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Mar 04, 2011


By: John Piesen


Last Saturday, they ran the $400,000 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park,and, as far as virtually all public handicappers were concerned, To Honor and Serve was a lock at 3-5.

Undaunted, Soldat was the selection on the Season of Piesen here online, and on the John Piesen Hot Line (888) 612 2283 as the 2-1 program second choice.

My thinking was basic. Soldat had a (winning) race over the track he had the inside post, a huge edge going nine furlongs at the Gulf, and was the speed over a speed-biased strip.

As it developed, the public made Soldat a narrow favorite over To Honor and Serve (7-5 to 8-5), and Soldat led every jump to win by three over Gourmet Dinner, with To Honor and Serve chugging in third.

Trainer Mott made the usual excuses for To Honor and Serve: needed the race, outside post, etc. But the bottom line is that the so-called experts blew it, and the betting public blew millions.

Meanwhile, that was just the beginning of another Super Saturday for the followers of the Season of Piesen. The SOP hit the Laurel feature, the Miracle Word, with J J's Lucky Train (the second choice) ran 1-3-4 in the wide-open Risen Star at Fair Grounds 1-3 in the Borderland Derby at Sunland...and 1-2 in the Turf Paradise Derby at Turf Paradise.

In the latter race, Beer Meister, my third choice, circled from last to win at $83.40...and my top pick, Indian Winter, was DQd up to second to cap a $273.20 exacta. Once in a while, you get lucky. But luck increases when you do your homework and I've been doing mine on the Derby Preps. You can click here to learn more and be a part of it.

We hope to be both lucky and good again this Saturday when they run the $250,000 Gotham Stakes over the Aqueduct inner track, the only serious weekend stop on the Derby prep trail.

Nine were entered in the 1 1/16 race -- and, as was the case in 1967 -- it's a two-horse race. In '67, the two were Dr. Fager and Damascus. In '11, the two are Stay Thirsty and Toby's Corner.

We liked Toby's Corner on the SOP and JPHL at $11 when he won the Whirlaway, and there's every reason to like him again...but, as we all know, no two races are the same. Jockey Castro rides Toby for trainer Motion, and jockey Dominguez will ride Stay Thirsty for trainer Pletcher.

What I find interesting here is that Johnny V was Stay Thirsty's regular rider last season -- a first, and two seconds before the obvious decision to ride barnmate Unclo Mo in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. One would expect Johnny to fly in from Florida Saturday to ride Stay Thirsty for the Toddster in the Gotham as well as Calibrochoa for Todd in the Tom Fool, and Sensational Sam for TP in the Capossela.

But instead Johnny is staying in Florida to ride the card at Gulfstream, including some allowance types for Todd, leaving the three Pletcher stakes runners to Dominguez. Perhaps I'm making too big a deal of this, perhaps not

As for Uncle Mo...what gives? It has never been Pletcher's modus operandi to play games with the media, the public and fellow horsemen, but with the days counting down, Todd still hasn't decided whether to bring Uncle Mo back in the two-turn
Tampa Bay Derby a week from Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs, or in the one-turn Timely Writer the same day at Gulfstream.

He'll have to decide by Wednesday when both races are drawn. If the Toddster chooses the Gulfstream race, that will give Uncle Mo only one two-turn race (the Wood) before the Derby, which will be run May 7 at Churchill.

As for Dialed In, who continues to be the top pick in the Piesen Derby Top Ten (see below), trainer Zito isn't spilling any state secrets either. The Mineshaft colt last week drilled five-eighths in :59, which is fine -- but he clearly needs a prep race for the Florida Derby, and his people would not be thrilled chasing Mo in the Timely Writer.

As for Sway Away, the class of the California 2-year-olds, trainer Bonde appears to be pointing for thr San Felipe a week from Saturday, and the Santa Anita Derby on April 9, the same day as the Wood.

At this point, the Florida Derby is looking like the most significant prep for Louisville. The potential field includes five
horses exiting impressive stakes wins -- Soldat, Dialed In, Mucho Macho Man, Flashpoint and Brethren, plus Fountain of Youth runnerup Gourmet Dinner.

Here is Chapter Three of the Piesen Derby Top 10:

Dialed In Zito Undecided
Uncle Mo Pletcher Undecided
Soldat McLaughlin Florida Derby
Sway Away Bonde San Felipe
Brethren Pletcher undecided
Rogue Romance McPeek Louisiana Derby
Machem Howard Louisiana Derby
To Honor And Serve Mott Florida Derby
Elie Alex Richey Rebel
Flashpoint Dutrow Florida Derby

I've got a great weekend of winning planned. Get the Gotham Stakes on Saturday, my 1-2-3 order of finish, and each day from Friday thru Sunday I'll have three best bet races from Gulfstream Park. I got the week off to a good start with a 2-of-3 showing, winning with Holiday Flare $7.40 and Peach Bottom $7.00. Get all three days for $35, or play any one day for $15. Click here to be a part of it. Thanks again for tuning in. Good luck this weekend.

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