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Jun 25, 2004

RACING TODAY

By: JOHN PIESEN


Baseball has its great rivalries (Yanks-Red Sox, currently Dodgers-Giants), so it got me to

thinking why can't racing do as much. Yes, I know. Every 10 years or so you get an Affirmed-Alydar

and a Sunday Silence-Easy Goer.

But that's it.

So what would be better for racing (and the entire sports world) than a rivalry between

Smarty Jones and Birdstone?

Right now, it's Bluebloods 1. The People's Horse 0. But most folks, myself included, believe that's a

fluke. Bobby Frankel says the same thing. As an impartial observer, Bob said after the Belmont

that Smarty Jones would beat Birdstone nine times out of 10. Nick Zito found that opinion offensive.

So what would be better than a Smarty-Birdstone rematch down the road? Maybe in the Travers.

Zito would have the home court, like the Lakers and Phil Mikelson, but Smarty would be the favorite.

More importantly, a rematch in the Travers would produce the biggest media event -- and the

biggest crowd -- in the century-plus-old history of Saratoga. You would need to park in Glens Falls

just to get near the place.

But this is horse racing we are talking about. It ain't gonna happen. Yes, Birdstone will make the

Travers. That's a given. But trainer Servis this week laid out Smarty's schedule, and, as I have

been saying in this space for weeks, there is no Travers on it.

Health permitting, Smarty will make the Haskell at Monmouth Park on Aug. 8, the Pennsylvania

Derby a month later at Philly Park, the Pegasus at The Meadowlands, and finally the Breeders' Cup

Classic at Lone Star, quite probably Smarty's last hurrah.

It's always a plus to see Smarty Jones on the racetrack, but what fun is it to see virtual walkovers

at 10 cents to the dollar? And that's what we're looking at in the Haskell, Penn Derby and Pegasus.

Of course, in theory, Smarty and Birdstone could stage their rematch in the Classic, but that's a

longshot. First of all, Smarty and Birdstone would have to run the table coming up to the Classic, and

that's a longshot (especially Birdstone). And, secondly, Mrs. Whitney is very much anti-Breeders' Cup.

Notice she passed last year with Birdstone and Bird Town.

Speaking of last year, Empire Maker and Funny Cide were at least entered for the Travers before

dropping out. This year, a Smarty-Birdstone rematch is just a dream. A pipedream.

We deserve Round Two, and we'll never get it.

Too damn bad.

---------

Again, I want to point out that I don't have a clue about training thoroughbred race horses. But

I do know that it is not a good thing to van a horse 13 hours on the eve of a big race, especially in

hot weather.

I pointed this out in this space last Friday, and I suggested that Azeri, who spent 13 hours on a

van from Louisville to Long Island, thus
will be a bet-against in the Phipps Handicap the next day at Belmont Park.

In fact, I picked Azeri to finish fourth in a four-mare field -- behind Sightseek, Storm Flag Flying

and Passing Shot in that order.

You saw the race. Sightseek aired at $6.70. Storm Flag Flying was second. Passing Shot third. Azeri

fourth. According to backstretch sources, Azeri bled through the Lasix.

The bottom line is simply: WHERE ELSE DO YOU GET THIS GOOD STUFF?

And while I am at it, last weekend I managed to pick 70 per cent winners at Belmont and Monmouth

on my phone sevice (1-888-612-2283), including best bets Frisky Spider ($11.40), and Ulla Bloom

at ($16.20.)

This doesn't happen every day...but it happens a lot.

This is something you need to know.

------------------------------------------------

I am anxious to find out if I can have similar handicapping success on the left coast. What better

opportunity than Wednesday when there is a 175K Pick Six carryover on the line at Hollywood Park?

Here goes:

HOLLYWOOD PARK:

RACE THREE

1. #7 Senfully Easy
2. #6 Julie's Go Baby Go
3. #1 Shes a Freebie

RACE FOUR

1. #6 Damar Wayne
2. #7 Ended
3. #5 McManus

RACE FIVE

1. #5 Minister Blair
2. #6 Sharp Marc
3. #4 Montana Deputy

RACE SIX

1. #4 Dauphin
2. #3 Komax
3. #8 Islander

RACE SEVEN

1. #2 Tronare
2. #4 Reel 'Em In
3. #3 Golden Arrow

RACE EIGHT

1. #3 True Stride
2. #9 Riley's Life
3. #5 Spectacular Bay


One final thought:

How bout those Devil Rays! Manager Lou, a hard-rock horseplayer himself, has these guys thinking

they are the '98 Yankees. Last Sunday, they made it 11 straight (as a slight dog) with an NBA reject

on the mound, and their two best hitters on the bench.

There is still room on the bandwagon.



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