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Aug 26, 2005

THRU THE BINOCULARS

By: JOHN PIESEN


 

Forget Tiger. Forget Randy. Forget Zach Duke.

The story that has the sports world buzzing this weekend is

the Track Talk Internet Radio program. In the unlikely case you don"t know to what I"m referring, Track Talk is a compelling 30-minute racing talk show found weekly on "NationalRaceMasters.com."

Why the buzz?

Each week, I am called upon to give out a freebie pick or two on Track Talk. I started doing so a week back, and gave out Wild Jam ($4) at Monmouth Park, and Royal Moment ($30.20) at Saratoga.

The response was overwhelming so I gave out two more freebie picks on last Friday"s broadcast. The picks were Kilimanjaro on Saturday at Saratoga, and Borrego for the Pacific Classic Sunday at Del Mar.

Kilimanjaro, 6-1 on the program, paid $5.20. And Borrego paid $24.40.

For those scoring at home, that"s four-for-four! And those were freebies. Can you imagine what"s happening when you call my phone service and pay a shockingly small fee for my selections?

And this Track Talk is not a one-man deal. I am joined on Track Talk by a who"s who of skilled journalists/handicappers -- moderator Ed Doyle, the amazin" Kelso Sturgeon, and Jim Hurley, known far and wide as the point man for the Jim Hurley network.

Two weeks back, Doyle gave out Angara ($14) for the Beverly D. And last week, Hurley suggested that Miss Matched was a cinch in the Arlington Oaks. And a $14 cinch she proved to be.

I"m not quite sure what Kelso, the quiet, retiring type that he is, is up to, but I would suggest you check out Track Talk on Friday.

I plan to give out two more freebies for this weekend, and naturally I expect to be six-for-six by this time next week. And don"t forget to tell your friends.

Incidentally, you can add the mighty Borrego to the long list of horses who failed at Oaklawn Park and then go on to win major races elsewhere. You"ll recall that Borrego, back in April of 2004, finished second in the Arkansas Derby to a nice colt named Smarty Jones.

The memories of Smarty Jones came racing back last weekend when I drove my son Michael back to Bucknell for his senior year.

A year ago last May, I entered Smarty Jones for the Preakness from Michael"s dorm room phone (USA Today gave it a good play).

But can you believe that the Preakness would turn out to be the last race that Smarty Jones would ever win? And can you believe that it"s been six months since I"ve read a line anywhere about Smarty Jones? How soon they forget...

Meantime, I find page 55 of Monday"s New York Post of more than passing interest.

Below the fold is the AP piece on Borrego of doing the impossible by winning the Pacific Classic at a $24.40 mutuel.

And above the fold is a piece out of Saratoga suggesting that Team Boss will run Bellamy Road in the Travers, rather than the King"s Bishop which had been written for two months.

Of course, regular readers of this space read a month back that Bellamy Road would go to the Travers.

Said readers will remember that I quoted Boss point man Ed Sexton as follows a month back:

"It"s a matter of an easy mile and a quarter," said Sexton," or a hard seven-eighths."

Funny, you can read the same quote on page 55 in today"s New York Post.

Since I said at the time that Bellamy Road going to the Travers will be the biggest story of the Saratoga meet, it"s nice to see that the mainstream media finally caught up to the story.

As a sidebar, there was widespread unhappiness within Team Boss with jockey Castellano"s ride on Bellamy Road in the Kentucky Derby. Boss George in fact wanted to fire Castellano (sound familiar?), and replace him with jockey Bailey.

But as things shook out, Bailey committed to Roman Ruler for the Travers, and Castellano will get one more chance on Bellamy Road in the Travers. If Bellamy Road had gone in the King"s Bishop, then Bailey probably would have ridden him.

Another reason to pay attention to this space is that we tend to give out winners.

For example, last Friday.

We analyzed the Sapling and Alabama...and gave out a combined five horses. The three in the Sapling finished one-two-three for a $107 trifecta, and the two in the Alabama ran one-three. We missed the sweep by a nose.

On the other hand, we were a bit off base in historical terms. We wrote that if Team Boss wins the Alabama (with Sweet Symphony) which it did, and the Travers (with Bellamy Road), George would become the first owner in history to record an Alabama-Travers sweep.

Just missed. Actually, he would become the ninth to do so.

Sorry "bout that.

One final racing thought...

Good luck to Frank and Cristine Gabriel, two of the nicest people in racing, in their new gig in Dubai.

I knew Frank back when he was writing nickel-claimers for J-bred maidens at Atlantic City, and I go back with Cristine when she was the TV hostess at the New York tracks. Frank wound up as racing secretary at Arlington, and Cristine wound up the TV hostess there. Both did super jobs, and we wish them the best of luck in Dubai. I"m sure they will be treated like royalty there.

Cristine will be missed in Chicago for more than her racing work. As a cancer survivor, she has devoted much of her time to cancer research, and, in fact, she has won several awards for her charity work.

Finally, a couple of baseball thoughts...

Do you realize that Tampa Bay is 13-3 at home since the All-star break?

Do you realize that Zach Duke goes against St. Louis Tuesday night in Pittsburgh? A major test.

Do you realize that the Thursday afternoon matchup at the Stadium will be Chacon vs. Chacin?

And congrats to the commish? Ten years ago, Bud Selig pushed through the wild card. Just where would the interest be in baseball right now if there was no wild card?



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