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Jun 29, 2007

Through The Binoculars

By: JOHN PIESEN


If you think the Yankees had a bad week, what about our favorite sport of horse Racing?

At least the umpires saved the Yanks on Thursday evening by giving them a chance to catch up and go ahead during a monsoon..

Or, as one Yankee TV shill said: "The Yanks caught a break."

But who is going to save racing?

In a matter of days, we saw:

  • Invasor, the best older horse on the planet, retired to stud...although they did their very best to keep it a secret. Fact is that my old employer, the New York Post, still hasn't gotten around to running line one about it.
  • Lawyer Ron managed to fall a neck short at 10 cents to the dollar in a stake race at Monmouth Park.  The public be damned.
  • Scat Daddy was retired to stud, where he will command $30,000 a pop next year.
  • In a page three story, the New York Daily News quoted Gov. Spitzer as saying, as far as he is concerned, Aqueduct should be converted into a mall, and racing held nine months a year at Belmont Park...where, presumably, they could race over the training track.
  • It was revealed that Patrick Biancone, one of the most successful trainers in the game, is under investigation by the Kentucky stewards, who conducted a sweeping search of his Keeneland barn. More information presumably will be forthcoming.
  • Veteran Philly Park-based jockey Victor Molina was suspended 30 days for kicking a horse in the stomach.

    What bothers me about this situation is that the only reason Molina was caught (and handed a harsh punishment) is that he was caught on camera.
    I've seen scores of similar cases over the years go unpunished because there was no visual evidence.

    Taking this one step further...Do you really think that Billy Patin was the first jockey to be carrying an electrical device? It happens all the time, but Patin had the bad luck to be caught red-handed by the ESPN cameras.  
  • Saturday's two Grade Ones at Belmont - the Suburban and Mother Goose - drew a combined total of 10 horses - six in the Suburban, four in the Mother Goose.

Hey, there is no bigger fan of Corinthian than this writer, who had the good fortune to nail him as his $21.40 best bet in the Met Mile on Memorial Day at Belmont.

That said, it's hard to get excited about the prospect of taking 4-5 on him in the Suburban.

As for the Mother Goose, what does it say when trainer Pletcher can leave Rags to Riches in her Belmont stall...and still be 3-5, with Octave.

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Last weekend was great... Just Look At These Scores From June 23 And 24...

Belmont Pick 3:
Race 4: Freudian  Won!  $13.60 - Jets Only   2nd   (Exacta Box $46.60)
Race 5: Bayou Timber  Won! $13.00 -  Winaway 2nd     (Exacta Box $37.20)                        
Race 6: Wingspan  Won!  $8.00  -  Lahudood  2nd   (Exacta Box $13.60)
PICK 3 PAID $237.00 for $2 Bet!

And, That Was Just The Beginning, Because We Also Hit It Big at...

Monmouth:
Be Oh Be  Won! $13.00 - Change Your Image 2nd ( Exacta Box $51.60)

Churchill Downs:
Slam My Heart Won! $4.20 - Crafty Mark 2nd   (Exacta Box $20.20)

AND YET MORE WINNERS FROM THE WEST COAST ...

Hollywood Park:
Worldly Won! $5.20 - Golden Balls  2nd  (Exacta Box $24.80)

Hollywood Park:
Maschina Won! $5.40 - Mohawk 2nd  (Exacta Box $28.80) - Beau Gent  3rd (Trifecta Box $123.00)

Hollywood Park:
Sound Barrier Won! $14.00 - Chancellor  2nd  (Exacta Box Paid $116.60) - Classic Attire 3rd (Trifecta Box Paid $650.00)

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Speaking of trainers, there is a great quote from Asmussen this week in a Dallas paper.

Asked to explain his astounding success, Asmussen said: "Why do I win all the time? Simple. What chance does have a guy of  beating my $100,000 horse with a $10,000 horse?"

Of course, Super Steve doesn't win 'em all. An exception was the Belmont when Curlin, his $3.5 million horse, lost a squeaker to Rags to Riches.

My colleagues in the media have spent the last three weeks falling over themselves in praise of Rags to Riches, a horse most of them had never heard of until trainer Pletcher put her in the Belmont on June 6.

Maybe so...but allow me cite a marvelous letter to the editor from Barbara Cripps of New York City in last Sunday's Daily Racing Form. 

To paraphrase:

"The Belmont was as phony as the Affirmed-Alydar Travers, and the incident with Shake Shake Shake.

"Since Garrett Gomez didn't want to ride Hard Spun, the horse's trainer (Larry Jones) was ill-advised to leave him on the horse. The restraint with which he held the horse was disgusting. It was not a true race."

In addition to costing Hard Spun any chance to win the Belmont, it cost him big-time in the prestige department. Note that the Danzig colt dropped from a top fiver in the weekly NTRA to also-ran status.

Incidentally, expect jockey Pino to be back on Hard Spun fo r the colt's next race, which, according to trainer Jones, will be the Haskell at Monmouth, the King's Bishop at Saratoga, or the grassy Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park.

I would guess it will be the King's Bishop, a seven-furlong Grade1 which was won last year by Henny Hughes...trained by Patrick Biancone.

Ah, racing is a small world, isn't it?

"The colt needs to win a Grade One," says Jones.

Obviously, a Grade One on his resume would be helpful when Hard Spun goes to stud next year. Placings in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes are OK, but they just don't cut it in the old breeders' shed.

Speaking of 3-year-olds, I dropped by John Forbes' Monmouth Park barn the other morning to visit Cable Boy, a winner of his first three starts at the shore track, including the Coronado's Quest Stakes last Sunday.

The current plans now are to run Cable Boy in the Long Branch and the Haskell over his home track.

Cable Boy, from the first crop of Jump Start, was a Sales steal at $23,000.

How big a steal?

Old buddy Herb McCauley, a one-time star jock now dabbling in the lucrative world of buying and selling horses, was at the barn to offer Pat McBurney, Forbes' long-time assistant, and now the trainer of record, a business proposition:

"Two million for half the horse!" Herb said.

"We'll think it over," McBurney told him.
  
Speaking of ex-jockeys, I got a call the other day from Jack Kaenel...or Cowboy Jack Kaenel as I coined him back when at the Post.

At age 16, Kaenel earned fame and fortune when he became the youngest rider to win a Triple Crown race. That would be the 1982 Preakness on Aloma's Ruler.

Kaenel has had his share of ups and down in the quarter-century since, and, in fact, hasn't ridden professionally in five years.

But now, at age 41, Kaenel is planning a comeback.

"I'm down to 110 pounds, the lightest I've been in years," Kaenel told me, "and I hope to get back riding next month in California."

In the meantime, Kaenel is breaking young horses at a farm in Washington State, and is high on a 2-year-old filly with Mr. Prospector in her pedigree.

"This baby can really run," Jack said. "And she's for sale."




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