Nov 27, 2004
By: JOHN PIESEN
Weather and track conditions permitting, the Race of the Year will be
run Saturday afternoon at Aqueduct by the sea. It is of course the nine-furlong
Remsen Stakes, pitting a pair of unbeaten 2-years-olds -- Galloping Grocer
(the next Funny Cide) and Rockport Harbor (the next Smarty Jones).
Of course, you wouldn't know this was the Race of the Year by checking out the
media. Naturally there has not been word one about the race in the electronic
media or in the mainstream print media, and Daily Racing Form, in its infinite
wisdom, relegates the Remsen "advance" to page four in Saturday's editions.
What's more, the DRF linemaker makes Galloping Grocer the favorite. I will
gladly give up my first-born if Rockport Harbor is not the favorite -- Beyers or
The main concern at Team Rocky going into the Remsen is the possibility of a
speed duel. After all, the Grocer and Rocky have nothing but "ones" next to
their names. It would seem both need the lead.
Then, Rocky went ahead and drew the two-hole, while GG drew the outside in
a field of six. Advantage Rocky.
And then a house quote Dom Schettino, the trainer of Galloping Grocer, appeared
Says Dom: "My horse should have no problem rating. He is being trained
So the question is: do we take Dom at face value? Or do we think he's fibbing?
I know it's hard to believe, but trainers have been known to fudge the truth in
such situations. If I only had a dollar for every trainer who has said: "...my horse
doesn't need the lead."
In this case, I'm willing to believe ol' Dom is not selling a bill of goods. And if
not, that means Rockport Harbor will scoot right to the top from his inside
post, and the race will be over at the first turn.
Actually, to be perfectly truthful, I don't think it matters much what the
opponents' strategy is. Rockport Harbor is the best 2-year-old on the planet
(you've been reading such since September in this space), and he'll prove it in
the Remsen. And if you can get 4-5, count your Thanksgiving blessings.
Rocky thus will complete his 2-year-old campaign with a 4-for-4 record, including
two graded stakes in New York, with an average margin of victory five lengths.
That will give him a better resume than Seattle Slew when the Slew was
voted 2-year-old champion of 1976. Unfortunately, Eclipse voters are more
"sophisticated" now, and Rocky probably won't make the cut.
And, speaking of awards, let me say right here that Stew Elliott should get
Eclipse jockey. But he won't, however. He has about as much chance as
Steve Asmussen has of getting Eclipse trainer, despite the fact that Asmussen
set a one-year record with 500-plus victories.
One more word about Elliott. In a Saturday piece, the DRF's lead columnist
says that Elliott finished third in the Meadowlands standings. That's odd.
The last I looked, Elliott won the Meadowlands title by five winners.
Hopefully, they will get the Aqueduct track fixed in time for Rocky and Elliott
to flex their muscles Saturday. It boggles the mind that Aqueduct had to
shut down after two races on Thanksgiving because of unsafe track conditions.
At the time, the temperature was 64 degrees.
It goes without saying that Aqueduct was the only racetrack in North America
to cancel on Thursday. The new NYRA prexy says all will be right with the
world when the New York tracks get their slots.
Also sad is a situation that happened at Thistle Down last Saturday.
A horse named Slewrenity won the sixth race by three lengths at odds of
2-5, but the stewards thought they caught Serenity's jock hit
Lac Grape's nose with the stick while blowing by him on the turn, and DQd
Slewrenity to second.
Unfortunately, the stewards got it wrong. A review of the tape failed to show
a stick in the face. Slewrenity's connections appealed to the Ohio State Racing
Commission, whoch promptly overturned the DQ.
But then came the really sad news:
"There's not much we can do about the betting," said a commission official.
In the meantime, the three Thistle Down stewards, all former jockeys, are
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