Aug 12, 2005
Daily Racing Best Bets
By: JOHN PIESEN
It's tough to zero in on racing this weekend what with my man Duke going Friday
night in Houston -- at plus 160 yet -- for my beloved Buccos.
The only better story in baseball this year will be if the Yanks don't make the playoffs.
It's been a tough go for the commish. First, the Palmiero scandal. Then Kenny Rogers
gets his sentence reduced. Now Fox and MLB are looking at a White Sox-Astros
World Series. Oh, the pain.
The news is better in racing these days. Saratoga gave Pat Day a terrific tribute last
Monday. Bellamy Road is gearing up for the Travers. Afleet Alex is walking three
times a day, and this intrepid columnist nailed a $1,000-plus trifecta on last Sunday's
Saratoga stake on his phone service. It really should have paid more (9-1, 25-1, 6-5), but
obviously my followers assaulted the windows.
One piece of disturbing racing news:
The mating of the century -- Storm Cat and Azeri -- didn't click, trainer Lukas told me
at the Spa sales pavilion the other day. And Wayne's not sure if they'll try again next year.
"Once they leave the racetrack," Wayne said, "it's not my concern."
C'mon, Wayne. In this case, make an exception. Storm Cat is the king of the stallions.
Azeri is the queen of racing. It's a marriage made in horse heaven. I, for one, feel badly,
that Azeri didn't conceive.
Hopefully, the mainstream media will pick up this news up, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Turning to golf...
John Daly, now playing the PGA up the street, has been getting a lot of ink lately, good
and bad. Here's one John Daly story I want to pass on to the reader.
Daly, a native and resident of a small town called Dardanelle, Ark., spends a lot of free
time in nearby Hot Springs. His favorite hangout is a redneck bar called the Longshot,
across Central Avenue from Oaklawn Park.
One Friday evening last March, Daly was at the Longshot, partying with friends and
strangers when a solider came up to him.
"John," he said, "you don't know me, but I just need to talk to you. I just came back
from Iraq, and my wife was gone. I don't know what I'm going to do."
At that point, Daly reached into his pants pocket, pulled out a stack of bills, and gave
it to the soldier.
Later, the soldier took a minute to count the stack. He stopped counting at six grand!
Speaking of Oaklawn Park, that was home for 14 years for Pat Day. In 12 of those 24
years, Day was the leading rider.
"It reached a point," one lady horseplayer told me, "that each morning over coffee, I'd
go over the day's program, and deCide whether I would bet Pat Day that day or bet
against him. I usually guessed wrong."
I could fill a book with Pat Day stories, but here's one of my favorites.
Back in 1985, Day rode Vanlandingham in the Whitney. Vanlandingham, at 4-1, was the
absolute lone speed from the one-hole that day...and my best bet in the New York Post.
Alas, Vanlandingham broke like a snail, raced in midpack, and never got involved.
At the end of the meet, in my "best and worst" of the meet column for the Post, I cited
Day's ride on Vanlandingham as the "worst ride of the meet."
Fast forward to 2001, and Pat tells me:
"You know, John. What you wrote about my ride on Vanlandingham was wrong. If
you looked at the films, you would have seen that the horse
stumbled out of the gate. I think maybe you owe me an apology!"
Can you imagine? Sixteen years and thousands of winners later, and Pat Day was still
burning about something bad I wrote about him in 1985.
I hope it's not too late, Pat. Please accept this as my public apology.
And I want to take the time to wish Pat Day the very best in his new career preaching
the gospel. Lord does know what Pat and I didn't always see eye to eye, but I never
met a classier guy in racing.
It was so sad to see Shane Sellers on crutches at Saratoga, and even more sad to see
poor Ron Turcotte in his wheelchair. But Ron looked great, and he greeted me with a
handshake so firm that I thought he broke a couple of bones.
On the other hand, the funniest sight I saw at Saratoga this week was at the sales
grounds, hours before the auction started.
There was Frank Stronach, ringing wet in the intense heat and humidity, strolling the
grounds, followed by his posse -- four guys and a gal, equipped with cell phones
and pagers, hanging on every word from The Man's lips.
Poor Frank couldn't turn around without bumping into one of his loyal minions. And
he seemed to be enjoying every minute of the adulation.
That brings us the NTRA National Pick 4, $400,000 guaranteed, scheduled for
Saturday on ABC from 4 to 6 Eastern.
As we all recall I'm sure, I made some major scores in this space last year on this
gimmick, so let's try again. I'll pick three horses in each race in order of preference.
KELLY'S LANDING was super-impressive winning a Churchill Stake from the one-hole
at 12-1 six weeks back. He has a bullet work over the track, and is the outside closer
with Smith in a short field packed with speed. BOTANICAL was equally impressive
winning U.S. debut at Belmont. He's the inside speed with Ramon, who opted to stay
at the Spa instead of going to Chicago to ride Better Talk Now in the Million. POMEROY,
from the sizzling Biancone barn, is the horse for the course.
PIESEN'S PICKS: 7-2-4
(Beverly D. at Arlington)
MELHOR AINDA won her first four starts for Frankel, but was even better closing for
second to Japanese sensation Cesario in the American Oaks. She gets six pounds
from older rivals, and will make the last run. WEND overcame a disastrous start to win
the New York Handicap; eyes sixth straight with Bailey, who gave up several live
mounts at Saratoga for the mount. MEGAHERTZ, 3-for-3 in west coast Grade 2s this
year, will be flying at the end.
PIESEN'S PICKS: 7-6-4
(Sword Dancer Handicap at Saratoga)
METEOR STORM gets the one-hole and Castellano, and should work out a stalking
trip behind likely favorite and lone-speed KING'S DRAMA. I'm looking for Meteor Storm
to run back to his Manhattan Handicap score at 6-1 an hour before Smarty lost the
Belmont. The lightly-raced RELAXED GESTURE belongs on every ticket.
PIESEN'S PICKS: 1-7-4
(Arlington Million at Arlington)
The Million brings back the first three finishers in last Fall's controversial Breeders' Cup
Turf plus some dangerous new faces. KITTEN'S JOY won the Secretariat here last year
in faster time than the Million, and owner Ramsey has been pointing for this race all
year. He's a short price with Prado from the rail, but tough to go against. POWERSCOURT
finished first in the '04 Million, but was unjustly DQd. He's 0-for-7 since that race;
adds blinkers; stretch threat. BETTER TALK NOW figures to get the soft turf he
favors. Johnny V subs for Dominguez; very dangerous.
PIESEN'S PICKS: 1-9-6
Good luck. See you next week.
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