Here’s Proof


Need any proof that there's no such thing as a sure thing?

Look no further than recent developments in racing and baseball.

Last Sunday at Keeneland, Close Hatches, by far the best mare in training, went to the post as the 1-5 favorite in the Spinster Stakes.

Since Keeneland permitted show betting, every wise guy bridgejumper (excluding my buddy The Mad Bomber) jumped in, to the tune of a half-million.

You know the rest of the story.

After leading to the top of the stretch, Close Hatches chucked it, backing up to fourth in the six-horse field, thus creating show payoffs of $14.60, $37.60 and $30.20 for the first three finishers.

The second-place finisher, the one who paid $37.60 for third, was actually a Breeders' Cup winner from last year, Rio Antonia.

"I got lucky," says the Mad Bomber. "That would have been my butt. But I've been blackballed so my show-betting days are over. Too bad for the copycats."

As for Close Hatches, not to worry. Her people are drawing a line thru the Spinster, and sending her to the Breeders' Cup Distaff where she no doubt will be favored, maybe 4-5 instead of 1-5.

I doubt what's left of the bridge-jumping community will be on-board again.

As for the baseball, all four favorites busted in the ALDS and NLDS. My baseball people assure me that's happened before, but no one can quite remember when.

Anyhow, that's why we call it gambling...

And speaking of gambling, the suits at NYRA and Santa Anita have installed a Belmont Park/Santa Anita cross country daily double on the final race at
Belmont, and a designated race at Santa Anita.

Well, good luck to that.

On Friday, if form holds up, Congress Park and Fascinating (race four) will win, and the pair of ones will pay, if you're lucky, maybe $3.60.

We've seen our share of get-rich schemes, but we would be hard-pressed to top this baby.

Trainer Bob Baffert is talking up Fascinating as a potential superstar, and she'll be 1-5 under Mike Smith for her first start in 13 months.

Hey, who knows. That's the same price as Close Hatches.

And, speaking of Baffert, Bullet Bob gave Bayern his first breeze since the Pennsylvania Derby the other day, and the colt went an easy half in:47 2/5 under regular whippersnapper Martin Garcia.

Yes, I know Shared Belief will be short in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and Bayern will be in the 3-1 to 4-1 range. But if Bayern gets loose, look out!

My sentimental choice for the Classic will be Majestic Harbor only because he's a son of Rockport Harbor, one of my all-time personal favorites.

If Shared Belief, Bayern and California Chrome should cook themselves in a speed duel, Majestic Harbor can pick up the pieces at a huge price. At least, with the BC a mere three weeks away, that's what I'm thinking.

It made all the papers this week that Cigar, arguably the best BC Classic winner ever, passed this week at 24, joining arch rival Skip Away in horse heaven.

Those were two wonderful horses, and both deserve to be in anyone's Top Ten.

On a personal note, we also lost this week a trainer I doubt the reader would know.

That would be Fred Warren, a winner of 676 races, most of them claimers at his Calder base.

Three of those 676 winners were special to me. They came at Calder in the late '80s with Crafty Starlet, a filly I had the pleasure to breed and own.
Crafty broke her maiden with Jerry Bailey up for John Parisella at Belmont Park, but a leg injury basically ended her career. She wound up with Fred Warren at Calder, and won those three races before going on to a successful broodmake career in Puerto Rico.

"Who was better,"  I remember asking Bailey,  "...Cigar or Crafty Starlet?".

"No question," Jerry was kind enough to respond, "Crafty Starlet!"

And, speaking of Florida horses, what happened to Atreides last Saturday night?

Atreides, a winner of his first three starts by a combined 26 lengths, and all with triple-digit Beyers, in the Sunshine State, shipped to Indiana for the Indiana Derby, and went off odds-on against a field that included the accomplished Vicar's in Trouble.

Vicar led most of the way until run down by East Hall in the shadow of the wire.


He never ran a lick, and checked in sixth, beaten 10 lengths, as we said at odds-on.

Trainer Marty Wolfson blamed the two-turns and the lights.

Why not?

What's next for Atreides?

You guessed it.

The Cigar Mile...on Nov. 29 at Aqueduct.

The potential favorite for the Cigar Mile?

That would be stablemate Itsmyluckyday.

Your basic uncoupled entry.

And, speaking of uncoupled entries, trainers Todd Pletcher and Chris Clement both will have uncoupled entries Saturday in the 200K Knickerbocker Handicap Saturday at Belmont Park. The nine-furlong Grade Two is scheduled for the grass, but we are looking at a forecast for rain on the east coast.

In case you missed it, the Toddster last weekend swept the three Grade Ones for 2-year-old males -- the Champagne, Breeders' Futurity and Belmont
Futurity, and, of course, they will have Todd to beat in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

But they probably will.

As for the Knickerbocker, Todd has Winning Cause and Mshawish locked and loaded, while turf maven Clement counters with Za Approval and Speaking of Which, of whom exit stakes wins.

Up With the Birds, fresh from a respectable fourth in the Arlington Million, will be closing widest and fastest.

If the race comes off the lawn, Easter Gift becomes a major player for Chad Brown.

Thanks for tuning in. Have a great holiday weekend, check out my picks on-line, and on the John Piesen Hot Line (888 612 2283), and see you back here next Friday.


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