Sep 16, 2011
ALWAYS ON SATURDAY
By: JOHN PIESEN
Sometimes (often!) it's a good thing to listen to the teacher.
In this space last Thursday, I listed four horses for Saturday, all at Louisiana Downs. You can look it up.
The common thread to the four was jockey Dominguez. I have written here many times over the years that when Ramon takes off
Saturday in New York to ride out-of-town, he's very much live.
Last Saturday was one of those days.
RD made the long, winding air trip to LAD primarily to ride Alternation for Donnie Von Hemel in the $500,000 Super Derby. But Alternation was up against an odds-on Baffert speedball named Prayer for Relief so I didn't give Alternation a whiff in the column.
Sure enough, Prayer for Relief jogged on the lead through a :51 and change half-mile, and he won from here to Baton Rouge.
But I sure was dead-on on Ramon's other four calls (three stakes), and here's how they finished.
Soonerette: 1st, $16.40
Lonesome Street: 2nd
Gung Ho: 1st, $11.80
She's All In: 1st, $13
Truth be told, She's All In -- a stablemate of Alternation - should get an asterick becauseMike Smith subbed for RD, who needed to get out to catch the puddle-jumper from Shreveport to Dallas for the flight back to Long Island.
(Question: Shreveport is the home town of what two famous sports figures? Answer below.)
Speaking of Baffert, rumor has it that Coil, fresh from a clinker in the Travers, is alive and well, and headed for the Indiana Derby. You'll recall that Bullet Bob took the same Indiana Derby-Breeders' Cup route two years back with Lookin at Lucky,
who -- maybe not coincidentally -- had the same owners as Lookin at Lucky.
LAL wound up winning the 3-year-old title that year. Coil will have to win the Indiana Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic to follow suit.
Oh, yes. Baffert currently has the Vegas favorite for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in the barn at Hollywood Park. His name is Drill, a Lawyer Ron colt who overcame a ton of trouble to win the Del Mar Futurity, and who will be a short price in
the Norfolk, the key California prep race for the BC Juvenile.
Speaking of trainers, who's hotter than Anthony Margotta Jr.?
Margotta may not be a household word like Baffert or Pletcher or Asmussen, but he's currently tearing things up at Monmouth Park (nine winners and counting from 34 starts). His barn may be located in the backwaters of the Monmouth backstretch, but he's
producing nothing but winners, especially for his main man Stu Sackowitz, a fellow who cut his teeth reading John Piesen and Ray Kerrison in the New York Post, and who now owns a string of shoe stores in Central Jersey, which pays the vet bills.
Margotta has two in on Friday (Cadence King and Macho Mo Man), and (sssh) a couple on the back burner named Rocky Start and Country Risk.
After Monmouth closes, Margotta will move on to New York and/or Florida.
Now a little background on Margotta...
Back in the '90s, Margotta was on top of the world. He had the good fortune to be married to former jockey and racetrack princess Mary Ann Alligood, who has since re-married, and living the good life in South Jersey, and he was posing in the winner's
circle after winning one graded stake after another in New York, Florida and California.
His photo was in Daily Racing Form more often than Sarah Hall.
Team Margotta won the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga, beating Devil His Due, trained by Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens, on the 20th anniversary of The Chief beating Secretariat in the same stake with Onion.
Margotta shipped Run Man Run from New York to Santa Anita to win the opening-day Malibu, a Grade One. And when was the last time a New York guy shipped to the left coast, and won a Grade One off the plane?
Margotta won the Stuyvesant Handicap on Breeders' Cup Day at Belmont Park with Silver Fox, capping a triple for Mike Smith. Funny how life comes full-circle.
Among others, Margotta won the Hialeah Turf Cup with Turkpasser, the Flower Bowl with Chelsea Flower, and the New York Derby with Copper Mount.
The world was his oyster.
But too much oyster.
With celebrity came the partying, the drinking, the drugging. After all, he was rich, young, good-looking...
He had it all.
Tony Margotta was playing the rock star, but as so often happens in life, everything turned south in a hurry.
The winners stopped coming. The owners stopped coming. There was no money for alcohol, drugs and women. There were days when suicide was the only option.
"Hey, don't feel sorry for me," he was saying the other morning at Monmouth, " I made my own mess. There was no one else to blame."
For six years, Margotta was out of the game.
He hit rock bottom in 2008 when he lost his father, brother and favorite uncle in a matter of weeks.
Luckily, what friends he had left pointed him to rehab. Rehab worked, and after he got out, went begging for horses, found two
cheap claimers, and his old buddies at Monmouth gave him two stalls.
Both horses won right away...and Margotta was on the long, slow road back.
Now he has 19 horses and growing. He's got the right owners, primarily Sackowitz; racetrack-savvy assistants Chuck Wicker and Martin Dominguez; he's winning races at a 30 per cent clip, up to and including Curious Luck on September 11 at Monmouth..and he's on the way back.
The man is sober, clean, a good horseman -- always has been -- surrounded by good horsemen.
If Hollywood gets around to doing "The Anthony Margotta Story, who will play the lead?
"Brad Pitt would be good," he says.
(Pitt, incidentally, currently is on the big screen playing a hotshot baseball executive, but he's not a Shreveport guy. The correct answer to the above question is Terry Bradshaw and Johnnie Cochrane).
Meantime, it is interesting to see that Jose Lezcano has been identified as the culprit for Winter Memories' stunning loss at odds-on August 21 in the Lake Placid at Saratoga. You'll recall that WM, a four-time graded stakes-winner, settled for fourth that day with
a worse trip than the Titanic.
So when entries were drawn Wednesday for the Garden City Stakes Saturday at Belmont, sure enough, the rider listed for Winter Memories is Javier Castellano. WM again will be favored from post four in a field of eight fillies and mares going nine furlongs on
the grass for a quarter-mill.
The second choice will horse-for-course Hungry Island, who benefitted from Winter Memories' travel problems to win the Lake Placid. Solis returns on the Hungry I, who, at 120 pounds, will be getting three pounds from Winter Memories, the 123-pound highweight.
More Than Real is a dangerous pricer from trainer Pletcher. Pinch Pie, Salary Drive, Arch Support, Kathmanblue and Euro shipper Theyskens' Theory complete the field for the wide-open Grade 2.
How much do you think Lezcano would love to win this race (on Kathmanblu)?
In case you can't make it to Belmont, you can catch the GC live on MSG Plus at 5 p.m.
Perhaps we'll see the next Pure Clan.
P.S.: Ran into Jorge Velasquez at Monmouth. The Hall of Fame rider, now a jocks' agent, is looking to find a writer to collaborate on a biography. A tell-all could be a smash.
Thanks for tuning in. Enjoy the weekend. I've got best bet action ready to go each day at Belmont Park, with top win bets and exotics on a daily basis. You can get with me here online, or call the John Piesen Hot Line (888 612 2283), and see you back here next Thursday.
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