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May 01, 2009

Thru the Binoculars

By: John Piesen

Piesen Warms Up For The Derby!
Hits A Big Trifecta At Belmont On Friday!

Race 4
Hier Encore WON $8.90
Deputy's Citizen EX $23.40
Deputy Embress TRI $87.50



You would think that, judging by the morning line, there are only four legitimate players in the Kentucky Derby. After all, there are I Want Revenge, Dunkirk, Pioneerof the Nile and Friesan Fire sitting between 4-1 and 6-1...and everything else in the 20-horse field 15-1 and up.

I don't see the Derby in such simplistic terms. Sure, one of those Fab Four can get the money, but -- at least in my eyes -- it will be no surprise if some 30-1 stunner outruns his odds big-time.


West Side Bernie (#1) was beaten a mere length and a half by I Want Revenge in closing for second in the Wood. Last Fall, he was beaten three lengths in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile; he's run poorly once in his career, jockey Elliott knows how to win the Derby, and trainer Breen is touting him to his buddies up and down the Jersey Shore.

And, yet, West Side Bernie is 30-1 on the morning line.

Musket Man (#2) is a mere five-for-six, capped by Illinois and Tampa Bay Derby victories, winning the former about as easily as War Emblem won the same race seven years back. Jockey Coa has been the top dog in New York the last few years.

And, yet, Musket Man is 20-1 on the morning line.

Mr. Hot Stuff (#3) was gaining on Pioneerof the Nile with every step closing for third in the Santa Anita Derby. When Quality Road came out of the Derby, Angel Cordero Jr., the agent for Johnny Velazquez, got on the horn, and begged Hot Stuff's connections for the call, turning down other hot items in the process.

And, yet, Mr. Hot Stuff, a full brother to Colonel John, is 30-1 on the morning line.

Advice (#4) was more impressive than '99 winner Charismatic circling from post 11 to win the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. His trainer is Todd Pletcher, and his owner is Elliott Walden, who as a trainer, just missed winning Derbies with Menifee and Victory Gallop.

And, yet, Advice is 30-1 on the morning line.

In three starts with jockey Desormeaux, who won the '08 Derby on Big Brown, Hold Me Back (#5) won the Lanes End, an allowance, and was a fast-closing second in the Blue Grass. There have been Derby favorites -- and Derby winners -- with far fewer credentials, and yet, Hold Me Back is 15-1 on the morning line.

Papa Clem (#7) beat I Want Revenge a length for second in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes in the only meeting of the two horses, and two starts later won the Arkansas Derby, beating Derby winter book favorite Old Fashioned. Since 2004, the Arkansas Derby has been won by Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Lawyer Ron and Curlin.

And, yet, Papa Clem is 20-1 on the morning line.

Regal Ransom (#10) tops the Derby money standings with $1.3 million, due mostly to a victory in the Dubai Derby. He's been one-two in four of his five starts, and, the one time he wasn't, he was the 7-5 favorite against Midshipman, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Eclipse Award winner. He is a speed horse with a top speed-rider in Garcia.

And, yet, Regal Ransom is 30-1 on the morning line.

Chocolate Candy (#11) was beaten a length by Pioneerof the Nile in the Santa Anita Derby, and a length-plus by Pioneer and I Want Revenge in the CashCall Futurity, in both cases gaining with every stride. CC has the same off-the-pace running style as '05 Derby winner Giacomo...and now the same rider -- Mike Smith. And he worked five-eighths in :59 over the track.

And, yet, Chocolate Candy is 20-1 on the morning line.

General Quarters (#12) as predicted has been the media star of this Derby, thanks to 75-year-old owner-trainer-groom McCarthy. There have been years in which the Blue Grass winner went favored in the Kentucky Derby, and jockey Leparoux is the hottest thing out of Kentucky since bourbon whiskey.

And, yet, General Quarters is 20-1 on the morning line.

Summer Bird (#17), a grandson of '96 Derby winner Grindstone, and a son of '04 Belmont/Travers winner Birdstone, was left at the post in the Arkansas Derby, and would have beaten Old Fashioned for second in two more jumps.

And, yet, Summer Bird is 50-1 on the morning line.

Nowhere to Hide (#18) is trained by two-time Derby winner Nick Zito.

And, yet, Nowhere to Hide is 50-1 on the morning line.

In six starts, Desert Party  (#19) has won four times, three of them stakes, and was second to barnmate Regal Ransom at odds of 1-5 in the Dubai Derby. He has two huge works over the track, and Ramon Dominguez gives up four or five New York winners for the call.

And, yet, Desert Party is 15-1 on the morning line.

Flying Private (#20) is a $700,000 son of Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, making him the only horse in the Derby sired by a Derby winner. Trainer Lukas is a four-time Derby winner, and jockey Albarado was the regular rider of two recent Horses of the Year -- Mineshaft and Curlin.  

And, yet, Flying Private is 50-1 on the morning line.

As if locating the '09 Derby winners isn't enough of a challenge, we are looking at the distinct possibility of a wet track. The weatherman is predicting a 60 per cent chance of showers on Friday and Saturday.

Only six of the 20 Derby starters have as much as raced on a track listed as other than fast: Desert Party, Flying Private, Friesan Fire, Join in the Dance, Papa Clem and Nowhere to Hide. Of those six, only Desert Party and Friesan Fire have won over an off-track.

Meantime, what will happen if Game 1 of the Pittsburgh-Washington hockey playoff, scheduled to commence Saturday at 1 p.m. Eastern, runs late?

The network's Derby coverage is scheduled to run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., with Derby post scheduled for 6:24.

At the moment, NBC is saying that it will stick with hockey through one overtime, but if the game drags on beyond one OT, it will switch the hockey to Versus, and go right to the Derby.

Except in Pittsburgh in Washington! Don't say you were not  warned.


As for Friday at Churchill Downs, the magic numbers are seven-eleven.

Race seven, the $350,000 Louisville, for fillies and mares features a matchup of Zenyetta and One Caroline, who, between them, are a mere 14-for-14.Zenyetta, last year's Eclipse mare, and runnerup to Curlin for Hose of the Year, is 9-for-9, and the late-developing One Caroline is 5-for-5.

Can't argue with the old adage that speed has the edge in a two-horse race...but this is Zenyetta we are talking about.

Race 11, the $500,000 Kentucky Oaks, is billed as a showdown between the two best 3-year-old fillies in the land -- Rachel Alexandra, 6-2-0 in nine starts, and Just Whistledixie, 5-0-2 in seven starts. Rachel has won her last four starts -- all stakes.

Dixie has won her last five starts -- four of them stakes.

Then again, what to do with Gabby's Golden Gal from Team Baffert -- a 13-length front-end winner of the Sunland Oaks in her last start.

Rachel will be a short price no matter the conditions, but I imagine she would be doubly tough if the racetrack comes up wet. Two starts back, in the Fair Grounds Oaks in New Orleans, Rachel won eased up over a sloppy strip.

For more information, and up-to-the-minute selections, you are invited to check out my Kentucky Derby Package ONLINE . Any questions, call toll free at 1-888-612-2283 ext 321 .

Good luck...and see you back here Monday for a look back.

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