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Sep 24, 2010




I know racing folks seem to ask the same question about this time every year:  Where have all the 3-year-olds gone?

But never in my memory has that question been so appropriate.

Consider that, other than Preakness/Haskell winner Lookin at Lucky, a Breeders' Cup candidate, the winners of the Kentucky Derby, Belmont, Travers, Wood Memorial and Arkansas Derby are all done for the year, if not forever, and Florida Derby winner Ice Box might as well be, considering his recent work.

A look at the fields for Saturday's two major graded stakes for 3-year-olds offers more evidence. Only six will go in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park, and a
mere six-pack will go in the $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs...and of course neither will be nationally-televised.

For that matter, DRF doesn't even bother to publish the Super Derby PPs in its Saturday Eastern edition.

Maybe a reader can help me here.  Haven't the only three network racing telecasts this year been the Derby, Preakness and Belmont? Please correct me if I'm wrong.

The most charismatic racehorse since Secretariat will see the national TV spotlight precisely once this year...and that will be when Zenyatta goes in the Breeders' Cup Classic on
Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs.

For the first time in history, the Classic will be run under the lights. The BC people announced the schedule on Thursday, and buried in the fine print on the second page of the release was news that the Classic - which hopefully will match Zenyatta, Blame, Quality Road and Lookin At Lucky - will go at 6:45 p.m. presumably under the lights.

Forget presumably.

I recall watching Alysheba win the 1988 BC Classic at Churchill, and, on that occasion, the race was run in virtual darkness -- at 5:30.

They've been talking for years about running the Breeders' Cup in prime time to avoid the big-time late-afternoon football, so I guess this is the first step. There had to a good reason why Churchill went to the expense to install lights a couple of years back.

You're going to read this many times, so you might as well read it here first.

This BC Classic will be the most important race for one horse (Zenyatta of course) in the history of horse racing.

My early line: Zenyatta 5-2; Quality Road 4-1; Blame 5-1; Lookin at Lucky 8-1.

The BC people also announced that the fields for the eleven BC races over that Friday and Saturday -- five and six races, respectively - will max at 14.

Two of the riders on the BC Classic Big Four are among a quartet of prominent whippersnappers who made interesting choices for the last Saturday of September.

Johnny Velazquez (Quality Road) leaves his comfortable Belmont Park base to ride Curlinello for main man Pletcher in the return of the Garden State Stakes at Monmouth Park.

A generation back, the Garden State Stakes was one of the most prestigious events on the racing calendar, and was worth a half-mill when it was won by Secretariat in 1972, and by Spend A Buck in 1985. 

On Saturday, the stake will gross $100,000.

Ramon Dominguez, despite his status as the top rider in the land, was bounced from First Dude by trainer Romans, and replaced by jockey Albarado.

So where does Dominguez wind up Saturday?

Ramon will be at Delaware Park for one mount - Grand Rapport for trainer Contessa in the $250,000 Kent Stakes. RD easily could have just stayed at Belmont to ride five favorites.

Then there is old friend Calvin Borel.

Calvin interrupts his annual pre-Keeneland R&R to journey to Belmont Park for five calls, Including Pretty Prolific for trainer McPeek in the $150,000 Gallant Bloom.

And Martin Garcia (Lookin at Lucky) travels 6,000 miles round-trip from the left coast to ride Rapport for trainer Baffert in the Gallant Bloom.

Rapport no doubt will be the one to catch in the Gallant Bloom, a race named for the King Ranch star mare from the late mid-'80s.

It is worth noting that Rapport is one of three 3-year-olds in the nine-filly field. The others are My Jen (Leparoux) and Lovely Lil (Luzzi).

As per custom, NYRA will offer a $300,000 guaranteed late pick four on Saturday, and, as per custom, three of the four races (excluding the Gallant Bloom), will be run on the
grass, the better to insure large fields my dear.

Let's take a look...

Race Seven

Don Balcazio, a beaten favorite last time at Saratoga, looks to be the main speed in this $27,000 event for quarter-claimers for 3-and-up at a mile and a 16th. Shimmering Forest, whose only career win was at Ellis Park, will come running under first-time Prado. Love and Havoc is he horse for the course, and goes from J.L. Espinoza to Alan Garcia. With Johnny V in Jersey, the Toddster gives the call on Newport, a 250K yearling, to jockey Cohen.

Race Eight

The stakes-placed Devon Rock will be favored in this $54,000 allowance for 3-and-up at the same mile and a 16th.  Maragh subs for Castellano, who is at Philly Park Saturday to ride Exhi for the Toddster in the Penn Derby. Missinglisalewis if 3-for-10 at Belmont; 1-for-11 elsewhere. Harmonizer exits big sprint score at the Spa, but will he grass?

Race Nine

Sara Louise, who once beat Rachel Alexandra, is training lights-out for the sheiks for her first start in 10 months in the six-furlong Gallant Bloom for fillies and mares, 3 and up. Prado is 3-1-0 in four rides on her. Toss  Qualia's  last. Her saddle slipped while making a middle move as the second choice in the Grade 1 Ballerina. Rapport, a winner of three of her last four for Bullet Bob, will have problems making her usual uncontested lead.

Race Ten

Peace Who, dropping 15K off a sharp Monmouth placing, will be favored in this $31,000 quarter-claimer for 3 and up at a mile/16.  Onzain won an allowance race two-back over the course, but Johnny V to Santiago (0-for-30) is not a positive rider switch. Tiger Willie (Castellano to Cohen) is trainer Parisella's meal-ticket. Tigresco closed fastest and widest behind Peace Wine.

One final reminder: We have the goods on a first-timer Saturday at Monmouth. The firster will be among our picks on the John Piesen Hot Line (1-888- 612-2283).

Thanks for tuning in. Have a good weekend, and see you back here Wednesday for a preview of Super Saturday at Belmont.

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