NY Showcase Day


October baseball in New York was never nothing more than a pipe dream. And October football isn't looking that good either. Unless you took the points Thursday evening in Foxborough.

But horse racing does provide something of a consolation prize for New Yorkers.

On Saturday, with no baseball distrations, we can concentrate on the 11-race New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park. Forget those fancy Kentucky and Floride-breds. All 11 races, eight of them stakes, are strictly for New York-breds...and provide betting opportunities galore.

I'm not one to blow my own horn, but my selections on-line and on the John Piesen Hot Line (1-888-612-2283) have been scorching of late, specifically with a succession of double-digit winners, including Guyana, a blowout front-end winner at $28.60.

And, needless to say, my picks will be up and running on Showcase Day.

As they will in two weeks for the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita.

And, unlike the dim, dark past, New York-breds are going to be very prominent at the BC. Looks like there will be 10-to-12 NY-breds competing in the 13 Cup races, topped by Artemis Agrotera, who may go favored in the Filly and Mare Sprint.

AA is fresh from stakes wins in the Ballerina (Grade One) and Gallant Bloom (Grade Two), and on Wednesday she worked five-eighths in 1:00 for trainer Mike Hushion, galloping out three-quarters n 1:12 4/5. She will work once more before flying to California on Oct. 26.

With Wise Dan out of the BC mix with an ankle injury, the Cup will be crying for a star, and Artemis Agrotera may be the one. She would not make headline writers happy, but if she duplicates her recent Silky Sullivan-like finishes in the Cup, she would be making a star turn -- especially for the $2 bettor.

Then there's the Ortiz Factor.

Jose Ortiz, AA's regular rider, and brother Irid, who had a four-bagger on Thursday at Belmont, are loaded top to bottom on Showcase Day. I'm making the over-under five wins, and leaning toward the over.

Notably, both Ortiz brothers are sitting on major players in the $300,000 Empire Classic Handicap, the traditional Showcase Day feature.

Irid rides Empire Dreams, the stronger half of the West Point-Albertrani entry. Irid has a first, two seconds and a third -- all stakes -- in four previous  trips on Empire Dreams, and the 3-year-old grandson of A.P. Indy sheds 10 pounds -- to 114 -- off a rare bad performance in the Albany at Saratoga.

As for Jose, he's sitting on a headline writer's dream. His name is Sioux (how do you do?), a 200K son of Awesome Again trained by the one and the same Mike Hushion.There was a time you could buy a whole barn of New York-breds for 200K. My, how times have changed!

After a mere maiden win in three starts at 2, Sioux returned in August with two sprint wins by a combined 14 lengths. He came thisclose to competing against California Chrome and Bayern in the Pennsylvania Derby, but his connections decided on a more conservative approach.

Sioux is all about speed, and stretching out to two-turns for the first time, he's going to take some end of catching in the mile and a furlong Empire Classic.

Yes, I know speed has been stopping at Belmont, but there are exceptions.

Saratoga Snacks, who won this race last year, is making his third start off the layoff for new trainer Bill  Mott, and gets a rider switch to Joel Rosario, who is 2-0-1 in three prior rides on the 5-year-old son of Tale of the Cat, a personal favorite.

If Saratoga Snacks wins, look for owner Mike Francesa, that genial radio talk-show host, in the winner's circle. This is the same Uncle Mike who was the underbidder on Haskell and Pennsylvania Derby winner and BC Classic contender Bayern.

The Empire Classic goes as race eight.Thirty minutes later, they will run the 200K Ticonderoga (hard by Schroon Lake) for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on grass, and once again the race within the race is Ortiz vs. Ortiz.

Irid will ride Discreet Marq, a Chris Clement speedster whose credentials inlude a nose beat in the Grade 1 Matriarch at Hollywood Park, and Jose pilots defending champion Effie Trinket for Rick Violette, who will have Upstart in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Speaking of the Breeders' Cup, they seem to be dropping like flies. In addition to Wise Dan, in the last two months, we have lost Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge, one-two in the '13 Classic; Wicked Strong, Game On Dude, and my personal favorite, John F. Kennedy, the best of the European 2-year-olds.

But it's still the Breeders' Cup, and the Classic, with a potential full field of 14, affords (sorry) a classic betting race. Shared Belief, unbeaten in seven starts, will be favored, but, off his life-and-death showing in the Awesome Again Stakes, he's far from a sure thing.

If either Shared Belief, California Chrome or Bayern win the race, he's a shoo-in for Horse of the Year. Otherwise, it's a tossup. Wise Dan again maybe?

Finally, we join the racing -- and entire -- sports community in mourning the loss of jockey Juan Saez, who tragically was killed (at 17) in a spill Tuesday evening at Indiana Grand racetrack.

Think about this poor kid every time you start to heckle a rider.

Thanks for tuning in, have a great week, and see you back in this space next Friday.


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