Back on the Horse
BACK ON THE HORSE
By John Piesen
For my selections for the Florida and Louisiana Derby, and the Gulfstream Saturday Full Card click here.
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They say that when you take a fall from a horse you need to get right back on.
Last Saturday, I gave out on-line and on the John Piesen Hot Line (and bet) a 31-1 shot named Marathon Lady in the 100K Bourbonette Stakes at Turfway
Long story short.
Marathon Lady led for the last half-mile only to lose the bob by half a nose to a Pletcher filly named Silista (9-1). Most of the folks I watched the race with assured me that Marathon Lady had won. I thought so too. But the next thing I knew, the camera showed hundreds of Pletcherites celebrating in the winner's circle like they just won the Derby.
The baddest of beats...even if you had the $25.80 for place.
Now it's time to get right back on.
The opportunities are limitless this Saturday, but there are three stakes that stick out...for millions of reasons.
There is the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, the $1 million Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, and the $10 million Dubai World Cup in the desert.
And, best of all, all are wide-open betting races. Not an odds-on horse in sight.
Let's start with the Florida Derby (Race 12 at 6:19 p.m. Eastern).
A week back, we were looking at a field of three -- Shanghai Bobby, Orb and Itsmyluckyday -- for Florida's most important Derby Trail race. But then they started coming out of the woodwork, obviously realizing we're not talking about Affirmed, Alydar and Seattle Slew here, and presto, a 10-horse race.
And, I'll let you in on a secret. I'm picking against the big three.
Shanghai Bobby obviously was needing the race when he was beaten by Itsmylucky day two months back in the Holy Bull Stakes.
This (Bobby) is the most important ride in jockey Napranik's career. She announced yesterday that she plans to switch her tack from New York to Kentucky, and if she happens to win the Florida (and Kentucky) Derbys, she will be going to Kentucky having her virtual choice of mounts -- as she does at Fair Grounds, where she has long since wrapped up her third straight title.
Rosie is giving up major players in a half-dozen stakes at FG Saturday to ride Bobby for Pletcher, and for sure that's an obvious call.
Bobby was the champ at 2, he's had a race over the track, he has the rail over the speed-favoring Gulf strip, and figures to get a ground-saving trip.
But, and it's a big but...can Bobby get the nine-furlongs?
Unlike most young horses, Itsmyluckyday has not been treated with gloves. He's already had nine starts for trainer Plesa, by far the most of the
Florida Derby runners, and he's won five, including four stakes, capped by his legit two-length score over Bobby in the Holy Bull. Only once in those nine races did he go favored.
Lucky is the horse for the course, he's well-drawn in three, the distance sounds right, and jockey Trujillo is one of the best young whippersnappers in the game.
If Orb's silks look familiar they should. Back in the '70s the very same red and white
Janney silks were flown by the immortal Ruffian.
It took Orb four starts to break his maiden, but he comes into the FD the hottest horse in the field with three straight wins, including the Fountain of Youth at 5-1 in his stakes debut (.just as we called).
As was the case in the FOY, Orb will get a fast pace up front in the FD, and Johnny V retains the mount from the Shugster. The only knock is that Orb picks up six pounds, to a race-high 122.
Merit Man is the speed of race, and gets a rider change to Desormeaux. Indy's Illusion had a bad trip behind Orb when beaten two-plus lengths. Frac Daddy two back just missed in the Kentucky Jockey Club, and his last is a throw-out. Pick of the Litter's winning time for nine furlongs in a Gulf allowance was two seconds faster than Orb's time in the FOY, and the maiden Pontiff will get a big play at the Rome OTBs.
On to the Louisiana Derby (Race 9, 6:44 p.m. Eastern).
If Shanghai Bobby were to win the Florida Derby, the Toddster would be taking dead-aim at two million-dollar pots within 30 minutes with Revolutionary.
Aside: It may pay to see where Todd shows up Saturday.
Example: Two weeks back, Todd stayed at Gulfstream for a $150,000 filly/mare stake rather than go to Oaklawn for Delhomme in the 600K Rebel. Delhomme would finish dead last as the third choice.
Revolutionary is fresh from one of the all-time miracle races to win the Withers on the inner. By process of elimination, Revolutionary now stands second to Verrazano in Pletcher's Derby pecking order, and a Louisiana Derby win would send him to Louisville as the second choice in the KD.
But first Revolutionary has to get past the LD, which will be a lot different from the Withers. He's up in weight, distance and class, but Todd has beaten me before (many times) and may do so again.
Revolutionary certainly is drawn well in three with Castellano, but we're looking at major traffic with a 14-horse field, which includes six horses who finished within three lengths in the Risen Star.
Code West, best of those six when beaten a dirty nose by the since-injured Ivestruckanerve, may be the best of Baffert's armada of 3-year-olds, and trainer Stall, who gave us Horse of the Year Blame, has a dangerous uncoupled entry in Sunbeam and Departing, a combined 6-1-0 from seven starts.
And course who's hotter than the Lukas/Court combo? Titletown Five was regarded as D. Wayne's best 3-year-old prior to coming up short in a six-furlong stake, snd will be a price with Smiling Jon here.
And on to the Dubai World Cup (Meydan): (Race 9. 2:05 p.m. Eastern)
This is the richest race in the world. How rich? At $10 million, fully one-third of Johan Santana's 2013 salary.
Three big-time American horses made the 8,000-mile trip for the -- Animal Kingdom, Royal Delta and Dullahan.
All three have shots in the mile and a quarter race over the plastic, a race in which 10 of the 13 runners are millionaires.
Animal Kingdown, Rosario riding for Irwin and Motion, is drawn wide in the 12, but you may recall he won the 2011 Derby from the 16. He has been pointed for months for this race, likely his career finale.
Royal Delta has developed into a supestar since her troubled eighth in this race last year. But she was still a closer back then. Now she's a frontrunner who likely will try to wire this race with Smith riding for Mott.
Dullahan, Stevens riding for Romans, seems to be going in reverse, but don't forget he is 3-for-4 on plastic, and is at his best distance.
Of course if you don't care to box the three Americans, you can box the three Godolphins -- Hunter's Light, African Story and defending champion Monterosso.
After all, the sheiks own the racetrack, the concessions and most of the horses.
Finally, kudos to trainer Assmussen. Steve may not be the most warm and fuzzy person in the game, but the man sure knows how to win. On Thursday, he tied
Van Berg for second in all-time wins with 6,414 when he won the third at Oaklawn, and passed JVB moments later when he won the fourth at Fair Grounds.
Life FG champ Rosie, jockey Santana, who will win the OP title, and rides first call for Steve, also is heading for Kentucky.
Thanks for tuning in, good luck this weekend on horses and hoops, and see you back here next Friday. And don't forget to join me Saturday here online or call my office at 1-888-612-2283.
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