Go Zenyatta

by John Piesen

The Eclipse Awards will be announced next Monday at a black-tie affair in Beverly Hills.

Obviously, in this case there is no such thing as a home-field advantage, but I imagine they will tear down the joint if Zenyatta is the chosen one.

On the other hand, imagine the gloom in the room if Rachel Alexandra gets the nod. Unlike political elections, there is no such thing as a recount when it comes to Eclipse Awards.

That said, here are my choices for the various Eclipses. Keep in mind that, unlike past years, I have no inside information, ironically an Eclipse Award winner in her own right.

So here goes...

My choice: Lookin at Lucky
Likely winner: Lookin at Lucky

My choice: She Be Wild
Likely winner: She Be Wild

My choice: Summer Bird
Likely winner: Summer Bird

My choice: Rachel Alexandra
Likely winner: Rachel Alexandra

My choice: Gio Ponti
Likely winner: Gio Ponti

My choice: Zenyatta
Likely winner: Zenyatta

My choice: Kodiak Kowboy
Likely winner: Zensational

My choice: Informed Decision
Likely winner: Informed Decision

My choice: Gio Ponti
Likely winner: Gio Ponti

My choice: Goldikova
Likely winner: Goldikova

My choice: Mixed Up
Likely winner: Mixed Up

My choice: John Shirreffs
Likely winner: Steve Asmussen

My choice: Calvin Borel
Likely winner: Julian Leparoux

My choice: Christian Santiago-Reyes
Likely winner: Christian Santiago-Reyes

My choice: Zenyatta
Likely winner: Rachel Alexandra

Obviously, other than the Big One, there won't be a whole lot of suspense. Most of the awards are obvious, and there's no sense battling City Hall.

The one exception is my choice of Calvin Borel for the jockey Eclipse. Obviously, Calvin lacks the numbers of Leparoux, Gomez and Dominguez, but CB did more in '09 to help racing than anyone since Smarty Jones in '04.

It seems to me that 8-for-8 on Rachel, a Derby ride for the ages on Mine That Bird, and a Fall title at Churchill Downs should be at least sufficient to make the cut.

If it's any consolation, Borel is the last person in the world to care about individual awards.

Meantime, John Velazquez, a two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey, continues to lead the Gulfstream Park standings despite taking an ofer last Saturday in Gulf's five-race stakes package.

You may recall that last Friday in this space I mentioned that Johnny V was sitting pretty with four favorites and a second choice.

As it turned out, Munnings, one of those favorites, was scratched due to the wet track, and Johnny V's four other goodies got beat.

Such is racing.

Another Florida rider made news last week.

Toward the end of the Friday column, we said we joined the rest of the racing community in praying for Dan Centeno's recovery.

Centeno, the perennial leading rider at Tampa Bay Downs, was kicked in the chest by a horse in the paddock for the seventh race on Jan. 10, and was rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital, where he was placed in intensive career.

Three days later, on Jan. 13, Centeno rode four winners at TBD.

What more evidence do you need that jockeys are the toughest athletes?

The big winner last Saturday was trainer Gary Contessa.

In south Florida, Contessa won the Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes with Hatfield, beating Hockeythehayman, whom Wes Ward suggested in print was the most talented horse he's ever trained.

And in Ozone Park, Contessa sent out a newly-turned 3-year-old named Eightyfiveinafifty to win a six-furlong Aqueduct maiden-special by 17 lengths in 1:10 4/5 under Jorge Chavez. Moreover, the colt's 105 Beyer number is the best nationally to date in this young year.

Unless the Sheiks dive in, Eightyfiveinafifty will stay in New York for the Gotham and the Wood Memorial, and, if all goes well, head for Churchill for the Derby, which will be run on May 1.

Of course, Eightyfiveinafifty will have to outrun his pedigree to get to Louisville. His sire, Forest Camp, never won beyond six furlongs.

Contessa sure has come a long way since he was going head-to-head with Phil Serpe in those Jersey-bred claimers at Monmouth Park back in the early '90s.

Speaking of claimers, there will be no shortage of horses running for a tag on Wednesday afternoon at Gulfstream, and many of them can be found in the Pick Six, which offers a 50K carryover.

Let's take a look...

Although sporting an eight-race losing streak, Run Carly Run likely will be favored under Corny Velasquez off the drop.

Way to Eden and Lovely Vanessa also factor off the drop, as does Deona, a winner of her last two in Chicago.

Chargingtoomuch, from Spend A Buck's trainer, broke her maiden over the track last April.

Collar, exiting a front-end score at Churchill for Mike Maker, will be a lot shorter than her 12-1 quote on the morning line. Leparoux rides from the one-hole.

The 9-year-old Charlie Papa makes her second start off the layup with Maragh. Wicked Woman of NY was first and second in her two grass starts. Major player with Coa.

George Handy, still going strong in his '80s, has the likely favorite in Suffolk invader Bandit Nailhead. This will be the 93rd start for the 9-year-old gelding, who rarely fails to pick up a check (17-13-20). First-time Marquez.

Wardyan won here last spring at the distance, and exits a two-turn Meadowlands blowout for Team Broome. 

Launch N Relaunch, listed at 12-1 on the ML, looks the key to the entire Pick Six sequence.

Mike Smith last week flew in from California to ride the $375,000 yearling, a first-out winner for Rick Dutrow, but Dutrow had to scratch due to a wet track. This time Smith stays home, and Corny rides the gray son of Harlan's Holiday.

Zapster (Pletcher) and Krypton (McLaughlin) both were 7-2 in the Vision Stakes at Belmont.

It's father vs. son in the 51K optional-claimer feature.

Allen Jerkens -- like Handy, still a force in his '80s -- sends out Formidable, a two-time winner by a combined 10 lengths over the track last spring, and son Jimmy counters with the two-time graded stakes-placed Desert Key.

DK has been training bullets for his first start since June.

If anyone is alive in this very tough pick six, he or she needs to have Provence and/or Lyrique in this grassy maiden-special.

Provence, by Empire Maker out of Versalles Treaty, broke poorly and closed a gap in her Big A debut for the Shugster. Lyrique, a 300K Rock Hard Ten filly from Team Padua, closed for third in her second start at Churchill.


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