Submitted by John Piesen on Friday, June 27, 2014 at 12:00 AM
THE GIANT-KILLER RETURNS
By John Piesen
A young Allen Jerkins way back when earned the title of "giant killer" when he knocked off the likes of Secretariat, Kelso, Buckpasser, and Cicada.
Well and good. But can the legendary Hall of Famer knock off Untapable?
As a journalist, I like nothing more than a good story…and if the Jerkens-trained House Rules, a winner of a mere one race (a maiden special) in seven starts, somehow knocks off Untapable in the $300,000, Grade One Mother Goose Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park—forget California Chrome—that would qualify as the racing story of the year.
And when we say afternoon, we do mean afternoon. Since Untapable, a winner of her three starts this year, including the Kentucky Oaks, by a combined 23 lengths, is regarded as such a cinch by the suits and ties at NYRA that the Mother Goose will be run as race four on the 10-race program in order of course to keep the race out of the pick six.
What’s more, there will be no show betting, and if we get one or two scratches in the field of six, there will be no place betting as well. Something about the bottom line.
Clearly, the Mother Goose has slipped from its glory days in 1991 when that year’s edition of the race was headlined in the advance piece on page one of the old Morning Telegraphas the "Mother of All Gooses.
That was the headline of all headlines.
To refresh your memory, the ’91 Mother Goose was the occasion when the placing judges required six minutes to declare Meadow Star, at 3-2 with Jerry Bailey, the nose winner over Lite Light, 2-5 with Corey Nakatani. And, to this day, no one’s sure they got it right.
The owners were as interesting as their horses.
Carl Ichan, the owner of Meadow Star, was the president of TWA and one of the wealthiest and ifluential men in America. In fact, Ichan is still making headlines pertaining to an alleged insider trading ring involving Phil Mikkelson..
Lite Light was owned by M. C. Hammer, the primo rap artist of his era. The white-suited Hammer in fact almost missed the race. He was busy signing
autographs in the paddock.
Meadow Star bounced out to a quick-four-length lead, Bailey floated the rallying Lite Light wide on theturn, and they raced as a team to the wire, making the finish impossible to call—although Nakatani declared on national TV that his filly definitely won.
Indeed, as DRF predicted, it was the "mother of all gooses".
A generation later, it’s not Untapable’s fault she’s so good.
So good that trainer Steve Asmussen—normally a conservative sort—has already mapped out the filly’s 3-year-old campaign. Following the Mother Goose, it will be the Coaching Club American Oaks, The Alabama, the Cotillion and the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
If Untapable should go 8-for-8, all graded stakes, that would mean she would follow in the Hall of Fame hoofsteps of the Asmussen-trained Rachel Alexandra, who was voted HOY in 2009. Although Todd Pletcher (Palace Malice) and Art Sherman (California Chrome) may have other ideas.
Off course, I’m on record as predicting that the Chromester will never race again
But Palace Malice is so good that the connections of Stephen Foster winner Moonshine Mullen prefer to ship to Japan rather than face PM at Saratoga.
But we may be getting ahead of ourselves. Although Jerkins has slowed down a bit in his ’80s (he’s 0-for-3 at the Belmont meet), and House Rules is 1-for-7 compared to Untapable’s 5-for-7, I suggest you don’t toss the Chief. A small win play on House Rules and a 1-2 exacta box won’t hurt you all that much.
And speaking of hurt, how ’bout poor Rosie Napravnik?
Rosie, 5-for-6 on Untapable, had the misfortune to suffer a broken shoulder in a training mishap recently at Churchill Downs, costing her the Mother Goose call on Untapable. Johnny Velazquez picks up the mount.
It will be interesting to see if Rosie gets the mount back when she recovers…or if she goes down in history as racing’sWally Pipp.
Of course there’s a third option: Ricardo Santana, Steve’s go-to rider.
As for Saturday, Untapable is one of seven live mounts for Velazquez. Javier Castellano has nine calls in the 10 races, including likely scratch Stopchargingmaria in the Mother Goose.
Moreover, between them, Castellano and Johnny V will ride seven morning-line favorites, leaving the Ortiz brothers their work cut out for one day. Note that Castellano and John V are the only riders winning at a 20 per cent clip at the Belmont meet.
Speaking of numbers,the author of this column had the good fortune to nail four of five winners spanning two days in the past week online at www.johnpiesen.com and at 1-888-777-4155.
The winners were Sinistra ($14.20), Barnards Galaxy ($14.20) and Protonico ($6.50) at Belmont, and Medea ($13.60) at Monmouth... no favorites to be sure.
And I’m just warming up for Saratoga!
Meantime, Joe Bravo is giving up a bunch of live horses at Monmouth Saturday to ride two stakes at Belmont—Cabo Cat in the 100K Manila (race eight), and Viva Rafaela in the 200K New York (race nine).
A touch of irony here. Hall of Famer Leroy Jolley was the trainer of Meadow Star as well as Manila. Toss in the likes of Foolish Pleasure, Honest Pleasure, Optimistic, Galand Ridan and you get quite a resume. And at present he is virtually horseless. Go figure.
Speaking of Saratoga, when you get to the Hall of Fame on Union Avenue during the race meet, make sure you get to view the film of the Ridan-Jaipur ’62 Travers.
Cabo Cat, fresh froma pair of solid stakes seconds, figures to get a perfect outside closing trip from her outside post, and Viva Rafaela will take some catching
in her first-ever Belmont start for the Toddster.
Thanks for tuning in. Have a good weekend, continue to go Buccos, check out my picks online at www.johnpiesen.com and on the Hot Line (that’s 1-888-777-4155), and see you back here next week for some July 4 fireworks.