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May 14, 2004

RACING TODAY

By: JOHN PIESEN


I got a little nervous when Charles Cella, my boss at Oaklawn Park, brought up Watergate in his introductory remarks before presenting the $5 million check to the Chapmans yesterday at Philadelphia Park. But Cella actually made a good point. He spoke how Secretariat took our minds off our national problems back in the early "70s, and how Smarty Jones is doing the same during our present national crisis.
If this means Cella was comparing Smarty Jones to Secretariat, that may be a bit of a stretch. I prefer -- like
I have been saying in this space for months -- to compare Smarty Jones to Seattle Slew.
Smarty and Slew both come from humble origins, both are fast as sin, both have that fire in their belly, and,
obviously, both hate to lose. And, of course, history will record them as the last two unbeaten winners of the
Kentucky Derby.
Physically, they are not at all alike. Seattle Slew was big and coal-black, Smarty is small and red. And Slew,
 despite his brilliance, never achieved the current rock star status afforded Smarty.
As a very fringe member of Team Smarty, I will once again call in Smarty"s entry. This time, I will make the
call from somewhere in the Poconos. I just hope there"s a tower. If not, I guess they will just have to run the
 Preakness without Smarty.
Of course, I"ll be making my Preakness selections this weekend on my website, and hopefully I can improve
 on the cold Derby exacta. I also have word on a first-time starter on the Preakness card. So stay tuned.
I believe the Preakness will be the toughest of the Triple Crown races for Smarty...for several reasons. This
time, he"ll be coming back in two weeks, rather than his customary three. He won"t have his traditional :58 work
over the track, and he"ll have a bull"s-eye on his back. Plus I expect that Rock Hard Ten is the real deal, and that
 Derby also-rans Borrego and The Cliff"s Edge will run better, presuming we get a fast track.
All the major players are packing for the trip. Smarty goes to Maryland tomorrow. I"ll be there Thursday. And I"ll
 have Pimlico full-cardselections Friday and Saturday on my website. I do believe I have Friday"s Pimlico Special nailed.
In the meantime, there is racing at other venues this week besides Pimlico. At Hollywood Park, they are
offering a 144K Pick Six carryover tomorrow, and since the track is playing speed, that"s where I"m going.
Here are my top two picks in the gimmick:
Race 3: #8 Honoring Opal#9 Red Neck Lady
Race 4: #3 Miss Del Mar#4 Heir Today
Race 5: #7 School of Thought#6 Green Bay Packer
Race 6: #2 Legal Logic#9 Reckless Hero
Race 7: #1 Pocketfullofpesos#3 Chapeau
Race 8: #6 Wild Humor#3 Lady Siphonica
Changing gears, I would like to touch some other bases in the magical world of sports:
1) The widespread practice of intentionally walking Barry Bonds is an all-time bummer. That strategy succeeded
 in giving the Giants two wins in the last week, and it would have been three if the ump hadn"t called a borderline
 pitch a strike at Shea.
2) The Newark Star Ledger asked the following question the other day: "If you could be magically transported to
 the 1950s to attend a baseball game, which of these players would you want most to see?"
I was stunned by the response.
The winner, with 41 per cent, was Mickey Mantle, with Wille Mays second at 26 per cent, and Ted Williams third
 at 14 per cent. Then it was a dropoff to Stan Musial and Jackie Robinson at 8 per cent, and, finally, Hank Aaron
 at 1.1 per cent. Not a whole lot of respect for the home run king.
3) I want to join the legions of racing fans wishing jockey Rick Wilson a complete recovery. Wilson, the most
under-rated rider of our times, was critically injured when thrown by his mount last Saturday at Pimlico. At age
50, Rick was zeroing in on 5,000 winners, and Hall of Fame recognition. He"s also one of the class guys in the
 business. Godspeed, Rick.
4) It"s not often that I laugh out loud at a comment on ESPN Sports Center. Today is an exception. When Mike
 Masden hit a jumper, the hostess said "...of all people." Goodness, what was she thinking?
5) I was listening to the Mike and the Mad Dog radio program while driving back from Philly Park yesterday when
the boys got into a discussion about identifying the nine horses who -- since Affirmed -- had their Triple Crown
 hopes dashed in the Belmont.
While rattling off the names, Chris mentioned Alysheba. "No, no," said Mike, "...not Alysheba."
Yeah, right on, Mike. Tell that to Jack Van Berg.
So I called the station to inform the boys that Alysheba did -- in "87 -- indeed win the Derby and Preakness but
 lost the Belmont. Mike conveniently forgot to thank me on the air, but did say that -- next to Spectacular Bid
 -- Alysheba was the second best horse on that list.
Hey, no one appreciated Alysheba more than me, but somehow I have to believe that Sunday Silence was the
 superior horse.
6) In case you missed it, old friend Beau"s Town is back. The 6-year-old Arky-bred broke the Lone Star Park
record last weekend when he won a stake wire to wire with six furlongs in 1:07 4/5. His half-mile was an
 incredible :42 4/5!
Owner Hulkewicz told me the next day that Beau will go next in the Aristedes at Churchill, the Bing Crosby
(which he won last year) at Del Mar, and the Breeders" Cup Sprint. Beau will have something of a home court
 advantage since the Breeders" Cup will be run at Lone Star.
7) Ninety per cent of the folks at Philly Park bet on Derby Day bet Smarty Jones. One of the exceptions was
 George Smith, who doubles as an exercise rider and parking attendant.
Smith had a good reason. His son is Mike Smith, who finished second on Lion Heart (Mike"s fourth second in
the Derby).
"If my son"s horse couldn"t win," said George, "I"m glad Smarty did. I"ve galloped horses for (John) Servis, and
I"m happy for him. Mike told me that he"ll get him next time."



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