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Nov 15, 2004

RACING TODAY

By: JOHN PIESEN


Rainy day notes and quotes...

I was enjoying a pastrami club at Harold"s Deli in Central Jersey the

 other day, when a fellow approached me and said:

"Hey, I know you. I recognize you from your picture in the Post. Aren"t you,

let me see, John Piesen?

Needless to say, I was flattered. After all the last time my picture appeared in

 the New York Post was in November, 1990, when I covered the Breeders" Crown

at Pompano Park. A month later I took a buyout when it appeared the Post was

 going under. The Post somehow has survived, and they"ve managed to go

through 15 or 20 racing writers/handicappers in the interim.

The fellow at Harold"s needed to know where my prose is appearing now. I found

 an old Harold"s menu, and wrote down the three websites to which I contribute

 on a regular basis: 1) www.johnpiesen.com 2) www.jimhurley.com, and

 3) www.vegasracemasters. com. What"s more, on "racemasters" you even

 get my bar mitzvah picture. Pretty much the same head shot they used at the

Post back when.

Now, with this information in hand, the Harold"s guy (or anyone else) has no

excuse not to read my stuff.

That said, there is much to talk about this week...

I"ll start with Rockport Harbor.

After Rocky won the Nashua on Election Day at Aqueduct by an open road to

extend his record to 3-for-3, trainer Servis told the assembled media that Rocky"s

 2-year-old season was over, and that he will make his next start in the

 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 19 at Oaklawn Park. Then it will be on to the Rebel,

 the Arkansas Derby, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont...an itinerary

 strangely familiar to a certain Servis 3-year-old of 2004.

But stop the presses. You need to change your Thanksgiving weekend plans,

and get out to Aqueduct on Nov. 27. The reason? Rockport Harbor is going

 in the Remsen Stakes, a nine-furlong Grade 2 that has spawned a lot of nice

3-year-olds.

"It"s the graded stakes money," trainer Servis told me yesterday. "I don"t want

 to be in the same position I was with Smarty last year...going into the Arkansas

 Derby with no money."

Left unsaid is the fact that Rocky could even get some votes for champion

2-year-old if (make that when) he wins the Remsen. That 4-for-4 record, all

 by daylight, will look awfully good.

Rocky"s likely main opponent in the Remsen will be Galloping Grocer, the

unbeaten New York-bred.

The Cigar Mile and the Demoiselle also will be run that day, so it might be

 a good move to tear yourself away from football for a few hours and get

out to Aqueduct on the Subway, and see for yourself just how good

 Rockport Harbor is.

Following the Remsen, Rocky will head for Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs,

Ark., where his every move will be chronicled by yours truly, who, of course,

 will also have the privilege of entering him in all his 3-year-old races.

One more note on Smarty...

Bill Foster, the assistant trainer, has made up calendars, t-shirts and

sweatshirts featuring Smarty Jones. Proceeds are earmarked for Imagination

 Land, a playground for handicapped children under construction in

Bensalem, Pa. The products can be viewed and ordered at
www.smartysgift.com, or they can be purchased by calling 1-888-369-0136.

It would be a good thing if this merchandise would say "Smarty Jones, 2004

 Horse of the Year."

I was just thinking. The name "Jones" has a long and celebrated history in

Arkansas.

In addition to Smarty Jones, there is Matt Jones, the star QB for the University

 of Arkansas; Jerry Jones, a native son who went on to fame and glory next

door in Texas; Larry Jones, one of the leading trainers at Oaklawn, and, of

 course, the lovely Paula Jones, who still makes her home in suburban Little Rock.

Then there is Jonesboro, the site of last night"s compelling nationally-televised

 football game between Arkansas State and Utah State. In case you missed

 it, Arky State won (and covered the spread), 16-7, on a punt return.

This was the biggest sports moment in Jonesboro since back in the "50s when

 the New York Giants used the field to practice for a pre-season game against

the Cleveland Browns two days later in Little Rock.

During the practice, Kyle Rote, the Giants" all-world running back, stepped on

 a rock on a cutback, and severely twisted his ankle. As a result, Rote was

then moved to wide receiver, and a rookie named Frank Gifford, then a

defensive back, was given Rote"s job.

Speaking of injuries, let me touch on a couple of female jockeys -- P. J. Lydon

 and Therese Powers. Both are talented, attractive, and both are bucking

the odds.

A few years back, P. J. Lydon was a college student in New York. One day,

she walked out of class, never to return. She knocked on doors on the

Aqueduct backstretch, eventually became a jockey, and enjoyed success at

the NYRA tracks and at Finger Lakes...until practically left for dead after a

horrendous auto accident in upstate New York.

Somehow, Lydon made it back, all the way back, and yesterday she rode the

 third-race winner at Calder.

A kid from the midwest, Powers enjoyed tremendous success in the upper

 midwest, and led the standings in Detroit one year. She then tried

New York, and enjoyed some success there, but injuries cut short her career.

To say the least. Powers broke virtually every bone in her body, and her riding

 career seemed over before she hit 30.

But, like Lydon, Powers has made it back...and is now riding at Hollywood Park.

 She had one mount yesterday, a second in the first race.

Hollywood seems the ideal spot for Powers" comeback. Her story really is one

 for Hollywood.

Just a footnote:

It seems the baseball "haves" are throwing hundreds of millions at Carlos Beltran,

 the hottest of the current crop of free agents. Since Beltran batted .267 last

year, it made me wonder how much would say Mickey Mantle or Stan Musial

command on today"s market.

A few years back, Musial was asked how he would fare if he was playing today.

"Well, let"s see," said the Man. "I"m 72. I guess I could hit .290."



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