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Oct 22, 2010

THRU THE BINOCS

By: JOHN PIESEN


 

2 For 2 In Belmont Best Bets Thursday!
Laureate Conductor ($6.50) / Inherit The Gold ($7.80) Daily Double Pays $35.40! 

       IT'S ALL ABOUT ZENYATTA                         

Within the last few days, two expected major players for the Breeders' Cup Classic  - Rip Van Winkle, the most accomplished older horse in Europe, and Richard's Kid, the class of the Left Coast handicap division - were removed from consideration.

Rip Van Winkle was retired, and the sheiks, who own Richard's Kid, decided to put Richard on an early plane for Dubai to race in the Dubai Cup on a Saturday evening six months down the road.

That's a long way from rural Maryland where Richard was bred and raced by the Meyerhoffs, who gave up Spectacular Bid way back in the late '70s.

Indeed, those were the days my friend.

Maybe someday Disney will produce a film on Spectacular Bid...and maybe that time they'll even get its facts right.

Maybe Bid won't be foaled a bay - like Secretariat was in the film.

And maybe, unlike the Tweedy divorce that was never mentioned, there will be mention of the Meyerhoff divorce. Then again Disney doesn't believe in divorce - nor gambling.

There also was no mention of gambling (zippo) in Secretariat. Horse racing without gambling is like the Kardashians without...well, you get the picture.

But, despite the losses of Rip and Richard, there will be more than enough quality competition for Zenyatta in the BC Classic, which will conclude the Nov. 5-6 extravaganza early Saturday evening under the bright lights of Churchill Downs

According to our buddy Steve Haskin, the British books, which have been taking B.C. action for weeks, make Zenyatta no better than co-favorite with Lookin at Lucky, followed in the betting by Blame, Quality Road and Haynesfield.

If you lean towards 3-year-olds in the Classic, you can also choose from among (in addition to Lookin at Lucky) Fly Down, First Dude and Morning Line at double-digits.

Then there's the Japanese mystery horse Espoir City, whom we discussed in this space last week - a veritable four-legged Ichiro.

When pre-entries are taken Monday, it is expected that Gio Ponti, second to Zenyatta in the '09 Classic, will be cross-entered in the Classic and Turf.

If the connections of Gio Ponti opt for the Turf, that would leave open super-hot jockey Dominguez open for Haynesfield in the Classic.

And there would be nothing worse for Zenyatta's fan base than  see Haynesfield running loose on the lead with Dominguez, Hernandez, much as they did so successfully in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

The big pre-Classic controversy revolves naturally around Zenyatta. If she wins, and exits the racetrack at 20-for-20, she not only clinches Horse of the Year, but goes down in history as the greatest race mare ever.

Just imagine, in 2040 Disney will make "Zenyatta" with one of the Jonas boys playing his owner.

But what if Zenyatta should lose! She'll probably - for the third straight year - be shafted out of Horse of the Year. They'd probably give HOY to the Classic winner, or maybe even the unbeaten winner of the Juvenile.

One of my media colleagues already has suggested in print that if Zenyatta is beaten, and Uncle Mo blows away the Juvenile, that Uncle Moe would deserve Horse of the Year.

I would mention the writer by name but I don't want to embarrass him any further.

Personally, if Zenyatta was an ordinary horse, I would try to beat her. Hell, I even picked Switch to beat her last time, and you know what happened there.

But the fact is this won't be Switch that Zenyatta will have to run down In deep stretch of the Breeders' Cup Classic.

If Zenyatta pulls off the Classic, it will kick off the biggest racing celebration of our lifetime. If not...we are looking at a replay of the doom and gloom of Belmont Stakes Day in June '04 on Long Island.

In other Breeders' Cup news, the ever-popular  Dogwood Stable of Cot Campbell and May Jane Howell will be represented by the "A" Team of Aikenite and Atoned.

Aikenite, who equalled the seven-furlong track record last Friday at Keeneland, will go in the Dirt Mile with Jockey Gomez up.

And Atoned, who can run all day, is a perfect fit for the Marathon with jockey Albarado at the controls.

Dogwood had been hoping to make the Juvenile with Forum and/or Lou Brissie, but the former sustained a leg injury In his last start at Keeneland, and Lou Brissie, named for the celebrated major league pitcher/war hero, peaked too early.

Meantime, this was supposed to be the year that the State of New Jersey would have a shot at Breeders' Cup glory.

Get Serious, who races for trainer John Forbes, was to be that horse, but Forbes informed this writer on Thursday that the turf star will remain home at Monmouth Park rather than ship for the BC Turf Mile.

"The major thing is that Get Serious loves hard turf," Forbes said, "and chances are that the Churchill turf will come up soft, just the way the Euros want it.

"The bottom line is too much would have to go right, and so much could go wrong."

This mirrors a situation in the mid-90s when Forbes kept superstar Tale of the Cat home rather than ship to Hollywood Park for The Breeders' Cup Classic.

In the meantime, Forbes, the winningest New Jersey  trainer of all time, continues to serve as the point man in his State's bid to save racing.

"It's like a Civil War between the North Jersey politicians and the south Jersey politicians," he says, "and right now, Gov.  Christie is leaning south...toward Atlantic City.

"As long as the governor leans that way, we are fighting an uphill battle."

Finally, it never ceases to amaze me how racing comes full-circle.

On this same Saturday last year, Haynesfield was all out to beat  a horse named Ruffino in the $200,000 Empire Classic, the feature on the annual New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park.

Fast forward to 2010 - and while Haynesfield is training up to a potential BC Classic steal by Team Asmussen,  trainer James (007) Bond has Ruffino back in the Empire Classic...at 30-1!

Personally, I would not hesitate to use Ruffino in the gimmicks with the 3-year-olds - the coupled Friend or Foe and Mine Over Matter. Ibboyee and Stormy's Majesty.

It must be noted that this is the rare Fall Saturday on which jockey Dominguez stays home. Seven of the 10 Showcase Day races are stakes, and RD factors in all of them.

Naturally, the John Piesen Hot Line will be up and running daily at 1-888-612-2283. The JPHL went two-for-two on Thursday Best Bets at Belmont, with Laureate Conductor winning $6.50 in race 7, and Inherit the Gold winning race 8 for $7.80. The Daily Double paid $35.40.

Thanks for tuning in. See you back here next Friday for more Breeders' Cup action.



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