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Oct 21, 2005

RACING TODAY

By: JOHN PIESEN


There's no question that Jerry Bailey has reached the twilight of his Hall of Fame riding career, but if Bailey intends to close up shop at the end of the year, he well may go out in a blaze of glory.

Bailey, the all-time leader in Breeders' Cup victories with 14, has lined up mounts in seven of the eight Breeders' Cup races, and most of seven are live. The only Cup race for which Bailey is open at the present time is the Mile, and Jerry still has a week-plus to line up some precocious European shooter. 

Otherwise, Bailey is listed to ride Saint Liam in the Classic; the unbeaten Shakespeare in the Turf; the odds-on First Samurai in the Juvenile; Original Spin in the Juvenile Fillies; Ouija Board (replacing Kieran Fallen) in the Filly/Mare; Sweet Symphony for Team Boss in the Distaff, and old friend High Fly in the Sprint.

That said who will be the next Jerry Bailey?

A week back in this space, I warned that a jockey to watch in New York was apprentice Kyle Kaenel. The 16-year-old son of Cowboy Jack Kaenel was to make his New York debut over the weekend, and I suggested that this kid was a future star.

Kaenel, as could be expected, didn't get many live mounts his first weekend on the job at Belmont Park. But he certainly made the most with what he had. He booted home a $45 winner in the first race Saturday. He was second with a 10-1 shot later in the day, and was third with a 35-1 shot on Sunday.

"Not bad," Cowboy Jack told me this morning, "not bad at all."

It's amazing that the kid is riding at all. He fractured a vertebrae in the neck in a spill at Turf Paradise, where he was leading rider, back in April, and doctors advised him to pursue a different career.

"The neck feels good," says Kyle. "In fact, everything feels good. So far so good. I just have to see how things go."

Young Kaenel's agent is Herb McCauley, whose riding career was aborted when he broke a leg in a spill several years back at Monmouth Park. McCauley took out an agent's license a month back, and Kyle is his first client.

This may be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Back to the Breeders' Cup.

I was surprised to read in the New York Sunday News that there is no buzz for the Breeders' Cup at Belmont. The writer said he hoped that maybe a combination of sunshine and the Wednesday pre-entries hype will jazz things up.

Personally, I doubt it.

Belmont Park, alas, is a dead issue these days:

NYRA is selling off artwork to raise the necessary revenue to stay in business.

Speaking of business, the announced attendance last Friday afternoon was 1,203.

And, perhaps of most importance, Afleet Alex will be a no-show.

Since Afleet Alex, right or wrong, is the only horse the general public knows these days, his loss is a severe blow. Management can only hope we get a decent weather day or else the numbers will be disastrous.

No one in racing believed there was any chance that Afleet Alex, who sustained a minor fracture last summer, would make the Breeders' Cup. But when Alex turned in two bullet works at Belmont, his odds soared to 50-50, according to trainer Tim Ritchey.

But the bubble burst last week when Ritchey wrote on the Afleet Alex web site that Alex was out.

"We have monitored Alex every two weeks with digital x-rays," Ritchey told Oaklawn Park media whiz Terry Wallace on the Oaklawn Handicappers’ Hour radio program last Saturday. "I have always told the press and my owners that we needed to have everything go exactly the right way.

"The last set of x-rays told us Alex has not completely healed. There is still a gray area that should be completely white. With a horse like this - or with any horse for that matter - you have to err on the safe side. And the safe side is to slow down a little bit.

"Like I've told the owners, they will have a Breeders' Cup Classic in 2006, and hopefully we'll look forward to getting to that."

As for Alex's return?

"We have to take it one race at a time," Ritchey said, "but hopefully we can get Alex back for the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs or the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. The Sunshine Millions at Santa Anita would be a good spot, and obviously the Oaklawn Handicap is on our agenda.

"He's a horse who'll ship to a lot of places. I know he has a lot of fans out there, and by the end of his 4-year-old year, he'll have a lot more."

Ritchey, who finished fourth in the Oaklawn standings this year with 19 winners from 84 starters, told Wallace that he plans to bring 40 horses to Oaklawn for the 2006 meet that kicks off Jan. 20. Jeremy Rose, who won the Oaklawn riding title in his rookie year at the Spa, will of course ride first-call for Ritchey.

Also, John Servis confirmed last week that he will run a full string at Oaklawn, and that Stew Elliott will be down to ride first-call. The Servis string will include Rockport Harbor and Round Pond, both of whom have completely recovered from injuries.

Servis, who has moved his family to Hot Springs, will be the guest of honor on Breeders' Cup Day (Oct. 29) at Oaklawn.

Finally, what price could you have gotten last spring on a Chisox-Astros World Series? And, how low can Vegas make the game totals?

And aren't Yankee fans everywhere confused after watching the Angels lay down in the ALCS? They have to wonder how did we lose to these guys!

Personally, I'll have a bit of a rooting interest because one of my closest friends growing up in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, N.Y., was a fellow named Jerry Reinsdorf (The White Sox Boss). When I was in Chicago back in 2000 to cover the Arlington re-opening for Daily Racing Form, I gave Jerry a call, and we spent an hour reminiscing about the old days - the girls at P.S. 139, half-court basketball near the BMT, and stickball in the vacant lot at East 19th Street and Cortelyou Road.

When I mentioned to The Boss one day that Reinsdorf and I were buddies growing up in Brooklyn, George seemed surprised.

"I'm shocked, John" he told me. "You look so much younger than Reinsdorf!"

Sorry about that, Jerry.



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