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Aug 15, 2008

through the binocs

By: John Piesen

At one point last night, I was busy handicapping Wednesday's Saratoga pick six, while listening to John and Susan shedding tears for the Yankees on the radio, and watching the opening scenes of a Law and Order rerun on TV.

And, loud and clear, I heard the late Jerry Orbach (Lt. Briscoe) turn to his partner, and say: "...I'd rather be at Hialeah."

Yes, Virginia, there was indeed a Hialeah up and running back in the early '90s when this episode of Law and Order was filmed. Unfortunately, Hialeah closed its doors, presumably forever, in 2001.

I had the good fortune to cover Hialeah for Daily Racing Form during the mid '90s, and, although the facility at that time was a shell of its former greatness, there was a sense of history, tradition  and beauty that made the experience unforgettable.

In recent years, Hialeah appeared dead as Elvis, but last month Halsey Minor, a  Virginia-based  businessman who founded Nasdaq 100 technology news site CNet, approached Hialeah owner John Brunetti with an offer to buy the track, and restore it to its past glory.

With that in mind, Brunetti and Minor since have had several discussions about a possible sale.

Any one interested in the future of racing in general, and south Florida racing in particular, has to hope that the sale gets done, and that some day, maybe Lt. Briscoe gets his wish.   

I know it's a longshot...but we have all seen bigger longshots come in.

Speaking of longshots, Spirit One, dead on the board at 14-1, wired the Arlington Million last Saturday at Arlington Park.

I found it interesting that the Form ran  photos of three horses with its advance on page one  -- Archipenko, Precious Kitten and Tizdejavu, the heavy favorites in the Million, Beverly D. and Secretariat, respectively.

And, wouldn't you know it?

All three got beat.

As if there was any doubt, that is how the game is played.


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The Million, a race filled with controversy over the years, once again did not go quietly into the night.

After  the race, Michael De Kock, the trainer of Archipenko, the 6-5 favorite, accused Johnny Murtaugh, the rider of third finisher Mount Nelson, in print  of  "the most ungentlemanly piece of riding I've seen in a long time.

"In my opinion, Johnny rode his horse to keep us in rather than to actually win the race. There was no need for him to do that."

I'm thinking that say Rick Dutrow or Nick Zito would have used much more colorful language to describe Murtaugh's performance.

Try and catch a tape of the race -- maybe on "".

You will see that De Kock has a point.

And, if you were among the thousands of bettors who got stung, you have every right to be mad as hell.

Likewise, the folks who played Kelly Leak in the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes Sunday at Del Mar have a right to be angry at the racing gods.

Kelly Leak beat the favored Azul Leon by a nose after a furious stretch-long duel, but was disqualified -- to fourth! -- for causing interference near the wire.

When the winner's number came down, the booing drowned out the announcement. You would have thought the Mets' bullpen was blowing another game.

Meantime, back in the jocks' room,  Espinoza, who rode Kelly Leak, went three rounds with Bejarano before being separated by the other riders and valets.

Afterwards, Espinoza said: "It's not my fault that Bejarano can't ride."


"That was a dangerous situation," said Smiling Jon Court, an eye-witness to the activity on and off the track.

Also, on Sunday at Del Mar, Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally, suffered a serious gash on his left hip when kicked by a horse during training hours. According to reports, McAnally's left leg was soaked with blood.

Here's wishing McAnally -- who was raised in an orphanage -- a complete recovery. At 78, he is still as tough as they come.

On Saturday, four of the six winners of the Sixty Minute 6 races paid double-digits, producing a $38,039 carryover into next Saturday..

The Monmouth Oaks at Monmouth Park, the final race in the sequence, clinched the carryover when Maren's Meadow, trained by Larry Jones, and ridden by Terry Thompson, went end to end at $24.20.

It was the first-ever Monmouth victory for Thompson. who put the local riders to sleep in slow fractions.

The earlier winners were Volponi's Dragon ($10.80); Jebster ($9.40); Wood Alley ($11.80); Yankee Express ($17.60), and Ariege ($6.70).

Of the six winners, Ariege was the only favorite.

The wager -- a super innovation -- will continue Saturday, again on races from Saratoga, Monmouth, Delaware and Philadelphia Park.

Speaking of innovations, Santa Anita marketing maven Allen Gutterman has come up with a corking idea -- a Living Legends Race to be held on Oct. 18, a week before the Breeders' Cup.

This will be racing's answer to baseball's Old Timers Days.

Eight retired Hall of Fame jockeys will compete in the fourth race on the card, a six-furlong test for California-bred allowance horses. Their mounts will be selected in a blind draw, and all will carry 126 pounds.

The eight riders will be Pat Day, Jerry Bailey, Angel Cordero Jr., Chris McCarron, Jacinto Vasquez, Sandy Hawley, Gary Stevens and Julie Krone.

Among them, the eight riders won 49,163 races, and their mounts earned $1.5 billion.

Finally, on Wednesday afternoon the Monmouth-based Bold Union, a winner of her two starts by a combined 20 lengths, will be favored in the $150,000 Adirondack Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Saratoga.

The prospects of a sloppy strip don't faze trainer Kelly Breen.

"The filly galloped over a sloppy track Monday, and loved it," he said.

Bold Union again will be ridden by Stewart Elliott. As mentioned in this space a month back, Bold Union potentially is the best horse Elliott has ridden since the glory days on Smarty Jones in 2004.

The Adirondack will be the highlight of the Pick Six, which has a 55K carryover. Three of the other five races in the sequence are for maidens,
and two are scheduled for the turf, a dubious proposition at best.

I will have my Saratoga selections posted on the John Piesen Hot Line (888) 612 2283.

Good luck...catch you later.

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