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Jul 13, 2007

Through The Binoculars


Most high-profile horse trainers are - shall we say - unapproachable by the betting public, the very same betting public that enables them to live the good life.

An exception is Larry Jones.

Jones was at Monmouth Park last weekend to run Beat the Band in the $60,000 Lighthouse Stakes. Pommes Frites from trainer Mott was 1-5 with Bravo so Jones pretty much knew he was running for second money. Beat the Band led from the bell, and did well to get second to Mott.

"Beats me," Jones said, "...why the Billy Motts of the world have to ship Group I horses for small pots. But that's the way the game is played."

As the field was preparing to load, a young man walked up to Jones, and casually  asked him his plans for Hard Spun.

Instead of shrugging the guy off, Jones took the time to tell him:

"Nothing is set in stone, but Rick (owner Rick Porter) told me he wants to point Hard Spun for the Haskell (Aug. 5 at Monmouth) so that's what we'll do. The way Monmouth plays, Mr. Porter thinks the Haskell would be a good spot. If all goes well, and we have a perfect world, we're on target for the Haskell.

"And Mario (Pino) will be back aboard."

Can you imagine Todd Pletcher or D. Wayne spending five minutes with this guy as though he were Joe Hirsch or Kelso Sturgeon.

And, incidentally, this is precisely where and how this writer found out that Hard Spun is going to the Haskell.

That said...the Haskell is shaping up as an all-timer.

Hard Spun's main rival will be the mighty the race we were expecting in the Rebel back in March at Oaklawn Park winds up in August down the Shore.

The Toddster is sure to send one or two for the Haskell (maybe Any Given Saturday), and John Forbes will test the unbeaten Cable Boy against the big boys.

Forbes originally planned to run Cable Boy in tomorrow's Long Branch at Monmouth as a final prep for the Haskell, but decided to go with Get Serious - a very promising 3-year-old in his own right - in his stead, figuring five races in three months for Cable Boy would be a bit much.

Historians will note that this will be the 20th anniversary of the greatest Haskell ever (Bet Twice beating Alysheba and Lost Code), as well as the 10th anniversary of Tale of the Cat's near-miss. Tale of the Cat was owned by Phantom House Farm, whch also owns Cable Boy.

Speaking of Tale of the Cat, did you notice the performance of Tale of Ekati in the second race last Saturday at Belmont Park. As a first-time 2-year-old from trainer Tagg, he broke a step slow from the one-hole, was pressed into and through the turn, and drew off to win by five.

The good news is that we gave out Tale of Ekati on the John Piesen Hot Line (1-888-612-2283). The bad news is that he paid $4.30.

It should be noted that the Hotline has been especially hot in recent days. Thursday,for example, we gave out three races at Belmont...and went three for three: Dorm Fever at $10.60, Foreverness at $11.20, and a $25 exacta.

We got lucky with Dorm Fever because the 3-5 favorite in the race dumped his jock at the start. And the wire came up just in time for Foreverness. So I guess we're living right. My best guess is that we will continue to live right at Saratoga, which kicks off a week from Wednesday.

Back to trainer Jones for a minute.

The Cowboy has nothing in the three stakes at Delaware Park on Saturday, but he is unveiling a promising 2-year-old colt in race four. The colt's name is Bronze Medal. He is by Dixieland Band. He will fly the red and white of Porter's Fox Hill Farm , and will be ridden by Pino.

Are we looking at Hard Spun II?

And, while are at it, Jones will run a 2-year-old filly firster named Maren's Meadow in race four on Sunday (Delaware Handicap Day)...also with Pino up.

"This is a Meadowlake filly who reminds me a lot of Wildcat Bettie B.," says Jones.

A reminder that Wildcat Bettie B. is a Grade One winner for Jones.

The three stakes at Delaware on Saturday are the $300,000 Dick Memorial Handicap;  the $100,000 Carpenter Memorial Handicap, and the $500,000 Delaware Oaks, to be run back-to-back as races six, seven and eight.

The Dick Memorial incidentally is named for Robert G. Dick, a Delaware Park founder, and not Charley Dick, the husband of the late Patsy Kline, and a fellow Army brat back when at Fort Bragg.

The bottom line in all three stakes is a Dominguez-Velazquez match-up.

In the Dick, Ramon will ride the favored Royal Highness for trainer Clement , and Johnny V. will pilot Safari Queen for the Toddster.

The Toddster can not be happy about the weights.

Back on Feb. 25 at Gulfstream Park, Royal Highness, packing 120 pounds, defeated Safari Queen (117) by two lengths in The Very One Handicap.

For the Dick, Safari Queen will pack 123 pounds and Royal Highness 121.

That's a five-pound swing for Royal Highness off a two-length win.

Edge: Dominguez.

In the Carpenter, Dominguez will ride Awfully Smart for trainer Goldberg, and Johnny V. will ride Take the Bluff for Rich Violette, the hottest trainer in New York.

Awfully Smart is 5-for-5 over the track, including a five-length blowout in the Leonard Richards last year. He prepped for the Carpenter with two wire jobs. both with triple-digit Beyers.

Take the Bluff won two straight last winter over the Aqueduct inner, and chased barnmate Flashy Bull and Lawyer Ron in his last two starts, both Grade 3 stakes.

Edge: Dominguez.

In the Oaks, Dominguez will ride Winning Point for trainer Gaudet, and Velazquez will pilot Cotton Blossom for Pletcher and Cot Campbell.

On paper, Cotton Blossom is the better filly. After all, she won the Florida Oaks, and, last out, the Grade 1 Acorn, whereas Winning Point has yet to win a stake.

But you want to notice that, two races back, Winning Point lost the Black Eyed Susan by a troubled length to the Pletcher-trained Panty Raid, who came back to win the $750,000 American Oaks last weekend at Hollywood Park.

Winning Point gets the rail, six pounds from Cotton Blossom, and will be pricier.

Edge: Dominguez.

Total: Dominguez 3; Velazquez 0.

The Oaks however is far from a two-filly race.

The field includes among others the Hartlage-trained High Heels, who beat Cotton Blossom by six in the Fantasy at Oaklawn; and the Baffert-trained Tough Tiz's Sis, who is fresh from a Grade 2 blowout in the Hollywood Oaks.

Finally, I'm sad to report that Elaine Ferri, who trained a public stable for several years at Monmouth Park, and, more recently in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, sustained serious injuries this week when kicked in the head by a horse at her farm in Texarkana, Ark.

Elaine, who is looking at major surgeries,  would appreciate hearing from racing fans. She can be reached through the Monmouth Park and Oaklawn Park publicity offices.

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