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Dec 11, 2009

THRU THE BINOCULARS

By: John Piesen


UH OH BANGO!

On a slow weekend in a slow month of racing, I thought it might be time to take an early look down the road at the Kentucky on the first Saturday of May. After all, what's five months between friends?

In case you are wondering about the headline on this column, a horse named Uh Oh Bango tops the first edition of my Derby Top Ten. How anyone could name a poor horse Uh Oh Bango is a mystery. And can you imagine if a horse by that name actually wins the Derby?

Ouch.

Double ouch.

That said, I liked what I saw from Uh Oh Bango when he finished a close-up second to the Todd Pletcher-trained Rule in the snow and sleet last weekend in the $750,000 Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs.

Bango lost ground on the tight turns, and slugged it out with Rule through the lane to miss by a short head.

"My horse lokked like he wanted more ground," trainer Kerry Owens told DRF. "He didn't like the sloppy track, he was spooked by the lights, and he came back like he had a lot more horse to him."

After the race, Bango shipped to Turf Paradise to train up to the Derby. Are we looking at another Mine That Bird here?

Glenn Corbett, a fine but no-name midwest jockey, was on board for the Jackpot. Godforbid he would keep the mount. Look for a "Top Five" rider next time.

At least it won't be jockey Gomez. Gogo already has his Derby mount in Lookin at Lucky, the certain Eclipse winner despite his unlucky second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Lucky worked three-quarters in 1:11 4/5 for trainer Bafferrt on Wednesday at Santa Anita, will be 1-9 in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity on Dec. 19 at Hollywood Park, and ranks second to Bango in my Top Ten.

Super Saver, a front-end winner of the Jockey Club Juvenile last month at Churchill Downs, is ranked third in the early going. Calvin Borel will make side trips from Arkansas to south Florida to work and ride Super Saver for The Toddster.

"I really liked his race at Churchill," Calvin told me the other day. "When they came to him on the turns, he changed leads when I asked, and re-broke. He's a good colt."

Calvin, a finalist for the 2010 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, will be looking for his third Derby winner in four years. He won in '07 on Street Sense, and in '09 on Mine That Bird.

Here is the Top Ten:

HORSE TRAINER WINTER BASE
1. Uh Oh Bango Owens Arizona
2. Lookin at Lucky Baffert California
3. Super Saver Pletcher Florida
4. Piscitelli Sacco Florida
5. Noble's Promise McPeek Florida
6. Vale of York bin Suroor Dubai
7. Jackson Bend Zito Florida
8. Buddy's Saint Levine Florida
9. Rule Pletcher Florida
10. Aikenite Pletcher Florida

Obviously, the Toddster, who has yet to win the Derby, is loaded this year, and, obviously, the power lies in the Sunshine State, specifically at Palm Meadows, where five of the Top Ten will be headquartered.

But who knows? Let's see how many of the Top Ten actually make it to the Derby.

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Before we get to Saturday's action, a couple of notes about last Wednesday:

1) Aqueduct cancelled because of heavy overnight rains and high winds. Truth be told, by scheduled first post on Wednesday, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, the winds had abated, and the temps were in the mid '50s, making it the best racing day we'll see all week. Pity we didn't see a word of criticism about the cancellation in what passes for the racing press these days.

2) In analyzing the triple-digit pick-six carryover at Hollywood Park, we suggested that it would pay to follow jockey Bejarano in the sequence. Turns out that Rafael rode four of the six winners. Again, it pays to pay attention.

As for Saturday, the main story is the comeback of multi-millionaire Lava Man in the $100,000 Native Diver Handicap at Holly Park. This will be the first race in 16 months for the 8-year-old gelding, a one-time claimer who has won seven Grade One stakes, including three straight Hollywood Gold Cups, during a magnificent career.

Without first-hand knowledge, I'm not going to take a stand one way or the other about bringing Lava Man back off multiple ailments. From a betting standpoint, I wouldn't want to bet on or against him. I'm just hoping he gets around the racetrack OK, and makes it back.

What a black eye for racing it would be if he doesn't.

At Aqueduct, they will run the Queens County Handicap for the 104th time, and the Charles Town-based Researcher, last year's winner, will be looking for a repeat from post two in a field of eight.

A winner of 11 of his 22 starts, Researcher will break from the two-hole in the $100,000 race for 3-year-olds and up at 1 3/16 miles. Johnny V has the call from trainer Runco.

The competition includes a pair of millionaires -- Naughty New Yorker and Honour Devil.

The 7-year-old NNN, the local version of Lava Man, will be making his 53rd career start for trainer Pat Kelly, and gets a rider change from Prado back to Samyn. At 114 pounds, he'll be getting five pounds from Researcher and Honour Devil.

Garcia rides the Sheiks-owned Honour Devil, whose claim to fame was a victory in the $2 million Dubai Derby in 2008. He exits a front-end win over Grade 2 winner Dry Martini in a nine-furlong allowance.

Researcher and Honour Devil both do their best work on the lead as do Storm Play (Lezcano), and Lord Kipling (Hill), so the race could set up for a closer.

Hint: THE closer is one of Saturday's selections on the red-hot John Piesen Hot Line (888 612 2283), the same Hot Line that gave out Awesome Ashley ($12.80) as the Horse of the Year last Saturday at the Big A.

Finally, a note about Thursday's racing at the Big A:

Crazy Thing, ridden by Jackie Davis, held off Holy Trouble, piloted by Rose Napravnik, by a head in race five, a dime-claimer at six furlongs.

What is so rare in New York as an all-female exacta? My have times changed. And it was hardly a surprise. They were the first and second choices, and the exacta came back a mere $16.60.

It's great to see Jackie, the daughter of old friend Robbie Davis, enjoying some success. And Rosie, as she showed winning the Garland of Roses last weekend on Awesome Ashley, can ride with anyone.

Thanks for checking in. Good luck this weekend, and see you back here Tuesday.



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