Picture Perfect

by John Piesen 

If I had a vote for Eclipse Photo, it would go to a fellow named Louis Hodges Jr. for his compelling page-one photo in Wednesday's editions of Daily Racing Form.

There it was in living color: Mission Impazible, A Little Warm and Drosselmeyer hitting the wire 1-2-3 in the $750,000 Louisiana Derby last Saturday at Fair Grounds.

A sight to behold for the loyal followers of the John Piesen Hot Line and/or the Season of Piesen, who cashed a $123.60 exacta box, and/or a $745.40 trifecta box.

How often have the bettors (including this one) been fooled by trainer Pletcher winning a stake with the "weaker" half of an uncoupled entry, thereby producing a Toddster celebration in the winner's circle while tickets worth hundreds of thousands were being shredded on the "stronger" half of the Pletcher entry.

It would be simplistic to say that, in the case of the Louisiana Derby, Discreetly Mine, the lukewarm favorite from the Toddster, was used as a rabbit for Mission Impazible...but the fact remains that Discreetly Mine spent the entire nine furlongs pushing leader A Little Warm, setting the race up nicely for Mission Impazible.

It must be noted that Louisiana Derby was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg for the Hot Line (888 612 2283). The HL also nailed five winners, four cold exactas, and a cold $102 Pick Three on the Turfway Park full-card, and went 2-for-2 on Sunday, including Honour Rocket, who was hammered from 6-1 morning-line to $6.60.

Coming up this Saturday on the HL are full-card picks from Aqueduct and Santa Anita, notably the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby.

Meantime, the Louisiana Derby capped a sweep of the three Grade Two stakes at Fair Grounds for Pletcher, who also won the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park with Exhi at $19.20.

And, for good measure, Pletcher clinched his first Aqueduct inner track title with 40 winners, four more than Gary Contessa, who ran twice as many horses. Pletcher's numbers: an incredible 40-18-18 from 106 starters.

Oh, yes. The Toddster has long-since clinched the Gulfstream title with a 32-22-16 record from 133 starters.

As mentioned in this space last week, Pletcher is in position to run eight in the Kentucky Derby -- or 40 per cent of the field -- in an attempt to win the Roses for the first time. He is 0-for-31 in the Derby, including a five-pack in the '07 edition.

For the Wood, Pletcher will run Fountain of Youth winner Eskendereya, who will need a one-two finish to make the earnings cut. Chances are that won't be a problem because the chestnut will be 3-5.

John Velazquez will be up from Florida to ride Eskendereya in the Wood, while Ramon Dominguez, New York's perennial top gun, will replace Jeremy Rose on Schoolyard Dreams, the Tampa Bay Derby runner-up.

The Wood field likely will be completed by Awesome Act, the Gotham winner; Jackson Bend, Carnivore, Turf Melody and Nicky Boy, a maiden filly beaten a combined 120 lengths in two starts.

Lookin at Lucky will be favored under regular rider Gomez in the Santa Anita Derby, with main speed Sidney's Candy the likely second choice. Other probables are Alphie's Bet, Caracortado, Setsuko, Skipshot, Thomas Baines, Cardiff Giant, Who's Up, and Posse's Power. Speaking of chestnuts, two of my favorite chestnut horses of all time are in the news this week.

Raise a glass to Secretariat on Tuesday, the 40th anniversary of his birth.

And a fond RIP to Crafty Prospector, who passed away last weekend on a Kentucky farm at the age of 31.

Although, Crafty Prospector never won a Grade One, and his career earnings were a mere $140,000, he proved to be one of the greatest stallions in history. One of his offspring was a beautiful chestnut filly named Crafty Starlet, whom I bred, named and co-owned with Jimmy Iselin and Karen Soben in the late '80s.

After showing flashes in California, and a :46 bullet work at Belmont Park, Crafty was entered by trainer Parisella for a maiden-special at Belmont Park. Since The Mig, who had been working her, had another commitment for the race, she needed a rider.

At the time, toiling as the beat writer/handicapper for the New York Post. I called Jerry Bailey at home, and the conversation went like this:

Piesen: "Jerry, since you're such a good guy, I'm going to put you on a winner Thursday, a filly for Parisella."

Bailey: "This is a little unconventional...but you're on."

With Bailey up, Crafty Starlet won by a nose. She went on to become a stakes-winner in South America, and lived happily ever after as a broodmare.

Never got the chance to thank Jerry...so thanks Jerry.

Before I forget, I need to comment on the events in Dubai last Saturday.

In case you missed it, they ran seven stakes races, up to and including the $10 million Dubai Cup, and the results were, to put it mildly, inscrutable.

The evening started with $38.40 and $29 winners. Then, following $5.40 and $11.40 winners, all hell broke loose in the three Grade Ones.

In the $5 million Dubai Duty Free, the winner was Al Shemali at a mere $292.20. The exacta paid $2,754.40; the trifecta $23,125.60; the super $568,258.40, and the pick three $4,243.60.

In the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic , the winner was Dar Re Mi at $26.20. The exacta paid $215; the trifecta $1,224.20; the super $21,463.80, and the pick three $48,241.60.

And in the $10 million Dubai Cup, the winner was Gloria de Campeao at $52.40. The exacta paid $1,054.80; the trifecta $8,391.40; the super $64,496.20; the pick three $231,446.60...and the pick six (four of six) $13,570.90.

I have to believe that Steve Crist, Mr. Pick Six and my old boss at Daily Racing Form, didn't cash inasmuch as he blogged:

"The richest horse race in history was staged in Dubai earlier today, and the results might as well have been drawn out of a hat."

We even got the Dubai Cup right in this space last Friday...well, up to a point.

We said: "It says here that one of those fancy Euros is going to beat (the favored) Gio Ponti."

Sure 'nuff, Mr. Ponti finished fourth.

As for my Derby Top, it stays intact from last week, but clearly will undergo some changes next week in the wake of the Wood and Santa Anita Derby.

Here goes...

1. Noble's Promise McPeek Arkansas The Arkansas Derby chalk
2. Lookin at Lucky Baffert California Worked 1:12 for SA Derby.
3. Eskendereya Pletcher New York Best of Toddster eight-pack.
4. Alphie's Bet Barba California SA Derby is make-or-break.
5. Dublin Lukas Arkansas Thompson gets him back.
6. Awesome Act Noseda New York Second choice in the Wood.
7. Odysseus Albertrani Florida Blue Grass or Ark. Derby.
8. Rule Pletcher Florida May be loose on the lead.
9. Make Music For Me Barba California Mike Smith's Derby choice.
10. Ice Box Zito Florida Next stop is Louisville.

It will be interesting to see what riders go where. At the present time, jockeys Velazquez, Leparoux, Albarado, Maragh and Cohen all have at least two options.

Thanks again for checking in. See you back here Friday for a detailed look at the Wood and Santa Anita Derby. Then it's off to Hot Springs for the Apple Blossom and Arkansas Derby.


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