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Submitted by John Piesen on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 12:00 AM


THE BIGGEST STORY


By John Piesen

The biggest story out of Saratoga this summer?

Hands down, it was my performance last weekend! My picks are available online and on the John Piesen Hot Line at 1 (888) 612-2283.

Hope you were along for the ride. If not, there’s this weekend, and Travers weekend, and Woodward weekend to follow. It’s not to late to climb aboard the Spa bandwagon.

To recap the week:

SATURDAY:

Race 7:Even Got Quiet $15.20

Race 9: Summer of Fame $5.50

Race 11: North Star Boy $10.80

Adirondack Dancer $31.60 cold exacta

no losers

Total:4-0

SUNDAY:

Race 11: Atlantic’s Smile $6.70

Race 2: loser

Race 9: loser

Race 9: Footnote: Who’s in Town (my pick) wired the Adirondack at 3-1 but was unjustly DQd for fouling the odds-on favorite, who had no business trying to get through on the fence. It was the second terrible DQ that week from the Three Blind Men.

Total: 1-2*

MONDAY

Race 3: Jewel of a Cat $27.20

Race 6: loser

Race 9: Two-horse exacta box $46.40

Total: 2-1

WEDNESDAY

Race 4: Asiya $4.50 (the fave scratched)

Race 5: loser

Race 6: Balance the Books $6.20

Total: 2-1

Grand Total: 9-4 (shudda been 10-3)

Yes, I know 9-for-13 doesn’t match my 10-race winning streak for the New York Post back in the day, but the prices were better.

The bottom line: my picks are hotter than Shirley Jones in Elmer Gantry, so it’s not too late to get on board.

Like last Saturday when I avoided the featured Fourstardave Stakes (Wise Dan was a lock at 1-5), I’ll pass this Saturday on the Alabama, a race second only to Friday’s Yadoo as my favorite Spa race (personal reasons), because who’s going to beat Princess of Sylmar at 1-9?

The only reason this Alabama has any juice at all is because John Velazquez will be riding against main man Todd Pletcher in a grade one. Very rare.

But Johnny’s mount, the second-choice Bob Baffert shipper Fiftyshadesofgray exits a win in the Iowa Oaksin which her main rival, So Many Ways, was up the track in her next start, and is out for the year.

"Gray" actually is an 11th-hour off-the-bencher for Baffert, whose best 3-year-old filly Midnight Lucky recently suffered a year-ending leg injury.

The three others in the Alabama are completely outclassed. I’m certain the Mad Bomber is checking to see if NYRA is permitting show betting, or even place betting for that matter.

Hey, I remember when Davona Dale got beat at 1-9 in the Alabama. You never know, especially at the old graveyard.

Speaking of Baffert. Bullet Bob is a principal in one of the great racing stories of the year (trades be warned).

Here’s the deal:

Mike Smith is the regular rider for Game On Dude (Baffert) and Royal Delta (Mott), merely the top two horses in North America.

OK, so far.

But here’s the rub:

Both horses are scheduled to run a week from Sunday -- Game On Dude in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, and Royal Delta in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga. Both will be 1-5, maybe 1-9.

Since the Classic carries a $1 million purse, and Smith is based in a condo overlooking the track, it would seem obvious that Mike would stay at home, and Mott would make the switch to one of the Spa Big Three – Joel Rosario, Javier Castellano or Velazquez for Royal Delta in the 600K filly race.

But hold on a minute:

It seems that Mike has a commitment to ride Royal Delta, and the filly’s owners are asking (telling) Mike he must honor that commitment.

So that is why Smith will travel 6,000 miles next weekend to ride Royal Delta in the Personal Ensign instead of staying home for Game On Dude. Don’t take it as a knock on the Dude.

Baffert, as it turns out, couldn’t care less.

Within minutes of getting the news he was losing Smith, he was on the horn to New York, and within moments he had a new rider -- Rosario!

Long story short, jockeys Smith and Rosario will be flying 6,000-miles round trip to ride 1-9 shots. And, who knows? They could be passing each other somewhere over the Mississippi.

Some of us who actually have to work for a living can only stop and wonder why.

With jockeys Rosario, Rosie Napravnik, Edgar Prado and Robby Albarado in Chicago Saturday for the Arlington Million festivities, Castellano and Johnny V will be looking to dominate at the Spa. Javier rides 11 of the 12 races, JV nine. And most are favorites and second choices. Castellano, in fact is looking at a career day.

Besides riding the first two choices in the Alabama,JC and JV will pilot the first two choices in the co-featured Sword Dancer -- Twilight Eclipse and Boisterous, respectively. Unlike the Alabama, the Sword Dancer is wide open with a meet-high 13 going in the mile and a half grade one on the grass.

Don’t ask why NYRA honors Sword Dancer, one of the best dirt horses in history, with a grass race. I have no idea.

As for the Million program, look for foreign horses to thrive in the six grass races, featuring the Million,to be run as race 10. I’ll be shocked if Little Mike, with Rosario up, gets the money.

Thanks for tuning in. have a great racing weekend, go Bucs, keep the Hot Line at your ready, and see you next Friday for a Travers preview.

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