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Dec 09, 2011


By: By John Piesen

Yes, I understand that anything else that occurs on a Dec. 7 doesn't mean a damn, but this is a racing venue...and I've got to touch on the third race Wednesday at Aqueduct, a race witnessed by more seagulls than people.

It was a terrific race: the $60,000 Pandera Stakes for a second tier of 2-year-old fillies.

Well Kept, odds-on under jockey Hernandez, hooked up at the outset with a 5-1 shipper named Dance to Bristol under no-name jockey Petroche.

The two raced in tandem through the turn and the lane of the six-furlong race, and, at the wire, Well Kept looked like a head winner. Even track announcer Iambriale called Well Kept, and it's tough to be wrong from his angle.

I circled Well Kept as the winner (one of four or five odds-on winners a day), and turned the page to race four.

Then a strange thing happened.

They flashed the 2 (Dance to Bristol).

Now, I've been wrong on photos many times over the years...but never like this.

If you haven't seen the race, go to, and click the Pandera Stakes.

And, no, I had no financial interest in the race.

What does interest me are the Eclipse Awards, at least those for 2-year-old male and 3-year-old male.

Most of the other awards are cut and dried this year, but there is much controversy within the media and racing public surrounding these two.

The 2-year-old male looms a tossup between Hanson and Union Rags, who finished a nose apart, in that order, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

And 3-year-old male is wide open with Animal Kingdom, Shackleford and Ruler on Ice, who split up the Triple Crown, logical contenders.

My feathers rarely are ruffled by Eclipse decisions (excepting Zenyatta losing 2009 Horse of the Year to Rachel Alexandra), but I will be super-upset if Hanson and/or Caleb's Posse are denied statues when the awards are announced next month.

(And, no, I no longer am in the business of scooping the announcements).

Hanson and Caleb's Posse have two things in common:

1) they were the best in their division, and
2) I had 'em both on top (at 7-1and 8-1) in the Breeders' Cup

My reasoning is simple:

Hanson and Union Rags both went into the BC Juvenile unbeaten. Hanson broke on top, and led all the way. Union Rags lost all the ground, and was getting to Hanson at the finish.

The Breeders' Cup was designed in the mid-'80s to crown divisional champions.

I rest my case.

The Eclipse for 3-year-old is a bit more complicated.

The winners of the three Triple Crown races went a combined 0-for-10 after the Belmont.

On the other hand, Caleb's Posse was the only 3-year-old to win two Grade Ones; four graded stakes overall, and one ungraded stake Moreover, he beat the "good" Uncle Mo in the King's Bishop, and without doubt the most visually impressive of the 15 BC winners in beating the "good" Shackleford in the BC Mile.

Caleb's Posse currently is down at Oaklawn Park, but expect trainer Von Hemel to ship him to New York for the Met Mile on Memorial Day at Belmont Park.

Back to Dominguez for a minute. Although he somehow got beat on Well Kept, he's winning at the standard 30 per cent since returning from suspension. He's the likely winner of the Eclipse Award; he keeps the mount on winter-book Derby favorite Union Rags, and, of course, is the regular rider of likely Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, who is currently stabled in the Larry Jones barn at Fair Grounds.

Incidentally, Gabriel Saez, Jones' long-time go-to rider, last week split from agent Ruben Munoz, and his business has slipped. Munoz now is in the market for a jock in south Florida. If Angel Cordero ever hangs 'em up, Munoz would be his likely successor as Johnny V's agent.

As for Ruben Dominguez, RD is staying at Aqueduct Saturday for six calls, all live, including Ea for Dick Dutrow in the featured $65,000 Queens County. Dutrow also has Arson Squad (Curatolo up) in a five-horse field headed by Ron the Greek, Alvarado riding for Mott.

Now, I don't know if Dutrow should be allowed to continue to train or not. I've heard both sides.

All I know is that Dutrow received a stay on a 10-year suspension, and is killing 'em in New York. Me included. In the past two weeks alone, I challenged him five times on the Hotline...and he beat me every time.

Is it too late to join him, or continue to take a pounding?

And a warning:

The three best horses in the Dutrow barn are currently training lights-out in south Florida -- Boys at Toscanova, Redeemed, and the unbeaten (four-for-four) Trickmeister, who, a year ago at this time, was the best horse in the Larry Jones barn.

All three are nominated to the $60,000 Harlan's Holiday Stakes a week from Saturday at Gulfstream, and, knowing Dutrow, he may run all three -- of course uncoupled, so you'll be on your own.

"Trackmeister is training like a superstar," says Dutrow.

Boys at Toscanova reminds me that the Graded Stakes Committee screwed up again this year.

A year back, Boys won the Hopeful at Saratoga, a Grade One for a century and a half. Now the GSC decides to drop the Hopeful to a Grade 2. What are they thinking?

A couple of years back, the Committee listened to me and spiked the Arkansas Derby from a Grade 2 to a Grade 1. But the GSC keeps the Fantasy at 2 despite the fact that a champion filly has run in eight of the last 10 renewals.

One of the most successful handicapping theories of recent years is that horses coming out of the Breeders' Cup, especially decent BC races, flop next time out. (To Honor and Serve was the exception to the rule).

Now, I see that Wemissfrankie, third in the BC Juvenile Fillies, returns to action Saturday as a short price in the $400,000 Starlet at Hollywood Park. She's a nice filly, but I can see her getting beat by Hall of Famer McAnally with Charm the Maker.

Gomez rides CTM, who is owned by the trainer's wife.

Finally, good luck to Michael Lakow, who last week was named director of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, which does so much good work with retired horses. . I trust he'll do as well in this position as he did years back as NYRA racing secretary.

Thanks for tuning in, and thanks for the birthday wishes. Check out the Hot Line whenever possible, and see you back here next Thursday.

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