All About Luck

by John Piesen

Today's column, boys and girls, is all about luck.

Let me explain.


They ran the Battaglia last Saturday at Turfway, and since the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita was postponed a week because it rained overnight on the Santa Anita plastic, the Battaglia wound up the only major race of the weekend for Triple Crown hopefuls.

With that in mind, I devoted much time and energy to handicapping the Battaglia for the John Piesen Hot Line (888 612 2283). The JPHL was exceptionally red-hot in February, nailing 50 per cent winners, so, on the final weekend of the month, the last thing I needed to do was stumble.

So, after much deliberation, I swallowed the kool-aid and put the chalk on top. That would be Kera's Kitten (#8). KK was coming off a huge win in the key prep for the race, he looked to be the controlling speed, and he had the right connections. To me, it was clear that the value in this race was going to come in the exotics.

I thought about putting Vow to Wager (#6) on top. After all, he was sharp, winning his last, and his trainer, Dale Romans, is a major player on the Kentucky circuit, but I picked him second -- at 15-1 in the morning line.

For third, Codoy (#3) was a no-brainer. He had run in top company last year, was training well, and was 7-2 on the morning line.

If you saw the race, you know what happened. If not, you can find the replay on ""

Kera's Kitten never cleared, and, for good measure, got whacked turning for home.

Meantime, Vow to Wager and Codoy shot through on the inside, and made it a two-horse race to the wire. Codoy was the better horse, got home first, but was disqualified for fouling Vow to Wager twice in the lane.

Normally, I am very much anti-DQ, but in this case the stewards had no choice but to reverse the order of finish. They put up Vow to Wager (at 23-1), and dropped Codoy (3-1) to second.

As a result, the 6-3 exacta came back $247.20! It was a nice windfall for followers of the JPHL!

And, once again, proof that it pays to be lucky as well as good.

For those scoring at home, the John Piesen Hot Line nailed six winners from eight races last weekend, all but one of those winners at Gulfstream Park.

On Friday, Mycrispycream looked to be the controlling speed in race five at Gulfstream, and she was at a $9.60 mutuel.

After settling for a second with Strike the Tiger in race six, the JPHL struck in race seven with Our Dreamette at $7.40. Normally I avoid the one-hole going short at the Gulf, but I made an exception in this case. I had hoped that OD would break with her field from the one. She did so, took up a stalking position behind the leaders, and blew them away on the turn.

On Saturday, I went 2-for-three, topped of course by the $247.20 exacta box in the Battaglia. I also nailed Game On Dude, who was a sharp second at 17-1 in his debut, at $4.40 in race two at Gulfstream.

I had high hopes for third-selection Closeout at 6-1 in the ninth-race feature, but, after making the lead from the outside on the final turn, she tired thru the lane. A disappointing beat.

Finally, on Sunday the JPHL went two-for-two, nailing May Day Now, the $4.80 second choice, in race five at Aqueduct, and Presious Passion ($5.20) in the ninth-race feature at the Gulf.

Both winners were obvious.

May Day Now figured to get a stalking trip with Migliore from the outside post behind the odds-on Wicked Climb, and so she did. When the chalk bore out in the upper stretch, The Mig masterfully steered May Day Now to the inside, and on to an easy victory.

Presious Passion clearly was the class of the Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream. I thought he'd be a square price because he hadn't raced in two months. And I was right. PP got away at 8-5, and he did his thing, opening up early, and running his rivals into the ground.

My third selection Sunday -- Full Tilt Noogie in race nine at Aqueduct -- was scratched off the program.


The most accomplished 2-year-old of 2009 no doubt was Lookin at Lucky.

With trainer Baffert calling the shots, and jockey Gomez at the controls, Lookin At Lucky won five of six starts, including Grade One scores in the Del Mar Futurity, Norfolk, and Cash Call Futurity. His only blemish was a brutal head loss to Vale of York from the 13-hole in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

As a result, Lucky was voted an Eclipse Award, was made the Kentucky Derby favorite in each and every winter book, and was a universal No. 1 in the Derby Top Tens.

So what happened?

Lucky has yet to run as a 3-year-old, and so Eskendereya, one of Todd Pletcher's armada of Derby prospects, won the Fountain of Youth by a pole, and immediately vaulted to No. 1 in the majority of Derby Top Tens. Moreover, when the NTRA rankings came out on Monday, Eskendereya was ranked No. 1 -- relegating LAL to No. 2.

Where's the respect?

Eskendereya has won two stakes, one ungraded and one a Grade Two, and he is ranked No. 1 over Lucky?

What's wrong with this picture?

Now, here's the rub.

Lucky may make his season debut in the Rebel Stakes on March 13 at Oaklawn Park. and he'll have to do some kind of running to handle a field that may include Dublin, Super Saver, and Uh Oh Bango -- yes, that Uh Oh Bango.

Heck, off the layoff, Lucky may not even be the favorite against that group.

Speaking of Super Saver, we mentioned here last week that SS will need a new rider for the Rebel because jockey Borel will be otherwise engaged that day on Rachel Alexander at Fair Grounds.

Sure 'nuff, the new rider will be jockey Dominguez.

That's the same Dominguez who was sitting on the Kentucky Derby favorite last year, only to blow it when Old Fashioned went down with a career-ending injury in the Arkansas Derby. And the same Dominguez who rides six favorites a day at the current Aqueduct meet.

Here is my current Derby Top Ten...

1. Noble's Promise McPeek Florida Worked in :59 4/5 for the Rebel.
2. Dublin Lukas Arkansas May be the Rebel favorite.
3. Eskendereya Pletcher Florida Also pointing for the Rebel
4. Uh Oh Bango Owens New Mexico Looks best of Pletcher's armada
5. Lookin At Lucky Baffert California May make season bow in Rebel.
6. Uptowncharlybrown Seewald Florida Tampa Derby will be make or break.
7. Conveyance Baffert California Unbeaten colt may go to Dubai.
8. Rule Pletcher Florida Bound for the Wood Memorial.
9. Super Saver Pletcher Florida Gets Dominguez for the Rebel.
10. Wow Wow Wow Lukas Arkansas One to beat in the Gotham.


Blind Luck, the top-ranked 3-year-old filly in the land, will be a short price on Saturday in the Santa Anita Oaks.

It has been suggested in the media, notably by old friend Bill Finley, that if Blind Luck wins the Oaks convincingly, trainer Hollendorfer should run her back against the boys in the Santa Anita Derby.

And, if Blind Luck wins the Santa Anita Derby, the obvious move would be to emulate Winning Colors, and go to the Kentucky Derby, for which she was nominated.

You'll recall that Winning Colors won the 1988 Kentucky Derby, beating the likes of Forty Niner and Risen Star.

Personally, in view of Eight Belles, I think it will be a while before we see another filly in the Derby.

Mention of Eight Belles reminds me that Team Jones plans to run Just Jenda against Rachel and Zenyatta in the $5 million Apple Blossom Invitational on April 9 at Oaklawn Park. But first, JJ has to get through the Azeri on Sunday at Oaklawn.

No need to point out the ABI is the most hyped horse race since Ben Hur.

Home owners on Lake Hamilton down Central Avenue are asking up to $30,000 for a one-week rental, five-person boxes on the finish line are going for $5,000 on ABI day, the closest hotel rooms available are in Dallas, and it was reported that the Sheiks have booked three floors in one of Hot Springs' priciest hotels.

And word came down today that old DRF colleague Steve Haskin will be making his Arkansas debut for the ABI -- and plans to stay over the next day for the Arkansas Derby!

Can't wait to show Steve the hot spots.  

And fourth...

They have been casting an HBO film titled Luck, an opus about a broken-down horse player trying to get out. Obviously, this fellow is not a subscriber to the John Piesen Hot Line.

Last week, they cast Dennis Farina (of Law and Order fame) as the second lead, and Variety yesterday reported that the ever-popular Dustin Hoffman will portray the BDHP.

What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson?

Thanks for checking in. There will be a Pick Six carryover on Wednesday, so check out the JPHL or here on-line for my picks, and see you back here on Friday for the weekend action, notably the Gotham and the Sham.


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