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Aug 19, 2011


By: by John Piesen

Two months back on this venue, we touted a lightly-raced, obscure 3-year-old colt named Coil as a horse to watch. Sure enough, a month later Coil was shipped from his southern California base to Monmouth Park, and we watched him circle from last to nail Preakness winner Shackleford in the $1 million Haskell.

And, as we speak, two months later, Coil is the early-bird favorite for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

But first there's the matter of the Travers a week from Saturday at Saratoga, and that's where trainer Bob Baffert comes into focus.

Baffert is sitting on a hat trick of epic proportions.

First, he's running Plum Pretty in Saturday's Alabama for 3-year-old fillies.

Second, he'll ship The Factor from California to run against Uncle Mo in the King's Bishop a week from Saturday.

And third, he'll run Coil in the Travers an hour after the Kings Bishop.

So there you have it:

Plum Pretty, The Factor and Coil.

A three-horse parlay if I've ever seen one.

And it's possible none of the three will be favored.

It's Tricky, who beat Plum Pretty in a photo in the Coaching Club American Oaks on the first Saturday at the Spa, surely will be favored in the Alabama.

But a word of warning: Plum Pretty, who will be the second choice under regular rider Martin Garcia, surely will be loose on the lead in the six-filly Alabama...and speed kills at Saratoga, at least this year.

Add an Alabama victory to her Kentucky Oaks triumph, and Plum Pretty is sitting pretty for the 3-year-old filly Eclipse Award.

The field for the Alabama, a $500,000 Grade One at a mile and a quarter, will be completed by Royal Delta, the Black-Eyed Susan winner; St. John's River, who just missed catching Plum Pretty in the Kentucky Oaks; Inglorious, the class of the Canadian 3-year-old fillies, and Pinch Pie.

You'll note the absence of Joyful Victory from the Alabama.

The Larry Jones-trained filly was our choice in the Coaching Club, and she looked like a winner turning for home. But much to our
horror, she backed up through the lane, and finished dead last. A joyful victory turned into a sorrowful defeat.

But there was a reason.

Jones had the filly x-rayed the next day, and the film revealed a season-ending leg fracture.

That leaves Plum Pretty, the best Pennsylvania-bred since Smarty Jones, the one to catch and beat in the Alabama, and, with the benefit of three weeks of Bob Baffert training over the track, it says here she'll get the job done.

The same scenario applies once again for Baffert in the Kings Bishop.

The Factor hasn't raced since mid-April when he was odds-on in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. He sustained a leg injury in that race, an injury that cost him a shot at the Kentucky Derby, a race in which he would have been tough to catch.

But, judging by his recent works, The Factor is back in form, and, like stablemate Plum Pretty in the Alabama, he's going to be very tough on the lead in the Kings Bishop...and make life difficult for Uncle Mo and Flashpoint, who is one tough sprinter in his own right.

Speaking of the Kings Bishop, the KB was the venue of Tale of the Cat's lone Grade One victory. That was the race that made Tale of the Cat a stallion, and TOTC has been a highly-productive stallion, up to and including siring Overdriven, the season's top 2-year-old to date.

The Cat also is the sire of an unraced 2-year-old named Sinister Impact, who is currently training like a monster for Bob Holthus at Churchill Downs with an eye on a Kenneland debut this Fall.

Give this guy a prominent place on your Horses to Watch list.

Back to Mr. Baffert...and that potential hat trick.

Coil showed he was the goods when he overcame a stumbling start to get up in the Haskell over a speed-favoring Monmouth strip.

Baffert got nervous this week when the Spa rains threatened to KO Coil's scheduled major Travers work.

But the rains stopped, the main track was fast Wednesday morning, and Coil drilled three-quarters in 1:13. He'll have one more serious work early next week, and then it's on to the Travers where he will face, among others, Shackleford, Stay Thirsty, Ruler on Ice, Rattlesnake Bridge and J W Blue.

You'll notice the Preakness and Belmont winners in that group. It should be quite a race.

And quite a hat trick.

Back to Larry Jones for a minute.

On Wednesday morning at Delaware Park, Jones sent Havre de Grace out for a five-furlong move, and the gray zipped the distance in :59 under jockey Saez.

Jones said afterwards that he will ship Havre de Grace to Saratoga for either the Personal Ensign against fillies or the Woodward against the boys. Jones (and the racing world) can only hope that Blind Luck comes from California for a rematch of the Delaware
Handicap, which, as the Daily News pointed out, Blind Luck won by a thrilling nose.

And, finally, John Forbes, who trained Tale of the Cat, will run the favored Chirac this Saturday in the $250,000 Iselin at Monmouth. Chirac, who will be ridden by Channing Hill, will be looking to repeat in the Iselin, which is named for Philip Iselin, the original owner of
Monmouth Park and the New York Jets, and the father of Jimmy Iselin, the trainer of Crafty Prospector and Crafty Starlet.

The field of eight for the Iselin is completed by Dueling Alex, Wheres Sterling, Ponzi Scheme,Southern Ridge, Pleasant Prince, Cactus Charlie, and the Pletcher-trained Alma Doro.

Thanks for tuning in. Good luck this weekend. check out the John Piesen Hot Line, either here online or call toll-free at 888 612 2283. You can also get Thursday's action here for just $15. Let's make it a winning weekend together. .

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