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Jun 03, 2011


By: By John Piesen

As a student of post position, permit me this moment to apologize for my selection in the Met Mile on Monday afternoon at Belmont Park.

The mis-selection was particularly untimely because my customer base on John Piesen Hot Line (1-888-612-2283) was strong in the wake of my Triple Crown success up to and including my success on the holiday weekend at Belmont.

I've also had a good history with the Met Mile, and I so wanted to tip the winner of this year's edition, one of the most wide-open editions in years.

Basically, I was torn between Soaring Empire and Tizway, who had finished a nose apart for second behind Tackleberry two months back at the same odds in the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Tackleberry was also in the Met, but I tossed him because he was out of his Florida element.

So which it would be?

Soaring Empire, co-owned by Rick Pitino, and trained by Cam Gombolati, a quarter-century removed from his glory days with Spend A Buck. Or Tizway, owned by Texan Bill Clifton, and trained by James (007) Bond, a combination that gave us the likes of Will's Way, Behrens and Buddha a generation back.

The jockeys were a wash: Lezcano on Soaring Empire, Maragh on Tizway.

But the posts clearly were not a wash.

Soaring Empire drew the rail, making him a cinch to come out last...just as he'd had done previously from the same spot in the Florida Derby and Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship.

What was I thinking?

Despite the fact that Soaring Empire was as good as anything in the race, and better than most, and would go off single digits, there he was in the one-hole, a death trap going one turn at Belmont.

And I put him on top...knowing he would break dead last.

And sure enough. That's what happened. They're off. You lose.

And sure enough. Tizway broke on top from his extreme outside (11), got the perfect trip, and won for fun.

When the Belmont media people approached Maragh for post-race quotes, the first thing he did was credit his post.

I'm far from being the only one who knows the value of the outside post in a mile race at Belmont.

In the last two flashes, Tizway was bet down to 3-1 favoritism...while Soaring Empire (the better horse) skied a point to 7-1.

Never underestimate the intelligence of heavy betters.

For example...

On Monday, TVG showed eight races (including the Met) in its one-hour window on the east coast, and the favorite won seven of the eight. The exception? A Hollywood Park allowance in which jockey Suntherland ran out on the chalk.

The one thing about our favorite sport is that there are no absolutes.

One of the exceptions occurred in the 1981 edition of the Met Mile, precisely 30 years ago.

I had made my Met Mile selections for the New York Post the afternoon before the race, and that evening attended a barbecue at the home of Jan Nerud, the trainer of Met Mile contender Fappiano.

At the party, I had a conversation with Angel Cordero Jr., the top gun in New York who was to ride Fappiano in the Met Mile.

Cordero: "Piesen, who you make in the Met?"

Piesen: "Amber Pass (trained by Sonny Hine)."

Cordero: "As usual, you know nothing. I'll win it with Fappiano. I'll sit behind Amber Pass, and when he bears out on the turn, I'll send Fappiano through."

And so for the first (and only) time in my newspaper career, I changed my pick. I called the night editor at the Post, and changed my pick from Amber Pass to Fappiano. He grumbled, but made the change.

As the fates would have it, Cordero gunned Fappiano inside Amber Pass on the turn,and Fappiano won off at 6-1.

Amber Pass?

He finished third...and Sonny Hine went to his maker 20 years later still angry about the 1981 Met Mile.

Oh, yes.

Fappiano had the one-hole that day!

More recently, I had a horse named Uh Oh Bango on top of several of my 2010 Kentucky Derby Top Tens on this venue.

That may have been the worst name for a Derby horse in my lifetime, but he was going to be a factor in Louisville until he got hurt finishing fourth in the Arkansas Derby, and went on the DL for a year.

So you could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather when I read that Uh Oh Bango won a graded stake last weekend, the Berkeley at Golden Gate Fields

With old buddy Aaron Gryder up, Uh Oh Bango beat the multiple stakes-winner and $1.7 million earner Bold Chieftain, Russell Baze up, by a head.

And when was the last time Baze lost one of those at Golden Gate?

I understand they have the future-book prices up already in Vegas on the Breeders' Cup Classic, and I imagine you can find a pretty good price on Uh Oh Bango.

After all. the early-bird favorites are Twirling Candy and Crown of Thorns, with Animal Kingdom sitting at 25-1, and Shackleford 50-1.

That reminds me.

Last week we talked about the weekly NTRA poll, and pointed out that Havre De Grace stands No. 1. So I called Vegas to see what price I could get on HDG in the Classic, and was politely told they never heard of her.

And Game on Dude, who was second in the NTRA poll last week, had the bad fortune to check in third on Monday at 1-5 in the Lone Star Handicap.

Congrats to the West Point crowd for winning that race with the 8-year-old Awesome Gem. The winning rider was Albarado, who will sit out the Belmont, while his horse goes to the gate at 3-5.

That of course be Animal Kingdom, who will be even shorter if Shackleford comes out.

And, if Shackleford does come out, we are looking at a Belmont which doesn't include a single horse coming off a winning race.

Meantime, a prominent New Jesery trainer entered a cheap horse at Monmnouth Park the other day because he thought the race was an $8,000-$10,000 claimer, when in fact it was an $80,000-$100,000 claimer.

"A one-in-a-lifetime screwup," he said, " horse doesn't stand a chance."

The public disagreed, and bet the horse down to 3-1 second choice.

"Trainer X must know what he's doing," they presumably surmised.

Naturally,the horse ran eighth, beaten 20 lengths.

Thanks for tuning in. Good luck this weekend, don't forget to check out the red-hot JP Hot Line, and see you back here next week for a look at the Belmont.

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