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Aug 19, 2005

THRU THE BINOCULARS

By: JOHN PIESEN


On behalf of all those hard-working folks at NationalRaceMasters, you're welcome.

You will recall that back on Monday it was suggested in this space that my

 beloved Pirates were the play of the week getting points no less. The reason of

course was that Zach Duke was going against the Mets Thursday evening at Shea,

and would be plus 140 no doubt.

Obviously, the readers of this space socked it in, because the Bucs were hammered

 to plus 120, and pitcher Duke came through as always, limiting the Metsies to

 two hits over seven innings as the Buccos breezed, five-zip. Not even Mesa could

 blow this one.

Duke is now 6-0, and his 1.83 ERA is second in the league to Clemens. At 22, Duke

 will still be in his prime when he gets to the Yankees in 2011.

Shifting gears, they are running the Sapling on Saturday at Monmouth Park, and

 the Travers a week from Saturday as the feature on a 12-race card at Saratoga.

The Sapling always has been a favorite race of mine because of Buckpasser, perhaps

 the most under-appreciated racing superstar in history. A regular four-legged

Zach Duke if you will.

Back in the '60s, the Phipps Stable would send most of their good young horses

down to Monmouth to win stakes. The most memorable of those young horses

was Buckpasser.

I can still remember like it was yesterday, watching from the starting gate at the

 six-furlong chute.

Braulio Baeza, decked in those intimidating Phipps silks, walked Buckpasser, who

was 1-5, into the one-slot.

When the bell rang, Buckpasser just stood there as frozen in time, spotting his field

at least a dozen lengths. No matter. Buckpasser uncorked the most tremendous run

 I've ever seen, swallowed his field on the turn, and won going away.

I doubt very much there is a Buckpasser in Saturday's renewal. But there is a

colt named Diabolical from the barn of Steve Klesaris, and this guy is the real deal.

Diabolical, a $300,000 son of Artax, debuted as the stick on July 7 at Belmont Park,

 and wired his field from the one-hole by 10 lengths, earning a 91 Beyer if that's what

floats your boat.

Diabolical has been working bullets at Fair Hill for Klesaris, and, like Buckpasser, will

 break from the one-hole. He will take, as they say, no end of catching under Corny

Velasquez, who gives up a full card at the Spa for the mount.

Diabolical may be the best of Klesaris' talented trio of expensive 2-year-olds. The others

 are Master of Disaster and Speed of Sound. All are prospects for the

Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Naturally, as is the case with any speed horse, trainer Klesaris says that Diabolical

doesn't need the lead.

"This horse has been schooled to do anything the jock wants him to do," says Klesaris,

 "so it won't be a problem for him to rate."

Right, Steve. Take him back from the one-hole, and circle the field over Monmouth's

speed-favoring strip. Hey, Buckpasser did it 40 years ago. Why can't Diabolical?

If you're looking to complete the exacta. He's Got Grit and Confront, one-two in the

 Tyro, look to be the major candidates.

Thirty minutes after the Sapling, they will run the Alabama at Saratoga. Because of

ESPN, the Alabama will go at 5:40 as race 10. Of course, we have no idea if ESPN will

show the race live. If, as in previous years, their Little League game runs late, we'll be

lucky to see the race even on tape.

Who can forget last year when they switched late to the Alabama, and we saw

Society Selection posing in the winner's circle. That kind of took some suspense out of

the viewing.

As for this year's renewal, no Round Pond. No Smuggler. No Summerly. That leaves

 Sis City and Spun Sugar, a combined 0-4 in their last four starts, as the first two choices.

I would not be surprised if the public has it wrong. The two fillies I'm looking at are

R Lady Joy and Sweet Symphony. R Lady Joy beat Round Pond in the Delaware Oaks

in the Delaware Park sauna, and Sweet Symphony is unbeaten in three starts for Team

Boss and Billy Mott.

Actually, you could make a case for coupling these two fillies in the wagering since

Kirk (27 per cent) Ziadie, the trainer of R Lady Joy, has a dozen horses for the Boss.

"I will not be surprised if they run one-two," says a high-up executive for Team Boss.

If Sweet Symphony wins the Alabama, it must be noted, then Boss George could become

the first owner in history to win the Alabama and Travers in the same year. George, of

course, will run Bellamy Road in the Travers, a fact that will be confirmed after BR

works Saturday morning for trainer Zito.

Speaking of the Boss, George is all over the New York tabloid back pages today with

threats to fire Joe Torre if the Yanks don't make the playoffs.

Actually, despite losing the last two to Tampa Bay, the Yankees' chances of making

 the post-season improved this week because the Red Sox and A's have hit brick walls.

The schedule favors the Yanks over the next two weeks, and it would be no surprise

 if the Yanks back in.

One more Yankees' point. I keep hearing that A-Rod is the greatest player in baseball

history (the latest to say so was Tony Kornheiser on PTI). That said, shouldn't the

best player in baseball history be batting more than .250 with runners in scoring

position. And shouldn't the best player in baseball history have played for at least one

 world Champion!

Back to racing...

Forget that Graveyard of Favorites tag for Saratoga. With the meet just past the halfway

 point, the chalk is winning at a .35 per cent clip. Favorites are winning going short,

 going long. On grass, on dirt. Everywhere except in steeplechases, but when seven of

the nine horses in one race fail to finish, what can you expect?

But if you like chalk, just shoot down to Freehold Raceway. A couple of weeks back, the

 chalk won 12 of the 14 races on one card. And, just yesterday, the chalk won 11 of

 the 13 races.

Some things don't change in racing. Thirty years ago, the only betting strategy at

Freehold (and most harness tracks) was to watch the board. More than ever, that

strategy still works.

Finally, congrats to Las Vegas. The line on Pats-Saints last night dropped from six to

 three, and it became obvious that only one team was trying in the fourth quarter.



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