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Jun 24, 2005

Thru The Binoculars


For a 24-hour period last week, it appeared that a match race between Afleet Alex

 and Smarty Jones was in the works.

Trainers Tim Ritchey and John Servis told Philadelphia all-sports radio station WIP

that they agreed to a $10 million, winner-take-all race between their superstar

horses sometime in late Fall.

"I'm all for it," Servis told WIP. "I talked the matter over with the Chapmans, and

they love the idea of bringing Smarty back from stud for the race. I'd only a need

 a few weeks to get Smarty ready. He's fit.

"Let's face it," Servis said. "I have the best 4-year-old, and Tim has the best

3-year-old. Let's get it on."

Ritchey endorsed the idea.

"A match race would be great," he told WIP. "Let's find out who's the best horse.

"But one thing. I don't want to use a starting gate. I want the start to be from a

rope like Seabiscuit and War Admiral."

The media swallowed this stunning development whole. Several Philadelphia TV

and radio stations sent crews to Ritchey's barn at Delaware Park, and Servis took

 36 voice messages from assorted media types on his cell phone.

Even Bobby Frankel heard about the proposal...and wanted in.

"I'll bring Ghostzapper out of retirement," he said, "...and we'll make it a three-horse


The story was all over the 11 o'clock news on the Philly TV stations, but then

reporter Dick Jerardi had to go spoil all the fun the next day when he wrote in the

 Philly Daily News that it was all a gag.

And too bad. We can only think about what if. What if Smarty raced as a 4-year-old,

 and could face Afleet Alex in the big-bucks races this fall, including the

 Breeders' Cup?

"Afleet Alex is a great, great horse," Servis told me. "In fact, he should be an

undefeated Triple Crown winner. He should have won those two races he lost

last year, and I don't know what went wrong in the Derby."

Of course, the possibility remains that down the road Rockport Harbor can come

 along to challenge Afleet Alex. After all, it wasn't that long ago that Rocky and

Alex -- stabled 50 yards apart at Oaklawn Park -- were considered equals.

Rocky missed the Triple Crown races with foot problems, but he's back in training

 at Philadelphia Park, and doing well, according to Servis, although it's much too

soon to speculate about Rocky's future plans.

In the meantime, Round Pond, Rocky's barnmate and the best 3-year-old filly

 in the land, will have her first breeze Tuesday since winning the Acorn, and will

 be pointed for the Delaware Oaks July 16 at Delaware Park, and the Alabama

 on Aug. 20 at Saratoga.

Of course Servis is hoping there will be a Delaware Oaks. Jockeys -- citing unsafe

 track conditions -- refused to ride the last four races on Sunday, causing

management to abort the card, and the Monday card was scrapped.

Incidentally, Oaklawn president Chales J. Cella wrote a letter to Servis, congratulating

 him for Round Pond's Acorn victory. Meantime, Rugula, who finished second to

 Round Pond in the Honeybee and Fantasy at Oaklawn, last weekend won a stake

 at Arlington.

Servis still intends to send at least a 30-horse string to Oaklawn next year. And

Ritchey, of course, will be back, presumably with Afleet Alex. Who knows? Maybe

 we'll see a Rocky-Alex rematch in the Oaklawn Handicap.

Speaking of Seabiscuit and War Admiral, I just learned the other day that there

was one jockey who won races on both horses.

He was Moose Peters, a well-travelled journeyman who rode from 1934 to 1954.

 He passed away in 1987.

Moose's son, Rodney, also rode professionally, mostly on the mid-Atlantic

circuit, and presently is the chief steward at Penn National Race Course.

I would think that a national racing publication would be interested in a feature.

Here's a sidebar...

As the state steward at Charles Town back in the '70s, Rodney Peters ruled that

John Servis, and his brother, Jason, could not race horses at that track because

 their father Joe was a steward there.

As a result, Jason Servis wound up at Mountaineer, and eventually New Jersey

and New York, while John went to Penn National.

This might be the time to mention some of the writer's weekend

handicapping feats.

On the website, Piesen last Saturday at Belmont Park

 nailed the $17,000-plus Pick Six. And, on Sunday at Monmouth Park, he nailed

 the $16,000-plus Pick Four, and a $2,000-plus Pick Three. He also hit a $198 Pick

 Three cold Sunday at Belmont.

You can also get my picks on my website,

And don't miss "Track Talk" online at every week.

There may be a better way to go...but I don't know where that is.

Shifting gears, I was one of the few folks who stayed up to 12:20 this morning to

watch the end of Spurs-Pistons. After four stinkers, this game was a tremendous

watch from start to its fabulous finish.

But I still need to know why it took 46 minutes to play the last nine minutes, and

why the ageless Hubie Brown is able to talk non-stop for three-plus hours without

 taking a breath and without saying anything.

And I need to know why play-by-play man Al Michaels doesn't have a clue. Among

 other things, he doesn't know there is no such thing as a force-out anymore. And

he doesn't understand the concepts of the 24-second clock and travelling violations.

And just how can the Pistons blow a four-point lead with 90 seconds to play?

Finally, in case you missed it, Major League Baseball has admitted that the first base

 umpire blew a call that cost my beloved Pirates last Wednesday night's game to

 the Evil Empire.

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