Oct 08, 2010
THRU THE BINOCULARS
By: John Piesen
SUPER SATURDAY AT BELMONT, KEENELAND
While the film Secretariat is re-making glorious history this weekend in movie theaters across the land, there is some actual, real live racing going on…specifically at Belmont Park and Keeneland, which, on Saturday, will offer a combined eight graded stakes, six of them grade ones.
Three at Belmont. Three at Keeneland.
Todd Pletcher (no surprise) is the common thread in the trio of Belmont grade ones. The Toddster will run Team Valor’s Fantastico Roberto in the $250,000 Jamaica, nine furlongs for 3-year-olds on the inner turf; the fearless foursome of R Heat Lightning, Maple Forest, Tap for Luck and Valiant Passion in the $300,000 Frizette for 2-year-old fillies at a mile on the main track; and the entry of Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty in the $300,000 Champagne for 2-year-olds at a mile on the main.
And with Ramon Dominguez at Keenreland for Gio Ponti and Awakino Cat, Johnny Velazquez, Pletcher’s point man, is sitting on a big day on Long Island.
In addition to Uncle Mo, R Heat Lightning (both odds-on favorites), and Fantastico Roberto, Johnny V will ride favorites Exley in race two, and Gerard Loves Beer in race four; Brother Cha in race five, and Headingtothecity in race six.
That’s seven mounts for JV. I’ll make the over-under four.
All three Belmont grade ones represent the final preps for the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 5-6 at Churchill Downs – respectively, the Mile, the Juvenile Fillies, and the Juvenile.
And it will shock no one if – assuming they get the job done Saturday – R. Heat Lightning and Uncle Move will go favored in the BC juvenile races. They may even win them for that matter.
I guess DRF is not convinced about Uncle Mo, the Indian Charlie colt who won his Saratoga debut by 14-plus lengths with a 102 Beyer number, which is 16 points more than anything else in the Champagne has run.
Despite the fact that the Pletcher entry (Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty) will be at best 2-5 in the Champagne, they are listed last and next-to-last in the graded handicap. Maybe the Form knows something the rest of us don’t…or then again maybe heads will roll.
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One note about Beyer.
Andy last week wrote in the Form that he wouldn’t give a Zenyatta a sniff at all-time greatness despite her 19-for-19 record.
This was not surprising because Andy, bless his talented soul, has made a nice living for some 40 years by taking the contrarian point of view.
But what was surprising is that Andy got booed when he showed up in the paddock for Zenyatta’s race in the Lady’s Secret last Saturday at Hollywood Park.
I can’t even imagine a sports writer getting booed. Most sportswriters, including myself, would be happy just being recognized. And this happened, not in Philadelphia or at Aqueduct, but in laid-back southern California.
Knowing Andy, he had to love it.
Meantime, Uncle Mo is trying to become the first 2-year-old to win the juvenile championship off just three starts since Seattle Slew – in Mo’s case, the maiden race, the Champagne, and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
If Mo pulls off the hat trick, Vegas will make him the shortest-priced winter book favorite for the Kentucky Derby since, well since Seattle Slew back in 1977. To put that year in perspective, that was the year that Bruce Springsteen recorded his breakthrough hit, Born to Run. Bet you never thought I knew that.
The Champagne is so lopsided, at least on paper, that Stay Thirtsy would be the favorite If there was no Uncle Mo. Castellano replaces JV on Stay Thirsty, who made all the pace in the Hopeful on Labor Day at Saratoga before succumbing to a late charge by Boys At Toscanova.
Trainer Dutrow is passing on the Champagne, and will bring BAT to the Breeders’ Cup off works.
Since five of the seven horses in the Champagne are all about speed, we will be looking at some fast fractions.The only pure closer in the field is Mountain Town, who was claimed by Pompa and Dutrow (see Big Brown) for $75,000 from Mary Lou Whitney off a first-out win at Saratoga.
That was bad news for trainer Zito, who settles for Delaware maiden-breaker Meridian Magic from the dreaded one-hole in the Champagne.
Speaking of the dreaded one-hole, that’s where we’ll find R. Heat Lightning in the Frizette.
In first three starts, RHL had ideal outside posts, and she won two of those races, with a fast-closing second in the other.
The Trippi filly, the longest price of the four Pletcher horses in the grade one Spinaway, enjoyed a perfect outside stalking trip from the eight-hole that day under jockey Gomez, and won by four.
That makes her the lone graded stakes-winner in the nine-filly Frizette.
The only negative is the dreaded one-hole.
A likely-looking longshot is Joyful Victory from Rick Porter, who has given us so many top fillies over the years, notably Eight Belles, Round Pond and currently Have de Grace.
In her Delaware Park debut at a mile and a sixteenth, Joyful Victory, a 400K Tapit filly, broke from the 12-hole, and circled her field to get up by a neck at even money.
As for the Jamaica, which was Seattle Slew’s final race, it is something of a crapshoot with Lethal Coimbination, Turf Melody and Fantastico Roberto, exiting a 1-2-3 finish in the Saranac at Saratoga, presumably the ones to beat.
But Leon Blusiewicz has different ideas.
The Blue Crew will run Admiral Alex, who you no doubt will remember from Saratoga, where he won first-pop, and then got wiped out at the start of the Travers, a race for which, through most of the betting, he was a shorter price than Derby winner Super Saver. He finished last, beaten 31 lengths at 11-1.
Since the Travers, Admiral Alex put in some quality works at Saratoga, but he exploded when he got the Belmont, ripping off five furlongs in :59, the fastest of 47 works that day (last Sunday) at the distance.
With jockey Desormeaux at Keeneland on Saturday, Channing Hill, 0-for-44 at Belmont, Inherits the mount. I would expect Hill to send the Admiral right to the top.
As is the case at Belmont, the five Keeneland stakes all represent the final Breeders’ Cup preps for the combatants.
The “name” horse on the card is Gio Ponti, a two-time Eclipse winner last year, and second to Zenyatta in the BC Classic.
Gio has been the victim of slow fractions in several of his races this year, but the pace should be no problem for him in the feature, the $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile for 3-and-up at a mile on the green.
The six-horse field is loaded with speedballs, notably Get Stormy, Courageous at and Acting Zippy.
Enjoy a great racing day Saturday. Thanks for tuning in, and don’t forget to get with me online for best bet racing selections all weekend long.
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