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Dec 23, 2005



Senior correspondent for ""

Hope you've been calling in (888-484-3300) for my Calder pix this week. The record is five winners from eight picks, with two seconds and a third, with most of the winners in the $7-$8 range.

That said, I love my three Calder picks for Saturday.

There are only two other major venues - Louisiana Downs and Philly Park -- operating on Christmas Eve, and, in the spirit of the holiday, I'd like to pass along full-card picks for LAD in this space.

The first thing I notice is that Don Pettinger, a very underrated veteran rider, is giving up his Christmas Eve to ride a dime-claimer named Salty Beach for David Vance in race four.

Pettinger, maybe not so coincidentally, will be a go-to rider for Vance at Oaklawn Park.

With all the quality riders available at LAD, isn't it strange that Vance would import Pettinger from Oklahoma to ride Salty Beach?

(Pettinger is so unknown that he can't pass my spell-check.)

Another rider to check out Saturday at Bossier City is T.J. Hebert - especially in the late double.

In race nine, I like Hebert to upset the $75,000 Truly Bound Handicap on Canadian shipper Ballroom Deputy. And, in the 10 th, I like TJ on a very live Holthus maiden named Hot Sunrise.

My other LAD picks for Saturday -

Race 1: #5 Mr. Franks
Race 2: #1 Classic Par
Race 3: #1A Kimua Baby (needs to draw in)
Race 5: #7 Run to the Border
Race 6: #7 Semaphore Man (an Oaklawn hottie)
Race 7: #3 Groovy Luck
Race 8: #6 Tisket A Tasket

Meanwhile, did you know:

A)   That the gal who finished second in the Martha Stewart apprentice nonsense this week is the oldest daughter of trainer Bobby Frankel?
B)   That speaking of apprentices, Kyle Kaenel won a race last Sunday at Aqueduct, then hopped a plane that evening at JFK, and won a race Monday at Turf Paradise?       Kyle continues to ride at Turf Paradise until Aqueduct re-opens (hopefully) on Wednesday.
C)   Kyle's father, Cowboy Jack Kaenel, currently is working horses at Oaklawn Park in hope that he'll make a comeback there next month.
D)   And, speaking of Oaklawn, Stewart Elliott will spend the winter in Hot Springs, riding first call for John Servis. That means Rockport Harbor and Round Pond, both of       whom are in serious training.

There was the real possibility that Elliott (eight for nine on Smarty Jones) would be deported to his native Canada, but a Jersey-based immigration judge yesterday granted Elliott a waiver that will allow him to continue to live and work in the U.S.

Elliott faced possible deportation stemming from a 2001 guilty plea on a charge of aggravated assault. (A 1996 immigration reform law allows the government to deport non-citizens convicted of an aggravated felony)>

Back in 2004, Elliott, who was fighting alcohol addiction at the time, pleaded guilty to assaulting a friend in Burlington, N.J. Elliott received a year's probation, and was ordered to pay $14,000 for his victim's hospital bills. Elliott also paid the guy 50 grand to settle a civil lawsuit.

Elliott, who last rode on Nov. 12 at The Meadowlands, clean and a recent bridegroom, will resume riding on opening day Jan. 20 at Oaklawn.

"This is a great holiday present," he says.

A couple of football notes -

Not that we need proof, but there's no room for sentiment in sports betting.

Within minutes of the tragic news out of Florida that Indy coach Dundy's teen-aged son had died, the price on Seattle jumped two points.

In case you missed it, New England is standing at 12-1 to win the Super Bowl. I have to believe this is the overlay of a lifetime, especially in light of the fact that San Diego - which may be the best team in the league - probably won't make the playoffs, thanks to losing five games by a combined 14 points.

I find it interesting that the most significant game on closing day in the NFL will be Houston-San Francisco. And it's looking like a pick 'em.

I also find it interesting -- and extremely laughable -- that Knicks' fans (bettors) brave a transit strike, pay hundreds for tickets.and spend the evening booing their heroes, who laugh all the way to the bank.

There's something wrong with this picture.

And, on the same day that the transit strike was costing New Yorkers millions, the Yankees gave Johnny Damon a $52 million contract. Am I the only one who sees a connection?

Whatever, I'm happy now that the Yankees have a bonafide all-star (and a multi millionaire) at every position, expect maybe second base. Fortunately, Boss George raised the ticket prices again. Box seats will run $100-plus next year.

And, if you listen close, you can hear the Yankee radio announcers gloating that the Yanks will draw more than four million

Finally, I realize what these bowl games are all about -

They keep playing until the total goes over.

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