New Team in Town

NEW TEAM IN TOWN

By John Piesen 

Looks like Todd Pletcher hasn't wasted any time finding a replacement for Johnny Velazquez, who is said to be making good progress in his recovery from debilitating injuries sustained in a spill in the Breeders' Cup.

Todd won two Gulfstream biggies last weekend (Mordi's Miracle in the Sunshine Millions Classic Preview and Viva Rafaela in an allowance feature), and in both cases the winning rider was Edgar Prado. Overall, P&P start this weekend three-for-four at the Gulf.

It seems like yesterday we were reading that Prado, a Hall of Famer in every sense, was washed up, a shell of his former great self. But Edgar started showing signs of life this fall, and, sure enough, the Toddster noticed.

If Prado continues to win for Pletcher, that will do wonders for Edgar's Florida business this winter. We wish him well. Edgar's one of the class guys in this game. And hopefully you'll catch some winners with him.

Speaking of winners, did you see first-starter Summer Solo in race six Wednesday at Aqueduct? My reliable New York sources had tipped me on this Clemente filly, and so I wasted no time giving her out on my phone service (1-888 612 2283) and online at www.johnpiesen.com.

I guess I wasn't the only one to get the word because she sunk to 2-1 favorite in a field of 10.

Things looked bleak when jockey Rosario got her left, and at the first turn, she was 20 lengths out of it. But she circled the field, and, with an explosive charge, took command in mid-stretch, and pulled away, sending the hundreds of folks on hand into hysterics.

Footnote: we'll have more of these good things this winter, and I would not be surprised to see Summer Solo become a star. 

Speaking of winter, maybe you recall that the biggest racing story last winter was a $3.6 million score in the Rainbow Six at Gulfstream Park.

If you're not familiar with the Rainbow Six, it's a new wager, imported from Puerto Rico, which demands you pick six straight winners. But there is one distinction from the traditional Pick Six: to collect you must have the only winning ticket!

As time went on last winter at Gulfstream, no one hit the Rainbow, and on February 22, the pool reached $3.6 million, by then drawing national attention.

On that day, a Jersey guy hit the jackpot. I did some legwork and learned he made the play at Favorites OTB in Woodbridge, N.J. He even went back the next day to tip the mutual clerks, bartenders, etc.

But the guy didn't want any publicity (something about an ex-wife) and turned me down for an article, politely of course.

Now, nine months later, American Turf Magazine reports that his ticket was a $3,118 play which included all six winners -- at odds of 9-2, 7-1, 10-1, 10-1, 12-1, and 56-1!

That $3.6 million score remains a record for the Rainbow Six. Other tracks have tried the Rainbow, but the bet hasn't caught on the way it did in Florida. In fact, just this week, Churchill Downs tried it, and the total pool for the first five days was six grand.

Obviously, the Rainbow Six is a terrible way to invest your money (except on the final day of the meet when the entire pool must be paid out, but don't try telling that to the Jersey Guy.

Incidentally, that same American Turf issue (December) also has a must-read cover piece by yours truly on Fair Grounds, which opens next Friday.

One of the points I make in the piece is that jockey Robby Albarado returns after a three-year absence to challenge Rosie Napravnik, who seems to win every race there.

Also, among the new trainers coming to the Fair is a fellow named Roger Brueggemann, who my sources tell me is the next Steve Asmussen

A stallion to watch is Majestic Warrior, the 2008 Hopeful winner bred and owned by the late George Steinbrenner. It seems all the Majestic Warriors can run, and that includes Seasoned Warrior in race seven Friday at Aqueduct. The Boss' main goal was to win a Kentucky Derby, and he felt that Majestic Warrior gave him his best chance to do so, but injuries cut short the colt's career.

Maybe the stallion Majestic Warrior can be George's legacy.

Meantime, with a forecast of warmer weather,  and large fields to play with, the 250K guaranteed late pick four Saturday at Aqueduct looks like an opportunity to make a bit of a score.

Race Six

Trainers David Jacobson and Rudy Rodriguez, both riding high at the current Big "A" meet, go head-to-head with Uncle Smokey and Precious Metal, respectively, in this $62,000 allowance for New York-breds at six furlongs.

This is the second race off the Jacobson claim for Uncle Smokey, a 5-year-old gray with some back class.

Rudy took Precious Metal from Jacobson for 20K at Saratoga, and has won twice with the 5-year-old gelding who goes turf to dirt and draws outside in the field of 11.

Race Seven:

A full field of 13 was drawn for the 250K Red Smith Handicap, a Grade 3 for three-and-up at 1 3/8th miles on the grass.

There are no Red Smiths anymore, and there are no superstars in this race, but it is the proverbial great betting race.

Hyper, a 6-year-old son of Victory Gallop from the Ramseys and Chad Brown, has been no worse than third in eight starts this year, and will be favored, presumably under jockey Javier Castellano, who seems no worse for wear after his spill Wednesday,

Howe Great is sitting on a big race for the Team Valor folks. The 4-year-old exits a closing third to Za Approval, who came back to finish second to two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Oh, yes. Wise Dan joins the likes of Affirmed, Kelso and Forego as multiple Horse of the Year selections. What's wrong with this picture?

Imagining, Sky Blazer and Exclusive Strike hook up again after their 1-2-3 finish in the Bowling Green.

Delaware shipper Slip and Drive is a worthy longshot. He wins everywhere he goes, and trainer Robertson and jockey Abel Castellano rarely come to Long Island.

Old buddy Robbie Davis is shooting for the moon with Sandyinthesun. Daughter Jackie rides.

Race Eight:

Chad Brown seeks a stakes sweep with the uncoupled Bond Vigilante and/or Zivo in the 100K Move It Now Stakes for New York-bred 3-and-up at a mile. Bond Vigilante, who drew the treacherous one-hole in the field of 10, won three straight before settling for third as the chalk in a 400K stake at Charles Town.

Jose Ortiz is back in the saddle.

Zivo has been no worse than third in eight starts, and was second last year in the Albany at the Spa.

Moneyinyour Pocket does his best work at Finger Lakes, but factors off his recent third to Saratoga Snacks in the Empire Classic at Belmont.

The Bob Baffert-trained Brigand is the main speed and first-time Saez.

Race Nine:

Gibson's Bullet closed for second in his Belmont debut for trainer Barclay Tagg, looks the one to beat in this 75K allowance for 2-year-olds at a mile/16 on the grass. Jockey Rajiv Maragh due to get going.

That's a Kitten debuts for Ramseys/Brown with main man Joel Rosario.

Mott has nasty uncoupled entry in Genuine Flare and Ferlin Husky.

Western Exchange debuts for Summer Solo's trainer.

A fun finale.

Sad week for the racing fraternity. 

It was a privilege working next to Paul Moran all those years. I have him right up there with Ray Kerrison as the best turfwriters of our era. Paul passed last Saturday at 67, two days after we lost Larry Barrera at 54. 

And this week we lost a couple of Jersey guys -- jockey Tony Vega and publicist Brian McLoone, good people both.

Thanks for tuning in. Good luck this weekend, go Steelers, and see you back here next Friday! Make sure you sign up for my racing service for Daily Best Bets!

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