A New York State of Mind
A NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
By John Piesen:
This won't be the first Joel fella with a New York State of Mind.
But if jockey Joel Rosario appproaches the success in New York of singer/songwriter Billy Joel, he sure will have them rockin' and rollin' in the aisles of New York racetracks.
First of all, I gotta like Rosario's honesty. He and his agent, Ron (Lover Man) Eubanks, announced last weekend that they would be pulling up tack in southern
California, where Rosario has been the long-time top dog, to make a career move to New York.
Is the factor that John Velazquez will be out indefinitely with shoulder and kidney injuries suffered in a terrible spill last Saturday at Churchill Downs a factor
in the decision?
"Yes, it was," said Eubanks.
As I said, you gotta love the honesty here. I can't remember the last time an agent told the truth when it served no purpose. And I can't remember the last time
a top California rider made it big in New York. Even Pincay and Shoemaker had only modest success trying to break into the Big Apple.
If you have any doubts about Rosario making the coast-to-coast transition, check out the re-play of the Easy Goer Stakes on the Belmont Stakes card.
Riding the lighty-raced 3-year-old Teeth of ther Dog for trainer Michael Matz, who, later in the day would win the Belmont Stakes with Union Rags,
Rosario found himself with the proverbial target on his back. New York riders don't like the idea of out-of-towners coming in and taking their money. (See Julien Leparoux).
But Rosario waited. And waited. Making no attempt to force his way out.
Finally, a sliver of an opening developed between horses near the quarter-pole, and Rosario gunned The Dog thru, and on to victory. If you thought that Matz was one relieved fella after the Belmont, you should have seen him after the Easy Goer.
I don't expect Rosario will dominate New York as he has southern California, but I believe he will be a huge factor in the New York colony. And it would be no surprise if the Big Three one day becomes the Big Four.
Speaking of jockeys, check out the quintet of New York's finest ansering the bell for tomorrow's Mother Goose, a $300,000 Grade 1 for 3-year-old fillies at 1/16 miles.
The field of five -- Believe You Can (Napravnik); Contested (Castellano); Disposable Pleasure (Dominguez); Wildcat's Smile (Lezcano) and Zo Impressive (Maragh) -- is in sharp contrast to the field of 12 entered in the Belmont Stakes.
Obviously, a lot of horseman paid big bucks to run against what seemed like a sure thing lock. You think maybe they knew something we didn't know. Alas, this is yesterday's news -- unless Gov. Cuomo wants to take a look.
Everytime they run the Mother Goose my mind races back to the ;80s and the day that Meadow Star, trained by Hall of Famer Leroy Jolley, beat Lite Light, owner by $33 million rock star Hammer, by a nostril in one of the great races of all time.
A DRF deskman (not me) remains justifiiably proud of his headline: "The Mother of All Gooses".
Larry Jones, for one, would like a sequel, but he has his doubts.
"This is easy to figure," Jones was saying this morning at his Belmont barm.
"Bob Baffert's filly (Contested) has so much speed. She flies out of the gate, and keeps truckin'. I"m afraid it's going to be like a merry-go-round out there with the horses lined up behind her. She'll be awful tough to catch."
After a tough loss in her Del Mar debut last summer, Contested has gone on to win her last four starts by a combined 22 lengths by the simple method
of going to the top, and improving her positiion.
Ironically, two starts back, Contested, a 110G Ghostzapper filly owned by Mrs. Baffert, on Derby Day at Churchill Downs wired the Eight Belles Stakes
by five lengths at even money.
The race had been re-named the Eight Belles to honor the wonderful filly who tragically broke down, and had to be put down seconds after finishing second to Big Brown in the '08 Derby.
In another remarkable piece of irony, Phyllis Wyeth, the owner of this year's Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags, spends her summers in her family home in Maine...a home her ancestors named Eight Belles. Rick Porter, who owned Eight Belles, named the filly for the Wyeth home.
As far as Saturday's race is concerned, Jones just "hopes Believe You Can can lay close to Bafffert's filly, and make a run at her at the end."
From this perspective, the Mother Goose is looking like a two-speed number, and, at best a $5 exacta. This race looks too short to include in my selections, but I'll have picks up on three other Belmont races online, and on the John Piesen Hot Line at 1-888-612-2283, which -- sorry for the cliche -- has been as hot as the weather.
Believe You Can, bred and owned by former Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones, includes four graded stakes victories in her 5-for-9 record, and last out became
racing's latest millionaire with her hard-earned victory over second-choice Broadway's Alibi and the favored Grace Hall in the Kentucky Oaks.
This was the second victory for Jones in the Kentucky Oaks (his first was Proud Spell), and the first career Grade One victory for her rider, the 25-year-old Napravnik.
Rosie got the mount on Believe You Can by chance when trainer Jones canned jockey Saez back in January. She was simply in the right place at the right time.
Jones and Saez have since been re-united, and Gabriel is back riding for Jones at Churchill, and at next-stop Ellis Park. But Saez won't be moving Rosie off Believe You Can.
Contested will break from the two-hole, right alongside Believe You Can in the dreaded one-hole. Both fillies exit triple-digit Beyer victories, and both are training lights out. We can only hope we see a "Mother of All Gooses" redux.
Asked about the recently-retired Havre de Grace, whom Jones campaigned to Horse of the Year 2011 (the third straight year a filly won HOY), Larry said that owner Porter plans to sell her at auction at Kentucky in October.
"Will you be a potential bidder?" I asked Jones.
"No chance," he said, "...I can't afford her."
Maybe old friend Ridd Pletcher will be interested -- on behalf of one of his deep-pocketed owners.
The Toddster currently is mired in a rare New York slump: 8-for-45 at Belmont, and now has to manage without main man Johnny V. for a while.
But let us not worry about Todd. While no one was looking last Saturday nght, he knocked off the $500,000 Colonial Cup with Turbo Pleasure, Joe Bravo up. And once we get to Saratoga in a month, I'm sure we'll see the usual bunch of running odds-on 2-year-olds from the man.
Johnny V will miss most if not all the Saratoga meeting, but you can be sure he'll make his Hall of Fame induction on Aug. 10. Richard Bomze (the owner of the legendary Fourstardave), who recently moved to Hollywood, Fla., will make his first Spa appearance in years to attend the induction.
Strange.We spent last Friday's column detailing Johnny V's upcoming busy Saturday: three mounts at Belmont (he won two); the private plane flight to Louisville; (a bitter nose defeat on Wise Dan in the Stephen Foster Handicap, followed by that calamitous spill, that will cost him the summer).
So now...enter Joel Rosario.
Thanks for tuning. Enjoy the racing weekend (and R. A. Dickey), keep the JP Hot Line at the ready, and see you back here next Friday.
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