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Jun 06, 2008

Thru The Binoculars


Hey, I have nothing against Hooters. I have never been accused of  prudish behavior.  I even love their wings.

But I do find disturbing the announcement today that indeed Hooters has joined UPS as co-sponsors of Saturday's renewal of the Belmont Stakes.

Under the terms of the agreement, jockey Desormeaux will wear Hooters logo on his white pants...and a half-dozen Hooters girls will be in the winners' circle to presumably join Big Brown,  Desormeaux and hundreds of  IEAH investors.

But not so fast!

The folks had NYRA have voiced objections about the Hooters logo on the pants, and since they run the show, this is worth noting.

But don't think for a minute that NYRA's opposition is based on moral grounds. Nosiree Big Brown. They are unhappy because such sponsorship would conflict with some of their own sponsor deals.

But why should none of us be surprised at these developments?

Personally, I was more shocked when Guadalcanal was entered in the Belmont.

You may recall that, back on May 22. I wrote in this space about a maiden named Guadalcanal entered in the 11th race the next day at Churchill Downs.

I pointed out that The Jockey Club blew it because a horse named Guadalcanal was a multiple stakes-winner in New York back in the Kelso days in the '60s. A deep closer, Guadalcanal was one of the most popular horses of his era, and it was sheer sacrilege to again permit the use of the name.

Who knew that Guadalcanal II, who was beaten a nose in that Churchill race to remain a maiden., would turn up a month later in the Belmont Stakes?

And, of course, when he did, it was a given that he would draw next to Big Brown in a position to wreck havoc leaving the gate.

Of course, the chances of that happening are remote. Like his namesake, Guadalcanal has no gate speed, and is unlikely to take down Big Brown at the start.

And, while we are at it, how 'bout Big Brown getting the one-hole?

I'm reading that post one for Big Brown is a problem.

I beg to differ.

Take a look at the Belmont PPs, and find me one horse who can go with Big Brown. Obviously, you can't.

That said, expect Desormeaux to bust Big Brown to the lead, and control the race for the ensuing 2 ½ minutes. That doesn't make Big Brown an automatic winner. We all know that strange things happen in horse races - especially the Belmont.

But, realistically, the only way that Big Brown can get beat is if he wears down on his third race in five weeks, and/or one or more of his nine rivals runs lights out.

For more information, check out the red-hot John Piesen Hot Line (888 612 2283). Case you forgot, that is the venue that gave out the $3,500 Derby trifecta, speaking of which, kudos to Churchill Downs for re-naming its La Troienne Stakes on Derby Eve the Eight Belles Stakes.

To learn more about the Belmont, I made the trip to Belmont Park on Wednesday for the draw.

When Guadalcanal's name surfaced between the scrambled eggs and the smoked sausage, I signaled a TO, and told everyone who would listen (and some who would not) that this is heresy because there was a big-time horse named Guadalcanal racing in New York back when LBJ was in the White House.

But the sorry news that, with rare exception, no one remembered the original Guadalcanal.

Very disconcerting.

I also found it disconcerting that a New York daily wrote that Alydar back in '78 won the Flamingo...and since Hialeah considered him such a sure thing, they banned wagering on him, thus the eternally-named "Chicken Flamingo."

Earth to the New York daily.

The "Chicken Flamingo" actually occurred in 1966...and the reason was Buckpasser, who, as it turned out, was life and death to beat longshot Abe's Hope a nose.

You can look it up.

Meanwhile, Tom Durkin, when permitted by ESPN to do so, and jockey Desormeaux exchanged some banter on the dais, a dais, incidentally, conspicuous by the absence of  New York-based trainers Pletcher, Zito and Tagg.

"I'm ready to make history Saturday on Big Brown," said Desormeaux, "...but, if I get beat, I will forever be known as that UPS jockey."

Durkin then handed KD a note, and told him to read it aloud if he so wanted.

Desormeaux read the note:

"Big Brown is the best horse I've ever ridden."

But when Durkin handed Desormeaux a second note, and asked Kent to read it if he wanted, KD declined to do so.

Maybe the note was a request to ask Desormeaux why he fired his marketing agent Following the Derby, and replaced her with the William Morris Agency.

Or maybe not. 

Finally, like we did in the Derby and Preakness, here's a capsule look at each of the Belmont starters by post position.

Big Brown: Temperatures will be in the '90s, and, like every horse who will compete on Saturday, will spend much unwanted time in the detention barn. In this case a lot of time because the Belmont will go at 6:25 p.m. Of the last 21 horses who won the Derby and Preakness, only three went on to win the Belmont.

Guadalcanal: The only one of the nine Belmont horses who has been the distance.

Macho Again: Has to carry the banner for Captain Finley and the West Point folks since Lone Star Derby winner El Gato Malo is on the DL. Gomez will have to improve off his ride on Hard Spun in the '07 Belmont.

Denis of Cork: Trainer Dutrow was the target for 90 per cent of the press corps at the draw, but trainer Carroll attracted the likes of Three Amigos Kerrison, Ziegel and Eisenberg, who, among them, have 150 years of journalism experience.

Casino Drive: Jockey Take turned down the ride in order to stay in Japan and ride the full card there. The works are not encouraging, but that was a great photo op with the backstretch kids.

Da' Tara: Funny game. Zito and owner LaPenta started the year with War Pass, who was supposed to be the next Seattle Slew. The only horse in the field, other than Big Brown, boasting gate speed.

Tale of Ekati. He is by Tale of the Cat, is 2-for-2 over the track, and his best buddy is Funny Cide.

Anak Nakal: The only horse in the field sire by a Belmont Stakes winner - Victory Gallop. But I knew Victory Gallop, and he is no Victory Gallop.

Ready's Echo: The Toddster and Johnny V will be looking for back-to-back Belmonts with this lightly-raced deep closer.

Icabad Crane: Had a rough trip closing for third to Big Brown in the Preakness. Jockey Rose knows how to win the Belmont, and Icabad is a .600 career hitter.

Reminder I: There will be five other stakes on the 13-race program, which will run eight hours. Luckily some like it hot.

Reminder II: The Belmont facility will be closed on Sunday - and Monday, and Tuesday.

Have a happy and profitable Belmont Day.

In other notes, I am breaking my no-endorsement policy to commend system writer Tom Console. I picked up this book a few months back and I thought it was great. "If I'M touting someone else's method you better believe it's good!"

I seldom praise books and methods by other handicappers.

A. I don't want to be responsible if their method picks losers, and...

B. Who has time to study their work?

TOM CONSOLE is the exception. He has a unique talent for systemizing. He can take pp's you and I wouldn't think significant, find their underlying trendline and figure out how to put them together in a handicapping system - and pick winners you and I didn't know were there. That's why I like his X-MINUS-1 Method. It's clear as a bell. Even I (who am a fairly simple guy) can put it to work and make money with it.

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