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Sep 19, 2008

Thru The Binoculars


In the wake of the horrible news coming out of the Gulf Coast and Wall Street in recent days, somehow what's going on in horse racing doesn't quite stack up in the whole scheme of things.

We are talking priorities.

But life goes on in our own private corner of the world. Good things. Bad things. Winners. Losers. And last weekend was a microcosm of that private corner.

Have to say that the best news of the weekend was that NYRA finally got its extention, guaranteeing that racing will continue long into the next generation. It wasn't long ago that there were fears, genuine fears, that New York racing was on the verge of collapse.

Then again, go out to Belmont Park (or Aqueduct) on a weekday, and you can literally count the people. But since we clearly have entered the era of studio racing, we might as well base it in New York.

The other piece of good news over the weekend was Big Brown's hard-earned victory in the $500,000 Monmouth Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Since the race was made for Big Brown, and was sponsored by IEAH, why didn't Monmouth management just cut out the middle man, and name the race the Big Brown Stakes?

Considering what Big Brown has meant to the Monmouth bottom line, I wouldn't be surprised next year if they rename the Haskell the Big Brown.

I'm biting my tongue writing that Big Brown was good news because I picked Proudinsky to beat Big Brown on my selection service, I naturally bet on him, and was counting my money when Proudinsky collared Big Brown at the eighth pole.

More importantly, trainer Dutrow and jockey Desormeaux thought Big Brown was beat.

"I thought they (Proudinsky and Shakis) were going to run right by him," Dutrow said. "My horse put out so much effort early on. But he showed another dimension, He's got guts and ability and everything you want a horse to have."

"When we cornered for home," said Desormeaux, "I thought my horse was done. And then he surged and I knew we would win."

The crowd of 17,000 -- about 10,000 more than the attendance the previous Saturday -- went nuts for Big Brown before, during and after the race.

Racing indeed needs stars. But like Bernardini, Afleet Alex and Smarty Jones in recent years, Big Brown is off to the breeding shed after his 3-year-old season. In fact, he'll be on a Tex Sutton aircraft to Three Chimneys shortly after his sayonara race in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic Oct. 25 at Santa Anita. Make sure you're signed up to get my selection service and get the winners at the Breeder's Cup on October 24 & 25.

For a few moments last weekend, there looked to be the chance that Big Brown actually would race at 4.

Asked by a reporter if that was a possibility, owner Iavarone replied: "You never know with IEAH. Anything is possible."

A day later, Iavarone explained his comment.

"What I meant," he said, "was that in view of what's happened the last six months, anything can happen at IEAH. It was just a general comment. The bottom line is that Big Brown will be retired after the Breeders' Cup."

In the meantime, Iavarone and Dutrow certainly are in no rush to get to California. They plan to work Big Brown three or four times at Aqueduct, on the grass if possible, and airborne him to Los Angeles three days before the Classic.

Whether Curlin will be there to meet him is still unknown.

Curlin's connections presumably will make a decision on the Breeders' Cup soon after Curlin runs in the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup -- a race he won last year -- a week from Saturday at Belmont.

Unlike, last year, when Curlin had to run down the multiple Grade 1-winner Lawyer Ron to win the Gold Cup, no such rival will be there this time. The race figures to be a stroll in the park for Curlin, who, by winning, will become the first horse in history to reach the $10 million milestone...while breezing past Cigar to become racing's all-time money winner.

On Monday, Curlin breezed five-eighths in 1:01 4/5 over the slow Oklahoma training track at Saratoga. Working in company with stablemate Hawaii Calls, Curlin got the last quarter in :24, and galloped out three-quarters in 1:14 4/5

"Awesome," said assistant trainer Scott Blasi, "...he went beautiful. He's coming off a good race in the Woodward, and we're just trying to keep him happy."

Would it not be nice if Curlin's people make us all happy by taking him to the Classic?

Meantime, bettors (remember them?) got burned big-time in New York and Chicago.

As predicted in this space last Friday, the bridge-jumpers showed up en masse to play Music Note to show in the Gazelle Stakes at Belmont, a Grade I if you will.

Indeed, there was nearly $1 million bet to show on Music Note as the five fillies entered the starting gate.

But then Country Star -- the only other legitimate filly in the race -- acted up in the gate, and was ordered scratched by the stewards.

Now there were four...and NYRA (what else?) canceled show betting and ordered refunds. (And, of course, there was no time to get down to win on Music Note, who was now a much more practical 1-9).

Hey, I'm not about to feel sorry for the jumpers -- including my friend the Mad Bomber -- who were denied the chance to make a fast five per cent on their investment.

There's always a next time.

What was more maddening was the race itself.

Since handicap racing is virtually extinct, why would anyone want to run against Music Note at level weights?

That said, when they crossed the finish line, the four fillies were strung out an eighth of a mile.

For this, folks had to wait a half-hour -- and then another half-hour for the next race.

Then there was Chicago!

They ran the Arlington-Washington Futurity at Arlington Park -- once a $1 million Grade I, now a $200,000 Grade 3.

When the field of 14 hit the wire, the clear winner was Jose Adan, with Advice getting second.

But the stewards posted the inquiry, and, after 13 minutes, took down the first two finishers, and put up the third finisher -- Terrain.

We are talking 2-year-olds here. Does anyone expect them all to run a straight line through the stretch? Sure, there were horses checking, but Jose Adan, who had rallied from 13th, was tons the best, and Advice was a deserving second -- for the Toddster no less.

The double DQ was an absolute joke. For confirmation, got to "", and scroll down to the video of the race.

Brandon Meier, an apprentice, rode Jose Adan, and this is what the kid had to say after the takedowns.

"What do I have to do to win this race? Finish third, and wait for them to put me up!"

Good for the kid.

Bad for the betting public.

Oh, and so much for a $1 million-plus Pick Six carryover Wednesday at Fairplex. On Monday, with a 400K carryover riding, four favorites got home, producing a 7K payoff.

Enjoy...see you back here Friday.

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