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Dec 15, 2005

RACING TODAY

By: JOHN PIESEN


If you're thinking that Stevie Wonderboy is the next Secretariat, now is the time to take a stand.

The Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner is listed at 12-1 in the Vegas futures for the Kentucky Derby. This looks a little high, but we all know how BC Juvenile winners have fared in the Derby. The next one to complete a BC-Derby double will be the first.

On the other hand, they're going to run Stevie only once or twice this spring in California. And if he performs as expected, and he'll be getting all the Merv Griffin hype, he'll go to the Derby maybe 6-5.

Personally, although the price is tempting, I'd rather look elsewhere at this time.

I'll toss some spare change on He's Got Grit at 60-1; BC Juvenile Fillies runnerup Wild Fit at 75-1, and Fidrych, trained by Team Smarty, and named for the colorful Detroit chucker from the '70s, at 200-1.

The field for sure is the current favorite at 7-2. And Private Vow is the co-second choice with Stevie at 12-1.

First Samurai, hailed in one New York daily last Fall as a certain Triple Crown winner, can be had at 20-1, and Henny Hughes at 30-1.

In both cases, thanks but no thanks.

Vegas makes Adieu 60-1 and Folklore 100-1, which doesn't quite make much sense considering their respective performances in the Juvenile Fillies.

Adieu is trained by Todd Pletcher, which brings us to our next subject.

Pletcher this week was socked with a 45-day suspension by New York officials for a banned substance found in a Pletcher horse in the summer of '04 at Saratoga.

The suspension, plus a munificent $3,000 fine, had been appealed by Pletcher, but his appeal was rejected by a hearing officer, and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board upheld the suspension.

"It came down to fact versus a presentation of hypotheticals," racing board boss Michael Hoblock told Blood-Horse. With quotes like this, no wonder Hoblock is out the door.

Tales of Glory, trained by Pletcher, was found to possess mepivacaine, a local anesthetic, in his system after the third race at Saratoga on Aug. 14, 2004.

"This is a powerful substance that can block a nerve," says racing board chairwoman Cheryl Buley. "We have to take that very seriously.

".and we need to uphold the integrity of racing."

Now I can sleep safe at night.

Buley expects the suspension will start soon, obviously before the Eclipse dinner, where Pletcher will accept his second straight Eclipse Award for his training exploits. At the same dinner, Saint Liam, trained by Richard Dutrow, who served 60-days last summer for a drug violation, no doubt will be honored as Horse of the Year and champion older horse, suggesting that this may be a less-than-festive occasion.

Of course there is precedent. Just last winter, Ken Ramsey, who was accused of bribing a trainer to scratch her horse, was honored with an Eclipse.

Meantime, the racing world is buzzing about this writer's handicapping acumen.

Impressed by Spun Silk's recent 13-length maiden victory at Philadelphia Park, I made her my best bet Thursday at Aqueduct. The A.P. filly performed as expected, winning the Sally Ride Stakes wire to wire by four lengths.

But I guess some folks weren't paying attention.

Spun Silk, the rank outsider in the field of seven, paid $54.50!

A $54.50 best bet! No wonder folks are lining up to call 888 484 3300 to get my daily picks at Aqueduct - normally two singles and one gimmick. My Aqueduct full card

selections also are available at the same number, and all for a ridiculously small fee.

I can't promise a 26-1 winner every day, but I nail my share of double-double winners on a regular basis. And I never overlook Philly fillies.

Finally, they are running a race Saturday at Hollywood Park that in recent years has produced six Kentucky Derby winners. The race is the Hollywood Futurity, a mile and a sixteenth Grade 1 with a gross purse of $401,250.

Your Tent Or Mine, a decisive winner for trainer Drysdale in the Hollywood Prevue a month back, will be favored under PVal from post four in the field of eight.

But the most intriguing horse in the race is Bob and John.

You'll recall that Bob and John when last seen won the Real Quiet Stakes by five lengths only to somehow get disqualified. The DQ triggered a maelstrom of indignation worldwide including here.

Trainer Baffert accused the Hollywood stewards of playing politics - dirty politics if you will. Baffert told west coast media that the stewards dislike him, and this was their way of

getting even.

Bob and John, who is owned by Houston Texans' president Bob McNair, was merely 1-9 in a five-horse field.

Jockey Espinoza said after the race:

"This was just not right. Not for the horse. Not for the public. I could have won by 20 lengths, by the length of the stretch if I wanted. This horse is going to the Kentucky Derby."

Bob and John gets the one-hole for the Futurity, and I expect he'll take no end of catching. Personally, I would love to see the Futurity simulcast, but I will be hanging out in the Giants Stadium press box at the time rooting for my beloved Kansas City Chiefs.

A Baffert-KC parlay will make my day.



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