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Oct 16, 2009

THRU THE BINOCULARS

By: John Piesen


THREE TRAINERS

Trainers Todd Pletcher, Rich Dutrow and Larry Jones are making big news these days...and for a variety of reasons:

Trainers Pletcher and Dutrow because they own the game. Jones because he's getting out of the game.

First things first...and that's Pletcher.

Not since the glory days of Oscar Barrera has one trainer been as hot as The Toddster. In the past three weeks, TP has won nine stakes from coast to coast, 30 races overall, and, at his home base at Belmont Park, he is, at last count, 17-10-4 from 54 starters.

Looking ahead to the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, Pletcher at this point plans to run 10 horses in the 14 races. And, who knows? He'll probably find four or five more live bodies in the barn to make the trip.

On Friday, Nov. 6, Pletcher will run Game Face in the Filly & Mare Sprint; Devil May Care in the Juvenile Fillies, and Nite Lite in the Marathon. All will be among the top three betting choices.

And, on Saturday, Nov. 7, he will run Interactif and Eskendereya, the likely two top choices, and Fantastico Roberto, in the Juvenile Turf; Cowboy Cal, the best U.S. hope, in the Mile; the two-time Grade One winner Take the Points in the Turf; stone closer Aikenite in the Juvenile, and Quality Road in the Classic.

As for Dutrow, he has five lined up for the Breeders' Cup. They are Amen Hallelujah in the Juvenile Fillies; Rising Moon in the Marathon; Court Vision in the Mile, and D'Funnybone and Homeboy Kris in the Juvenile.

Closer to home, Dutrow is eyeballing Friday evening's $300,000, nine-furlong Meadowlands Cup with the 4-year-old Anak Nakal, the same Anak Nakal, who, while racing for Nick Zito at 3, won the Pennsylvania Derby at 16-1, and was second to Arson Squad in the Meadowlands Cup.

Since Anak Nakal, a one-dimensional closer, may be a bit rusty (he hasn't raced since running dead last in the Dubai World Cup back in March), Dutrow is reaching into his bag of tricks for a rabbit, something we all thought went the way of the $2 window.

The rabbit's name is Great Debater, a 3-year-old who hasn't raced since January, and has never raced beyond seven furlongs.

Clearly, Dutrow is running the rabbit at Etched, a 4-year-old Darley speedball, who, due to various ailments, has started only five times, winning four...all on or close to the lead.

Edgar Prado is delaying his flight to Lexington to Saturday morning in order to ride Anak Nakal for the first time, while Alan Garcia will have his usual seat aboard Etched for trainer McLaughlin.

Curiously, this is a rematch of the '07 Nashua Mile for 2-year-olds at Belmont Park. On that occasion, Etched won wire-to-wire by six lengths as the 1-2 favorite, with Anak Nakal clucking in second.

It would be no shock if they -- despite Dutrow's rabbit -- repeat that 1-2 finish in the rain and gloom on Friday evening.

(Speaking of sharp trainers, check out Linda Rice. Linda entered Frazil as a main-track-only against eight turf specialists in the Princeton Stakes on the Big M undercard, obviously hoping the 11-furlong race comes off the grass. I'd say there is an excellent chance she'll get her wish.)

That brings us to Larry Jones.

Larry won't have a runner in the Breeders' Cup, but Nov. 7 still will be an important day in his career.

That will be the day he runs his last horse -- Payton d'Oro, fresh from a victory in the Remington Oaks, in the Chilukki Stakes at Churchill Downs -- before turning what will be a much-depleted stable over to wife/assistant Cindy.

Larry had planned to keep one horse to train -- the multiple graded stakes-winner and beaten Kentucky Derby favorite Friesan Fire, owned by Rick Porter.

But you may have noticed that, in the past few days, such Porter stars as Kodiak Kowboy, Solar Flare and Song of Solomon raced for different trainers.

The Jones-Porter marriage was great while it lasted...but Porter is known for changing trainers as often as you and I change opinions.

You hear a lot of reasons why Jones, at age 50, is hanging 'em up, and certainly the problems with Porter are a major factor.

But the underlying reason is that Larry, who is literally counting the days to Nov. 7, has never really recovered from Eight Belles.

The good thing is that Larry is not leaving the racetrack altogether. He'll stay in the game as an owner, breeder, and part-time exercise rider and van driver.

"I won't be doing anything as far as the every day at the barn," he tells DRF. "I'll come out for the races. And I might gallop a horse or two for Cindy, or maybe haul a horse for her if she needs me to."

In his 36 years as a public trainer, Jones saddled 736 winners -- including 94 stakes-winners -- from 3,893 starters. But he'll be remembered more for a pair of seconds -- in consecutive Kentucky Derbys with Hard Spun...and Eight Belles, as well as his engaging personality that earned him five Good Guy awards from the media.



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