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Sep 23, 2011



Piesen Cashes Thursday Best Bet At Belmont
R6: Pure Grit WON $6.60


There's no question that Ramon Dominguez and Joe Bravo are the winningest jockeys in New York and New Jersey, respectively, of the current generation.

Coincidence or not, Dominguez (1-for-21) and Bravo (0-16) are a combined 1-for-37 thru Wednesday at the current Belmont Park meeting.

Indeed, all riders go thru slumps, but you need to wonder if these two cases are an aberration or a trend.

Ramon, after winning 10 straight New York meets, settled for a distant third to Johnny V and Castellano at Saratoga, and needed a joyride on Havre de Grace in the Woodward to save his meet. Since RD is chalk or second chalk in virtually every race, this is a seriously expensive slump for his scores of followers.

Even when slumping, the Dominguez/Saturday On the Road System continues to flourish. Just last Saturday, he rode two double-digit winners at Louisiana Downs, and he took off a third winner to catch a plane (see last week's column).

You would think RD would be at Philadelphia Park (Pax) this Saturday to ride the Pennsylvania Derby. But there was nothing doing at Philly, and he will stay home to ride all 10 at Belmont, including several live ones.

Bravo is a different case entirely.

After winning 20 riding titles at Monmouth Park and The Meadowlands, Jersey Joe decided this was the time to test the treacherous New York waters.

So far...not a wise decision. To date Joe is averaging merely two-to-three mounts a day, and starts Thursday on a 16-race schneid that includes a couple of odds-on favorites. In addition, he's getting charcoaled by what's left of the New York media, which obviously
believes they found an easy target.

Who knows? Maybe Joe's luck will turn when the Aqueduct Racino opens next month.

We'll just have to wait and see. No way Bravo has forgotten how to ride. He has no weight issues, and, at 40, he still should be in his prime.

Chances are Joe will win a grass race soon for Clement or Mott, and get going.

Back to the Pennsylvania Derby, which highlights an otherwise quiet stakes weekend.

On the other hand, the following Saturday (Oct. 1) will be a barnburner with virtually every Horse of the Year candidate in action: Havre de Grace (the current leader); Tizway and Stay Thirsty in New York, and Blind Luck at Hollywood Park.

Note: at this point, trainer Hollendorfer has no desire to run Blind Luck against the boys in the Breeders' Cup Classic, unlike Larry Jones, who is pointing Havre de Grace at the Classic.

The Pennsylvania Derby is unique this year because this may be only the second time that the winner of a Triple Crown wins the PD -- in this case, Belmont winner Ruler on Ice.

It is worth noting that jockey Valdivia gives up Ruler On Ice, his Horse of a Lifetime, to return full-time to California, where he is at best a second-tier rider.

Coincidentally, Valdivia is replaced by a top California jock (Gomez) on Ruler On Ice, the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the field of nine.

Question: Who was the first and only horse to win the Belmont Stakes and Pennsylvania Derby?

Answer: Summing (1981)

That also was the year of the last walkover -- Spectacular Bid in the Woodward.

Can it really be 30 years?

Back to the present, and the Pennsylvania Derby.

There is a second noteworthy jockey change.

Johnny V. takes off To Honor and Serve to ride Rattlesnake Bridge.

To Honor and Serve, the second-ranked 2-year-old in the land last year (to Uncle Mo), is fresh from an eight-length allowance blowout at Saratoga, and likely will be the post-time favorite under new rider Lezcano.

Rattlesnake Bridge comes off a strong second to Stay Thirsty in the Travers.

Does Johnny (and agent Cordero) know best?

My best guess is he does -- and so the Rattlesnake is my selection.

Arthur's Tale, working well for his first race since his Wood second to Toby's Corner last April, is certainly worth a shot. Interesting that Garcia, currently first in the Belmont standings, replaces Dominguez.

The field for the nine-furlong stake, which will go at 5:45 p.m. as race 11, is completed by J W Blue, Rush Now, Pender Harbour, Norman Asbjornson and Isn't He Perfect.

Trainer Asmussen doesn't have a horse in the Pa. Derby, but he'll be a major player in the co-featured Gallant Bob with Wine Police, a
Saratoga allowance winner.

Indiano, riding a three-stakes winning streak, will be the chalk.

Meantime, the New York feature, the $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap for fillies and mares, attracts my attention necause of two of my favorite handicapping theories.

The 3-year-old against older. That would be Pomeroy's Pistol.

And the New York-bred against open. That would be Lovely Lil.

The Jersey-based Pomeroy's Pistol, second to Tar Heel Mom in the morning line, is fresh from Grade 1 seconds in the Prioress and Test, at 113 will be getting seven pounds from the chalk, and has a much better post.

Trainer Tarrant is using this race as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

Castellano has the call.

Lovely Lil figures to improve sharply off her seventh in this race last year. She's the speed of the race with Dominguez, and should be at least used in the gimmicks.

The field of seven for the Gallant Bloom is completed by Moontune Missy, Buckleupbuttercup, Tamarind Hall, and Katy Now, a bomber from the Toddster.

Thanks for tuning in. Make sure to touch base with me this weekend either here online or at the John Piesen Hot Line (888) 612 2283. I'm going to be ready with my strong bets, both single winners and exotics that will make it a moneymaking run through Sunday. Get with me and get your fair share of the money.

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