Oct 30, 2009
THRU THE BINOCULARS
By: John Piesen
THE BIG Z
I've been a huge fan of Zenyatta since April 5, 2008, when I stood atop the Oaklawn Park roof, and watched Zenyatta inhale champion mare Ginger Punch in
the Apple Blossom Handicap...just as jockey Smith predicted that morning in my morning seminar at a packed drinking hole across Central Avenue.
That was only the fourth start (and fourth win) for Zenyatta, and her first with Smith aboard. It seemed that David Flores, who had ridden her in her first three races, preferred the warmth of southern California that day.
As Zenyatta circled the Apple Blossom field to win by four-plus lengths, I made a mental note that this was a good filly...but I didn't imagine at the time just how good.
As we all know, Zenyatta returned to California, and promptly ran off five more stakes victories (four Grade 1s and one Grade 2), all at odds-on, capped by a blowout victory in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.
I campaigned for Zenyatta for'08 Horse of the Year, but she wound up a distant second to Curlin in the balloting. I don't know how much owner Jackson shipping bottles of his best wine to the Eclipse voters influenced the voting, but it sure didn't hurt.
Fast forward to 2009, and once again Zenyatta, despite a perfect 13-for-13, is fighting an uphill battle for Horse of the Year, this time against the 3-year-old Rachel Alexandra.
And, from what I read and hear, Zenyatta, now age 5, can win the Breeders' Cup Classic next Saturday from here to San Jose, and still have no shot against Rachel in the HOY balloting - with or without the wine.
Now this is what really bothers me.
Zenyatta is getting bashed in the media for not leaving California this year to face Rachel.
Now, tell me where exactly was Zenyatta going to face Rachel?
After all, the last we looked, Rachel -- with one exception -- raced exclusively in races for 3-year-olds.
The exception of course was the Woodward at Saratoga. But Rachel's connections didn't decide on the Woodward until the proverbial 11th hour. That left Zenyatta's connections virtually no time to train for the Woodward, much less the time to make arrangements to ship cross country to run in it. In fact, I believe that Zenyatta wasn't even nominated for the Woodward. Why should she have been?
Of course, we are getting way ahead of ourselves here.
Zenyatta still has to go out and beat the boys in the Breeders' Cup Classic. The Santa Anita oddsmaker says he will make Zenyatta the favorite, but that doesn't guarantee anything.
The Big Z still has to go out and knock off an outstanding international field, arguably the best Classic field ever assembled, even without Rachel and Sea of Stars.
With those two superstars passing the race, Zenyatta becomes the one and only gate attraction next weekend. Her appearance in the Classic -- as predicted in this space last Tuesday -- gives this year's Cup its only star, but, at the same time, weakens Friday's schedule.
Speaking of Tuesday's column, it was suggested therein that trainer Ken McPeek was worth following this week at Keeneland. Sure'nuf. McPeek went 2-for-3 on Wednesday, and 2-for-3 on Thursday.
The bottom line is that it pays to read the fine print in the twice-weekly columns...in addition of course to checking my selections daily here on-line or at the red-hot John Piesen Hot Line 1-888- 612-2283.
Obviously, we'll be looking to knock'em dead in the Breeders' Cup.
There will be no end to betting opportunities. All 14 B.C. races -- six Friday, eight Saturday -- will offer straight, place and show; exactas, tris, supers,rolling doubles, rolling pick threes, six pick fours, two pick sixes, and a DD coupling Friday's Ladies Classic and Saturday's Classic.
If that's not enough, there will be head-to-head betting offered on all races, and, for the first time, there will be pari-mutuel betting on which jockey will win the most races. There will be 14 betting interests, with Gomez the likely morning-line favorite.
If you're looking for a price, you can do worse than Frankie Dettori.
Dettori's B.C. calls include Sara Louise in the F-M Sprint, Delegator in the Mile, Mastery in the Marathon, Fleeting Spirit in the Sprint, and Red Rocks in the Turf.
(11 on top)
7 exactas (3 cold)
4 trifectas (2 cold)
3 daily doubles
1 pick 3
1 pick 4
The name is John Piesen and I hold the record for consecutive days of picking winners at a single track - 207 at Monmouth Park - as documented in the Daily Racing Form. But my '08 Breeders Cup record is even hotter and bigger: my players and I won $21,631 just on $20 bets!
And I'm set to equal or top it this year. I am in on the doings. I know who's peaking, who's staling, who's rank and who's ready, who's on the muscle. I know who can handle Santa Anita's tricky synthetic Pro-Ride surface, as I proved last year in this very same venue! I'll give you both days of the Breeders Cup - 6 BC races Friday plus 4 races on the undercard - and 8 BC races Saturday plus 3 races on the undercard - all for just $60. Or test me for one day for $35 and watch what happens!
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Here's a capsule look at Friday's six B.C. events:
(We will preview Saturday's eight races on Tuesday) (all times Eastern)
Race 3: The Marathon (12:35 p.m.)
Mastery, a Group 1 winner in Europe, will be one of the shortest prices of the weekend, with Father Time, another Euro, the probable second choice.
Nite Lite, from the Toddster, will be the most heavily-played of the U.S. stayers. Muhannak won this race last year, but is off-form.
Race 4: The Juvenile Fillies Turf (1:08 p.m.)
This will be one of the more wide-open betting races in the Cup.
McPeek loves his two unbeaten fillies -- Jessamine winner House of Grace, and Connie And Michael, who must escape the alsos.
Smart Seattle was nosed by House of Grace, with Hatheer up for third as the favorite. The best of the Euros may be the unbeaten Junia Tepzia from Team Valor.
Race 5: The Juvenile Fillies (1:45 p.m.)
Which was the stronger prep? The Oak Leaf, which produced Blind Luck, Always a Princess and Bickersons, or the Alcibiades, which produced Negligee, She Be Wild and Beautician?
Former Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones, the owner of Eclipse filly Proud Spell, is represented by Woodbine stakes-winner Biofuel.
Frizette winner Devil May Care is the only New York-based filly in the field.
Race 6: The Filly & Mare Turf (2:23 p.m.)
Forever Together looks to repeat her triumph for Jon Sheppard in this race last year. She again used the Diana, Canadian and First Lady as preps.
Jockey Leparoux chooses her over Pure Clan, on whom he won the Flower Bowl. Gomez picks up the mount from Holthus on Pure Clan, who figures to improve off her dull B.C. performance in'08.
Dar Re Mi, a multiple Group winner in Europe, and beaten mere three lengths by Sea of Stars in the Arc, would be favored, but more likely her people will opt to try the boys Saturday in the Turf.
Magical Fantasy exits four graded stakes victories in California.
Beware the 3-year-olds -- Rainbow View, second as the favorite in the E.P. Taylor; Midday, and Maram, the winner of the'08 Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Race 7: The Filly & Mare Sprint (3:02 p.m.)
Ventura will be favored to repeat her'08 victory in this race, when she rallied from 11th to beat multiple-champion Indian Blessing, who is sitting this one out.
Informed Decision has won seven of her last eight starts, her only loss during that span over a sloppy track in the Ballerina. In their only prior meeting, Informed Decision beat Ventura a head in the Madison at Keeneland at this seven-furlong distance.
Godolphin looks to upset with Sara Louise and Seventh Street.
The stretch-running Evita Argentina goes from Rosario to Desormeaux.
Race 8: The Ladies' Classic (3:45)
Presuming Zenyatta opts for the Classic, Careless Jewel, the lone 3-year-old, will be very much the filly to catch and beat in an unusually small field.
After a third in her debut, CJ has won five straight, including the Alabama, Delaware Oaks and Cotillion, by a combined 32 lengths.
Godolphin mares Cocoa Beach and Music Note, second and third to Zenyatta in this race last year, won't go quietly.
Life Is Sweet, from Zenyatta's trainer, would be a worthy deputy.
Good luck this holiday weekend, and see you back here on Tuesday.
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