Just about the time you were settling down for Thanksgiving dinner, the Big Horse was making
a successful return to the races.
That of course is Sir Cherokee, last spring’s Arkansas Derby winner.
If you recall, Sir Cherokee was the ‘now” horse for the Kentucky Derby, but was injured on the
eve of the race, and was scratched. I’m convinced that if Sir Cherokee had made it to the
Derby, Funny Cide would be a mere footnote in racing history.
The injury, a fractured leg, cost Sir Cherokee four months, but the colt returned to action Thursday
in a mile allowance at Churchill Downs, and rallied from last under Terry Thompson to win by
three-quarters of a length.
“Sir Cherokee got a little tired,” Thompson told me Friday morning, “but that was to be expected coming
off the layoff. He relaxed early, and when I asked him to run, he took off, and he felt great pulling up. He’s
Sir Cherokee will make his next start in December at Calder or Fair Grounds, and then he’ll ship to Oaklawn
Park in beautiful downtown Hot Springs, Ark., for a spring campaign presumably capped by the Oaklawn
Handicap, the race Medaglia d’Oro won last spring.
As for Thompson, he was to ride three on Friday afternoon at Churchill Downs (“all longshots”), then drive
to Hoosier Downs to ride three on Friday night. (“I’ve got some good shots there.”)
“The only reason I went to Churchill this Fall was to stay with Sir Cherokee,” said Thompson. “And, from now
on, where he goes, I go.”
As for Saturday’s stakes action, the highlight of the day will be the $350,000 Cigar Mile at
Aqueduct. And, appropriately, Jerry Bailey, who won a zillion races on Cigar, has the favorite – Congaree
for Bob Baffert.
How big is the Cigar Mile?
So big that Bill Finley, the esteemed racing writer for the New York Times, will make his first appearance
at a New York racetrack in six months to cover the race.
That’s how important the Cigar Mile is.
Incidentally, there are three graded stakes Saturday at the Big A, and Bailey will ride the favorite in all
three. But the grand thing about racing is that Jerry doesn’t have to win all three.
CIGAR MILE (Aqueduct)
Congaree won the 2002 Cigar Mile by five at the obscene price of $11, and has been no worse than
third in six starts with Bailey up. As the 124-pound highweight, Congaree will be asked to concede chunks
of weight to a good field, and Bailey must avoid a speed duel with the likes of Midas Eyes and Voodoo.
I’m thinking that they are going to put up furious fractions here, and that old friend Bowman’s Band, from
his outside post with Ramon Dominguez up, will be along to pick up the pieces.
Look for Toccet, who won the 2002 Remsen over the track, to run his “A” race in this spot.
PIESEN’S PICKS: 1) Bowman’s Band 2) Toccet 3) Well Fancied
Like Congaree, Ashado comes in off a strong Breeders’ Cup race, but, unlike Congaree, she’s
getting the best of the weights. For whatever reason, Johnny V takes off Ashado to ride main
rival La Reina. (Bailey is on Ashado).
The numbers say this is a two-horse race.
PIESEN’S PICKS: 1) La Reina 2) Ashado 3) Dr. Kathy
Bailey will be tough to beat on Read the Footnotes, a winner of three of four starts, including
the Nashua in his last start. El Prado Rob, West Virginia and the New York-bred Pa Pa Da
look to be the main rivals.
PIESEN’S PICKS: 1) Read the Footnotes 2) El Prado Rob 3) Pa Pa Da
GOLDEN ROD (Churchill Downs)
With the favorites drawn outside, I’ll take a stab with Penny’s Fortune, a $650,000 Storm
Cat filly. Both her races were excellent, and she’s drawn inside with Sellers. The uncoupled
Lukas entry of Be Gentle and Stellar Jayne must overcome posts 10 and 12, respectively.
McPeek, up the track Thursday with Take Charge Lady, runs a dangerous uncoupled entry
of Galloping Gal and Sister Star.
PIESEN’S PICKS: 1) Penny’s Fortune 2) Galloping Gal 3) Sister Star
KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB (Churchill Downs)
Mach Speed, despite being the least experienced horse in the field, looks like the right one
in a wide-open race. The Cliff’s Edge, a Grade 3 winner last out, and the late-running Proper
Prado should hit the board.
PIESEN’S PICKS: 1) Mach Speed 2) Proper Prado 3) The Cliff’s Edge
In the Pilgrim a month back in New York, Timo won by two-plus lengths, while Cool
Conductor, who went off a slightly shorter price, dwelt, and got up for fourth, beaten six lengths.
They meet up again today, and Cool Conductor benefits from a nine-pound swing, and a better post.
Obviously, Bailey is unavailable, but Mott gets a worthy sub in Rene Douglas.
PIESEN’S PICKS: 1) Cool Conductor 2) Timo 3) Tap Dancer
GEISHA HANDICAP (Laurel)
Normally, I’ll steer clear of the outside horses going two-turns, but the outside three appear to
dominate this event. They are Rico Ends Well, Shiny Sheet and Undercover. Why not box the
7-8-9 and hope for the best?
PIESEN’S PICKS: 1) Shiny Sheet 2) Undercover 3) Rico Ends Well