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Aug 20, 2010

THRU THE BINOCULARS

By: John Piesen


John Goes 1-for-3 on Thursday at The Spa
R3: Miss Match WON $9.40

NOT SO LUCKY

It’s unfortunate for the connections of Blind Luck that the Alabama, Saratoga’s marquee race for 3-year-old fillies, wasn’t raced two weeks ago when the racetrack was favoring closers. Now, judging by the events of the past week, the Spa strip has returned to its speed-favoring ways, and Blind Luck will be at a distinct disadvantage.

Blind Luck’s running style is not unlike her California soulmate Zenyatta. Like Zenyatta, Blind Luck drops back to last, commences to blow by her rivals from the outside leaving the quarter-pole, and gets up in the final yards.

A $11,000 Fasig-Tipton yearling, Blind Luck has been amazing. Trained by northern California icon Jerry Hollendorfer for a conglomerate of west coast guys, she has won eight of 12 starts, with two seconds, two thirds, and a bankroll of $1.5 million, which is more than the combined bankroll of her five Alabama rivals.

That said, you would think Blind Luck would be odds-on in Saturday afternoon’s Alabama, A half-mill Grade One at a mile and a quarter, but chances are she won’t even be the favorite.

Devil May Care will be favored off her last-out blowouts in the Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks. The main reason of course is the home-field advantage.

Devil May Care is two-for-two at Saratoga, and trains over the track, while Blind Luck never saw Saratoga Springs until Tuesday, when she was flown in from Southern California. A three-furlong blowout may be the extent of her experience over the racetrack.

And, of course there are the connections. Trainer Pletcher and jockey Velazquez have won multiple titles at Saratoga, and top the current trainer and jockey standings, respectively.

Hollendorfer has run only one horse at the Spa, an eighth in the ’02 King’s Bishop, and young Rosario, Blind Luck’s rider, has never been up close and personal with upstate New York.

But the most important difference is speed. Devil May Care has it. Blind Luck does not. The way the track is playing these days, it’s a big edge.

Of course, I’m going to have to draw blood biting my lips before I release Devil May Care. Three times this year, I tried to beat her, and all I got for my efforts were three seconds – Amen Hallelujah in the Bonnie Miss, Connie and Michael in the Mother Goose, and Biofuel in the Coaching Club.

Then there’s Havre de Grace, a 380K daughter of Horse of the Year Saint Liam owned by Rick Porter, and trained by the red-hot Tony Dutrow.

In her last start, over her home grounds at Delaware Park, Havre de Grace looked a sure winner at 6-1 (yes, I had her) until Blind Luck at 1-5 nailed her in the final jump.

During my conversation with Larry Jones last weekend at Monmouth, he said he was delighted that Porter, his long-time principal owner, decided to pass on the Monmouth Oaks, obviously because Jones felt his filly, No Such Word, would have had next to no chance against Porter’s filly.

But with no Havre de Grace in the Monmouth Oaks, No Such Word had no problem taking home the Grade 3 and Its $200,000 purse.

Rick told me,” said Larry, “…he thinks he can win the Alabama with his filly, so God bless him.”

Maybe Porter is right, hut Havre de Grave will have to pull a Houdini to beat Devil May Care and Blind Luck, especially in view of the fact that 1) she’s drawn widest, and 2) unlike the Delaware Oaks, when Havre de Grace was pulling six pounds from Blind Luck (122-116) the two fillies are at 121-pound level weights for Saturday’s headliner.

On the other hand, Tony Dutrow is riding a hot hand at the Spa (4-for-13), including a pair of 3-year-old stakes at the meet with Winslow Homer and A Little Warm, who may go favored in the Travers a week from Saturday.

Then there’s a secondary Dutrow factor in the Alabama, and that would be older brother Rick, who is running Black-Eyed Susan winner Acting Happy, who exits a troubled third to Devil May Care in the Coaching Club.

No doubt jockey Lezcano will gun Acting Happy to the top from the one-hole, and try to steal the Alabama. It wouldn’t be the first time, not by a longshot, that such strategy paid off in the Alabama.

Obviously, an intriguing race, which can go in many different directions. I wouldn’t be surprised it turns out to the race of the meeting, much like Proud Spell’s nose victory over the sheiks was two years back.

The Alabama (Race 10) will be the third leg of the weekly guaranteed $500,000 Late Pick Four, and the only dirt race of the four. I intend to offer the entire Pick-4 as part an online special available here. Let's take a look at the other three races....

RACE EIGHT
Santiva was dead on the board for his debut for McPeek, but closed well for third to Wine Police, who will be one of the favorites in the Hopeful. Santiva likely will go favored from the rail in this $51,000 turfer for 2-year-old maidens at 1/16 miles.

If Criminal Saga, a firster from hot trainer Weaver (32-5-7-3) gets the job done, look for owner Randy Hill to buy a round (at least) Saturday eve at Siro’s.

Mena replaces the injured Albarado on Mr Tribute, a close-up third for Romans as the chalk last time.

Lemon Drop Kid fans will be all over Beachcombing, a firster trained by Chad Brown for Team West. Brown always gold with firsters.

Bluegrass Jet was bred by the owners of the ’10 Derby winner, and it training lights-out for his debut for trainer Tagg.

RACE NINE
This is nine-furlongs on the green for quarter-claimers, and you’ll have to go at least three or four-deep.

Prado replaces Dominguez – who’s in Chicago on Saturday for Gio Ponti in the Arlington Million – on track winner Mystic Fever.

Trainer Howard is looking to get off the duck with dropper Zapster. Recall Howard won the ’90 Preakness with Summer Squall for same owner Campbell. Second-time Johnny V.

The 7-year-old Global Genius is 1-for-24, but has faced much better, and gets Gomez.

RACE ELEVEN
The lovely Linda has six in Saturday, including Recharged, the only also-eligible for this quarter-claimer for maidens, 3 and up, at 5 ½ panels on the weeds. The gelding had serious road problems in debut, and switches to Castellano.

Peytons Heart is 0-for-16 for Pat Kelly, but last was an improvement. Chavez will send.

Dixielore, from Jo Beth Scovazzo and Frank Martin, also has speed.

Well Suited drops from maiden-specials.

Third different jock for Scary Guy, who broke poorly in first two starts.

Good luck this weekend, check out the Piesen Racing selections (notably the Iselin on Sunday at Monmouth), and we’ll see you back here Tuesday



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