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Aug 05, 2005

Daily Racing Best Bets

By: JOHN PIESEN


Senior correspondent for "nationalracemasters.com"

You need to notice the new title under my byline. No longer am I the former

correspondent for New York Post and Daily Racing Form. Actually, that"s not true.

I am. But I have moved on.

I never really thought I"d be a senior anything. I was always the new kid on

the block. In school. In the service. At work. But time moves on. And suddenly

I"m a senior correspondent. The truth is I guess I"m fortunate to be a senior anything.

One thing that hasn"t changed is my ability to acquire what we in the newspaper

 business call scoops. I had hundreds of scoops at the Post and the Form, and

 relished beating the competition. The bad guys. You know who you are.

I"m still scooping my colleagues...and here"s another one.

There is a very -- make that very -- good chance that Bellamy Road, the best

 3-year-old standing, will run in the Travers, not in the same-day King"s Bishop

(August 27) at Saratoga.

The media has been told by trainer Nick Zito that Bellamy Road, sidelined since

injured during a seventh-place finish as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby, is

being pointed for the seven-furlong King"s Bishop, in which he would face the

 unbeaten super sprinter Lost in the Fog.

In Sunday"s New York Daily News, for example, it was written in that paper"s

version of "binocs" that "it is not the Travers, but the King"s Bishop where

Bellamy Road is aiming. That will be a terrific matchup.

"Zito talked to the Steinbrenner family, and they"re happy with the King"s Bishop."

Not so.

Boss George, and his point man, farm manager Ed Sexton, are leery of sending

 Bellamy Road to war against Lost in the Fog.

"Given the choice," Sexton told me, "I"d much rather have an easy race at a mile

 and a quarter than a hard race at seven furlongs."

I talked at some length to Boss George, my old harness buddy, yesterday, and

George told me there are three options out there for Bellamy Road -- the

King"s Bishop, the Travers and the Super Derby.

"We haven"t made up our minds," George said, "we want what"s best for the horse.

We want a 4-year-old, and we"re going to make sure he gets there. We are not

going to take any chances."

(I really wanted to ask George about Palmiero, but I didn"t want to press my luck).

After hanging up, and after watching two Law and Order re-runs, I came to the

conclusion that Team Steinbrenner is leaning toward the Travers, with the

Super Derby the second choice, and the King"s Bishop a distant third choice.

I also pointed out to George that he has the opportunity to become the first owner

in the century-plus history of Saratoga to sweep the track"s two marquee races for

3-year-olds. Summer Symphony will be one of the choices in the Alabama

(Aug. 20), and Bellamy Road, of course, would be the favorite in the Travers...

Flower Alley or no Flower Alley.

"That doesn"t concern me, John," said George. "Again, my only concern is the

 welfare of the horse."

George, incidentally, presently has a string at Louisiana Downs, home of the

Super Derby, and won a race there over the weekend. And Bossier City is a

shorter trip for the Tampa-based Boss than Saratoga.

These are things you need to know.

Speaking of Flower Alley, that colt is one member of a growing fraternity this year.

 It is downright remarkable how many quality horses got beat this year at

Oaklawn Park, who have since gone on to win major races elsewhere.

You will recall that Flower Alley was beaten a pole by Afleet Alex in the

Arkansas Derby, and last weekend won the Jim Dandy at Saratoga.

Eddington was nowhere as the favorite in the Oaklawn Handicap, and later won the

Pimlico Special before he got hurt and was retired.

Island Sand was beaten twice at Oaklawn, and went on to win the Delaware Handicap.

R Lady Joy had no shot in the Fantasy, then won the Delaware Oaks.

Wild Desert was beaten a pole in the Arkansas Derby, and later won Canada"s

Queen"s Plate.

Ashado was beaten at odds-on in the Apple Blossom, and last weekend won the

 Go For Wand at Saratoga by nine lengths.

The rags-to-riches Rodeo"s Castle was up the track in the Count Fleet, then won

stakes in Louisiana and Texas.

And then there was Andromeda"s Hero, a distant third in the Arkansas Derby, and

second to Afleet Alex in the Belmont.

And, speaking of Afleet Alex, just when was the last time the beaten favorite in the

 Rebel won the Preakness and Belmont?

It was a major disappointment to Monmouth Park that Afleet Alex got hurt and will

 miss the Haskell. And this morning, Monmouth received another body blow with

 word out of California that Swaps winner Surf Cat will not make the trip to the

Jersey shore.

Trainer Headley, after much soul-searching, decided to keep Surf Cat at Del Mar

for the Pacific Classic rather than ship to the Haskell.

This leaves Roman Ruler as the strong favorite for the Haskell, and trainer Baffert

 is looking forward to the trip. He and his bride plan to arrive at the Shore late

 Saturday, make it to Max"s for hot dogs Sunday lunch, and win the Haskell.

Certainly this has worked in the past. See Point Given and War Emblem.

Roman Ruler is a nice horse, but he is no leadpipe in the Haskell. Because of the

defection of Afleet Alex, the field has swelled from five horses to a dozen. And

there"s a lot of trouble waiting on Monmouth"s tight first turn.

With 12 horses, post positions will be very important. The draw will be held

between crabcakes Thursday morning, and in my role as senior correspondent for nationalracemasters, I will be there for the festivities, and report on same in Friday"s

 column.

One possible new addition to the field is Proud Man. That"s the horse who ran third

 in the Long Branch at Monmouth on July 16, and shipped to Delaware Park to run

second in the Leonard Richards on July 17.

Finally, one baseball note...

The next Koufax is not Ollie Perez, as previously reported in this space, but Zach Duke.

After beating the BravesMonday afternoon (at plus 170), Duke is now 4-0 with an

 0.91 ERA. He is the first pitcher for my beloved Pirates to win his first four starts

since 1970.

Simply said...the kid is unhittable.

Young Duke also has other talents.

Last week, Duke was a passenger in a cab en route to the Marlins game in Miami.

The cab had a flat. Duke went out and changed the tire.

"Growing up in the country," says Duke, "you learn how to do stuff like that.

I would guess that Koufax learned how to fix a flat growing up in Bensonhurst.



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