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May 27, 2011


By: By John Piesen:

Last we looked, there is no horse eligible to win the Triple Crown, leaving Affirmed safe and secure for a 33rd year as the last one to accomplish the feat.

On the other hand, this selector is very much alive in his quest for a handicapping triple crown.

For those scoring at home, a reminder that the John Piesen Hot Line nailed the Kentucky Derby exacta box (at $329.80), and last Saturday added the Preakness exacta box (at $114.60).

Couple those achievements with documented success in the Triple Crown prep campaign, and it's easy to see why I am confident about my chances of completing  a TC sweep in the Belmont Stakes.

Much can happen to the composition of the Belmont, which will be run on June 11 at glorious Belmont Park, but at this writing, it appears the top four betting choices (Animal Kingdom, Nehro, Mucho Macho Man and Shackleford), will be the same four who finished in that order in the Derby -- thus comprising a $48,126 superfecta.

And the JP Hot Line had three-fourths of that super, missing only Mucho Macho Man.

When it came to the Preakness, Mucho Macho Man and Dialed In (eighth in the Derby as the favorite) got all the buzz. But not from this selector. I left them both out of the Preakness number, and was proven right when both ran out...proving once again that this game is about finding the wrong horse(s) as it is about finding the right ones.

So my top four for the Preakness were Sway Away (obviously a huge error), Animal Kingdom, Shackleford and Dance City, giving us the three-figure exacta box.

I did correct one mistake in the Preakness.

All winter and spring long, I was high on Dialed In, putting him on top in most of my Derby Top Tens. The Derby proved that I (and zillions of others), overrated Dialed In, enough so that I left him out of my Preakness numbers.

So now we see that the four horses, who produced that 48K super in the Derby, look to be coming up the Big Four of the Belmont.

Funny how things work out.

I also find it interesting that none of the trainers of those four are based in New York, and, of the four, only MMM has run in New York.

What's more, none of the trainers of the next five in most pre-Belmont calculations are based in New York.

I also find it interesting that the only two chestnuts in the Preakness field of 14 finished one-two.

Moreover, the diminishing half-length that separated Shackleford and Animal Kingdom means a difference of 40,000 fannies in the seats at the Belmont. At  least, according to NYRA head honcho Haywood, who is predicting 50,000 for the Belmont, rather than 90,000 who would be on hand if there was a Triple Crown at stake.

I also find it interesting that -- unlike last year, when not a single horse raced in all three legs of the Triple Crown -- we are looking at the possibility of three (Animal Kingdom, Shackleford and Mucho Macho Man) going in all three this year.

Of course, that's not written in stone.

I also find the results of this week's NTRA poll interesting.

In normal years, at this time of the season, you would find 3-year-olds dominating the top ten. But this week, there are only two 3-year-olds in the Top Ten -- Animal Kingdom (third) and Shackleford (ninth).

Interpret this any way you want, but it tells me that this clearly is a down year for the 3-year-old division.

Who's Number One?

You'll never believe.

Number One is Havre de Grace, a 4-year-old filly from the Rick Porter-Larry Jones Connection.

Havre de Grace owes her lofty position to a pair of blowout victories in the Azeri and Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park, beating a bunch of manes and tails on both occasions.

Hey, I'm happy for Larry Jones, who is one of the best guys in the game, but Havre de Grace No. 1!

What's wrong with this picture?

In the aftermath of the Preakness, several turf writers, some of them accomplished, wrote that the public got burned because, as they saw it, Shackleford had no chance.

Obviously, I saw it otherwise...thanks to the value of inside information. As mentioned in this space in my post-Derby piece on this venue, I used Shackleford  in the Derby (and the Preakness) because one of the top trainers at Churchill Downs had tipped me on the horse.

Trace this to all the backside connections I have made in 30 years in the game.

Much of those 30 years was devoted to harness racing as much as thoroughbred racing. Thus I was sad to see today that Buddy Gilmour, one of the  harness game's greats, passed away this week at the age of 78 in his native Canada.

In fact, there was a point in the early '80s where Buddy Gilmour was the best in the business. He also was among the most (for lack of a better word) controversial in the business.

One of Buddy's issues was that he was not always prompt in his dealings with the IRS. As a result, he was convicted of tax evasion, and spent time in the clinker.

When Buddy was released, he applied to the New Jersey State Racing Commision for a renewal of his license to drive and train horses -- and was rejected.

As a result, I wrote a piece in the Post taking Buddy's side, pointing out that he had paid the price for his crime, and deserved the opportunity to make a living.

Days later, Buddy got his license back...and a year later, he was the regular driver of Horse of the Year On the Road Again, and many other harness greats down the road. He was also the $2 bettor's best friend.

Buddy was grateful for my help. In fact, he said to me shortly after the Post piece: "John...I've got a condo down in Miami Beach that I rarely use. It's yours anytime you want."

Needless to say, I turned down Buddy's offer. I explained to him that (the article) merely was the right thing to do.

It's been years since I have been involved in harness racing, even longer since I thought of Buddy Gilmour, but I was saddened by his passing.

He was a good guy and a credit to his game.

Thanks for tuning in. You need to check out my picks this holiday weekend on-line and/or on the JP Hot Line 1-888-612-2283. And I have the cover piece on Monmouth Park in the June issue of American Turf Monthly currently on the stands.

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