The Piesen Papers and Horses To Watch
THE PIESEN PAPERS
(Volume I - Number 1)
Thursday, February 9
EVENLY MATCHED FIELD OF SIX SET TO CONTEST (DERBY PREP) GRADE II HUTCHESON STAKES
FIRST OF FOUR STRAIGHT GRADED STAKES ON OPPORTUNITY LADEN GULFSTREAM PARK LINEUP SATURDAY John Piesen Ready To Cash Huge Pick 4
All thoroughbred racing fans and bettors will have their eyes on Gulfstream Park this Saturday as the Jewel of Winter Racing has put together the BEST SINGLE DAY PROGRAM presented so far in 2012.
Races 8-11 will be an ALL STAKES PICK FOUR that begins with a compact field of evenly matched 3-year olds traveling 7 furlongs in the Hutcheson Stakes and concludes when 10 graded stakes winning or placed runners take to the turf in the 9 furlong Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.
Of course those are just the bookends to a program that also includes a full field of 10 fillies and mares in the Grade III Suwannee River Stakes, run at 9 furlongs on the turf course and the signature Grade I Donn Handicap, one of the nation's top races for older horses. The Donn, to be run at 9 furlongs on the main track drew a field of 11 top notch stakes runners, including Grade I Clark and Grade I Stephen Foster runner-up Mission Impazable, Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice, Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Flat Out and Grade I Preakness Stakes winner and Grade I BC Mile runner up Shackleford among others.
JOHN PIESEN IS ON RECORD
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While trainer Jonathan Sheppard has made a bit of noise about being unhappy with the latest work by expected Hutcheson Stakes post time favorite Ever So Lucky...noise that has led to speculation about the possible scratch of the Indian Charlie colt, Sheppard, who has to know his colt needs to run (only two lifetime starts - both as a 2-year old) if he is going to be positioned as a Derby contender down the road.
Ever So Lucky turned in brilliant five furlong drill in :59 1/5 over a fast GP surface on 1/30 and then on 2/6 went 1:01 3/5 over a sloppy race track. Even at 90% this MSW winner and Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes runner-up should be a handful. Regular rider Julien Leparoux is scheduled to get the leg up.
Although the Hutcheson drew only six entrants, there is some serious contention. Wildcat Creek ships in from Tampa bay where he ran a bang up second at this same 7 furlong distance in the Pasco Stakes, getting to the lead from just off the pace and just getting nipped. The Eddie Plesa trained son of Wildcat Heir is in fine form and could be in the thick of this.
Of course they can't run a Graded Stakes for 3-year olds without Todd Pletcher being involved so he throws the A.P. Warrior colt Thunder Moccasin right into the deep water following a bang up maiden win (100 BRIS speed number) in his only career start. Three sharp half mile breezes say he is tight.
Trainer Susan Crowell ships down from New York with the ultra sharp Il Villano. The son of Pollard's Vision cuts back to 7 panels after setting the pace and finishing a close third to Withers repeat winner and front line derby contender Alpha in the Count Fleet Stakes over the Aqueduct IDT. The colt has shown plenty of sprint ability already with wins at PARX in the Southhampton Stakes and over the Aqueduct Main Track in the overnight Lord Hennbee Stakes.
Not dissuaded from taking up the challenge, impressive last out Gulfstream Park MSW winner Quick Wit from the Dale Romans barn and equally decisive last out Gulfstream Park entry allowance winner Tarpey's Goal complete the field.
The Hutcheson will be run as Race 8 on the program and will be followed in sequence by the Grade III Suwannee River, Grade I Donn Handicap and Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. Each of the three races has drawn a full field, so that is why John Piesen is convinced that the Exotic Combos, Rolling Doubles and Pick 3 and 4 Combos will provide great returns.
A total of ten 4-year old and up fillies and mares have signed on for the Grade III Suwannee River Stakes, to be run at a mile and an eighth over the turf course.
Denomination, a winner of three Grade III grass races from four starts a year ago makes her 2012 debut for Christophe Clement following a series of well-in-hand breezes at Payson Park. The daughter of Smart Strike was a winner of the Athenia Stakes at Belmont this past October following a 4 ½ month break so the respite since November should not be a problem for the professional 6-year old mare.
Snow Top Mountain, a multiple Stakes winner moves back into the graded ranks following a strong rally in a conditioned allowance race at Tampa in her last. The 5-year old daughter of Najran has finished first or second in a total of 10 of her 16 lifetime turf tries and has turned in a pair of sharp breezes here since the January 8 try in Tampa.
Another mare that is in sharp form is the 6-year old daughter of Stormy Atlantic, Cumulonimble. The Wayne Catalano trainee was sharp in winning a third level allowance/optional claimer over this turf course with a solid rally on 1/13 and turned in a superb bullet 5 furlong drill here 6 days ago. She has won three of four and is very sharp right now and John Velazquez takes the reins.
Heavenly Landing steps looks to duplicate her Grade III Marshua's River Stakes when she came from far back in the field to get up in the final jump at 19-1. The Eddie Kenneally trained daughter of Pulpit has now moved right through conditions with a 3 race win streak and figure to love the additional sixteenth of a mile in here.
Also figuring to draw attention are Shug McGaughey's Hit It Rich and Martin Wolfson's Speak Easy Girl. Each has solid front end speed and if either can relax just a bit while pressing what figures to be an honest pace they could be around for a piece. The former has won three of four, including the Grade III Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct when last seen on November 12 and the latter outlasted Snow Mountain at Tampa in a conditioned allowance on 1/8 before running third in the Sunshine Millions F&M Turf here two weeks ago.
Completing the field are Thundering Emilia, who was a close up 6th in the Marshua's River, Gold D'oro who steps back up after two straight wins vs slightly lesser, Here To Win, who showed marked improvement vs third level allowance rivals for trainer Kieran McLaughlin in just her second NA start and Persuading, a Broken Vow mare who has good tactical speed but has yet to show consistent grass form with only one win from nine lifetime sod tries.
Race 10 is the Grade I Donn Handicap, one of the nation's more important races for the older handicap division.
Every runner in the race is at least graded stakes placed, so this figures to be a solid betting race. Let's take a look from the rail out.
Where's Sterling - Two for two at the 9 furlong distance the Nick Canani (23% at the meet) trained son of Northern Afleet has turned in three straight triple digit BRIS Speed Numbers including a just beaten second in the Grade II Hawthorne Gold Cup. Has had two solid drills over the track for his 2012 debut.
Mission Impazable - Erratic son of Unbridled's Song finished second in the Grade I Clark and second in the Grade I Stephen Foster (both at Churchill Downs.) In between he was off the board in three straight Graded events. The Todd Pletcher conditioned horse has breezed forwardly at Palm Meadows and has a pair of placings in two tries over the track. Regular pilot Javier Castellano is aboard.
Ruler On Ice - The Belmont stakes winner and BC Classic third place finisher makes his 4-year old debut for trainer Kelly Breen following 5 straight breezes spaced 7 days apart. The son of Roman Ruler will be ridden by Anna Napravnik for the first time and is tough to gauge. On his best he can beat this field on any surface. Yet he is 0-4 at the 9 furlong distance and as often runs even late as he does finish the job. If you like him you can't be argued with, but you will take a shorter price than you should.
Redeemed - The Richard Dutrow trained 4-year old has won 5 of 8 in his career, including season ending victories last October on the Oklahoma Derby and in November in the Grade III Discovery at Aqueduct. He has three straight solid 6 furlong drills over the surface since 1/20 and if he continues to mature could prove as could as these as he makes his first start since mid-November.
Soaring Empire - Only two wins since November of 2010 (8 races) were victories in the 100K Majestic Light at Monmouth this past July and in the Grade III Hal's Hope Stakes over this surface in January of 2011. Trainer cam Gambolati is aiming high with this likely miler.
Al Kahli - With only a pair of thirds to show for his last five (all Grade I turf tries) trainer Bill Mott has entered the 6-year old son of Medaglia D'oro both here on dirt where he has won 3 of 6 in his career and also cross entered him in the Turf handicap in race 11. This wouldn't be the first time Mott pulled off a successful switch from grass to dirt and the horse certainly has worked well for his return from a September layoff and has plenty of class.
Flat Out - If the horse that won the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Grade II Suburban at Belmont last year shows up he'll have a lot to say in the outcome. He was the beaten favorite when he checked in third in the BC Classic and probably ran back too soon after that in the Grade I Clark handicap 20 days later. He was given time off and prepped for this by trying the turf for the first time in his career on 1/14 and the less said about that experiment the better. If that was just a good work and he regains his old form he could be a player.
Trickmeister - Trainer Richard Dutrow makes an ambitious leap with this lightly raced 5-year old son of Proud Citizen. The horse is 5 for 5 lifetime, but his last two races were the 60K Pleasant Colony here on December 17 and the 75K Pleasant Colony at Saratoga in August of 2010. Like he has with Redeemed, Dutrow has worked him long and hard...four straight 6 furlong drills in solid times over the track. Lots of speed and a serious class test. Interesting.
Shackleford - The gritty Preakness Stakes winner, Haskell Invitational runner up and Indiana Derby runner up has only turned in one total clunker in his last eight races...all at the Grade I or Grade II level. He returns off a long series of strong breezes as he makes his first try since running second in the Grade I BC Dirt Mile in early November. At some he figures to press the pace throughout and takes them as far as he will. If it winds up being all the way it wouldn't be a surprise.
Hymn Book - Shug McGaughey's Grade I Cigar Mile runner up is another making his 2012 debut in the Donn. The 6-year old Arch gelding has 6 wins and 4 place finishes from 13 career starts but with the Cigar Mile having arguable been a soft field in 2011 it is possible that this is a stiff test for a horse that has garnered those wins vs low level stakes and allowance conditioned opponents. Tough post for a runner that has a stiff class test to pass.
Sangaree - Hasn't won a race in almost two years and is 0-5 since crossing over from since returning from the three race Meydan series in the United Arab Emirate last February and March. Trainer Kieran McLaughlin is no stranger to moving a horse up, but he'll be a real surprise if he can move up this much in class and do so from the far outside post.
Race 11 moves back to the turf as they complete the All Graded Stakes Pick 4 with the Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.
What makes this race interesting is that it shapes up as being a highly competitive Grade I test because only Get Stormy has, in recent years visited a Grade I winner's circle.
If none scratch ten runners, including Al Khali, who is cross entered in the Donn will face the starter. And it looks as though the crop of capable Grade III level runners should combine for a contested affair.
Two time Grade I winner Get Stormy, who was well beaten when in over his head in the Grade I BC Mile Turf looks to get back to his consistent performances (6 straight combined graded wins and placings) as he makes his first start since the November 5th debacle. Trainer Tom Bush has worked him well for the return and if he gets his customary spot in the early going could be tough.
Of course based on the class he has kept, even if he hasn't managed to crack the top spot hurdle, should Al Khali be sent here instead of the Donn, he could correct that oversight simply based on the fact that could be the softest field he's seen in a while.
Also figuring to make themselves noted is a trio of in-form runners, Silver Medallion, Hollinger and Boisterous.
Silver Medallion has notched two straight Grade III triumphs, the Fort Lauderdale Stakes here in mid-January and the Tropical Turf Handicap at Calder on December 2nd. The Todd Pletcher trained 4-year old has shown both tracking speed and closing ability so could get a great trip from the rail.
Hollinger also turned in solid efforts in the Fort Lauderdale and Tropical Turf Handicap, rallying for the show behind Silver Medallion in each. He'll appreciate what appears to be enough pace and the 9 furlong distance in this one.
Like Silver Medallion, Boisterous has also won his last two. The 5 year old Distorted Humor horse captured the Grade III Knickerbocker Handicap at Belmont and the Grade II Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct this past fall before being given a break by trainer Shug McGaughey. He returns following five January works on the turf and dirt her at Gulfstream followed by a sharp half mile breeze around the dogs on 2/5. John Velazquez, who rode him in 8 of his last 9 gets the assignment.
Another who could rediscover his best form is Graham Motion's Smart Bid. The son of Smart Strike disappointed as the even money favorite in the PTHA President's Cup Stakes at Parx last September. Seven of his eight races prior to that were vs graded company and he amassed a 1-4-1 mark from those seven. Regular rider Edgar Prado is up as the 6-year old looks to build off of 7 works over the Pam Meadows turf course since 12/23 and regain his past form.
Also signed on are Fort Lauderdale runner up Yummy With Butter, who showed marked improvement losing by a neck at 17-1 and Big Blue Kitten, who won the 3-year old age group Grade II Hall Of fame at Saratoga last August and last turned in a deep rallying third in a third level allowance at a mile and a sixteenth here on 12/31.
Completing the field is Yankee Fortune, who has won 5 of 8 on the grass vs softer and returns from a 12/23 layoff and Kindergarden Kid, who has also faced softer with some success and did show some good late foot to finish fourth in the Fort Lauderdale.
This is a terrific series of four back-to-back-to-back-to-back races that fans should love and bettors should love even more. AND IF YOU WANT TO TAKE THE MAXIMUM RETURN ALL YOU NEED DO IS...
LET JOHN PIESEN GIVE YOU ALL HIS SELECTIONS FOR THE FOUR GULFSTREAM GRADED RACES
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JOHN PIESEN'S "HORSES TO WATCH LIST"
February 1 - February 5: Selected List Of Horses Ready To Win Now
NOTE: Below is a list of horses that have run recently at Aqueduct Race Track and Gulfstream Park that have indicated they are ready to win soon under the conditions noted. You should bet these horses the next two times they run, as long as they do so under the conditions noted and stop on them after they win or fail twice.
AQUEDUCT RACE TRACK
ADMIRAL PERRY - The Shug McGaughey trained colt shipped up from Gulfstream and turned in a solid effort behind a 7-10 winner in a second level allowance sprint. The 4-year old willingly chased the pace setting winner, angled out at the quarter pole and was resolute in holding the place spot. Beats this kind soon.
BRIDGE TO NOWHERE - 5-year old claiming gelding was compromised by a moderate pace and wide trip vs 17.5K rivals in last but despite getting caught 4 wide in 6 horse mile and 70 yard race still continued on in the stretch to gain the show spot while beaten just 2 lengths. Better pace and cleaner trip gets it done vs same.
ESTRELLA VEGA - 15K claiming filly broke last out of the gate and rushed up to stalk the pace in the 6 furlong sprint. The Eddie Kenneally trainee could have retired after that early effort but stayed on for the place and deserves another chance when sprinting vs the same level opponents.
EXPECTING CASH - Improved effort by the 4-year old colt in 30K two turn claimer last time out. He was wide throughout and made slight headway to move into second vs drop down runaway winner and held show spot after giving way grudgingly in final strides. Haltered by trainer John Good he should win back vs same or slightly better.
FALAAH - Better late than never. The 5-year old horse finally broke his maiden in January by wiring a MSW field in solid time at 6 furlongs. He came right back to destroy an entry level allowance field, sprinting away 5 lengths in an eye-popping 1:09 3/5 under a brisk hand ride. Should continue running well as he moves through conditions.
INFLATION TARGET - After a promising debut New Year's Day the 3-year old Tapit colt made his second career start a winning one as he tracked the pace professionally, moved up passing the quarter pole and drew clear in the stretch in the 6 furlong MSW test. The Richard Violette trainee appears well on his way to moving through the entry level allowance condition.
MOONLIGHT SONG - 5-year old Unbridled's Song gelding made belated career debut a winning one as he went right to the front and widened the margin throughout the mile and 70 yard MSW event. The Charlton Baker trainee also took significant money (off at 9-5) so is probably prepared to win back soon vs restricted NYSB entry level foes.
NITARA - Very nice debut for the Indian Charlie filly as she rated well in hand out of the gate struck the front at the 3/8ths pole and drew clear in the 6 furlong dash without feeling the whip. Zayat stable filly shouldn't need much time before winning at next level for trainer Eric Reed.
WISTFUL WILDCAT - After running an even third traveling 6 furlongs vs NYSB MSW opponents, the John Parisella trained gelding stretched out to a mile and 70 yards in most recent and did well to get a clear third after setting the pace from the inside and giving way to the two favorites after bouncing off the rail in mid-stretch while tiring. Should build on the foundation if sent two turns again or just as live coming off the pace if shortened back to three-quarters.
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BULL HOLE - Disregarded after failing to sustain his speed when caught wide vs the same 10K claiming rivals two back, the Steve Budhoo trained gelding settled nicely off the pace in most recent at the same mile distance and rallied strongly through the lane while 4 wide to get the show. Could surprise soon at a nice price vs the same.
CERTAINTY - In her most recent the 3-yaer old filly was compromised after stumbling at the start of a 75K maiden claimer at a mile on the turf. She settled along the inside after the bad break, rallied to move towards the winner and took the place a ½ length shy of victory. Breaks her maiden soon if kept on the grass.
FARETTI - Tale of the Cat colt was away from the gate slowly when making his career debut Feb. 2 going 5 furlongs on the turf vs MSW foes. He raced wide on the turn, moved up in the stretch and ran down his rivals to just prevail. Bred to run longer he should win vs open company soon, especially if one of those 7 ½ furlong grass races fills. Follow closely.
FILM SHOT - Well bred daughter of Distorted Humor took the lead right out of the gate and wired a 7 ½ furlong turf MSW test in style. The Bill Mott trainee was ready in her 3-year old debut but was let go at 19-1 moving dirt to turf. Won't be long in taking the next step, but won't fetch that kind of price. Still worth betting back.
GLORIETTA BAY - Nice debut by the 3-year old Kieran McLaughlin trained filly in last. She came in following a series of solid works, ran with the pace throughout the two turn MSW event and got tired in the late stages while beaten 3 lengths for it all as she held the show spot well clear of the rest. Breaks her maiden soon.
IN CONTROL LORETTA - Low level claiming filly ran into traffic trouble for the second straight time vs the same 10K opponents in 6 furlong test in most recent. She checked to avoid running up on a rival yet found a way to get back in stride and rallied strongly for the show at 51-1. Probably a good price again facing the same so follow closely.
OFF LIMITS - The Bill Mott filly came up short in her first try off a layoff when making 3-year old and entry level allowance debut in 1 1/16th mile dirt test. She waited a while and rallied along the rail before needing a bit more late while beaten a length. Should be tighter at same level and distance in next.
TOWN OF TOWNS - It appears as though trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. found the right level and surface for this gelding as he dropped him from a 32K to 15K claimer and went turf to dirt. The 4-yaer old stumbled at the break but moved up to track the front runners while 4 wide and made a just-failed move to the winner (who was, oddly enough, dropping out of the same last race) and finished well clear of the show horse. Wins soon under the same conditions.
WENT THE DAY WELL - Stateside debut by the 3-year old and first try since October was promising. Now in the Graham Motion barn the colt was off a few steps slowly in the 9 furlong MSW event and after allowed to find his best stride rallied 4 wide on the far turn and was beaten less than 2 lengths. Should get it done in next, either on dirt or grass.
NOTE: You should print this list and keep for your records...plus return to these pages next Wednesday for an updated list.
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