Submitted by John Piesen on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 12:00 AM
A HOLLYWOOD ENDING
By John Piesen
Clearly, Hollywood Park is providing a Hollywood ending.
Last Saturday, the 2-year-old Shared Belief, co-owned by TV/radio personality Jim Rome, cruised to a 5 3/4-length victory in the $750,000, Grade One Cashcall Futurity to spike his record to three-for-three, and establish himself as the overwhelming favorite for the Kentucky Derby.
Within 24 hours, Shared Belief dropped in the Vegas Futures from a consensus 30-1 to 7-1, while setting the stage for an inevitable East-West Derby showdown with Honor Code, by far the best Eastern-based juvenile of the season.
Shades of 1989 anyone?
That was the year Sunday Silence came out of the west to beat Eastern hotshot Easy Goer two out of three in the Triple Crown, and then again in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to cement Horse of the Year.
When the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, we will be eyeballing the 25th anniversary of the Sunday Silence-Easy Goer rivalry, and up to the present time, you’ll find most racing folks east of the Rockies still unconvinced that Sunday Silence was the better horse.
Yes, the 2014 Kentucky Derby is still four-plus months away, but it’s not so far away in Derby minutes.
Plans are for Honor Code to run twice in Florida this winter, in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, both at Gulfstream, and for Shared Belief to do likewise, in the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby, both at Santa Anita.
So there you have it. Honor Code (4-1-0 in five starts) vs. Shared Belief (5-for-5) in a Derby showdown for the ages. I’m not saying it will happen. I’m just saying it could. There are still 30 races to be run on the Derby Trail,. a weekly "John Piesen Derby Top Ten" to be studied and analyzed, and a Super Bowl and an Olympics to get through.
Back to the Futurity:
The very fact that Shared Belief was pounded to even-money in a super-talented field of 12 in the CashCall was impressive enough going in.
Then they ran the race, the last graded race in the history of Hollywood Park, and we found out why Shared Belief was indeed the stick. Rated third throughout by Corey Nakatani, Shared Belief took command from the outside turning for home, and with Rome leading the cheers, coasted to the wire, making his 11 rivals distant and not so super-talented.
Tap It Rich, the second choice, was a nut job every step, and finished 11th.
Kobes Back, a personal favorite, clipped heels down the backside as the third choice, checked in 10th, and came back with a bum leg, his Derby dreams shot.
Not a good week for the Kobes... two-legged and four-legged.
In the meantime, don’t expect any shock moves from the camps of the two Derby front-runners. After all, Shug McGaughey (Honor Code) and Jerry Hollendorfer (Shared Belief) made it to the Hall of Fame pretty much by playing by the book.
And did you notice that Hollendorfer -- as described by Daily Racing Form -- had quite a day?
Two hours before winning the CashCall with Shared Belief, Team Hollendorfer ran 1-2-3 in the 150K Native per Stakes with Blueskiesnrainbows (my BC Marathon pick), Hear the Ghost and Rousing Sermon.
As long as Todd Pletcher is around, tiz a shame that Hollendorfer won’t be winning any Eclipse Awards, but maybe he’ll make a cut or two.
You would think that Shared Belief, Rome and Hollendorfer would have provided the appropriate happy ending for Hollywood Park.
But hold those credits. This is Hollywood we’re talking about, and there were fireworks to come.
The boys in the black hats showed up Monday, two days after the big race.
The battleground was not a racetrack, but a courtroom, and attorneys for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed a law suit against J. Paul Reddam, founder of CashCall, an online business that sponsors the CashCall Futurity, for undetermined but no doubt significant cash, alleging consumer-protection violations.
"We will fight these charges (presumably to the death)," responded an attorney for the defense.
If the name Reddam sounds familiar, it’s because he’s owned horses for 30 years, and he won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2012 with I’ll Have Another.
What’s a good Hollywood script without a courtroom smashup?
While we await a verdict, there will be a big finish at Holly Park on Friday - an 80K carryover in the Pick Six. And if the gimmick goes unhit on Friday and Saturday, the entire pool -- billions maybe -- will be paid out on closing day Sunday.
John Piesen set the standard in horse race handicapping when he picked winners for 207 consecutive racing days, as documented by The Daily Racing Form. A veteran of horse racing, who has spent over thirty years with the DRF and The New York Post, John enjoys scores of connections throughout racing and is still picking winners each day on the New York circuit.
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And this is one time closing day really means closing day.
I would think that jockey Rafael Bejarano might be a major player in Friday’s edition of the Pick Six, which kicks with race three at 4:30 P.M. Eastern
All six races claimers, and mostly cheap ones. No sticks here.
Bejarano has live mounts Midnight Lady in race three, Ransom Canyon in race five, Congregationlist in race six, and Always a Chance in race seven.
Speaking of top jocks, we are happy to report that John Velazquez, who suffered internal injuries, including a lost spleen, in an horrific spill in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, is making a rapid recovery at his Long Island home, and hopes to resume riding during the latter stages of the Gulfstream meet.
Despite losing the last two months of 2013, Johnny V., 42 and a Hall of Famer, will finish third in jockey purse money -- to Javier Castellano and Joel Rosario.
Finally, a daily check of John Piesen’s selections-- online at www.johnpiesen.com and on the JP Hot Line (1-888-612- 2283) -- is recommended. I’m currently enjoying one of my fabled hot streaks -- four double-digit winners in five racing days, including Jonesy Boy, the $15.60 rank outsider, in the Queens County last Saturday at Aqueduct.
This was after the Big A racing office, needing five, begged trainer Breen to run.
Thanks for tuning in. Have healthy, happy holiday, good luck on and off the track, and looking forward to seeing you back here next Friday for one last time in ’13!