Nov 13, 2009
THRU THE BINOCULARS
By: John Piesen
A NUMBERS GAME
Lots of numbers to crunch this week.
Consider the fact that if Rachel Alexandra gets Horse of the Year, that would mean that the two race-perfect mares of our lifetime went a combined 27-for-27, and neither was voted Horse of the Year.
Personal Ensign, you will recall, went 13-for-13 in the late '80s, capped by an incredibly thrilling victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff...and lost Horse of the Year to Alysheba.
Fast forward 20 years, and Zenyatta goes 14-for-14, capped by an incredibly thrilling victory over males in the Breeders' Cup Classic...and, in all likelihood, will lose the Horse of the Year vote to Rachel Alexandra.
You know my take on Zenyatta. Once again, I'll say she was stiffed last year when she lost HOY to Curlin. And I believe she'll be stiffed again this year.
How ironic that, in both cases, she would lose out to the same guy (Jess Jackson), who bought a ready-made horse -- he paid a reported $6 million for Curlin, $10 million for Rachel.
I don't want to take anything away from Rachel. Fact is a month back, when I compiled my all-time Top 25 on this venue, I listed Rachel at No. 14, while leaving Zenyatta out. Of course, a lot changed in two minutes last Saturday afternoon.
In making a case for Zenyatta for HOY, I hate to knock Rachel, who was a perfect 8-for-8 up to nine furlongs, but let's be honest here. Thanks to skillful management, she missed a lot of big (and longer) dances.
1) Rachel went to the Kentucky Oaks and the Preakness, rather than the mile and a quarter Kentucky Derby and/or the mile and a half Belmont Stakes.
2) She went to the weight-for-age Woodward rather than the mile and a quarter Travers, which was the much more difficult spot. Jerry Bailey, whose opinion I respect a great deal, made that point on TV.
3) She passed on the mile and a quarter Breeders' Cup Classic, in which, as I said here the other day, she probably would have wound up battling Colonel John for fifth money. Jackson's reason was the synthetic Santa Anita track, ignoring the fact that Rachel won on a synthetic Keeneland strip.
If they gave out an Eclipse Award for the best-managed horse, the winner hands down would be Rachel Alexandra. As for Horse of the Year, that would be Zenyatta.
It's a damn shame that Zenyatta --like Personal Ensign -- will be denied racing's greatest honor.
Here's another interesting point.
If Rachel is retired, she and Zenyatta would be eligible the same year for the Hall of Fame. According to the rules, both can't get in the same year. So which one would it be?
Those of you who are familiar with my handicapping theories know that I detest post one going short, pretty much at every racetrack, large or small.
Need evidence? Just check out the current meet at Churchill Downs. Through Thursday at CD, post one at one turn was 0-for-53!
Next time you see a horse from the one-hole break two-to-three lengths behind the field, just think of that stat.
Normally, I would take a look at the New York Saturday stake(s) in this space. But not today. When only five horses were entered Thursday for Saturday's $100,000, Grade 3 Stuyvesant Handicap at Aqueduct, the racing office decided to scrap the race.
This was the second time in six weeks that the New York Saturday stake was scrapped due to lack of entries. And this is the same Stuyvesant Handicap in which the immortal Seattle Slew capped his career in 1978 with a blowout victory under 134 pounds.
And you'll never guess the size of the field that day.
It was five!
My, hasn't the game changed?
In lieu of the Stuyvesant on Saturday, the Big A feature will be a $44,000 allowance for New York-breds at 1 1/16 miles on the grass.
And since a major storm is passing through New York as we speak, the chances of the race staying on the grass are the proverbial slim and none, leaving the race at the mercy of the five main-track-onlys.
And of the five MTOs, the top two look to be the 3-year-olds Saginaw and Star of New York.
Ted Taylor bred both, but I have to assume he'll be rooting for Saginaw since he still pays the bills.
Saginaw is wheeled back by Chad Brown after wiring maiden-specials by 11 lengths on Oct. 28.
Star of New York has finished no worse than third (1-5-4) in his 10 starts for Gary Contessa.
Sounds like the old 12-13 exacta box to me.
Hopefully, the weather will be better in south Florida where Calder is holding its annual Florida Millions Day -- eight consecutive six-figure stakes for Florida-breds going as races four through 11.
We might be looking at another big day for Julian Leparoux.
Last weekend, the Flying Frenchman won three Breeders' Cup races to earn the Shoemaker Award for the top Cup jock.
Those three wins give Leparoux 10 Grade One winners this year, and vaulted him over Gomez and Dominguez into first place in '09 jockey earnings. Those three figure to be the finalists for Eclipse Jockey (where have you gone Cal Borel?), and Leparoux may open some daylight Saturday at Calder.
Julian has calls in seven of the eight stakes, and six of the seven will be no worse than second choice.
They are Winsockie in race four; Mr. Green in race five; Family Foundation in race seven; Rate of Exchange in race eight; Jessica Is Back in race nine; Pickapocket in race 10, and It's A Bird in race 11, the 200K Carl G. Rose Classic.
All of the above, with the exception of Family Foundation, are trained by Marty Wolfson, who is batting a mere .600 thus far at Calder -- 6-2-1 from 10 starters.
How 'bout them for numbers?
The 6-year-old It's a Bird is all about back class.
Earlier in the year, The Bird won the Sunshine Millions Handicap, and Oaklawn and Lone Star handicaps, all with Leparoux aboard. But (how should we put it?) his last three races have been less than compelling.
The track linemaker makes The Bird the 8-5 favorite in a field of seven going nine furlongs, and that sounds about right.
But Bill Kaplan has other ideas.
The Brooklyn-born trainer will run an uncoupled three-horse entry at It's A Bird: Imawildandcrazyguy (Coa); Dream Maestro (Cruz), and Temo's Dream (Bravo). Temo would move up several lengths in the event of a wet track.
Bravo also has the call on Winey Taylor for trainer Greg Sacco in race six, the Joe O'Farrell Juvenile.
Alas, Winey Taylor, a winner of four of five starts, gets the one-hole in a field of eight going seven furlongs.
Winey is a stablemate of Piscatelli, who was a close-up fourth at 50-1 last week in another Juvenile, the BC Juvenile.
Piscatelli was then shipped to Gulfstream Park to prepare for a Triple Crown campaign, starting with the Fountain of Youth.
This is one good colt. You might want to think about getting down in the Derby Futures.
AQUEDUCT BLOCKBUSTER SET TO EXPLODE
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Good luck this weekend, and don't forget to check out the John Piesen Hot Line at 888 612 2283 and/or here on-line. See you back here Tuesday.
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