The Todd Squad
THE TODD SQUAD
Fortunately there is twilight racing (first post 3 p.m.) on Friday afternoon at Belmont Park so you will have time to get down on the five Pletcher-Johnny V horses -- namely Doc Cebu in the first. Smart StrIde in the third, Mom's Quality in the fourth, Gloria Victoria in the sixth, and Unabashed in the eighth.
That's Pletcher's five for the day, and Johnny V.'s five for the day.
"They'll all live," Angel Cordero Jr. assured me this morning while on patrol at Belmont. "Especially the babies."
Junior also touted me on Cross Traffic in the Whitney. He's very good," said Angel, "the best I've seen in a while."
And, of course, Cordero knows from good horses. When we were not mixing it up in the good old days, he was riding the best horses in North America, and, since his injury-enforced retirement, he continues to select winners as Johnny V's agent.
As he was hanging up, Angel reminded me: "...all five. Especially the babies."
Saturday is another interesting day for the Toddster, as well as for Johnny V. and Joel Rosario.
At Belmont, Pletcher-Johnny V. combine on four more live ones, notably Percussion in the Suburban and Battier in the Dwyer. (Castellano rides uncoupled entrymate Abraham in the Dwyer).
And, Rosario fresh from riding a Belmont triple on Thursday, and the full card on Friday, will fight the holiday traffic to get to Monmouth on Saturday.
The reason is obvious.
Rosario, the Derby winner on Orb, rides four (all favorites) for Pletcher, and the favored Little Mike for trainer Romans in the 500K, Grade 1 United Nations Handicap.
This might be the start of a beautiful friendship between Rosario and Pletcher. For the record, their four are Colony Strike in the third, Latin Tudor in the fourth, More Hundred Acre in the ninth, and Discreet Dancer in the 10th, the Grade 3 Salvator Mile.
Also in the Salvator is Big Sur, who is no relation to the Big Sur, a multiple stakes-winner for Wayne Lukas in the '90s.
Big Sur will be ridden by hot local jock Ramon Moya, who has a big-name agent of his own - a fellow named Jorge Velazquez.
There was a piece in the New York papers this week about the complications involved in the sale for zillions of John Franco's Staten Island mansion.
What wasn't mentioned was that Franco, at the time a star relief pitcher for the Mets, bought the property from the family of Tony Sciametta, a prominent New York-based horse-owner who passed away in his '40s.
One of Sciametta's children is Tony Sciametta Jr., a horseman who went on to become Todd Pletcher's top assistant, and who will be saddling the Pletcher Four on Saturday at Monmouth.
Pletcher has been known to miss with stakes locks...as recently as Dreaming of Julia at 1-9 in the Mother Goose...but it's hard to envision Discreet Dancer getting beat in the Salvator. He's the class and absolute speed of the race -- and, like the three other Toddster horses on the card, first-time Rosario.
As for the United Nations, Little Mike, a multiple Grade One-winner, and an earner of $3 million-plus, is the major player under JR in the UN, but you have to ask yourself if you want to take a short price on a horse who returns from two terrible races in Dubai, and, who most likely has seen his best days.
But, with Rosario, riding LM for the first time, how good does he have to be to handle the lightweight competition in the UN? The only other Grade One winner in the field of eight is Teaks North, and that was in last year's UN in which he was beating allowance horses.
Speaking of field sizes, eight is actually huge by Saturday's standards.
At Belmont, five are entered in the Suburban, six in the Dwyer.
Where have all the horses gone?
Guess they are all tuning up for Saratoga.
The big-name horse in the Suburban is Flat Out despite the fact that he's lost nine of last 10 starts, and will be last early in a paceless race. Yes, that will be Percussion, from Pletcher/Johnny V, loose on the lead.
And a half-hour later, TP will run the favorite and second choice in the Dwyer. a Grade Two for 3-year-olds that does not include a graded stakes-winner.
And, speaking of odds-on favorites in five-horse fields, check out Hollywood Park where Game On Dude will be 1-5 under Mike Smith in the Hollywood Gold Cup.
The only other speed in the five-horse field is Sky Kingdom, but don't expect SK to challenge the Dude early in light of the fact that they have the same trainer -- that Baffert fellow.
Hey, did you notice that Mike this week made the 6,000-mile round trip to ride a horse in the 100K Penny Memorial at Philly Park (Pax). Alas, the horse, Pianist, finished third at odds-on.
Speaking of Hollywood Park, that's where Smarty Jones got his first Grade One winner -- Centralintelligence -- last Saturday in the Triple Bend Handicap, beating, among others, Jimmy Creed, regarded as the west coast's best sprinter.
Finally, we mourn the passing last weekend of Jim Hudson.
Hudson, who succumbed to Parkinson's at age 70, was the all-AFL safety who made the game-turning pick of Earl Morrill in Super Bowl 3, although roommate and best bud Joe Namath received all the glory.
Following football, Hudson had a second successful career as a thoroughbred trainer in his native Texas, notably with Icy Morn, a 10-time stakes winner.
As in life, his death stayed under the radar. Not a line in the New York papers, other than the Times.
On a brighter note, our beloved Bucs continue to boast the best record in baseball...despite that hiccup against the Phils.
In the meantime, the winners just keep coming online and on the John Piesen Hot Line (1-888-612-2283).
Thanks for tuning in. Good luck this weekend.
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