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Jun 25, 2010


By: John Piesen


Another close call...

Among my favorite all-time handicapping achievements was nailing 10 straight winners as the lead horse picker for 20 years at the New York Post. That was back at Aqueduct in the Fall of 1978 when I had the good fortune to hit the last six races  on Wednesday, and the first four on Thursday.

My only regret was that Bucky Dent knocked me off the back page.

That streak has stood the test of time, but I was in trouble when the last six favorites won Wednesday at Belmont Park  (producing a $95 Pick Six.) Five selectors in the Post and Daily News had all six winners on top, leading me to double up on my ambien dosage that night.

But not too worry. When Acclimate won the Thursday opener at $13.40, beating the even-money favorite Waddi Suki a half-length, the streak survived. Good thing too because the highest win mutual on the next three winners was $4.

 While we are talking the Post, I also enjoyed breaking stories in my time at New York's favorite tabloid. I've been gone from the Post since 1990, but I've never lost my competitive juices. I still rather  enjoy breaking stories.

In Tuesday's column on this venue, I broke the news that 1) the owners of Uptowncharlybrown, DQd from fifth in the Belmont Stakes because the colt lost eight pounds of lead during the running, are suing NYRA for the $30,000 purse money, and 2) The stewards didn't know until the 11th hour if the missing weight came from Charly, or from the winner, Drosselmeyer. Fortunately, for all concerned, it was Charly.

Obviously, somebody up there reads this column because both items turned up prominently in the New York papers  two days later.

Moreover, the winners keep coming fast and furiously on the world-famous John Piesen Hot Line at 1-888-612-2283, and the timing this year is especially significant because we are closing in on the 40-day Saratoga meeting, which kicks off on July 23.

Historians will recall that the JPHL has had tremendous success through the years at Saratoga, especially in regard to triple-digit exacta and trifecta boxes.

One word of caution:

Just because speed has been holding unusually well over the dirt strip at Belmont Park does not necessarily mean that it will continue to do so upstate.

With that in mind, here are some Horses to Watch at Saratoga...

BUDGET --  Due to get a ground-saving trip in grass route.

HIGHEST REGARDS - Pletcher state-bred  looks the Spinaway winner.

NEHANTIC KAT - Will win a grass allowance or a small stake.

KATY'S OFFICE GIRL - Nails the speed on grass for the lovely Linda.

SORORITY SISTER -   Overcame horror trip to win for Rudy.

TAR HEEL MOM - Been racing in hard luck. Wants outside post.

MISSILE - Namesake was a stakes-winner years back at Spa.

STORM GAL - Look for Parisella to drop her in class.

THE GAILLIMH GIRL - Delaware turf fillies were too salty.

PROFESSOR Z. --- Will teach ‘em a few lessons.

RCUANDRY - Motion will ship from Fair Hill for a score.

SLAMBINO - Dogwood turfer won here at big balloons in ‘07.

Meantime, they will running the Mother Goose for 3-year-old fillies for the 54th time on Saturday afternoon at Belmont - and despite its Grade One status and $250,000 purse, only five fillies will answer the bell. That doesn't sound like a lot but it's two more than last year when a filly named Rachel Alexandra won by a pole.

(Note to desk: Obviously I was kidding on Tuesday when I suggested that this will be The Mother of All Gooses. For those scoring at home, the real Mother of All Gooses was  the 1991 running when it was determined that Meadow Star, trained by Leroy Jolley, and ridden by Jerry Bailey, nosed Lite Light after a bitterly-conducted stretch-long duel and a 10-minute photo.).

Chances are that this year's Mother Goose, which will be go in the customary feature-race slot (nine of ten), will be won by Todd Pletcher inasmuch as three of the five fillies call  Pletcherville home.

They are: Devil May Care, a middle-move 12th last out in the Kentucky Derby; Ailalea, a two-time Grade Three winner, and Katy Now, a three-time winner in five starts making her stakes debut, and looking very much like a rabbit.

The other two fillies in the mile/16 Goose finished in front of Devil May Care last November in the Breeders' Cup Juvenle Fillies at Santa Anita. They are Bioful, a stretch-running Canadian-based filly from Brereton Jones, who gave us champion 3-yrear-old filly Proud Spell in '08, and Connie and Michael, a Roman Ruler filly who wired her season debut by five-plus lengths at Churchill Downs.

You don't have to be an Albert Einstein, much less Andy Serling, to know that Connie And Michael will be the one to catch under jockey Maragh.

"This is a brilliant filly," trainer McPeek told me by phone Friday morning from his Churchill headquarters. The fact that she ran so well in the Breeders' Cup off one race speaks volumes for her, and she's been training like a monster. As for tactics, I'll leave that up to the rider."

Besides Pletcher owes McPeek one.

You'll recall that back in the Kentucky Derby, the McPeek-trained Noble Promise made the lead at the head of the stretch (at 23-1), but was overtaken by Super Saver, one of the Toddster's armada of 3-year-olds.

Incidentally, the Brooklyn Boys Stablez, the listed owner of Connie and Michael, is really Anthony Bonamo.

No, not THAT Bonamo, assures McPeek.

"Anthony is a Brooklyn businessman," Says McPeek, "...a great guy,

McPeek also mentioned that Noble's Promise came out his Royal Ascot in good shape, and after a stay in quarantine, will be shipped, along with 39 other McPeek horses, to Saratoga.

"Noble's Promise got beat only four lengths at Royal Ascot in a good performance," says McPeek. "We are looking at the Haskell or the King's Bishop with him.

"And I expect the barn to do well at Saratoga."

Finally, three Saturdays back, we tracked Ramon Dominguez to Philadelphia Park, where he had but one mount, Belle of the Hall for the West Point folks in the Jostle Stakes.  Natch. Belle of the Hall won.

Fast forward to tomorrow, and again Dominguez is passing up lucrative mounts at Belmont to go out-of-town for one horse - in this case Winslow Homer for Tony Dutrow in the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows.

Don't say you weren't warned.

Thanks for tuning in. Good luck this weekend, don't forget to check out the Hot Line, and we'll see back here on Tuesday.

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