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Oct 29, 2004

RACING TODAY

By: JOHN PIESEN


If I"m Lone Star Park, or the NTRA, or Breeders" Cup Limited, or especially NBC, I

 have to be a very happy corporate conglomerate this morning because of two developments

 in the last 24 hours.

1) The decision by Team Azeri to run the grand old mare in the Breeders" Cup Classic rather

 than in the Distaff.

On paper, the decision is foolhardy. Azeri would have been 4-5 in the Distaff, a race she

 won way back when in 2002. She"ll be double digits in the Classic.

Personally, unlike most handicappers, I will not write Azeri off in the Classic. I would not

be at all surprised if she hits the board. The last I looked, there are no Cigars or Alyshebas

 in this Classic.

Win or lose, the fact that the Pride of Hot Springs will challenge the boys in the Classic is

terrific news to NBC et al. Now the network has two and a half mainstream stars in the

 race -- Azeri, Funny Cide and Birdstone.

2) The Cardinals" collapse.

In view of the Cardinals" miserable performance in Game 3, it looks for sure that this

World Series is not going back to Boston. And if not, the Breeders" Cup becomes THE sports

 story this weekend.

Hey, it"s a dead Saturday for college football. Not a big game in sight, and, of course, since

 it"s Breeders" Cup day, NBC gave Notre Dame the day off.

(Sunday is a different story. How "bout Pats-Steelers
at 4? ...and Bears-Niners at 8:30? Just kiddin". Can"t wait to her "ol Joe wax poetic for three

and a half hours about two 1-5 squads.)

As for the Cardinals, what can you say? When their star player loses track of the outs with

the bases loaded, and their pitcher can"t be bothered to jog home from third on a grounder

to short right field, what else can you do but turn your set off right there? I know that"s

what I did, and what I assume millions of others did.

Personally, I chose to catch a Law and Order rerun that I had never seen.

(That reminds me: Quickie quiz? Who was the better DA? Waterson or Moriarity?)

I couldn"t quite believe Moriarity as the chucker in Bang the Drum Slowly, but I"ll give him

the DA nod on points.

Meantime, the repercussions of the Cardinals" horrible performance go well beyond millions

of people turning their sets off, although a sweep is the last thing that Fox ever wanted. Any

you can hear the pathos in the voices of the Fox announcers on virtually every pitch.

No, the biggest repercussion involves one Pedro Martinez.

Martinez was pitching for his free-agent life last night. A poor performance, and he would

have been lucky to get a $10-million a year contract from a Detroit or a Houston.

It sure seemed that way early. Pedro was all over the map in the first three innings, and the

camera could see the sweat pouring from him. But when the Cards ran themselves out of the

 game in the first and third innings, Pedro got rejuvenated, the mojo kicked in, and he

breezed through seven scoreless innings, nailing the last 14 hitters.

As a result, you can see The Boss, down in his Tampa bunker this morning, drooling at the

 thought of giving Pedro $20 mill a year to join the Yankees in "05.

I can close my eyes and see George counting fingers...Pedro seven innings, Gordon one,

Mariano one (plus Beltran in center) equals a $200 million payroll, and the Yanks" first

 championship since 2000.

Speaking of Mariano, did anyone notice the following fact of life?

When Mariano"s two relatives tragically died in that swimming pool accident in Panama, did

you know the price on the Red Sox over the Yankees in the ALCS promptly went from 7-5

 to 8-5? And do you know that a prominent New York retailer had to burn $2 million worth

of T-shirts and caps that read "Yankees! The 2004 American League champions!").

Speaking of odds, the Orleans Hotel in Vegas already has made the Yankees the 2-1 favorite

 to win the "05 World Series. The Cardinals ane Dodgers are co-second choices at 7-2, with

 the Red Sox at 4-1, and the Angels 6-1.

And, speaking of Vegas, you have only six days to get
that 100-1 the casinos are offering on Rockport Harbor for the "05 Kentucky Derby. Rocky

 will be 1-5 in the Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct next Tuesday. The race will be run at about

 the same time the exit polls will be revealed to the media.

Back to the Breeders" Cup...

Next to Azeri, for me the biggest story of the Lone Star spectacular will be Edgar Prado.

There is no question in my mind that Prado is the best rider in North America and

beyond, but, until I looked it up the other day, did I realize that Prado has yet to win a

 Breeders" Cup race.

That"s right. At last count, Edgar Prado has ridden 5,197 winners, but none of those winners

came in the Breeders" Cup...where
he is 0-for-33! No jockey in the world has a worse Breeders" Cup oh-fer.

In handicapping this year"s Breeders" Cup, the first thing
to do is check out Edgar Prado. Prado has calls in all eight races, including the likes of

Birdstone, Magistretti, Sense of Style, Midas Eyes and Wonder Again.

Hey, if history holds, Prado will go 0-for-8. But, more likely, Prado will break the schneid,

and it would not surprise if he wins two or three. After all, no other jock, including

Jerry Bailey, has more firepower at his disposal.

Speaking of Bailey, Jerry will be psyched to improve on his performance in last year"s

 Breeders" Cup at Santa Anita. Yes, indeed, he rode one winner (Six Perfections), but he was beaten on

 four favorites --Sightseek at 3-5, Aldebaran at 2-1, Cuvee at 8-5, and Medaglia d"Oro
at 5-2.

And, let"s face it. Watching Bailey lose on one favorite after another since he returned recently

 from a broken wrist can not give cause for optimism Saturday.

Finally, interesting news out of New Jersey.

When Jim (the Love Machine) McGreevey decided last month to step down as

 governor, his decision opened the door for career politician Richard Codey to step in as

 acting governor.

I wrote in this space at the time that this might be a good thing for Jersey racing since Codey

is a devoted lifelong racetracker, and a friend of the $2 bettor.

Now comes word yesterday that Codey has made a move to help (save?) New Jersey racing.

Codey will propose that Monmouth Park install lights, and next year race three nights a week

(Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays).

I can only wonder why no one ever thought of this idea before. What"s better than hanging at

 the beach/golf course/tennis courts by day, and going racing at night at Monmouth Park?

A great idea, and no doubt you"ll see Cody at the window in the first floor grandstand.

And, who knows, if NBC gives permission, the "07 Breeders" Cup, already assigned to

Monmouth, will be run at night.



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