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Jun 19, 2009

Thru the Binoculars

By: John Piesen


TAKE FIVE

Hollywood Park may be heading for the scrap heap, but at least -- thanks to the Pick Six --- the historic downtown LA racetrack is going out with a bang.

Thanks to a pair of $38 bombs in the first two legs of the Thursday afternoon Pick Six, there will be a two-day carryover of 522K on Friday evening.

And, unlike the weather on the east coast the past few weeks I see perfect conditions -a fast track, firm turf, and clear skies with temps in the '60s. But this is no pick six for the faint of heart.

There is not a sure-thing single to be found in the sequence...but there is a thread linking the six races. That would be Garrett Gomez, the reigning Eclipse Award winner who recently made the decision to forsake New York for Los Angeles to be -- you guessed it -- closer to his family.

Gomez won't win the Hollywood spring title. He got into the game much too late to do so. But he is riding live horses. On Friday evening, for example, after sitting out the first two races, he will ride contenders in all six legs of the Pick Six, including three likely favorites.

Let's take a look...

Race Three: Royal Fortune, a lightly-raced 3-year-old filly from the Drysdale barn, is first-time Gomez from post five in a field of eight maiden fillies and mares going three-quarters on the turf. Royal Fortune's recent second (at 6-5) off a four-month layoff will make her a popular single. Gumption and Surprises Welcomed figure to transform their good plastic form to the lawn, and Seduced looks like a dangerous Hess firster from the rail. Then there's always Shiksa, a 375K Johannesburg filly from the Biancone barn. Write your own punch line.

Race Four: Gomez has a return call on Yankee Visionary, a Doug O'Neill trainee who has finished second in both his starts over the track, in this seven-furlong test for $50,000 claimers. The Baffert-trained Saint Paul is the main speed and the back class. He was once third to Great Hunter in a Grade Two. Principle Secret exits a poor start from the rail in the Palos Verdes. Bestdressed will be closing widest and fastest from his outside post.

Race Five: Beware the two first-starters in a full field of maiden-claimers going 6½ furlongs. One is Oh Ya (where do they get these names?). Garcia has the call on this Petitionville gelding, who worked five eighths in :58 and change six weeks back over the track. The other is the Gomez-ridden El Rifle, a Golden Missile ridgeling who brought a mere five grand at Keeneland. I'd bet that some of my readers have bigger bar tabs thanthat. Fiery Rebel and Izemine look best of those who have started.

Race Six: Gomez will be double-digits here with Talk of a Cat in a full field of $16,000 claimers going seven furlongs. The 4-year-old son of Tale of the Cat broke his maiden by five-plus lengths over the track with Gomez up, and more recently won an allowance at this distance at Keeneland. Forest Phantom beat the Cat six lengths for third last out, and jockey Smith will be on the engine with Scott's Spirit, who goes grass to plastic.

Race Seven: Empire House, fresh from a front-end maiden score for Drysdale at 8-5, no doubt will take some catching with Gomez in this six-furlong grass allowance. The main danger looks to be Itshim, who makes his U.S. debut for trainer Sadler with Bejarano up. The likely favorite is Position A, who descends from two solid stakes placings for trainer Mandella.

Race Eight
If you're alive, you need to have the late-running Humane in the finale, a 5½-furlong dash for filly/mare maiden-claimers. Again, beware the firsters -- in this case K Note (Mandella-Talamo) and Cactus Flyer (Mullins-Gomez).

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Closer to home, they continue to write grass races at Belmont Park despite the fact that we are in the midst of the rainiest June in New York history.

Thursday was a typical example. After scratches, a grand total of 50 horses competed on the nine-race card before a crowd generously announced as 1,670.

The good thing is that subscribers to the John Piesen Hot Line (1-888-612-2283) continue to prosper weather or not. For example, the JPHL gave out seven horses on Wednesday and Thursday. Three of the seven emerged victorious, two placed, two showed. Click Here to get my Best Bets every race day at Belmont Park and top races from around the country.

Saturday's feature at Belmont is scheduled on (what else?) the grass. It's the 66th running of the New York Handicap, a $250,000 Grade Two for fillies and mares at 10 furlongs. It will go as race nine...as the third leg in the guaranteed $350,000 Late Pick Four.

Now here's the deal:

Not one of the eight mares in the body of the race has ever won a race on dirt, and that's where this will wind up if the weatherman's forecast of weekend-long rains is accurate.

If the race does stay on the weeds, Criticism, a winner of four of her last five starts -- all stakes -- no doubt will go favored under jockey Castellano as the 123-pound topweight.

On paper, Criticism is the controlling speed, but I for one will try to beat her.

 The candidates are numerous -- Belle Allure, Oolina Verde, and the uncoupled Mott entry of Dress Rehearsal and Dynaforce.

If the stake is switched to the main, the two MTOs -- Winning Point and Borrowing Base -- obviously will be very formidable.

In stark contrast to the wide-open New York Handicap, next Saturday's Mother Goose will be anything but. As we have been reading and hearing all week, Rachel Alexandra will ship from Churchill for the Mother Goose, and will be 1-9 under jockey Borel in a field of at most five fillies.

The main threats will be Flashing, the winner of the recent Nassau County Stakes for the Sheiks, and Malibu Prayer, a Pletcher-trained winner of her last two starts by a combined 20 lengths.

Look for NYRA to spare no expense in promoting what it hopes to be the Mother of all Gooses. There will be free admission to all women, a giveaway of 10,000 pink bracelets with Rachel's name imprinted on them, and round-the-clock commercials on New York's two all-sports radio outlets.

Last year, Music Note won a four-horse Mother Goose before a crowd of 6,184. It will be interesting to see how big a draw Rachel will be.

P.S. Did you notice that the winner of the first race Wednesday at Monmouth Park was a 2-year-old filly named Judge Sonya?

Thanks for checking in. Have a great weekend.

 



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