Talk about coincidence
In the wake of the events of last Saturday, it sure looks like you need to pay $3.5 million to buy a good racehorse.
After all, that was the price tag on Curlin...and on Big Brown. And, in each case, the deal was done after the horse broke his maiden first pop.
My tax backet does not afford me the luxury of paying big bucks for a thoroughbred, or a piece of one. But I would think that if I was a buyer, I wouldn't be wasting my time at yearling sales, but go for broke one horses who have at least shown they are capable of performing on a big-time stage.
Like Curlin last winter at Gulfstream...and like Big Brown last summer at Saratoga.
For years, I thought the sheiks had this game wrapped up, and expressed those thoughts on these pages. But there's nothing sheiky about the boys toiling down at the IEAH (International Equine Acquisitions Holdings Inc. ) home room in Garden City, New York.
In less than a year, the IEAH guys -- and their investors -- have emptied their pockets, and come up with the likes of Benny the Bull, Court Vision, Pure Clan and Big Brown.
I'm sure not everything they touched turned to gold...but so what?
What more do you need?
Last week, the IEAH brass had the choice of heading for Dubai to see Benny the Bull in the big sprint race, or for Florida to see Big Brown in the Florida Derby.
This weekend they will have their choice of going next door to Aqueduct to see Court Vision in the Wood Memorial, or join me at Oaklawn Park to see Pure Clan in the Fantasy.
Or, since one race is on Saturday, and the other Sunday, there is no reason they can't do both.
Hot Springs isn't the toughest place in the world to find. You just got to Memphis, and turn right.
The only IEAH guy I know to recognize is Mike Sherack, who, in a previous lifetime, toiled in the same NYRA press boxes I did. At the time, I was a crafty, veteran beat guy for the New York Post, and Mike was a PR intern under public relations directoir Glen Mathes.
Fast forward 20 years, and I am now a crafty, veteran beat guy for National Race Masters, and Mike is the PR guy for IEAH, which seems to own every racehorse in the world worth owning.
What's wrong with this picture?
Last week, my biggest decision was who to pick in the eighth at Oaklawn...
Mike Sherack's biggest decision was whether to spend the week in Dubai or Hallandale.
Sherack chose Dubai,,,and sent word that he had a good time, especially in the post-race celebration for Benny the Bull...and Diamond Stripes, who, although somehow not owned by IEAH, is, like Benny, was trained to victory by Richard Dutrow Jr.
The only problem was that no one in the IEAH GROUP could find the Florida Derby on TV.
A fellow named Todd Pletcher thought he had come to the rescue when he found a Florida Derby image on his computer, but the picture was blurred. Pletcher finally put in a phone call to Gulfstream, and the guy at the other end, screamed:
BY A LOT!
Obviously, more cause to celebrate.
"I'm real tired," Sherack told me Monday morning from IEAH headquarters, "...it was a long week."
Some guys just don't have any luck.
Just look at the coming weekend. Why, it's possible that Court Vision and Pure Clan may actually lose. Court Vision must face a re-born War Pass in the Wood, and Pure Clan has to hook Eight Belles in the Fantasy.
This time, Sherack, presumably still pooped from Dubai, will opt for Aqueduct rather than Oaklawn. Still, I'm sure there will be some suits and ties here to watch Betsy Couch saddle Pure Clan for trainer Bob Holthus.
A month back, IEAH fed-exed those horrible starred silks and blinkers to Holthus for Pure Clan to wear in the Honeybee.
Holthus described them as "Wonder woman silks."
Now, can you believe these are the silks of the Kentucky Derby favorite?
Better get used to them.
Back to Pure Clan for a moment.
With any luck, Pure Clan would be 1-5 in the Fantasy.
Larry Jones, of Hard Spun fame, the trainer of Eight Belles, told me at the barn this morning that the only reason why Eight Belles is going in the Fantasy rather than the Arkansas Derby the following weekend is because he fears drawing outside in what willl be a 14-horse field in the Derby.
Actually, 19 horses want into the Derby, but the Oaklawn starting gate can handle only 14 horses. So it is possible that two horses from the D. Wayne Lukas barn -- Stone Bird and Red Sandy -- will be excluded because of insufficient earnings.
Too bad they don't count the owners' earnings.
Stone Bird -- a three-quarter to Birdstone -- is owned by Mary Lou Whitney, and Red Sandy is owned by John Ed Anthony, who owns half the lumber in Arkansas, and, who in a previous lifetime, had Temperence Hill. Cox's Ridge, Demons Begone, et al.
Lukas has enjoyed some big days in his glorious career, but I don't think even Wayne rolled out the winners of three million-dollar races in one day, the way trainer Richard Dutrow did last Saturday..
Subscribers to my advisory service clearly were rewarded. Gave out the third-race BEST TRIFECTA OF THE DAY -- and it clicked at $168. And, unlike the rest of the free world, we had Smooth Air $12.60 2nd in the Florida Derby boxed with Big Brown returning $68.80.
It's the biggest racing weekend of the year to date
This weekend, we will be looking at the Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial and Illinois Derby as well as the Apple Blossom, Oaklawn Handicap and Fantasy here at Oaklawn, and the Ashland (Proud Spell vs. Country Star) at Keeneland.
One horse we can't consider is Georgie Boy, who injured a leg, and will be out three to four months. A tough break for trainer Kathy Walsh. She deserved better.
Some three weeks after we broke the news, it was reported Monday in the national media that the owners of Eight Belles and Proud Spell put up $6,000 apiece to make those fillies eligible for the Triple Crown.
Larry Jones, who trains them both, will have some kind of dilemma if Eight Belles and Proud Spell prove decisive winners of the Fantasy and Ashland.
It's a problem any trainer worth his license would like to have.
The obvious solution will be that one -- presumably Eight Belles -- will go to the Kentucky Derby...and one -- presumably Proud Spell -- will go to the previous-day Kentucky Oaks.
But then again, maybe the fact that one (Eight Belles) is owned by a car salesman, while the other (Proud Spell) is owned by the former governor of Kentucky may enter into the equation.
In the meantime, what if Denis of Cork wins the Illinois Derby...and he'll be odds-on to do so?
That would mean that this would be the first Kentucky Derby in history to boast two unbeaten horses. The other is, of course, Big Brown.
And just why is Denis of Cork in the Illinois Derby when the plan was to send him to New York for the Wood?
The incredible answer is that the owners of Denis of Cork couldn't find another horse to share the expense of flying to New York, thus it would have cost them $33,000 to do so.
But waiting for Denis at Hawthorne (a mere van ride) will be Atoned, from Cot Campbell, the Toddster and Joe Bravo.
Atoned and Denis are drawn side-by-side in posts four and five. Should be interesting.
To get this weekend's three Derby Prep races and all remaining prep races throughout April, Click Here
PIESEN'S DERBY TOP TEN
|JOCKEY / TRAINER
1. Eight Belles
Will take three-race win streak into the Fantasy at Oaklawn|
|2. Big Brown
|Desormeaux / Dutrow
Is he possibly this good, and will those foot problems kick in?|
|3. Proud Spell
It all depens on what happens this weekend in Ashland and Fantasy|
|4. Denis of Cork Saturday Ill. Derby
Breezed :59 2/5 at Churchill Downs; will they regret losing Albarado?|
|5. El Gato Malo Saturday S.A. Derby
Breezed a bullet :59 at Hollywood; the best of the west coasters|
April 12 Blue Grass
Working well at Palm Meadows for Derby-winning conditioner|
April 12 Blue Grass
|Bridgmohan / Asmussen
Will have to prove himself all over again... and on the Keeneland polytrack |
|8. Colonel John
Saturday S.A. Derby
Will be favored over the better horse (El Gato Malo) in Santa Anita Derby|
|9. War Pass
Had a decent Florida work for Zito; must prove self all over again|
|10. Blackberry Road April 12 Ark. Derby
Has had a series of tough trips; must get lucky in max field in Arkansas|
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