Names In The News

NAMES IN THE NEWS

By JOHN PIESEN

Last week, we celebrated Fourstardave, who won at least one race at Saratoga for eight straight years, by running the $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap -- and Johnny V, the son-in-law of Leo O.Brien, Dave's trainer, won the race on Wise Dan.

This week we celebrate an achievement oftrainer Jonathan Sheppard.

When Long Jon won the second race Thursday with History Book, he stretched his personal Saratoga winning streak to 45 years. Correct. Long Jon, despite all the tragedy in his life, has won at least one race (and usually a lot more) at the Spa since 1967.

I would be happy to campaign for Jonathan Sheppard for the Hall of Fame...if he wasn't already there.

Now if the good people at the Museum would only recognize Gasper Moschera, Larry Snider and Maggi Moss.

Speaking of Maggi, the nation's top female owner will leave her Des Moines digs to make her first-ever Saratoga appearance next Wednesday. If you run into her, you needto ask her about her Schuylerville winner,and maybe offer to buy her a drink at the Jim Dandy Bar.

Course I'm sure she'll be impressed if you showed her my ads from Saturday's editions of Daily Racing Form -- in the Saratoga and Arlington past performances

As for Sheppard,Long Jon is one of four prominent "S" horseman who deserve space in today's column.

The others are Mike Smith. Gregg Sacco and the Shugster.

First Smith.

When BC Juvenile winner Hanson got whacked at odds-on two weeks back in the West Virginia Derby, it was inevitable that owner Hanson would react by firing Mike Smith. Sure enough, owner Hanson announced yesterday that top jock Castellano will ride horse Hanson in the Travers a week from Saturday. Very likely that Hanson will be the only Grade One winner in what will be the 50th anniversary of the Jaipur-Ridan Travers.Whether Hanson can get a mile and a quarter is another matter.

In case you missed the West Virginia Derby, a hopeless 50-1 shot, with Eddie Martin aboard, buried Hanson in a speed duel. After the fact, the connections of that 50-1 shot (who finished fifth, beaten 20 lengths) were seen celebrating down at the fence, and Martin later told Smith: "Sorry Mike...I had to do it."

From my standpoint, I couldn't care less that Hanson got shafted.It's the thousands of bettors who bet and lost millions of dollars that concern me. And should concern the folks who run racing. This game is tough enough...

This is the second time this summer that Smith lost a big horse. After seconds in all three Triple Crown races, Smith got dumped by trainer Baffert from Paynter forthe Haskell. Bejarano got the ride, and Paynter won from here to Wildwood.

But Mike is resilient. On Saturday, he will ride the odds-on Lady of Shamrock, the West Coast's best 3-year-old filly, in the Del Mar Oaks.

Then there's Sacco.

Greggis showing signs of his customarysecond half explosion at Monmouth Park, and, to that end, he has four shots Saturday -- Brianna's Song (race six); Ice Pilot (race seven); Silent Appeal (race eight), and Sinatra's Prince (race 11).

(Toby's Corner, the 2011 Wood Memorial winner, will be tough to handle with Prado in the 10th-race feature, the Iselin Handicap. Not long ago this race was worth 500K; now it's 150K). Such is life down the shore.

And, finally, the Shugster.

The fellow who gave us (among others) Easy Goer, Personal Ensign, Rhythm, Heavenly Causeand Inside Information has major players in all three Saturday marquee races -- Boisterous in the Arlington Million, Point of Entry in the Sword Dancer, and Sea Island in the Alabama.

Boisterous has won multiple grass stakes in New York for Shug McGaughey and the Phipps family, and might even go favored Saturday against the usual strong international contingentin the Million.

A hard-luck second last time, Boisterous gets a rider change from Alan Garcia to Jose Lezcano, who just might be the best grass jock in the game. Lezcano
is fresh from winning the West Point on Thursday on the Saratoga grass on Lubash, a $9.50 best bet on the ever-popular John Piesen Hot Line 1-888-612-2283).

The horse to catch and beat is Little Mike, who also gets a rider change - from Joe Bravo to Ramon Dominguez. They are running six stakes Saturday at Arlington, and RD is sitting on major contenders in all of them. Afsare, Colombian and Crackerjack King look best of the invaders.

Point of Entry for sure will be the chalk under Johnny V. in the Sword Dancer. The 4-year-old has won his last three for the Shugster and the Phipps, including a blowout in the Man O'War.

One knock on Point of Entry. He is packing a career-high 123 pounds, and he's giving weight to all expect the Pletcher-trained Turbo Compresser, who looks the one to catch and beat with Bravo.

Brilliant Speed is first-time Castellano, who, with Dominguez and Lezcano in Chitown, is sitting on a big day.

Will someone explain why the Sword Dancer, a grass race, is named for a '50s superstar who never raced on grass.

Sea Island has a stretch-runner's puncher's chance in the Alabama, which shapes up as the race that will determine the 3-year-old filly champion, especially in the injury-enforced absence of Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can.

Rosario replaces Lezcano on Sea Island, who just may be the one to pick up the pieces in a speed-filled mile and a quarter.

Questing no doubt will try to repeat his front-end blowout in the nine-furlong Coaching Club American Oaks, but she is going longer this time against superior competition - notably Grace Hall, the likely favorite with Castellano, and West Coast shipper Via Villaggio.

Via Villaggio, a fast-closing second to Grace Hall in the shorter Delaware Oaks, may or may not be the next Blind Luck for trainer Hollendorfer -- like the Shugster, a Hall of Famer.

The Toddster (natch) has a shot with In Lingerie, who has the pedigree to run all day (Empire Maker out of a Storm Bird mare) but not the running style.

Grace Hall well may win the Alabama as the chalk...but I'll be trying to beat her.

Speaking of Pletcher, he has a 600K firster in race four at Saratoga who is sure to go favored.

The colt's name is Violence...and considering what's going on in the world at the present time, I'm thinking this is not an appropriate name.

That said, here's my weekly list of Saratoga Horses to Watch:

CRYPTO KITTEN -- Super-tough trip closing for second to Billboard Hit.

REIN KING -- Just failed to last through fast fractions. Wants outside post.

LATE STARTER -- Impossible trip for second to Volcano Run.

ROMAN RENEGADE -- The winner got the jump on him the other day.

BRIDGE LOAN -- Looking for softer spot than two-miles.

SOUTHERN HONOR -- No match for the winner in the Saratoga Special.

ANCHOVY -- Traffic issues from the one-hole at a short price.

CRAFTY DREAMER -- An unlucky second to B Shanny. Nail with Maragh.

GUYS REWARD -- Blew the break in the stake. Look for class relief.

AMBIT -- Trapped on rail 'til deep stretch. Deserves another chance.

Thanks for tuning in. Check out my picks online this weekend, go Buccos, and see you back here next week for a Travers preview.

19
Aug

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