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Nov 07, 2008

Thru The Binoculars



The racing weekend kicks off Friday evening at Hollywood Park with the equine version of Midnight Madness.

Thanks to a $60 winner on Thursday, there will be a two-day carryover of  $232,360 in the Pick Six, which kicks off with race three at 8:01 p.m. (11:01 Eastern), and concludes with race eight well after midnight.

In looking at the entries, I can't help but notice how times have changed in the California jockey colony. For years, the left coast was blessed with the best riding talent in the game -- Shoemaker, Pincay, McCarron, Delahoussaye, Stevens. The list is endless.

Fast forward to 2008, and the only name riders at Hollywood Park these days are  Gomez and Bejarano.

Gomez is on call to win his second straight Eclipse Award, while Bejarano has been the dominant rider in California all year, although he has yet to make his mark on a national level.

The Pick Six sequence Friday reflects just how strong an impact Bejarano is making in California.

Rafael rides the favorite or second choice in the first five Pick Six races, namely Witness Protection in race three; Ginobli in race four; Arabian Cheetah in race five; Sunset Tijuana in race six, and Luhuk's Dancer in race seven.

Meantime, the Saturday national spotlight will fall on Calder, where, starting with race five, eight consecutive stakes will be run. The first four will be grouped in an all-stakes Pick Four, which will offer some major betting value.

Let's take a look...

Race Five
None of the eight 2-year-olds in the $150,000 Jack Price Juvenile have won a stake as yet, none of the eight have Beyered over 85, and trainer Marty Wolfson is sitting this one out, so the seven-furlong race is pretty much a crapshoot. Three Part Harmony, fresh from two seconds to Big Drama, should get the outside stalking outside trip under jockey Cruz in a race packed with early speed.

Cruz opts for Three Part Harmony over March Twelth, who back in July beat TPH by 11 lengths in a maiden race.

None other than Herb McCauley picks up the mount on March Twelth.

If there was an award in racing for Comeback of the Year, a leading candidate would be Hollywood Herb.

McCauley's career clearly appeared over seven years back when his right leg was crushed in an horrific  spill at Monmouth Park, and few gave him a prayer when he decided to try a comeback late in 2007.

But, in his first month back, he won three races in one day at Aqueduct, trainer Greg Sacco, a long-time personal friend, helped to get him going by putting him on some decent stock in Jersey, and veteran agent Joe Rosen took his book. 

But McCauley's comeback dead-ended last summer at Monmouth, and he decided to head for Florida, where he enjoyed so much success in his salad days.

To date, Herb has ridden 23 winners from 178 mounts, a respectable .13 per cent batting average, and he is a very commendable 4-for-15 at the current Calder meet.

The mount on the two-time stakes-placed March Twelth in a six-figure stake is something of a breakthrough for McCauley.

We wish him luck.

Jockeys Rene Douglas and Cornelio Velasquez will be down from Kentucky and New York for the day, and they have major players here in Gaara and Big Push, respectively.

Big Push has the best Beyer (85) in the field, and he comes off a sharp front-end allowance score at Keeneland.

Can he reproduce that race on real dirt?  

Race Six
After sitting out the Jack Price, trainer Wolfson, a .320 hitter this year, will saddle Hot Chili Pepper in the $100,000 John Franks Juvenile Fillies Turf, a mile and a 16th grass test for 2-year-old fillies.

Again, none of the 12 runners have run a stake, and none have even cracked 75 on the Beyer Meter.
August Rush, trained by Wesley Ward, exits a pair of Grade Ones -- the  Spinaway at Saratoga, and the Alcibiades at Keeneland. In the latter, she finished sixth to Dream Empress, the runnerup in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

R Brown Sugar completes an uncoupled entry from Ward, but this filly is cross-entered in the Joe O'Farrell Juvenile Fillies a half-hour later.

The lone also-eligible is Paradise Bound, a royally-bred maiden from Live Oak and  Bill Mott. She was beaten a head in a well-run maiden-special the other night at The Meadowlands.

It pays to note that jockey Prado has four calls, starting with Paradise Bound. His other calls are Like Now in race eight, Tamborim in race nine, and Peach Flamble in race 10.

Obviously, it's not like Edgar, at this stage of his career, needs to give up several live mounts in New York to schlep to Florida for four mounts, including one on the A-E list.

Cornelio has the call on Never Lie, who got left from the one-hole in the Arlington Lassie, and Cruz lands the mount on Exe, who blew the break, and closed for third in the $400,000 My Dear Girl Stakes.

Race Seven
Trainer Wolfson really means business in the $150,000 Joe O'Farrell for 2-year-old fillies at seven furlongs.

Frolic's Dream is unbeaten in two starts for Wolfson -- a length score in a maiden-special, and a 12-length blowout in the $100,000 Cassidy Stakes in which she earned a 105 Beyer, the second highest Beyer by a 2-year-old of either gender in North America this year. Faster than Stardom Bound. Faster than Midshipman.

Surprised the Sheikhs haven't bought her -- yet!

No doubt that Frolic's Dream will be a universal single in the Pick Four.

Pink Gloss was beaten that length when second to Frolic's Dream, and came back to crush maidens by seven at 1-2 in the slop.

Aroma de Mujer won a 150K stake in September, but was wiped out at the break from the 13-hole in the 400K My Dear Girl.

Trippi's Greatstar also blew the start in that race, but closed for second.

Race Eight
Yesbyjimminy, a winner of his last four starts, all as the favorite, will be tested by Grade 1 winner Like Now in the $150,000 Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap for 3-year-olds at six furlongs.

Have to believe the Ward-trained Like Now is the reason Prado made the trip. Last time out, Like Now put up a 109 Beyer winning a mile optional-claimer on a wet track at Belmont.

This looks like your basic two-speed number.


Meantime, at Aqueduct they are running the $150,000 Red Smith Handicap for 3-year-olds on the turf, weather permitting.

The weights are curious.

The 119-pound topweight is Presious Passion, who is no better than 8-1 in the morning line, and only five pounds separate the nine runners from top to bottom.

At Churchill Downs, jockey Coa is giving up a likely lucrative afternoon at Aqueduct to ride My Princess Jess for main man Tagg in the ninth-race feature, the $150,000 Mrs. Revere for 3-year-old fillies on the grass.

Raw Silk, down from New York, no doubt will be loose on the lead under Bridgmohan.

Race Ten will be one of the more interesting 2-year-old maiden-specials of the season.

Check out the trainers: Lukas, Asmussen, Frankel, Holthus, Amoss, Romans, et al.

Reached by phone Friday morning at Churchill, Holthus did not know how morning-line favorite Double Pittsburgh (my favorite city) came to be named.

"I do know he's a runner," said Holthus, "but the post (one) is no bargain."

Holthus also sends word that Pure Clan, his Grade One-winning 3-year-old filly, will be turned out for 90 days, and then be brought back at Oaklawn Park for a 4-year-old campaign.

Enjoy the weekend...We'll talk more next week.

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