Submitted by John Piesen on Friday, March 14, 2014 at 12:00 AM
By John Piesen
You need proof? Just check out last Saturday.
The five major stakes all were won wire to wire. There was Oliver Zip in the Fred Caposella Stakes at Aqueduct; Ring Weekend in the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs, and Leitai in the Duncan Kenner at Fair Grounds.
And, at Santa Anita -- Game On Dude in the Santa Anita Handicap, and California Chrome in the San Felipe.
Draw your own conclusions.
All I know is that all five could have gone around again, and all five still would have won. Maybe it was a one-shot deal. Maybe not. All I know is it proved, at least to me, that the single most important element in handicapping is speed. Always has been. Always will.
Then there was the second installment of my Derby Top Ten in this venue last weekend.
In case you missed it, my top three were Top Billing, Bayern and Honor Code.
Not a good situation.
Before the ink was dry on the column, it was announced Top Billing and Bayern were injured, and sidelined indefinitely, and on Wednesday, Honor Code got beat 10 lengths in his 3-year-old debut in an allowance at Gulfstream.
The winner of the race, Social Injustice, broke the track record for a mile and a 16th and suddenly is everyone’s now horse for the Derby.
We’ll learn a lot more about the Derby on Saturday when they run the Rebel at Oaklawn Park.
The Big Three in the Rebel are Tapiture, the blowout winner of the Southwest over the track a month back; Strong Mandate, who had a nightmare trip for second in the same race, and Kobe’s Back, who exits a five-length score in the San Vicente.
Old friend Steve Asmussen is sitting on a parlay for the ages.
A few days back, Asmussen was nominated for the Hall of Fame, and he’s a cinch to get in. As is Curlin, the two-time Horse of the Year for Asmussen.
The Hall of Fame and the Derby in the same year?
Stranger things have happened. Tapiture at this writing looks as good as any 3-year-old alive, and he’ll have the chance to prove it in the Rebel. And it doesn’t hurt that jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr., at age 20, is looking more and more like a modern-day Laffit Pincay.
Tapiture has worked only twice since the Southwest -- five-eighths in 1:00 2/5 and an easy half in :50 1/5. Of course he’ll be a lot shorter than the $13 he paid in the Southwest as a best bet online at www.nationalracemasters.com and on the John Piesen Hot Line 1-888-777-4155.
Now that Super Steve is heading for the Hall of Fame, it would be nice to see his brother Cash join him down the road.
But you never know about the Hall of Fame. Where are Gasper Moschera and Larry Snyder? Both should have been elected to the Hall years ago, and both are still waiting.
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If you’re looking for a price in the Rebel, you could do a lot worse than Hoppertunity.
You might recognize the connections: Bob Baffert and Mike Smith, who gave us Game On Dude in the Big ’Cap last week. Hopportunity had a rough trip closing for fourth in the Risen Star last month, and would stand to benefit if a speed duel develops in the Rebel.
Incidentally, Albano, who was beaten a dirty nose by Intense Holiday in the Risen Star, has the makings of a nice 3-year-old for Larry Jones. We’ll learn more in the Louisiana Derby in two weeks.
They put him on the lead in the Risen Star, but I’ll bet they try (jockey Kerwin Clark) to rate him in future races.
This may be one of those years when we see one front-end winner after another during Derby week at Churchill Downs, only to see closers dominate the main event.
But from what we’ve seen so far, I’m thinking California Chrome will be the one to catch in the Derby.
But they probably will.
Finally, our condolences to the Bomze family on the death this week of Richard Bomze, who devoted his life to his family and to racing.
Richard, who passed Tuesday at 76, will forever be linked with his two great horses -- Fourstardave and Fourstars All Star.
A good man, on and off the racetrack.
Rest in peace, Richard.
Thank you for tuning in. Have a great week, and see you back here next Friday.