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Mar 05, 2004

Daily Racing Best Bets

By: JOHN PIESEN


They already are falling like tenpins.

First of all, Second of June went down. Then Silver Wagon. We all know those two good colts

are out of the Derby. But you may not know that Tiger Hunt, a popular choice among future-book

players, is out out of the Derby picture.

Make that probably out. This morning, I spoke to Barry Irwin, the owner of Tiger Hunt, and Irwin told

me that the colt spiked a 103-degree fever last weekend, and is definitely out of the Rebel Stakes, which

will be run March 20 at Oaklawn Park, where this is being written.

Barry said he hasn"t given up hope that Tiger Hunt, unraced since finishing fourth as the second choice

last Fall in the Breeders" Cup Juvenile, will make the Kentucky Derby, but I could tell his heart wasn"t

in it. I didn"t tear up my futures ticket on Tiger Hunt, but I did put it on the back burner. Way back on

the back burner.

Off his Breeders" Cup race, Tiger Hunt made the body of the Derby in the first pool of the Churchill

Downs" futures at No. 23, and was getting quite a bit of play in the Churchill and Las Vegas futures.

In view of my discussion with owner Irwin this morning, I would not be anxious to double up at this

point.

Hey, I hope that Tiger Hunt makes a miraculous and speedy recovery, gets to the Derby, and wins it.

It would make a great story, and I could cash a futures ticket.

But it doesn"t look good.

This leaves Mr. Jester and Smarty Jones as by far the best of the 3-year-olds currently based at

Oaklawn. Both horses are being pointed for the Rebel, and, barring bad luck, I expect they will be

the first and second choices regardless of who ships in.

Smarty Jones was very gutty winning the Southwest when only about 70 per cent fit. He"ll be much

better in the Rebel, but I"m not that confident he wants to go nine furlongs.

Stay tuned.

MORE VEGAS ACTION

Racing icon Harvey Pack told a story from the dais of the Daily Racing Form Horseplayers Expo 2004

last Saturday night at the Paris Hotel and Casino, and mentioned this writer in the process. I understand

I received a standing ovation when he mentioned my name. Or maybe not. I"m not sure.

Whatever, the story certainly is worth re-telling here.

This was back in the late "70s at Aqueduct. Someone at NYRA had the bright idea to stage a

handicapping conest, and invite the famed magician and spoon-bender Uri Geller to participate.

The idea was for Geller, who had never been to a racetrack, to compete against three very famous

New York handicappers -- Russ Harris of the Daily News, John Pricci of Newsday, and John Piesen

of the New York Post.

The one who picked the most winners would receive a $5,000 prize.

That was a lot of money, especially back then, for three starving turfwriters, so Russ, John and I

agreed to "save." That is, whoever won would split with the other two, thereby easing the pressure.

And so they held the contest that day (it was a Sunday) at the Big A, and none of us did worth a

dam. Harris won the conest by picking two $4.60 winners.

When Russ went up to the podium to receive "his" $5,000 check from Harvey, he all but broke down

in tears when he thanked God for giving him the
"wisdom" to pick two $4.60 winners.

I named Russ "the Reverend" on the spot, and the name stuck. Russ, a good guy, will always be

the Rev to me.

The Pack story made my Sunday, but the rest of the day was pretty awful. I blew a good play on

Sir Cherokee in the New Orleans Handicap. I had Duke minus six against Florida State. You may

recall a Florida State guy hit a "meaningless" three at the wire to lose by five. And then I nodded

off and missed Billy Crystal"s Oscars" monologue. How was it?

The following morning, I called Mike Tomlinson, the trainer of Sir Cherokee, and he was furious. He

had been waiting four months for this race, and Sir Cherokee got wiped out from both sides going to

the first turn. He was lucky to get his horse back in one piece.

"All I know," Tomlinson said, "is that my horse almost went down, and somebody should have come

down." But, no. The stewards, one of whom is Bill Hartack, decided there was no blame to assess, and

the numbers stood. Bailey was first. Prado second. Funny Cide third.

I understand that six TVG analysts all agreed that Peace Rules (Bailey)
should have been DQd. Sure. You know from fat chance. Jerry"s been riding 25 years, and I can"t

remember the last time they took down his number.

I"m not sure Bailey was at fault in this case, but sure as hell someone was. The fact the numbers stood

as is is ridiculous. If someone ever did to Hartack (and I"m sure they did) what they did to Terry

Thompson (Sir Cherokee"s rider), someone would have paid dearly.

Instead, trainer Thompson was left to lament the fact "that here are two sets of rules in racing. One

for the stars. One for the little guys. Until something is changed, the little guy doesn"t have a chance."

Any my favorite part of the whole mess is the AP lead the morning after.
"Funny Cide still can"t beat Peace Rules at Fair Grounds," it read.

Give me a break. Whatever happed to turfwriting?



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