Mar 08, 2008
Through The Binoculars
By: JOHN PIESEN
Saturday is the day we find out
if Majestic Warrior is back
For the sake of Boss George, and racing in general, here's hoping that the A.P. Indy colt returns in the same or close to the same form he showed winning his first two starts, including the Hopeful, last summer at Saratoga.
You'll recall that Majestic Warrior, off that incredible Hopeful score, was bet down to even money -- against War Pass and Pyro -- in the Champagne, but never ran a lick. Post-race exams showed the colt was hurt...which probably is as good an explanation as any.
We all know that fragile thoroughbreds often never make it back from injury. Here's hoping that MW is an exception.
Now we all know that trainer Mott is ultra-conservative by nature. I guess that comes with being from Nebraska. After all, this is the same Mott who once refused to run Cigar on a Friday night in a million-dollar race at The Meadowlands because, as he put it, "Cigar is a Saturday afternoon horse."
So it comes as a shock that Mott opts to ship Majestic Warrior halfway across rthe country to run against some of the best horses in the land for his 3-year-old debut.
He easily could have found a conditioned race for him in Florida, then go to the Florida Derby.
What this means -- as far as betting on him or against him -- in Saturday's Louisiana Derby is anyone's guess...expecially from the outside post in a field
Certainly the cons outweigh the pros. But the pros are pretty important. 1) Majestic Warrior boasts incredible talent, and 2) he runs well fresh.
Since The Boss evidently is not doing well enough to answer my calls, all I have to go on are second-hand quotes from his daughter Jessica, who is currently running his breeding and racing operation.
Jessica tells AP:
"My father is absolutely ecstatic he could have another shot at the Kentucky Derby. He had a great chance a few years ago with Bellamy Road, but that didn't work out. He's excited all over again.
"His dream has always been to win the Kentucky Derby, and that hasn't changed."
This reminds me of a story from the '70s...
The Pittsburgh Pirates were celebrating a World Series triumph in the locker room when a reporter asked owner John Galbreath if this was his biggest thrill in sports.
"No," Galbreath replied. "Winning the Kentucky Derby (with Chateaugay) is."
Good luck George.
From a handicapping perspective, trainer Asmussen holds a huge edge in the Louisiana Derby.
Not only will Steve saddle Pyro (#3), the most accomplished horse in the race, but he will leg up J Be K (#4), who clearly is the controlling speed of the race.
A $350,000 son of Silver Deputy, J Be K is 2-for-2 sprinting by a combined 12 lengths, putting up big numbers. He has been working lights out, has a favorable post, and a super speed rider in Desormeaux.
Maybe something will run with this guy, but I don't know who.
Then what to make of Tale of Ekati?
This is a son of Tale of the Cat who will be making his first start for trainer Tagg since a wide trip for fourth from post nine in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Monmouth Park last October. He was a mere 9-2 in that race so that tells you all you need to know about his prior races.
Like Majestic Warrior, this guy makes the ship from Florida, where he easily could have run against inferior horses at Gulfstream Park. His works at Palm Meadows are super, and jockey Prado, who, as always, had his choice of mounts, will ride him for the first time.
Tagg -- like the Boss -- can be rough on jockeys so I have to assume Coa was blamed for the BC loss.
And what about Blackberry Road?
You think Boss George wants to win the Derby at age 77.
How 'bout Cot Campbell at age 80?
Cot did win a Preakness with Summer Squall, but he would give back half his book royalties to win a Derby. And Blackberry Road gives him his best chance since -- well, since Summer Squall in 1990.
Blackberry Road has endured unimaginable racing luck in his last four starts, especially last time in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds when he got stopped every which way to Sunday, and settled for fifth to Pyro, beaten three lengths.
That necessitated a rider switch.
Borel off. Albarado on.
It's amazing how often these guys' paths cross...yet they remain best friends.
Speaking of Albarado, he is now the regular rider (replacing Borel) of Denis of Cork, the current No. 1 in my Kentucky Derby Top Ten.
I got word yesterday that Denis of Cork will skip the Rebel at Oaklawn Park, and go instead a week later over the synthetic Turfway strip in the Lane's End.
If indeed that was the case, that would be bad news. In fact, I would have had to drop Denis dramatically in my ratings.
But, as this is being written, I just got word that cooler heads have prevailed, and that Denis will go to the Rebel, in which he will face another Asmussen
bomber -- Z Fortune.
But the Lane's End will get one major Oaklawn horse.
I just learned this morning that trainer Jones plans to stretch out Ferragamo in the Lane's End.
You will recall that Jones won that race last year with a nice colt named Hard Spun.
"We have to find out," says Jones, "if Ferragamo can go long. If so, we can think about supplementing him for the Triple Crown.
"We know for sure that Ferragamo is fast."
Is he ever? Twice he has run "nine and two" in Oaklawn races, including the Mountain Valley, a race won by Afleet Alex in '05.
Speaking of Jones, he will run Proud Spell against arch nemisis Indian Blessing Saturday at Fair Grounds in the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks.
There are two other fillies in the race, but this in reality is one of those rare match races.
Indian Blessing is the speed from the rail with Eclipse jockey Gomez. Proud Spell must play catchup with the talented but relatively inexperienced Saez in the irons. If this were a handicapp, Indian Blessing would be asked to spot Proud Spell 6-8 pounds. But it's not, so they carry levels of 121 pounds.
This is a modern day War Admiral vs. Seabiscuit? It sure will be fun to watch. Maybe you can put a couple of bucks on Proud Spell, and hope for a similar result.
In the $200,000 Kenner, Euroears will be favored -- as well he should -- off a perfect 5-for-5 record, but he will have to deal with Oaklawn shipper Semaphore Man, and Frankel shipper Les Grands Trois.
The latter's trip from California was delayed a day this week because of plane malfunction, but Frankel didn't care.
"No big deal," he told me. "If my horse runs fast, he wins."
The $500,000 New Orleans Handicap is a rematch of Grasshopper (my Travers good thing) and the Oaklawn-based Silver Lord. But don't overlook the
Asmussen-trained Reporting for Duty. This guy can motor.
The key to the $500,000 Munoz is Daytona. He's best on paper, but he loses jockey Smith -- who opted to stay in California -- and he's drawn widest.
Frankel likes his horse (Proudinsky), and old bud Rick Pitino has a shot with Buffalo Man from the rail -- with Prado!
Up north, they will run the $250,000 Gotham over the Aqueduct inner, and trainer Pletcher will try to sandbag the race with Southern Terminus, Holidaze and Texas Wildcatter.
None of the three have stakes credentials so they have much to prove.
Of the three, the most interesting is Southern Terminus, who, in his second start, was second to Tampa Bay stakes-winner Fierce Wind at 3-5!
Who knows? This could be jockey Elliott's ticket back to the big time.
Giant Moon (4-for-4) will be favored from the one-hole, but he doesn't have to win.
Saratoga Russell may be this good.
And, finally, there is Visionaire from trainer Matz. This guy was beaten a mere three lengths by Pyro in the Risen Star, but the 10-hole is a tough way to go.
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