowd.

And he should know because he runs the joint.

But the man has a point.

At this point in time, the greatest Haskell ever was the 1987 edition. That was the year that Belmont Stakes winner Bet Twice beat Derby/Preakness Alysheba and the  Multiple stakes-winner Lost Code in a blanket finish.

And isn't it great that Hall of Famers Jimmy Croll and Jack Van Berg, who trained Bet Twice and Alysheba, respectively, are still going strong?

This year's Haskell has more significance than ever since it will be run at the same venue that will play host to the Breeders' Cup in late October.

"The Haskell as a prep race for the Breeders' Cup Classic is real," Monmouth veep  Bob Kulina told the media the other day. "You can't take the importance of a race over the track out of the scenario."

Steve Asmussen, the trainer of Curlin, announced this week that the Arkansas Derby/Preakness winner is definite for the Haskell.

"And we'll probably get Street Sense or Hard Spun, or maybe both," says Dowd.

Other probables for the nine-furlong Haskell are the locally-owned Scat Daddy, the Florida Derby winner; Ohio Derby winner Delightful Kiss; Tampa Bay Derby winner Any Given Saturday, and Barbaro Stakes winner Cheleken.

And then there is Cable Boy.

If you don't know the name, you haven't been paying attention. Last month, we gave him out on the phone service (1-888-612-2283) and on as the day's best bet, and he aired at $12.40 in track-record time.

Unraced at two, Cable Boy now has won both his starts at 3 for trainers John Forbes and Pat McBurney, and yesterday he breezed a mile in a bullet 1:42 over the Monmouth strip.

He figures to be 1-5 next time out in the Coronado's Quest Stakes, which will send him into the Haskell with a three-for-three resume.

Cable Boy incidentally is owned by Phantom House Farm, a consortium of rich Jersey-based owners who, a decade back, campaigned a nice colt named Tale of the Cat.

Maybe you remember that Tale of the Cat was beaten two lengths by Touch Gold in the Haskell.

Makes an interesting story line.

Two of the Haskell probables - Scat Daddy and Any Given Saturday - come from the Todd Pletcher barn.

Mr. Pletcher, currently the toast of the racing community in the wake of Rags to Riches'
Belmont success last Saturday, is looking at another big Saturday tomorrow at Churchill Downs.

Pletcher will be represented in six races at Churchill, and, as such, must be used on all your gimmicks tickets, notably the $250,000 guaranteed Pick Six.

Let's take a look...

Race Three - Mr. Shortcake was beaten a nose for second in his debut after dumping jockey Mojica while loading. He gets Johnny V. this time, and will be hard to catch going five-eighths.

Race Four - Co-owned by Todd's dad, J.J. Pletcher, Justa Streak back in January earned a 105 Beyer number winning a six and a half-furlong allowance at Gulfstream by seven-plus lengths over subsequent stakes-winner Flashy Bull.

Race Seven (the $200,000 Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup) - Sam P. (not named for the Orioles' skipper) beat Chelokee over the track last November, and, at 3, placed in the Santa Anita Derby and Robert B. Lewis Stakes before coming up 13 lengths short in the Kentucky Derby.

Note that Sam P. is two-for-two with Johnny V. (his rider here), and 0-for-7 with everyone else.

Race Eight (the $150,000 Mint Julep Handicap) - Magnificent Song was 6-5 against the same field on Derby Day. She goes back to Johnny V., drops two pounds, and gets the rail. She has to beat Danzon.

Race Nine (the $300,000 Fleur De Lis) - Indian Vale numbers three graded stakes victories among her six wins in nine starts. Like Magnificent Song, she comes off a fourth her same rivals at 6-5. She is by A.P. Indy, who gave us Rags to Riches.

Race Ten (the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap) - Between them, the uncoupled Master Command and Magna Graduate have won their last five starts - all stakes.

Combined, the two have earned $3 million, and are - by far - the two biggest
money-winners in the field. Master Command will be on the lead. Magna Graduate will stalk.

And, for those scoring at home, Johnny V rides six of the seven Pletcher runners, and opts for Master Command over Magna Graduate, who gets Gomez.

Speaking of Gomez, did you see his explanation for his performance on Hard Spun?
He said he took back because he feared that Prado (on C P West) would float him wide on the first turn.

Wonder how that went over with trainer Jones?

( I guess I have to give some thought to going back to J-school. The headline on the lead piece in Saturday's Form refers to the Stephen Foster shippers as "carpetbaggers.")

Interesting. Five of the eight Foster jockeys rode in the Belmont Stakes, and a sixth (Calvin Borel) should have.

In case you missed Monday's column, it was pointed out that the Belmont Stakes produced a better finish than The Sopranos.

Speaking of New York racing, the New York Racing Assn., in a form letter to its  "NYRA rewards" members, has some bad news.

This is the deal.

Until now, NYRA Rewards players -- in order to avoid - being taxed on all $600-plus playoffs, could buy $1 exacta and trifecta tickets instead of $2 tickets.

But no more. According to the letter, the IRS now has the technology to identify when you make more than $600 in total bets on a given race.

The bottom line now is that it really doesn't do you any good to play on your NYRA account inasmuch as you still have the option (at least until further notice) of going to the window and purchasing as many $1 combinations as you want in order to avoid paying the tax.

But is there a sadder story than Andrew Lakeman?

It was announced this week that Lakeman, 32, is paralyzed from the waist down as a result of severing his spinal chord in a spill at Belmont Park.

Makes you think twice before you or I complain next time we get beat in a photo or split an exacta.

Our prayers go out to Lakeman and his family.

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