Jun 17, 2011
LOOK BACK ON THE BELMONT; A LOOK AHEAD TO THIS WEEKEND
By: John Piesen
As Ruler on Ice crossed the line in front, with his rider standing up in the irons and waving his stick at the heavens, virtually everyone watching turned to his or her neighbor, and asked the same question:
"Who the hell is the three horse?"
I must have read dozens of Belmont advances last week, watched all the TV I could, and listened to all the radio I could, and must confess I don't remember hearing word one about Ruler on Ice.
Even as Ruler on Ice was being walked to the winner's circle, the NBC announcer couldn't get it right. He said the horse was being led in by trainer Breen, when actually it was owner Hall doing the honors.
From a personal standpoint, the last thing I needed to see was Ruler On Ice and Stay Thirsty pulling away from Brilliant Speed in the final 100 yards.
Brilliant Speed, dismissed at 15-1 on the morning line, was my pick on the John Piesen Hot Line.
To me it was a no-brainer. I never considered putting another horse on top.
I had liked Brilliant Speed off his closing seventh in the Derby, as did a lot of others because the colt was bet down from 15-1 to 7-1 -- finally 10-1 at post.
The clincher for me was that the Derby chart made no mention of the fact that Brilliant Speed got shut off badly coming past the stands for the first time, and was yanked to virtually a full stop.
That's why he eventually was forced to go eight wide on the second turn.
That said, jockey Morales rode Brilliant Speed like he was 4-5 in the Belmont. He eased him into the clear four-wide on the turn, let a couple of horses go by on the backstretch, without movinng his hands.
On the second turn, Brilliant Speed blew past eight horses, while still under a hand ride, made the lead at the eighth pole, and seemed a dead-certain winner. At which point, he ran out of gas, and wound up getting two lengths by Ruler on Ice and Stay Thirsty.
In the post-race quotes, jockey Morales too said he thought he was home free. Trainer Albertrani thought the same.
But obviously thinking and doing are two different things.
And to top it off, there was Nehro plugging on for fourth...meaning my top two picks ran three-four, behind the most improbable two Belmont horses we'll ever see.
As mentioned above, I read a lot of race advances during Belmont Week. ...but, as it developed, the most significant paragraph I read was right here on this venue.
"In the Derby going in, no one knew Animal Kingdom from Animal Planet. But the Belmont will be a different story. Animal Kingdom will be running with a target on his rider's back.
We all know what happened. Thanks to the unpredictability of post position, Animal Kingdom, on whom conservatively $100 million was wagered, was done by the first turn.
Racetrackers all say that post means nothing in the Belmont. But tell that to jockeys Maragh, Dominguez and Velazquez, who were lined up in 9, 10 and 11. As for myself, of course I was disappointed we missed this race. But Piesen clients still hit a $329 exacta at the Kentucky Derby and a $114 exacta at the Preakness. So while I've had better Triple Crown runs, this one was still pretty good and we came out well ahead of the game.
SATURDAY STAKES ACTION AHEAD
But now it's time to look ahead and , there will be plenty of stakes action Saturday, notably at Churchill Downs, where five stakes will be run; Belmont and Monmouth.
The Stephen Foster, at 500K the richest race on the Saturday stakes menu, features Apart, a winner for Blame's connections on the Preakness undercard, and Mission Impazible from the Pletcher barn, which will be firing bullets from coast to coast this weekend. Flat Out, who came running in his recent return for Scooter Dickey, is a live longshot.
Trainer McPeek, enjoying a sensational Churchill meet, sends out the uncoupled entry of Kathmanblue and Bizzy Caroline in the Regret. Pletcher counters with Excited, a last-out winner who looks the one to catch and beat.
Jockey :Lezcano travels down from Long Island to ride last-out winner Banned for trainer Proctor. No doubt Banned will be closing fastest against the likes of Great Mills and Live in Joy.
The Toddster runs three in the Phipps, the Belmont feature: Awesome Maria, Life At Ten and Super Expresso, who will be the biggest price in the uncoupled threesome.
Larry Jones makes one of his rare New York visits with the multiple stakes-winner Payton D'Oro, and jockey Saez will be up from Delaware Park to ride her.
Unbridled Belle, the winner of the 2010 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Churchill, likes Belmont just as much, and will be super dangerous for trainer Mott. Jockey Desormeaux makes the trip from Louisville to ride her.
Trainers Breen and Pletcher, fresh from a one-two finish last Saturday in the Belmont Stakes, will run the first two choices -- Pants on Fire and Turbo Compressor -- in the featured Pegasus at Monmouth Park.
The Pegasus, for years the top 3-year-old stake at the Meadowlands in the Fall, now is a key Haskell prep down the shore.
REFLECTIONS FROM BELMONT
While walking past trainer Kelly Breen's Monmouth Park barn in the Jersey sunshine on Wednesday morning, I couldn't help but notice the beautiful ring of white carnations spread across a wooden bench by the entrance..
Fifty yards down the road was the Ben Perkins barn, and the reminder that everything Kelly Breen has accomplished on the racetrack, he owes to Team Perkins, father and son. As a teen in the early '90s, Breen started on the racetrack as a groom for Ben Sr. He climbed the ladder to exercise rider, and assistant trainer before going out on his own.
Two Monmouth titles later, Breen met Jersey businessman George Hall, who was just getting into the game, had big money at his disposal, and had heard good things about Kelly Breen.
With his newly-found deep pockets, Breen was able to spend freely at the yearling sales, and came up with several talented youngsters, notably Pants On Fire, the Louisiana Derby winner back in March, and two-time stakes-placed Ruler On Ice.
Last Saturday morning, Breen put Ruler On Ice on a horse van at his Monmouth barn. Two hours later, Ruler On Ice was bedded down at Belmont Park, and 14 hours later, he was standing in the winner's circle...draped in a beautiful ring of white carnations.
"I'm really glad for Kelly," Ben Perkins Jr. told me. "He's a good guy. A good horseman."
Maybe that's true, but I could see Ben aching. Ben wins a lot of races with a lot of nice horses, and his popularity among the bettors is legion, but Ben has never sniffed a Triple Crown race, and chances are he never will.
Yet Kelly Breen did. Last Saturday. And when I woke up Sunday morning, I could not even get the winner's name right in my head. Rule Something. Something Ice. I had to go on-line to get the name of the horse right.
That is pretty much how it was in the rain and gloom of Belmont Park the previous evening.
WAS IT ON PURPOSE?
No one will ever know what was going through Rajiv Maragh's head. So maybe it was just coincidence that Maragh, riding Isn't It Perfect from the 11-hole, angled left shortly after the start and took Mucho Macho Man out of the race. Of course, Maragh had been MMM's regular jockey until bumped for the Belmont by Dominguez.
The chain reaction caused Animal Kingdom to go to his knees, and Johnny V to lose his left stirrup.
Game, set and match.
On Wednesday, the Belmont stewards handed Maragh a seven-day suspension for careless riding. A routine punishment. Obviously, they felt that Maragh's actions were not deliberate, or, more likely, they simply could not prove it.
If the stewards had made the punishment seven months, or seven years, we would be looking at a long and unwieldy court case, one that, who knows?, could wind up in the Supreme Court. After all, Johnny V, in front of witnesses, had accused Maragh of doing it deliberately.
So the three wise men took the prudent way out, and gave the proverbial slap on the hand.
Besides Johnny V, who do think was angrier after the race: the Beyer boys or Barry Irwin?
The Beyer numbers float the boat of thousands (millions?) of players -- so how do you explain that Ruler On Ice had the lowest previous Beyer (86) of the dozen horses in the race?
As for Barry? He was raging mad BEFORE the race on NBC because the racetrack was playing speed, thereby compromising Animal Kingdom's chances.
Can you imagine how Barry truly felt AFTER the race when when his horse was wiped out...perhaps by a revengeful rider of a no-shot longshot.
Barry was quoted afterwards as saying horses like Isn't It Perfect don't belong in a race of such magnitude, and let it go at that.
Finally, did any one point out that the first four finishers were at one time second-stringers in their own barn?
Pants on Fire was the big horse for the Halls, the owners of Ruler on Ice.
Uncle Mo for sure was the big horse for Repole/Pletcher, the connections of Stay Thirsty.
To Honor and Serve was the big horse for Live Oak, the owner of Brilliant Speed.
And Jaycinto was the big horse for Ahmad, the owner of Nehro.
That's the kind of Triple Crown season it was.
And the JPHL was your best friend on the journey.
Thanks for tuning in. I've got an outstanding weekend of winning planned that starts Friday and you can click here to learn more and be a part of it. You can also get on board for a longer-term package, with daily best bets and exotics from Belmont.
P.S.: Here's a jockey to watch: Ramon Vasquez at Delaware Park.
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