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Oct 07, 2005

RACING TODAY

By: JOHN PIESEN


Two major baseball stories broke over the weekend, and both involve, directly or

indirectly, Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez.

Number One

In all the excitement over Yankees-Red Sox Armageddon at Fenway, there never was

 a word written or aired about the possibility of home field being up for grabs in the

American League playoffs. And certainly not a word about the Angels.
 
So we all know what happened:

  1. The Indians staged the greatest collapse since the "64 Phillies.
  2. The Yanks and Bosox wound up playing for "seeding" on Sunday, prompting the TV camera to catch Joe Torre laughing while making one of seven pitching changes.
  3. Out of the blue, it was discovered Sunday at mid-afternoon that the combination of a Yankee loss to Boston and an Angel victory at Texas would give home field to the Angels for round one of the playoffs. Oh, the inhumanity.
  4. The Yanks tanked Sunday, and down in Texas, with the Rangers up, 4-1, in the third inning, Texas skipper Showalter pulled his three best players, and the Angels went on to win, 7-4. I caught glimpses of the game on TV, and it was obvious the Rangers were just going through the motions.
  5. The Yankees, from Torre and A-Rod on down, blasted trainer Showalter in the papers today.
  6. Is it only me that realizes that they despise A-Rod in Texas? After all, he took their $25 million, never won a thing, laughed all the way to the bank, and wound up demanding a trade to New York or Boston.
  7. What better way for Texas to get back a little at A-Rod than dumping Sunday"s game, and making the Yanks have to work a little harder - and maybe hurt A-Rod"s chances to get his first ring?

Number Two
 
On Sunday, a gossip column in the New York Daily News ran a note about A-Rod. The piece said that A-Rod plays regularly in high-stakes poker games in an illegal New York poker club.
 
Talk about blowing a story. This is above-the-fold stuff, and, sure enough, the New York Post - bless their little old hearts -- ran with the story today, complete with a three-column photo, on page three.
 
The last graph: "Despite the fact that Rodriguez was not breaking the law by playing (poker) in the club, MLB takes a dim view of players consorting with gamblers or bookies."
 
SEE PETE ROSE
 
And we all remember how the NBA stonewalled Michael Jordan"s gambling activities. Won"t it be interesting to see if MLB takes any action against A-Rod?
 
On a happier note, the Jim Hurley Network offered a major e-mail promotion last Saturday focusing on my Belmont Park full-card selections.
 
The pressure was on.
 
But the kid came through, nailing his $9.70 best bet, the $220 Beldame trifecta, and the $660 Jockey Club Gold Cup trifecta!
 
Actually, the tri (Borrego, Suave, Sun King) really should have paid at least double that $660, so I guess we had some folks paying attention.
 
My actual selections were: 1) Suave (12-1); 2) Borrego (5-1), and 3) Sun King (10-1). It was no accident that I left out Flower Alley, the 8-5 favorite. I felt right along that his Travers was a fluke, and it"s nice to be proven right.
 
That leaves Borrego, Rock Hard Ten and Saint Liam as the "Big Three" for the Breeders" Cup Classic. But, hard as it is to believe, we might see a Big Four if Afleet Alex makes the race.
 
But the single biggest star of the Breeders" Cup figures to be the unbeaten Lost in the Fog. This remarkable sprinter made it 10-for-10 at Bay Meadows on Saturday. He won by a pole in 1:08, and he triggered a $3 trifecta. That"s right. The tri paid $3!
 
Lost in the Fog has been ranked all year no better than third by Daily Racing Form in the sprint division. The horse ranked first all this time in the ratings, a nice colt named Wake Up Dreamin, was beaten a day and a half the same day in the Vosburgh.
 
Depending on what happens in the Classic, there is an outside chance that Lost in the Fog can get Horse of the Year.
 
Now, let"s get to some other racing developments last weekend.
 
It would have been a great story if Angel Cordero  Jr., at age 62, had won his comeback race on Indian Vale in the Cotillion Stakes at Philadelphia Park. The Pletcher-trained filly was odds-on, thanks mostly to Cordero, but she stopped on a dime at the half-mile pole, and checked in fifth in a field of six.
 
Pletcher, incidentally, was conspicuous by his absence in Ashado"s winner"s circle picture after the Beldame. The reason of course is that he rushed to a TV to watch Indian Vale. Talk about going from ecstacy to agony in five minutes. And, of course, more agony followed when English Channel lost by a whisker in the Joe Hirsch, and Flower Alley ran up the track in the Gold Cup.
 
But the weekend hardly was a total loss for ol" Todd. In addition to winning the Beldame with Ashado, he won the opening-night Pegasus at The Meadowlands with Magna Graduate.
 
And, speaking of The Meadowlands, did you see what happened at the Big M on Saturday night?
 
Since opening in 1977, the Big M has run only one jump-up race - in 1980, and the winner was Romeo Lima. So, after 25 years, the Big M ran a second one on Saturday night - a $75,000 stake at two and a half miles (three laps).
 
Approaching the finish line the second time, Preemptive Strike, the 2-1 second choice, was in front by 40 or 50 lengths. As he hit the line, the track announcer called him the winner "in a romp", and proceeded to run down the final order of finish.
 
Unfortunately, the race wasn"t final. They still had another lap to run. The press box went nuts, and one fellow in the press box commenced to bang on the announcer"s window to alert him to the fact that they had another lap to run.
 
After a long, painful pause, the announcer picked up the call of the race. He got lucky because Preemptive Strike went on to win the race, and the order behind him didn"t change in the third lap.
 
We can all laugh about the announcer"s gaffe.
 
But, of more significance, is the race itself. It was a travesty. One horse opens 40 lengths, and nothing else keeps up. It was four and a half minutes of absolute tedium.
 
Coming in the wake of that Saratoga fiasco, when seven of the nine horses went down, you have to wonder if  indeed it will be another 25 years to see the next jump-up race at The Meadowlands.



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