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Feb 20, 2009

Thru the Binoculars

By: John Piesen


Can you remember the last time when an Eclipse Award-winning jockey made a 6,000-mile, cross-country trip to ride an allowance race?

I know I can the news that Garrett Gomez was making the round trip from California to Florida for the sole purpose of riding Dunkirk for trainer Todd Pletcher in a first-level allowance on Thursday afternoon at Gulfstream Park came as a wake-up call.

And consider that's with John Velazquez, the Toddster's go-to rider, already on the grounds.

Sure enough, Dunkirk, a $3.7 million juvenile purchase, overcame a six-wide trip to win the nine-furlong race by five lengths going away, paying $4.40 for his trouble.

"That was a beautiful performance," Pletcher told the Gulfstream public relations office,"...I couldn't be more pleased. It was asking an awful lot for this horse to stretch out to a mile and an eighth off a seven-furlong maiden win against a stakes-quality field like this. He is a special horse."

Pletcher said that Dunkirk now will attempt to duplicate Big Brown and go straight from an entry-level allowance win at Gulfstream to the Florida Derby.

And, like Big Brown, Dunkirk will be the favorite.

For the folks who like gray horses, they are looking at a vintage 3-year-old year: add Dunkirk to a list that includes Old Fashioned, Stardom Bound, Vineyard Haven, The Pamplemousse, and Silver City.

Who knows? That could be your six-horse Kentucky Derby superfecta box!

As for Velazquez, it might not make up for losing Dunkirk, but Johnny V. was announced Thursday as the '09 winner of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, presented yearly by Santa Anita.

There is no question that Johnny V. is an excellent choice for the Woolf Award, which honors riders for their talent and character. My only regret is that Calvin Borel, one of the five finalists, missed out.

That said, I need to make Calvin 1-5 for the '10 award.

That's the first time I've written '10. The years, they do fly by.

Switching gears, since this is an off-week as far as major stakes races are concerned, this would be a good time to zero in on Saturday's Magna 5, especially since the Mac Diarmida Stakes at Gulfstream, and the San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita, the two biggest races on the national calendar this weekend, are included therein.

The Magna 5 (five races within an hour) continues to provide plenty of bang for the buck,
especially with the new $1 minimum. The first four Saturdays this year produced payoffs of $26,000, $6,000, $12,000 and $9,000.

This Saturday, the sequence kicks off with the ninth at Laurel at 4:49 p.m. Eastern, and continues with the fourth at Santa Anita, the ninth at Gulfstream, the fourth at Golden Gate, and the fifth at Santa Anita.

Let's take a look...

 Leg A, Laurel, Race 9, 4:49 p.m.

How often do we find a race in which every runner is a gelding?

Such is the case in this $20,000 race for quarter-claimers, four and up, at six furlongs. Eight runners. Eight geldings. Four of the eight exit the first race on Jan. 29.

They are Put It in Writing (second); No Patience Here (third as the favorite); Two Doo (fourth), and Bullet Proof Buddy (fifth).

The likely favorite will be Body Rocket, who steps up off a four-length wire job over the track. Jockey Pino chooses the Rocket over No Patience Here.

Jake Rattle N Roll, a son of Bop, is 2-for-6 on grass, 0-for-6 on dirt.

Mary Eppler, the trainer of Sir Togo, once enjoyed much success as the lead trainer for the late Alfred G. Vanderbilt.

Cudjo, twice stakes-placed as a 2-year-old in '07, has never raced this cheap.

Leg B, Santa Anita, Race 4, 5:02 p.m.

Georgie Boy, fresh from a blowout victory against stronger competition in the Sunshine Millions, will be a universal single as the odds-on favorite under Gomez here in the $150,000 San Carlos Handicap for 4-year-olds at seven furlongs. Georgie Boy will break from post five in a six-horse field.

"It's easier to work with him as he matures," trainer Kathy Walsh tells Daily Racing Form. "He's better on the outside."

As a 3-year-old last year, Georgie Boy won the San Vicente by three-plus lengths over the track at the same seven-furlong distance.

Trainer Amoss, rarely seen on the left coast, clearly is unafraid of Georgie Boy. He ships Mutadda here from Fair Grounds off a minor stakes win.

Past the Point was second to two-time Horse of the Year Curlin in the Woodward last August at Saratoga.

Yankee Bravo, the winner of the California Derby last January, blew out in :33 2/5 for his first start since the Preakness.

Leg C, Gulfstream, Race 9, 5:14 p.m.

The magic number is eight for Always First in the $150,000 Mac Diarmida, an 11-furlong stake for 4-and-up at 11 furlongs on the grass.

Always First, at age 8 the oldest horse in the 11-horse field, has run his last eight races over eight different grass courses. This makes nine.

Always First exits a closing third to Presious Passion, who may go favored from his outside post in a wide-open betting race.

Spice Route exits his first stakes victory, a nose score over the redoubtable Soldier's Dancer, and is first-time Prado.

The gray Summer Patriot was favored against Presious Passion and Always First in the McKnight at Calder, but was a wide fifth.

Can't leave out Quasicobra. He's training bullets for first race since November when he whacked allowance types going 12 furlongs at Churchill.

Finallymadeit, the speed from the rail, makes his 40th career start, but only his second on the green.

Leg D, Golden Gate, Race 4, 5:20 p.m.

Only six go in this $29,000 maiden-special for 3-year-olds at five and a half furlongs, and no doubt -- due to the presence of jockey Baze -- Kings Humor will be favored despite being beaten a combined 22 lengths in his two starts.

Kings Humor, a $510,000 yearling, worked a bullet :59 from the gate last Sunday at Santa Anita.

Tahoe Flyer, Silent Salute and Kalookan Ghost all show sharp works for debuts.

Leg E, Santa Anita, Race 5, 5:34 p.m.

If you're alive for the finale, a $52,000 race for quarter-claimers, 4 and up, going a mile on the grass, hopefully you have If It Stays Fair. The gelding has back class, is first-time Bejarano, and worked a bullet :58 last weekend at Hollywood for his third start off the long layoff...but his only grass race was a bummer.

Dr. Seacliff, back on the weeds where he is 3-for-14 (and 0-for-6 on dirt) , may make the lead with a jock who is 0-for-37 this year.

Complexity would be no shock.

Natural Speed had rough trip last time, claimed by Miller and ascends.

Enjoy the weekend, may you hit the Magna 5, and see you back here Tuesday.

The Derby Preps are underway, and I'm just starting on the road to winning the biggest races of them all!

No one has the background and connections to find the winners like I do. I covered the horses for The New York Post and the years of cultivating my contacts in the shedrow have given me finely honed handicapping skills--the kind that enabled me to pick winners every day for an astonishing 207 consecutive days! That's a world record and its fully documented in The Daily Racing Form. I selected horses 48 hours in advance, without the benefit of knowing the morning line or late scratches, without up-to-the-minute information from the backstretch. And I still set the world record!

I can walk up to a Derby winning trainer John Servis, National Trainer Champion Steve Asmussen, or Derby Winner Mike Matz and ask any question I want. They know my record and they respect me for my craft. And that holds for jockeys too. Like Hall Of Famer Angel Cordero, John Velasquez, Derby winner Jose Santos, Mike Smith, Richard Migliore, and Edgar Prado.  I talk their language. I have access others don't have. I can acquire a level of detailed information others can't get.

I know the 3-year olds and what they do best. I can separate the contenders from the pretenders. I know who can go the distance. Who likes sitting behind the lead. Who can come off the pace. Who can go to the outside. Who's in form and who can close. Who's out of form and needs conditioning. That's why I won the Risen Star Stakes on February 7, behind Friesan Fire ($7.60), the El Camoino Real Derby on February 14th with Chocolate Candy ($3.00), and the Southwest Stakes February 16th with Old Fahioned ($3.00), and why I'm going to do very well throughout the Derby Prep run. Take a look at the prep schedule ahead:

The Run To The Derby

F28 Fountain Of Youth Gulfstream
F28 Sham Stakes Santa Anita
F28 John Battaglia Memorial Turfway
M07 The Gotham Aqueduct
M14 Louisiana Derby Fair Grounds
M14 The Rebel Oaklawn Park
M14 San Felipe Stakes Santa Anita
M14 Tampa Bay Derby Tampa Bay Downs
M21 Lane's End Stakes Turfway
M21 Rushaway Stakes Turfway
M28 Florida Derby Gulfstream
A04 Wood Memorial Aqueduct
A04 Illinois Derby NJC/Hawthorne
A04 Santa Anita Derby Santa Anita
A11 Blue Grass Keeneland
A11 Arkansas Derby Oaklawn Park
A18 Lexington Stakes Keeneland
A18 Federico Tesio Stakes Pimlico
A25 The Withers Aqueduct
A25 Derby Trial Churchill Downs

And then on May 2nd the Triple Crown Starts!
The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs!
We'll clean up again on Derby Day with the winner and probable Exacta and Trifecta like I have for the past two years.

  • In '07 with the Exacta ($101.80) and Trifecta ($440.00) as Street Sense, Hard Spun, and Curlin finished 1-2-3.
  • Last year was an even bigger payoff as I pegged Eight Belles, Big Brown, and Denis of Cork and the Exacta box paid $141.60, the Trifecta Box $3,445.60!


But we still have a TON of winning before we get to the first Saturday in May!

 I don't want you to miss out on even one winner, so here is my offer
Get my 1-2-3 selections on all the remaing 20 major Derby prep races, beginning Saturday, February 28th. Plus, you will also receive the full card for the six biggest prep races--the Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Illinois Derby, Wood Memorial, Bluegrass Stakes and Arkansas Derby. Not only do you get my 1-2-3 choices in each of these races, but to make even more profit, you'll get the entire day's races at each track. Exactas, trifectas, daily doubles, Pick-3s, etc. All at the affordable price of $100! That's less than $5 a race! Plus six full cards (an additional $300 value). You could make back the entire fee with a modest play on just one race!

And I'll also include a special bonus:
My Kentucky Derby win bet and exotic!
The winning doesn't stop at Churchill Downs, it's only just beginning!

Click Here to Sign up Online or call toll free 1-888-612-2283

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