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Oct 31, 2008

Thru The Binoculars

By: JOHN PIESEN


Trainers Lukas and Baffert for years have been without peer in the way they handle the press.

Unlike most trainers, who would be happy if media people would simply disappear off the face of the earth, Lukas and Baffert know how to employ the ink-stained wretches to their best advantage.

Take Lukas.

In his salad days, Lukas would grab a neophyte member of the media, and convince him that Capote or Houston was the greatest young horse in history. Of course his reason was obvious. The more hype the more value when the time comes to sell or syndicate the horse.

Facts is that Wayne hasn't lost his touch.

At the Breeders' Cup last week, he convinced a respected turf columnist that his two 2-year-olds were the second coming of Ruffian and Secretariat...and both ran up the track.

But Baffert went one better.

In the wake of Midnight Lute's Sprint victory, he told the media that Midnight Lute "is the best horse I have ever trained."

Naturally, those quotes about Midnight Lute, who will be standing at stud beginning next year at a fee to be determined, appeared in post-BC stories from coast to coast.

Since Baffert has trained the likes of Point Given, Silver Charm and Real Quiet, I have to wonder about Baffert's sincerity.

But Baffert got those quotes out there.

Good for him.

Bad for the media who believe him.

Hell, maybe I'm just bitter.

I still can't believe that Midnight Lute beat Fatal Bullet, my life-changing BC best bet.

More importantly, even the trainer of Fatal Bullet couldn't believe it.

"If anyone had told me," said trainer Baker, "that my horse would run six-furlongs in 7 (1:07) and get beat, I wouldn't have believed him."

On the basis of that Sprint win, Midnight Lute is going to win an Eclipse Award with a (2) 1-0-0 record for the year.

Speaking of awards, who will get Horse of the Year?

The weekly NTRA poll is usually a good barometer, and this week Zenyetta was comfortably on top, with Curlin second.

Zenyetta has my vote...but I have been wrong before.

Speaking of Curlin reminds me that there are three major events this Fall, and, in the first two, the chalk got beat -- Curlin and the Rays.

Meantime, I'm thinking that on this Halloween Day, "trick or treat" can be applied to horse racing.

Last Saturday was the treat...this Saturday the trick.

At Delaware Park, for example, the nine-race card is comprised of eight claimers and one allowance...and the over-under for jockey Dominguez is five winners.

I would take the under because Ramon is winning at only a 32 per cent clip (132 of 410) at Delaware.

Until I hear otherwise, 32 per cent for a whole year has to be a record.

Meantime, Aqueduct is up and running. Well, I wouldn't say running. The reported attendance for the first two days was 1,000 and change. Of course, things will be different next year at this time when the slots presumably will be up and running.

Saturday's Big A feature is the $150,000 Long Island Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 3/8 miles on the grass, and already I'm confused.

The 1-1A entry of Shake the Moon and Astrologie is dismissed at 15-1 at the bottom of the graded entries of Daily Racing Form...but is picked one-two in the consensus box. In fact, Astrologie is lead handicapper Dave Litfin's best bet.

What's a mother to do?

The Breeders' Cup demonstrated how superior the Euros are on the grass so keep in mind that four of the nine mares -- including the entry -- come from across the pond.

Meantime, across the river, they will run the $60,000 John Henry Stakes at The Meadowlands, which can't end too soon. The total on-track handle for the eight races one day this week was $40,000.

On Saturday, seven of the nine Big M races are for claimers -- the exceptions the stake and a J-bred maiden-special.

Remember the days when every top New York rider would cross the river (especially on weekends) to ride The Meadowlands.

Times have indeed changed.

On Saturday, Sanchez will be the only New York rider to make the trip.

One New York rider will be at Churchill Downs on Saturday -- that be jockey Desormeaux, who will pilot Honchis'n Ponchis for trainer Romans in the $100,000 Pocahontas for 2-year-old fillies, and Brave Victory for trainer Zito in the $100,000 Iroquois for 2-year-old males.

Brave Victory comes out a nightmare trip (under Sanchez) in the Champagne, and makes the schlep from the Oklahoma track at Saratoga  -- down the road from the Yaddo -- for this spot.

Play the Pocahontas at your own risk. Trainers Romans and Wiggins both have uncoupled entries in the field of eight.

One interesting stat:

Trainer Asmussen, who has Selective in the Pocahontas and Star of David in the Iroquois, has the identical winning percentage this year as trainer Zito -- 21 per cent.

Finally, there are whispers circulating that NYRA next year may run its own version of the Breeders' Cup up against the real thing.

There are three reasons:

  1. NYRA brass is angry that New York is getting short-changed these days as the site of the Breeders' Cup.
  2. New York horses performed without distinction over the synthetic Santa Anita strip last week, and face the same problems next year.
  3. NYRA is delaying the publication of next Fall's stakes schedule.

Stay tuned on this baby



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