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Submitted by John Piesen on Friday, February 21, 2014 at 12:00 AM


By John Piesen

I have to confess I got a little nervous on Monday when a TVG talking head declared that Tapiture was a throwout in the upcoming Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

After all I had released Tapiture online at and on the National Racemasters Hot Line (1-888-777-4155), and I did so with extreme confidence. Ride on Curlin was my second choice, and Strong Mandate, the stick from D. Wayne Lukas, was my third selection.

Long story short. Tapiture won by three lengths at a $13 mutuel. Strong Mandate and Ride on Curlin completed a $170 trifecta.

The race also completed a super handicapping holiday feat for yours truly..

On Sunday, the Aqueduct cancellation left me with only one pick, Serendip, at Oaklawn. He breezed at $22.60.

That was just a prelude to Monday when Tapiture capped a 7-for-12 day, which included four cold exactas at OP, and a 2-for-2 perfecto at the Big A.

After a day off, I turned my attention to Tampa on Wednesday, and nailed Brass Rail with old buddy Dean Butler at $12.20.

Historically, harking back to my days at the New York Post and Daily Racing Form, I tend to get streaky, and obviously I’m currently on one of those streaks. Hopefully, I’ll keep it going on Saturday with selections -- among others -- in two major 3-year-old stakes, the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, and the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds, and two stakes at Aqueduct.

The $400,000 Fountain of Youth is by far the most compelling race of the day. The nine-furlong Grade II drew a field of 13, and even TVG will be hard-pressed to find a throwout.

Like the Southwest, the Fountain of Youth is being billed as a two-horse race, at least on paper, but as noted, I think virtually any one of the 13 is capable of getting the job done.

The Big Two are Commissioner, in the one-hole with Johnny Velazquez, and Top Billing, way out there in the 12-hole with Joel Rosario, for trainers Pletcher and McGaughey, respectively.

Coincidentally, both colts are 2-1-0 from three starts, both get in at a feathery 116 pounds, and both last week made my first Derby Top Ten in this venue. Of course, Commisioner gets a big break in the draw, but there is a good furlong run to the first turn, which helps the outside runners.

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Pletcher has made a habit of winning stakes with the bigger price of uncoupled entries, and it would be no surprise if he does so here with We Miss Artie, already a Grade One winner for the Ramseys, and goes turf to dirt.

Interesting that Javier Castellano takes off Artie to ride General a Rod for Mike Maker, but Jersey Joe Bravo, riding in top form, is a worthy substitute. The Canadian-bred also is well-drawn in the two-hole.

Luis Saez, currently sitting pretty with Cairo Prince, the current consensus pick for the Derby, and Will Take Charge, the best older horse in training, gets a live mount in Wildcat Red, clearly the speed of the speed from the four-hole.

An intriguing longshot is Casiguapo, who gets a positive rider change to Jose Lezcano. The Calder-based horse completed his 2-year-old campaign with a second in the Delta Jackpot to Rise Up, who is a major player for Tom Amoss in the Risen Star.

It also pays to note that Calvin Borel gives up several live mounts at Oaklawn on Saturday to make the trip for Almost Famous -- despite the fact that AF was beaten a good seven lengths by Cairo Prince last out in the Holy Bull.

Speaking of Borel, I’m hearing that the movie 50-1, the story of Mine That Bird, is going to be a smash hit, and that Calvin does fine playing himself in the film. Are we looking at the next DeNiro here?

Besides the Toddster, Dale Romans and Stan Gold also have uncoupled entries in the race.

What I find interesting in the Fountain of Youth is that there is not a single shipper in the field. All but Casiguapo are based at Gulfstream. No home-field advantage here.

The Fountain of Youth is the third leg in the Gulfstream Pick Four, which presents plenty of value.

The gimmick kicks off with race nine, the 200K Davona Dale Stakes, a Grade Two for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.

Eight will answer the bell, and wouldn’t you know, the Toddster will run the first two choices -- Stopchargingmaria and the unbeaten Onlyforyou, with Johnny V and Castellano, respectively.

Under normal circumstances, these two could be expected to bury themselves in a speed duel, but obviously these are not normal circumstances.

Nevertheless, I have to believe the venerable H. Allen Jerkens has a shot here with recent maiden-breaker House Rules. The filly will come flying at the end under Alex Solis.

Between them, The Chief and Solis have a good 120 years of experience in the game.

Pletcher also is alive in race 10, the grassy 150K Canadian Turf, a mile Grade Three, with the 6-year-old Irish-bred Salto, with Bravo up.

The competition in a full field of 12 includes Bad Debt, Johar, North Star Boy and Fredericksburg. Not to mention Guys Reward and Abtaal. Yes sir. This baby is wide-open.

Race 11 of course is the Fountain of Youth, and race 12, a 75K maiden-claimer, has a field of 14, and you know we have to be looking at a double-digit winner here.

Calvin is sticking around to ride bomber Street Chief for his long-time pal Bill Bradley, not to be confused with the original Bill Bradley. Ringold, Leap in the

Stars, Great Minds and Perky Kitten all have shots.    

Thanks for checking in, keep the Hot Line in mind, and see you back here next Friday.


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