By JOHN PIESEN
I must have missed the memo that said jockey Rosario has become a superstar.
Although he's made somewhat of an impact on the New York/Florida circuit since shipping from California, Rosario has yet to be confused with the Corderos. Baileys and Dominguezes of the Eastern time zone.
Yet on Saturday, Rosario ships from Florida to Aqueduct to ride major players in all three graded stakes, in each case for the first time: Sunny Desert in the Top Flight, Comma to the Top in the Tom Fool, and Vyjack in the Gotham.
All have early lick, and it would be no surprise if all three make the lead over the speed-favoring inner.
For my selections for the Gotham and Swale Derby Preps and Saturday Best Bets, click here to get these winners online or call the John Piesen Hot Line at 1-888-612-2283. You can get my Daily Best Bets here and ALL the remaining Derby Preps including Saturday's 2 races right here.
Looking at the three stakes in order:
After losing her first five starts, Sunny Desert has reeled off six straight wins for trainer Parisella, the last five with the sidelined Dominguez, and makes her stakes debut in the Top Flight, a 200K Grade 2 for fillies and mares at a mile and a quarter going as race seven on the 11-race card.
If Sunny Desert, whom Parisella claimed last year for 35K, pulls it off, he becomes -- at age 70 -- the story of the young year in New York racing.
Summer Applause, the only graded stakes-winner in the eight-horse field, is first time Chad Brown and first-time Johnny V.
Last time out, in a 400K stake at Sam Houston, her first start in eight months, she lost her irons, and was no factor. No doubt this time she'll be closing fastest.
Sisterly Love, third in that Houston race at a shorter price than Summer Applause, will be tough to catch with jockey Cohen if she makes a clear lead from her tough outside post.
Gary Barber, the owner of Sisterly Love, shoots for a stakes double with Comma in the 200K Tom Fool for three and up at six furlongs (race nine).
A racing millionaire, thanks to an 11-for-27 record on the west coast, Comma is fresh -- and we mean fresh -- from a close-up third in the San Carlos last Saturday at Santa Anita, where he dueled head-to-head through six panels in 1:08.
Clearly, with his west coast speed, Comma to the Top is they ke to the Tom Fool. From post two, Comma (and Rosario) can't afford a slow break.
The Baffert-trained Smash, first-time Ortiz, brings some fancy west coast credentials of his own. And he has the advantage of the outside post in the field of 10.
That brings us to the 400K Gotham, the only Derby prep on the national calendar this weekend. The Grade 3 goes as race 10 at a mile and a sixteenth, and Remsen winner Overanalyze will be making his first start for Pletcher/Johnny V since winning the Remsen by a nose over Normandy Invasion in late November.
Stablemates Shanghai Bobby and Violence, as well as Normandy Invasion, are just three 2-year-old stars who tasted defeat in their 3-year-old debut, so where does that leave Overanalyze, especially from Death Valley in post 12?
Violence came back lame after his second to Orb (a Piesen Hot Line goodie at $12.80 last weekend in the Fountain of Youth), but the Toddster still has an armada aimed for the Derby.
Overanalyze and Vyjack are the lone graded stakes-winners in the large field so clearly this is not the mother of all Gothams, but it's also a Gotham that is wide-open.
Vyjack, 3-for-3 in his light career, is the first serious racehorse for Rudy the Trainer. RR is already feeling the heat because he made a jockey change from Corny Velasquezto Rosario, although he says it was the owner's call.
Trainer McLaughin has three -- Transparent, Now and Then and Elwaani -- coming into the Gotham, and who knows if there is a Bernardini in the bunch?
Then there is Ore Pass, who is 2-for-3 out-of-town for the Meyerhoffs, who have been looking for the second coming of Spectacular Bid since 1980.
The Gotham notwithstanding, potentially the best 3-year-old to see action on Saturday well may be Titletown Five in something called the Gazebo, a $60,000 six-furlong race at Oaklawn.
Trainer Lukas, like protege Pletcher, has a bunch of talented 3-year-olds in the barn, but Titletown Five, co-owned by Paul Hornung (thus the name) is considered by racing insiders as the best of the lot.
Titletown Five makes his first start since Oct. 28 when he beat maidens by nine at Churchill Downs, but has been training lights out at Hot Springs.
Of course, he'll have to win a major prep (see the Rebel and Arkansas Derby) to make the points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.
Speaking of Oaklawn, jockey Borel continues to wait for that elusive 5,000th winner. After missing the first month of the meeting with a broken wrist, Calvin has gone 0h-for-12, and is not getting much business, due, in part, to the fact that long-time agent Hissam is hospitalized.
We wish Jerry well, as we do popular track photographer Jeff Coady, who is battling a serious illness at his Texas home.
Borel also made news this week when it was announced he is among the nominations for the Hall of Fame. We wish him well. As we do the late Chris Antley.
It is still unfathomable that jockey Snyder and trainer Moschera remain on the outside looking in.
Otherwise, kudos to the winner of the $3.6 million pot in the Rainbow Pick Six. The winner, who wants to remain anonymous, bought his ticket for $3,175 at an OTB parlor in New Jersey.
The ticket included multi-pix in the first five legs, capped by the single of Feline Forum in the final leg.
The 3-year-old filly, trained by fellow Jerseyan Orseno , finished ninth in her first two starts, beaten a combined 56 lengths, but was first-time Lasix and first-time blinkers, and won handily under Paco Lopez at 10-1.
There were four other live tickets going into the race, all on longshots.
A Rainbow winner was bad news for Gulfstream, which was looking for a $10-to-$12 million pool to be distributed on closing day.
The other noteworthy news of the week was the disqualification from first to last of Paige's Prize, a 2-5 shot in the first race on Monday at Beulah Park.
The stewards' decision was a costly one for bridge-jumpers, who poured 120K to show on Paige's Prize, who was first across the wire by 12 1/2 lengths.
The so-callled foul was borderline. In fact, the owner of Paige's Rize called it the "worst call" in his 40 years on the track, and is considering an appeal.
On the other hand, at Aqueduct on Thursday, Siero, the favorite in race seven, took out half the field crossing over at the start -- but not even a beef.
The media is so busy screaming about steroids. How come no one says boo about officiating..
A most recent example was when the Big Eight admitted the next day that there were "errors" by the referees in the nationally-televised Kansas-Iowa State game on Monday evening that gave the game to Kansas.
There has been nothing written or said of the incident by the media.
Thanks for tuning in. Good luck this week, don't forget to check out the John Piesen Hot Line 1-888-612-2283 and see you back here next Friday.
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