The Point Is Eleven
THE POINT IS ELEVEN
by John Piesen
As far as Racing In America is concerned on Saturday, the point is 11.
There will be an 11-race program at each of this country's three major population centers on Saturday, and each of said programs will be highlighted by a significant stakes race for Triple Crown hopefuls -- the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in South Ozone Park in the New York City borough of Queens; the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne in south Chicago, and the Santa Anita Derby in Arcadia, Cal., an affluent Los Angeles suburb,
What with the Grade One holiday, the Final Four, the opening of the baseball season (go Buccos), and the return to action of Eldrick Woods, that doesn't allow much time for a sports fan to handicap 33 races in one day. Which is why the author of this column, who moonlights as president and CEO of the world-famous John Piesen Hot Line (888 612 2283), and the Season of Piesen, is glad to make his 1-2-3 picks on all 33 races available on-line and on the JPHL.
The Hot Line has been unconscious for two months, nailing winners at a 45 per clip, many of them at double-digit prices. Last weekend alone, the HL hit the $775.40 trifecta box in the 13-horse Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, and, at Turfway Park, had five winners on top, plus four cold exactas and a cold $102 Pick Three on the final three races on the program.
And, for good measure, JP went two-for-two on Sunday, nailing a $19.60 exacta at Gulfstream Park, and a $6.60 winner (on a horse who was 6-1 on the program) in the Oaklawn Park finale. All right, we'll throw those two back.
Speaking of Oaklawn, that track's celebrated annual Racing Festival of the South kicks off Friday with the $300,000 Fantasy for 3-year-old fillies, and follows up Saturday with the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap for older males.
After three dark days, Oaklawn will resume with stakes races on Wednesday and Thursday, and then will roll out the heavy artillery next weekend with superstar Zenyatta in the $500,000 Apple Blossom on Friday, and the $1 million Arkansas Derby, which will feature heavy hitters Dublin and Noble's Promise, on closing day Saturday.
If you're in the Hot Springs area the next 10 days, stop by to visit at OP or at the Piesen Quadrangle, and/or catch my morning seminars across Central Avenue at the Crosswalks Tavern, which also is known for its good taste in wine, women and song, Southern style.
As for the Wood, my good friend Steve Crist points out that in the last 30 years, only one Wood winner (Fusaichi Pegasus) went on to win the Kentucky Derby...although several Wood runner-ups, notably Funny Cide and Monarchos, went on to capture the Roses.
The wise guys are telling us that Eskendereya only has to throw his glove in the ring to join FuPeg as a Wood-Derby winner. In fact, the gentleman from the New York Times suggested the other day that Eskendereya is a lock in the Wood, and that Lookin at Lucky likewise is a lock in the Santa Anita Derby.
With all due respect for the GFTNYT, racing should only be that simple.
Maybe it all depends on the venue. On Wednesday, for example, the betting favorite won 10 of the 11 races at Freehold Raceway in Central Jersey...while at the same time only one favorite on the 10-race program emerged victorious on the opening day of the Aqueduct main track -- and that was in the final race of the day no less.
The bottom line: the form says that Eskenderya will win the Wood, that Lookin at Lucky will win the Santa Anita Derby (both at 60 cents to the dollar), and the media will spend the next four weeks telling us that the Kentucky Derby is a two-horse race (East vs. West; Pletcher vs. Baffert), and that no one else should bother to show up.
Life should only be so simple.
The Wood will be raced as race nine; the Illinois Derby as race seven, the Santa Anita Derby as race six, and all will be aired nationally during a one-hour window on NBC.
Moreover, the Wood will go as the third leg in the Guaranteed $500,000 Graded Stakes Four at the Big A. A life-changing payoff must be considered rather remote since Leg One (the $200,000 Bay Shore) has six betting interests; Leg Two (the $200,000 Excelsior) has six betting interests; Leg Three (the $750,000 Wood) has six betting interests, and Leg Four (the $250,000 Carter) has five betting interests.
Now let's take a look at the Pick-Four.
Eightyfiveinafifty has been working lights-out since his Whirlaway disaster, and will be coupled with Caposella winner Castaneda as the odds-on entry from Team Contessa in the seven-furlong, Grade Three Bay Shore for 3-year-olds.
Hard to believe, but his Caposella victory makes Castaneda the lone stakes-winner in the field of seven.
El Rocco, a four-times stakes-placed colt from Levine, was purchased as a yearling for $3,500, and already has banked $125,370.
Three of the six horses in the $200,000, Grade Three Excelsior for 3-and-up at nine furlongs chased home Understatement in the Stymie at the same distance over the inner track.
National Pride, who made the early pace, finished second; Nite Light was third, and More Than A Reason fifth. The latter came back win an allowance by six lengths on a wet IDT.
Goldsville is first-time Dominguez.
Eskendereya (Alexandra in Egyptian) will need to hit the board in the nine-furlong, Grade One Wood Memorial to make the money cut for the Derby, but I'd say the chances are good that he will for Pletcher/Velazquez.
Jeremy Rose lost Schoolyard Dreams to Dominguez, and Jackson Bend to Borel. Awesome Act picks up seven pounds off his Gotham win.
Jackson Bend was five-for-six for trainer Gold; 0-for-two for trainer Zito.
Most Happy Fella was named by owner Bob Quigley for the standardbred champion from the '80s
Pletcher/Johnny V combo right back with another favorite -- Munnings in the $250,000, Grade One Carter for 3-and-up at seven furlongs.
Dominguez replaces Centeno on Musket Man, who, last year won the Tampa Bay and Illinois Derbys, and was third to Rachel in the Preakness.
Hunch-players will note that Digger (Luzzi riding for Bruce Brown) did most of his winning when owned by Duke all-American Bob Hurley Jr.
Good luck this weekend, and don't forget to check out the Aqueduct, Santa Anita and Hawthorne full-cards on the John Piesen Hot Line.
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