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Oct 07, 2011

THE JOY OF SIX

By: JOHN PIESEN


The best investment in horse racing for years has been the John Piesen Full Card on major race days. The latest example was Super Saturday last weekend at Belmont Park when the John Piesen Hot Line (888 612 2283) I nailed six of 10 races (race 11 was a scratchout), including several gimmicks.

For starters, there was the cold $50 early double of Mississippi Duel, the $7.90 second choice, and Indy Sea, the $12.60 fourth choice, plus the cold $40.80 exacta on race two.

And then came four winners of the six graded stakes. The only losers were Dynaslew, who led to the stretch at 8-1, and Euroears, who was wiped out at the break, costing the wise guys as well as JPHL followers big-time. But all in all, it was a profitable day for the John Piesen Belmont Preview package and more is ahead this coming Saturday, October 8.

Three of those four stakes winners -- Havre de Grace, Uncle Mo and Flat Out -- are headed for a showdown in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs....where they will be joined by Tizway, Game On Dude, Stay Thirsty, and likely one or two European hotshots.

The on-site crowd last Saturday at Belmont was 10, 481. Don't laugh. That's more than the total of the week's four other racing days combined.

Hopefully those folks were not expecting competitive racing. There was a mere one photo finish in the 11 races, and Havre de Grace, Mo and Flat out won from here to the LIRR station, leaving such stars as Royal Delta, Jackson Bend and Stay Thirsty in their wake.

And Cape Blanco, the winner of the day's only photo, broke down, and was retired to stud with the 2011 turf title topping his dominating resume. A brave horse indeed.

This was also one of those rare Saturdays when jockey Dominguez stayed home at Belmont. You would too if you get to ride Havre de Grace. RD then again finished the afternoon with a Binocs-worthy four-bagger, clicking with Indy Sea, Stacelia ($3) in the
Flower Bowl, and Piecesbymidnight ($3.40). He also had three seconds and a third, meaning he went 4-3-1 from eight mounts. You would think someone in the media would notice.

Then again, maybe someone can tell me why RD sat out the Vosburgh, Kelso and Gold Cup.

All of which brings us to this Saturday.

They will be running three graded stakes -- the Champagne, Frizette and Jamaica -- at Belmont, but Dominguez will be at Keeneland to ride six, all of whom have a shot, often at a price. And you know how much has been written here in the past about Saturday on the Road with RD.

Here is RD's Saturday six-pack at Keeneland:

Race 3: #7 Eagle Poise
Race 5: #12 Despite the Odds
Race 6: #6 Dances With Ashley
Race 7: #10 Gypsy's Warning
Race 8: #8 Lucky Chappy
Race 9: #5 Gio Ponti

Speaking of jockeys, Edgar Prado, whose New York business is down this year, announced he will spend the Fall at Keeneland, rather than Belmont...but not until he gets to ride Power World for Neil Howard in the $300,000 Champagne. It would appear both
trainer and rider expect major improvement over the colt's Saratoga performances.

On paper, the mile Champagne for 2-year-olds appears a matchup of Union Rags and Alpha. Not only are these two colts the overnight favorites at 7-5 and 5-2, but they currently are the top two choices for the 2012 Kentucky Derby in one big-time Vegas future book.

But in reverse order. Alpha is 50-1; Union Rags 60-1

The McLaughlin-trained Alpha (Garcia, post five) rallied to win his Saratoga debut by six with seven furlongs in 1:23 4/5 while floating the Darley silks. Alpha will be flying the Godolphin silks in the Champagne.

The reason is simple. It's the same sheiks, but they like their best horses to run for Godolphin, and their second tier for Darley. That is why Garcia will be wearing the Godolphin blue rather than the Darley red on Saturday.

Alpha worked five furlongs in :59 4/5 on Monday, getting the last eighth in :12 and change.

Union Rags (Castellano, post six) was super-impressive in winning the Saratoga Special for trainer Matz, who gave us Barbaro a few years back.

Coincidentally, Alpha is a son of Bernardini, who was the winner of the fateful 2006 Preakness, the race in which Barbaro sustained the broken leg that so sadly cost him his life.

The Champagne field of 10 is completed by No Spin, Speightscity, Takes the Gold, Right to Vote, Invocation and Laurie's Rocket.

A racing rarity: a Grade One without Pletcher...and Asmussen.

But there is Tim Ice, the same Tim Ice who came from nowhere (actually Hot Springs, Ark.) in 2009 to win the Belmont Stakes, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup with 3-year-old champion Summer Bird.

Ice has Chicago shipper No Spin going from the dreaded one-hole, and the irony is that the partnership which owns No Spin includes Leonard Blach, the co-owner of Mine That Bird, who challenged Summer Bird in the Battles of the Birds in '09.

You know that No Spin will get a no-holds-barred ride from jockey Maragh.

Last year, Uncle Mo won the Champagne, and went on to take the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill to clinch the 2-year-old Eclipse Award.

This year's Champagne winner likely will go to Louisville as the BC Juvenile favorite.

Meantime, the Toddster and Asmussen may be sitting out the Champagne, but they will saddle the major players in the $300,000 Frizette, the distaff companion race to the Champagne.

Six were entered for the Frizette, but the race appears a match between the Pletcher-trained Stopshoppingmaria, and the Asmussen-trained My Miss Aurelina. Maria is the 6-5 early choice with Johnny V from the the three-hole, and MMA is 7-5 from the rail with Nakatani.

These two fillies debuted in the same, on July 22 at Saratoga, and My Miss Aurelia -- owned by George Bolton, who had a major piece of Curlin (Curlin won the Arkansas Derby in Curlin's colors) -- won by a length with Maria a troubled third.

They also made their second starts on the same day (Aug. 14) at the Spa, but in different races. Aurelia won the Adirondack that day by a neck; Maria a maiden-special by nine.

How bad is the one-hole going a mile at Belmont?

Just ask John Veitch.

Back in the late '70s, Veitch was training for Calumet, and brought a terrific filly named Before Dawn to the same Frizette. But when the filly drew the one-hole, Veitch scratched.

If you run into Veitch at Keeneland, where he is chief steward, he'll be glad to tell you the story.

Miss Netta, Holiday Soiree, Spare Change and Harbor Mist complete the lineup for this year's renewal.

Trainer Albertrani, who attained fame and fortune with Bernardini, will run the favored Brilliant Speed in the $250,000 Jamaica Handicap for 3-year-olds at a mile and an eighth on the grass.

No danger of the race race being switched to the main. The forecast for the weekend calls for sunshine with temps in the '70s.

From a personal viewpoint, I've never forgiven Brilliant Speed for getting beat as the JP Hot Line choice in the Belmont Stakes. He looked a sure winner closing on the outside in the upper stretch, but settled for third to Ruler on Ice and Stay Thirsty.

So wouldn't it be ironic if Brilliant Speed wins the Jamaica, thereby making him the only 3-year-old two-time Grade One winner to date this year? He won the Grade One Blue Grass back in April on the Keeneland polytrack.

Johnny V has the call for the Jamaica from post six on Brilliant Speed, who, as the 121-pound topweight, will be asked to concede up to five pounds to his seven rivals.

Casino Host looks to be the one to beat from the rail with Solis.

The field for the wide-open race will be completed by Rustler Hustler, Wilkinson, Seal Cove, Western Aristocrat, Top Surprize and Sky Blazer.

Speaking of Asmussen, he announced the other day that Nehro, who sustained an ankle chip while finishing fourth in the Belmont, will be out for the year, but will return (health permitting) as a 4-year-old in 2012.


Nehro is best remembered for finishing second (as the Hot Line choice) in the Derby.

Thanks for tuning in. Good luck this weekend, make sure to get with me for all my best bet selections, both win bets and exotics as we look for another strong Saturday at Belmont.



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