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Aug 27, 2010


By: John Piesen

Get on board for my full card Saturday!

First and foremost in handicapping the Travers Saturday afternoon at Saratoga, the player must decide which was the better prep race – the Haskell or the Jim Dandy.

Of the 11 horses who will answer the bell for the Travers, five came out of the Jim Dandy – A Little Warm, Miner’s Reserve, Afleet Express, Friend Or Foe and Fly Down…in order the first five finishers.

And five came out of the Haskell – Trappe Shot, First Dude, Super Saver, Afleet Again and Ice Box…the second thru sixth finishers behind Lookin at Lucky.

The wild card in the Travers is Admiral Alex, who won his belated debut a month back over the track as an international good thing from owner/trainer Leon Blusiewicz.

With all due respect to Mr. Blusiewicz, whom I’m proud to call a friend since the Jimmy Carter administration, I have to believe that he’s shooting much too high in running the Admiral back in the Travers.

My advice to the 79-year-old Leon would have been to take the seven-figure offer from the Sheiks, and spend the rest of your life doubling up at the window.

Blue is a human equivalent of the State of Alabama, where only two things count: Alabama football, and Alabama spring football.

In Leon’s case the only things that count are betting and cashing.

On the other hand, jockey Desormeaux must think the Admiral has a chance. He’s staying at Saratoga Saturday to ride him (at 20-1) in the Travers, rather than journey to California to pilot Hold Me Back, a major player in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

Money’s not the issue for KD since both races offer a $1 million purse.

Instead, jockey Gomez gives up several live mounts at the Spa to make the cross-country round trip for Hold Me Back.

Speaking of Gomez, he rides Trickmeister in a the $70,000 Pleasant Colony Stakes on Friday at the Spa. IEAH last month purchased Trickmeister from a Larry Jones client, and DRF appears confused about the purchase price.

To set the record straight, the purchase price was $700,000.

As for the Travers, the marquee race for 3-year-olds at the Saratoga meeting, which will be the proper preview? The Haskell…or the Jim Dandy.

One clue would be the purse size. The Haskell was worth $1 million; the Jim Dandy was worth $500,000.

And then there’s the Pletcher factor.

The Toddster was torn between staying at Saratoga and running Super Saver in the Jim Dandy, or ship to Monmouth Park “…to try better horses for a better purse.”

But, and this is a king-sized but, the Haskell was the tougher race only because of the presence of Lookin at Lucky, the pro-tem leader of the 3-year-old division.

Lucky aired in the Haskell, and if he didn’t come down sick the next day, he surely would have been vanned to the Spa for the Travers.

Instead, after a few days, Lucky was shipped back to Del Mar, and present plans call for him to return East for the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park.

That won’t be a stroll in the park because, according to my very best sources, the high-flying Sidney’s Candy also will make the trip from the left coast to Philly Park, where is natural early speed makes him very dangerous.

The Haskell Five were separated at the wire by a mere two-plus lengths. All five add weight for the Travers, and all of course will be tested by the extra eighth of a mile. Of the five, the only one to win a at mile and a quarter is Super Saver, but the Derby winner had the misfortune to draw the outside post in the 11-horse Travers.

Even the Toddster admitted publicly that he hates the post.

And the Travers will be one of the rare times in which John Velazquez is not riding for main man Pletcher. Johnny V. will ride A Little Warm, who adds 11 pounds off his Jim Dandy victory, while Borel rides Super Saver.

Calvin is only one-for-four on Super Saver…but the “one” was the Kentucky Derby.

It would be presumptuous to pick one jock over the other but the numbers don’t lie, and the numbers tell you that JV is riding winners at a 23 per cent clip at the Spa meet, where he is top gun, whereas Calvin has ridden only three winners at the meet, and his batting .07 per cent.

As for the Jim Dandy, a mere 4 ½ lengths separated the first five finishers as A Little Warm and Miner’s Reserve ran one-two around the speed-biased racetrack for the entire nine furlongs. With the presence of the speedy First Dude (first-time blinkers) in the race, and the Travers an additional furlong, there’s no chance of that happening again.

Then there’s the Zito factor.

Saint Nick is having a sub-par Saratoga with only two winners from 30 starters, and he’s won only one meaningful 3-year-race all year – Ice Box by a nose in the Florida Derby.

But who can forget that it was Nick Zito who emerged from the weeds with Birdstone to bushwack Smarty Jones in the ’04 Belmont. Historians will recall that the Belmont was the only timeSmarty lost when entered by this columnist. Otherwise, JP was 5-for-5 – the Southwest, the Rebel, the Arkansas Derby, the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness.,

As for Birdstone, he came back 10 weeks after the Belmont to win the Travers moments before a monsoon of biblical proportions hit the area.

(Smarty has sired about twice as many winners as Birdstone, but the latter nailed the two nig ones – Mine That Bird and Summer Bird. Look for Smarty to re-locate soon from Kentucky to his native Pennsylvania.)

Back to Nick. He has three in this Travers, and all have a shot.

Miner’s Reserve, a late developer, exits quality seconds to Travers favorite A Little Warm in a Delaware Park allowance and in the Jim Dandy, and it would be no surprise if jockey Cohen, who is an especially gifted one-hole rider, puts MR on a loose lead. Other than First Dude, nothing else in the field has his kind of speed.

As for Ice Box and Fly Down, they merely were fast-finishing seconds In the Derby and Preakness, respectively, and one or both could have won with some racing luck.

In the Haskell, Ice Box hit the gate leaving, and that cost him all chance. He gets a significant rider change to Leparoux, and has been in training for months at Saratoga.

As for Fly Down, he was making his usual monster move as the favorite in the Jim Dandy, but had to check and take up in traffic. That day Fly Down spotted A Little Warm six pounds (121-115); they both pack 126 in the Travers.

Lezcano, who was aboard for Fly Down’s six-length Dwyer win, keeps the mount.

But the biggest question is:

How does Calvin Bo-Rail get Super Saver to the fence from post 11, and, more importantly, 2) if he does so, will it do him any good

Is Super Saver a one-race wonder?

We’ll find out at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

The Travers, to be run as Race 12 on a 13-race program, caps a guaranteed $1 million Pick Four.

With the Travers just a day away, John Piesen is armed with an Insiders Stable Move set to build bankroll! Click here to learn more...

Let’s take a look at the first three legs…


There are only two graded stakes-winners (and no Grade 1 winner) in the field of nine 3-year-old fillies in the six-furlong Victory Ride, a Grade 2. They are Worstcasescenario, the winner of the Adirondack (Grade 2) over the track last summer, and Touching Beauty in the Comely (Grade 3) last spring at Aqueduct, her last start.

Katy Now, third-time Pletcher, gets the garden outside post in the field of eight, and trainer Amoss makes one of his rare Saratoga forays to saddle Beyondallboundarys for Ron (Risen Star) Lamarque.

Trainer Baffert ships Rapport from the left coast. Rapport must avoid a speed duel with Simply Spiteful and Katy Now.


Trainer Sheppard, won ran one-two (surprise) in the big jump-up on Wednesday, eyeballs a second straight Ballerina with Informered Decision. Informed Decision, a 5-year-old daughter of Derby winner Monarchos, is 13-for-18 lifetime, and pennies short of $2 million in earnings. After she won the Ballerina, a Grade One for fillies mares at seven furlongs, on the Travers undercard last year, she went on to win five more stakes, Including the Breeders’ Cup F-M Sprint.

The chief threats to Informed Decision this time is the uncoupled entry of Jessica Is Back and Fleet Passage, whose colors were flown by Chief’s Crown in the first-ever Breeders’ Cup race in 1985, a very good year.


Discreetly Mine will be odds-on – and a popular single – in the King’s Bishop, a Grade One for three-and-up at six furlongs, but two races back D’Funnybone beat DM by three-plus lengths at the same distance in the Woody Stephens Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard. “Funnybone”also won the ’09 Saratoga Special by 10 lengths.

Hurricane Ike, the Derby Trial winner, ships from California for Sadler off some huge works,

Thanks for tuning in. Get with me for my full card on Saturday, which will be available online after 2 PM EST, or by phone at John Piesen Racing (888 612 2283) for selections. All 13 races, 1-2-3 order of finish in each with indicated best bets, best bet exotics, plus the  All-Stakes $1,000,000 Pick-4. Just $50 gets it all. Specal bonuses include Closing Week Saratoga and a Premimum Bonus of Opening Week at Belmont.

Also, Piesen will be the featured guest on the weekly Oaklawn Park radioi/internet program on Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m. (Eastern).

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