THE ELITE EIGHT
Clearly, the man has no conscience.
While trainer Todd Pletcher's Big Four of Eskendereya, Rule, Super Saver and Interactif take the weekend off, his Little Four will be in action on Saturday.
That would be Discreetly Mine and Mission Impazible in the $750,000 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, and Connemara and Doubles Partner in the $500,000 Lanes End at Turfway Park.
If all goes well for The Toddster, he could have eight in the Kentucky Derby -- or 40 per cent of the field. In such a case, I'd have to say his prospects for breaking his Derby schneid would be pretty good.
From a handicapping perspective, bettors will face a simple dilemma on Saturday: play the Pletch, or try to beat him. Fortunately, the red-hot John Piesen Hot Line (1-888-612-2283) and the Season of Piesen online will be available to guide you through the rough spots.
Something will have to give because of the 23 horses going in the day's two major races for 3-year-olds, both at nine furlongs, only two (Discreetly Mine and Connemara) are graded stakes-winners, and only one (A Little Warm) has cracked the magical triple-digit Beyer number.
Mention of A Little Warm reminds me that this could be the biggest weekend of jockey David Cohen's budding career.
Cohen, who has been winning three-a-day in his rookie year in New York, will ride A Little Warm in New Orleans, and then jet to New Mexico to pilot Tempted to Tapit, the second choice in the $800,000 Sunland Derby at Sunland Park. Historians will recall this was the race that produced Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird just a year ago.
Where be Ramon Dominguez on Saturday?
That's simple. New York's top gun will be in Dubai to ride the favored Gio Ponti in the $10 million Dubai World Cup. That's no misprint. Just imagine what the purse would be if Dubai wasn't going belly-up.
It says here that one of those fancy Euros is going to beat Gio Ponti.
But let's concentrate on the two big 3-year-old races on Saturday in the States. Here is a rundown of the horses, in post position order:
THE LANES END (Turfway Park, Race 9, 5:12 p.m. Eastern)
CONNEMARA's graded stakes win came last-out in the El Camino Real (Grade 3) at Golden Gate as the 6-5 favorite. The son of Giant's Causeway broke his maiden over the Turfway plastic at first asking last October, and then shipped to California to run second in the California Derby, and win the El Camino Real. Connemara will be a short price from the one-hole under Russell Baze, the world's winningest jockey.
DOUBLES PARTNER, who completes The Toddster's uncoupled entry, is 2-for-2 under Chris DeCarlo -- at 7-1 and 15-1. This is the 25th anniversary of
DeCarlo's biggest career win -- on Wise Times in the $1 million Haskell at Monmouth Park. Doubles Partner is a $450,000 son of Rock Hard Ten, who is best remembered for his second in Smarty Jones' record-breaking '04 Preakness.
CHIEF COUNSEL, a 230K son of Officer, is eligible for "non-winners of one-other than", but is twice stakes-placed in five starts for Bill Mott, who will be
watching on TV in Dubai, where he is running Courageous Cat on the World Cup undercard. This is a rare live stakes mount for the Fair Grounds-based Francisco Torres, who played the role of Braulio Baeza in the Ruffian TV film.
KETTLE RIVER won two of his first three starts for the Sheiks and trainer Harty, but exits an eighth to Alphie's Bet in the Sham at Santa Anita. Jockey Blanc decided to skip the trip so James Lopez, one of Turfway's finest, gets the call.
RANGER HEARTLEY, claimed by trumpet man Herb Albert for 32K last summer at Del Mar, is the only horse to have beaten Connemara (in the Cal Derby), but was no match for that one in the El Camino Real. The Ranger will take 'em as far as he can as fast as he can under new rider Michael Baze.
OUTLAW MAN, the second-best 3-year-old in the McPeek barn, exits a closing fourth in the Sham. The gray adds blinkers, and Alex Solis (who won the Sham on Alphie's Bet), replaces Gomez, who's in Dubai. He'll be closing over the speed-biased strip.
NORTHERN GIANT, the second best 3-year-old in the Lukas barn, exits a closing third to Discreetly Mine in the Risen Star, in which his 91 Beyer is the highest of the 10 horses in the field. Calvin Borel, who broke Northern Giant's maiden by 11 lengths at Oaklawn Park, takes off several live mounts in Hot Springs for the call from Lukas, who won this race in 1985 with Image of Greatness for George Steinbrenner. I remember that race well because I was covering as a cub reporter for the New York Post. The Giant has been working lights-out at Oaklawn since the Risen Star.
LETSGETITONMON has only a maiden win to show for 10 starts, and was a distant eighth in the Risen Star. John McKee of Lawyer Ron fame gets the call from trainer Asmussen, which reminds me: I got a call this week from a fellow in Hot Springs, who said there was a Rachel Alexandra sighting on the OP backstretch. This was one racetrack rumor not worth the time and trouble to explore.
DEAN'S KITTEN has done his best work on grass, winning a minor turf stake at Belmont, and exiting a rough-trip second in the Palm Beach at Gulfstream Park. The Kitten's Joy colt has the right connections -- Eclipse owner Ramsey; trainer Maker, who is 20-for-63 at the meet, and jockey Cornelio Velasquez.
VOW TO WAGER is one of my personal favorites in view of his win in the Battaglia at $48.60 as a JPHL special. Last October, he was beaten a dozen lengths by Connemara in a maiden race over the track.
THE LOUISIANA DERBY (Fair Grounds, Race 10, 5:48 p.m. Eastern)
HOTEP, a Canadian-owned A.P. Indy colt, was wide throughout from post 12 in the Risen Star. Better post Saturday, and in good hands, but still appears
How did Rick Porter miss MISSION IMPAZIBLE, a 200K son of Unbridled's Song? In his fourth start, MI was a closing fourth for Pletcher from post 10 in the Southwest at Oaklawn. Better post this time, and a rider switch to Maragh. Wouldn't be the first time that The Toddster won with the "wrong" half of an uncoupled entry.
FLY DOWN, a winner of two of three starts, hails from the same connections (Zito/Lezcano) that last week gave us Florida Derby winner Ice Box. He shows bullet half-mile at Palm Meadows for this.
THE PROGRAM, twice stakes-placed for Baffert in eight starts on the California plastic, is first-time dirt, and first-time Nakatani, the top dog at Oaklawn. His only work over the track was a definitely unBaffert-like :52 half-mile. First FG runner this season for trainer and jockey.
A LITTLE WARM stretches out for trainer Tony Dutrow off two excellent Gulfstream stakes, in which his 100 and 97 Beyers are a race-best. Cohen rides for Quality Road's owner.
RON THE GREEK looked like Pyro circling the field to win the LeComte, and then made up 10 lengths for sixth behind the loose-on-the-lead Discreetly Mine
in the Risen Star. The Tom Amoss-trained colt will be flying through or around traffic in the lane under jockey Graham.
DISCREETLY MINE will be favored off his front-end score in the Risen Star, but like stablemates Rule and Super Saver the last two Saturdays, won't have an E-Z pass on the lead. Two races back, DM was a troubled fourth to A Little Warm as the favorite in the Spectacular Bid at the Gulf.
ISLAND SOUL, a 230K Ocala yearling, makes his first stakes start for Asmussen following three good races over the track. Albarado will fly the same gold and burgundy silks he wore aboard Curlin and Rachel.
STAY PUT is another who made up ground behind Discreetly Mine in the Risen Star. Theriot has the return call on Stay Put, a two-time winner over the track. The Broken Vow colt is trained by Steve Margolis, who is merely 21-21-7 from 76 starters at the meet.
WOW WOW WOW has the speed to occupy Discreetly Mine, but he'll have to improve off his Gotham flop to factor here. Back to Jacinto, who broke his maiden over the track back in November.
MISTER MARDI GRAS exits a maiden win in a 12-horse field, but trainer Pessin (no relation) is shooting for the moon here.
BACKTRACK is the only unbeaten (2-for-2) in the lineup, the last at a $56 mutuel, and switches to Sellers, who is heading for Delaware Park.
DROSSELMEYER lost a three-horse photo for second behind Discreetly Mine in the Risen Star as the favorite, and no doubt will be second choice here, despite the outside post. The 600K son of Distorted Humor has been favored five straight times for Mott, who will be watching from Dubai, and picks up six pounds off the Risen Star. Jockey Desmormeaux knows his way from tough posts.
Thanks for tuning in. Good luck this weekend, especially in the 140K Pick Six carryover on Friday at Gulfstream, and see you back here on Tuesday.
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