A Good Read


A GOOD READ

By John Piesen

I'll be the first to admit there are folks in this business -- Ray Kerrison, Andy Beyer and Jay Hovdey come to mind -- who can outwrite me, but every once in a while comes a reminder why it pays to read my stuff.

One such day was last Friday.

In case you missed it, I made selections on this venue for the stakes six-pack on Super Derby Day at Louisiana Downs. I even included directions how to get to Louisiana Downs.

Long story short: four of my six top selections won, the others finished second and third. What's more, I added a pick of Hyper in the Bowling Green Handicap at Belmont Park, and Hyper responded by knocking off the odds-on Boisterous at $7.90.

And there was the little item about touting new rider Mario Franco at Belmont. All Mario did was ride four winners in his first five days at Belmont. I'm not saying this kid is the next Steve Cauthen. Just saying that in this watered-down New York riding colony, he can make an impact.

The bottom line: it pays to read this column.

Spread the word.

That wouldn't be hard to do at Belmont these days. Racing was conducted in perfect weather on Wednesday and Thursday, and had a three-day Pick Six carryover on Wednesday. Yet the on-track attendance both days was 2,000.

Maybe the numbers will improve when NYRA gets going with its new Pick Four wager, combining the final two races in New York with the first two that evening at Penn National.

Or maybe not.

At least the Form is hyping the bet as the best thing since the introduction of the free lunch in the press box. I would hate to think the Form is just looking to sell more papers.

Hey, no knock on Penn National. It's one of my favorite racetracks. The only problem is that the place is now 10 percent racetrack and 90 percent casino.

Perhaps I'm being kind with those numbers.

Speaking of numbers, they are running 11 six-figure stakes across North America on Saturday...and all 11 are on the grass

Two of the 11 will be run at Belmont -- and they merely will have to compete for attention with Yankees-Bosox, and Alabama-Johnny Football, not to mention Rutgers-Eastern Michigan.

At least the two Belmont stakes -- the 500K Garden City and the 200K Noble Damsel -- provide competitive racing.

You'll be able to time the Noble Damsel, a Grade 3 mile for fillies and mares, with a sundial. Only Assateague has early speed in the field of six, and the Mike Matz-trained 4-year-old will be the rank outsider.

The Stormy Atlantic filly lost six straight under various riders, but is 2-for-2 since switching to jockey Luis Saez. Luis is off to a slow start at Belmont, but he showed major ability winning the Travers on Will Take Charge, which reminds me: whatever happened to buzzergate? If nothing happened, which most likely will be the decision, at least let us know already.

Back to the Noble Damsel.

Naples Bay won this race last year at 14-1, but is winless in five starts since. She gets the rail and a weight break, and a curious jockey change. Christophe Clement has been using Bravo on everything in the barn, but goes to all the trouble and expense to import jockey Garrett Gomez from California for the mount.

On paper, Better Lucky, a Ghostzapper filly from the Sheiks, looks to be the class of the race with Javier Castellano jumping off Hungry Island to sub for the injured Joel Rosario.

But Better Lucky better be lucky. She hasn't run since June 8 and is being asked to spot five pounds to the likes of Hungry Island and Naples Bay.

And who is better with filly imports than Chad Brown?

In this case. Brownie sends out European import Laugh Out Loud, who will be closing widest and fastest under Edgar Prado, who, after an OK Saratoga, is getting no business downstate.

Brown, who is winning at a mere .28 per cent clip for the year, is double trouble in the Garden City, a Grade 1 for 3-year-old fillies at nine furlongs. He is running an uncoupled entry of Watsdachances and French import Alterite, with Castellano and Johnny Velazquez the respective riders.

Watsdachnces exits a troubled third in the Lake Placid at Saratoga, and won the Miss Grillo over this course at 2, beating recent winner Sustained.

Alterite is first-time Lasix for her U.S. debut, and JV, although off to a slow start at Belmont, is riding for a reason.

Jockeys Smith and Gomez make the trip from the left coast to ride Emollient and Discreet Marq for trainers Bill Mott and Clement, respectively.

Emollient blows hot and cold, but she'll go favored in the wake of two Grade 1 victories. A win here and she's the leader in the clubhouse for the divisional crown.

Like Emollient, the gray Discreet Marq is a .500 career hitter, and she's clearly the main speed. And she is 3-for-3 for Clement.

And how 'bout a couple of 20-1 shots for the gimmicks -- they being Effie Trinket and Praia.

It's that kind of race.

On the other hand, the weekend's monetary feature, the $1 million Woodbine Mile at Woodbine Sunday is a joke. Wise Dan won this race at 1-2 last year en route to a bogus Horse of the Year title, and she'll be much the same price this year in a field of six under regular rider Velazquez. Johnny can afford a slump when he has a million-dollar gimmee like this going for him.

As if he needs the help, Wise Dan gets five pounds off his last race, which was, of course a turf mile.

No doubt the exacta will be on that plane from JFK to Toronto. Gomez likely will get second with the oft-scratched Za Approval.

Who knows? If Wise Dan runs the table, and Game On Dude gets beat again in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Wise Dan can get HOY again!

Did you notice that they ran the 400K Smarty Jones stakes last week at Philly Park, and that Stew Eliott wired the race -- on the 5-2 favorite who was 6-1 in the morning line.

Talk about hunches.

And trainer Leroy Jolley, Jr., natch the son of the Hall of Famer, had his first career winner Thursday at Belmont.

Congrats all around.

Thanks for tuning in. Check out my selections on the red-hot John Piesen Hot Line 1-888-612-2283, go Bucs, lay the wood with Louisville, and see you back here next week.

19
Nov

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