Submitted by John Piesen on Friday, November 29, 2013 at 12:00 AM
HOW ’BOUT A CIGAR?
By John Piesen
Surely you are giving thanks today if you landed on the Raiders and/or the Steelers on Turkey Day. Now what better way to celebrate than a little horse action this weekend, specifically at Aqueduct and Churchill Downs?
The matchup at Churchill late Friday afternoon is a classic: in one corner, Game On Dude, trained by Bullet Bob Baffert, and in the opposite corner, Will Take Charge, trained by D.Wayne Lukas.
Normally, I personally would jump all over Will Take Charge...but there is one problem.
Of the last 92 horses DWL has run in stakes at Churchill, a grand total of one has won!
And that list includes Will Take Charge, who dragged home eighth in the Derby last May, beaten a dozen lengths.
Will Take Charge fared no better in the Preakness and Belmont, but since then he has developed into the best 3-year-old in the land. If that photo goes the other way in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he’s the Horse of the Year.
One jump too late.
So instead of calling it a year with WTC, trainer Lukas is giving the big guy one more shot in the $500,000 Clark Handicap at Churchill at 6:35 p.m, Eastern Standard.
And this time, WTC will have to run down a loose-on-the-lead Game On Dude, who will break from the friendly one-hole going nine furlongs.
My heart likes Will Take Charge; my head says Game On Dude.
Hey, it’s horse racing. Maybe one or two of the other seven will spoil the fun. You never know.
Mike Smith always seems to know.
Just back from Hong Kong, where he competed with buddy Gary Stevens in some kind of interglobal jockeys’ competition, Mike went straight to Louisville to ride Game On Dude in the Clark, then promptly boarded another jet for the trip to New York to ride longshot Laugh Track in the 500K Cigar Mile Saturday at Aqueduct.
The Cigar is being hyped as a showdown between Breeders’ Cup winners Goldencents and Groupie Doll. And, indeed, if either should win, he or she will be in line for an Eclipse Award -- or two.
But Laugh Track, a total stranger to these parts, has a shot at a major upset. The 4-year-old spent most of his career in Canada, and his best day was a victory in the Grade 3 Vigil at Woodbine.
Trainer Mark Casse then sent Laugh Track to Keeneland where the four-legged LT closed for second in the Phoenix Handicap.
That performance earned LT a trip to Santa Anita for the BC Sprint, and with first-time Smith, circled the field from the 12-hole at 16-1, and missed by a neck of catching presumptive sprint champion Secret Circle.
Logic says that Laugh Track, flying those pink and black silks of Gary Barber, will be coming widest and fastest in the Cigar, which goes at 3:20 EST, and just maybe Mike Smith will be thrusting his arms skyward in the winner’s circle.
Talk about a tall task.
Laugh Track will have to run down three from Pletcher (Verrazano, Forty Tales, Capo Bastone); two from O’Neill (Goldencents, Private Zone); one from Mott (Flat Out), and one from Bill Parcells (Saratoga Snacks).
How good is this Cigar field?
So good that Saratoga Snacks, exiting a victory in the 250K Empire Classic at Belmont, will be 20-1.
Of course jockey Joel Rosario takes off Saratoga Snacks to ride Forty Tales.
Assume that Parcells will share some happy talk in the paddock with Rick Pitino, who has a piece of Goldencents. Louisville doesn’t really need Pitino to handle Southern Miss that day.
In stark contrast to the wide-open Cigar, the 400K Remsen for 2-year-olds, to be run a half-hour later at the Big A, centers on one horse -- that be Honor Code, who will be 1-5 in a field of nine going a mile and an eighth.
Despite merely a maiden win and a Champagne placing on his resume, Honor Code, a homebred son of A.P. Indy trained by Shug McGaughey, is currently the standout favorite in the Kentucky Derby Winter Book.
If Honor Code wins the Remnsen, and does so impressively, he will start his 3-year-old campaign as the shortest-priced Derby favorite since the Carter Administration. If not, we’re back to square one.
That said, can anyone identify the reigning BC Juvenile winner? You have five seconds.
If the Beyers float your boat, only one Remsen runner (Cairo Prince) is in the same area code as Honor Code. And Cairo Prince is drawn poorly outside in post nine.
Then again, it could be quite a weekend for jockey Luis Saez -- Will Take Charge and Cairo Prince.
PIESEN OWNS “BIG A”
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It must be worth noting that Honor Code and Cairo Prince already have impressed this author’s followers online at www.johnpiesen.com and on the John Piesen Hot Line 1-888-612-2283.
Honor Code was the Hot Line call at $8.50 in his Saratoga debut, and Cairo Prince was nailed at $10.60 winning the Nashua.
This is a good spot to note that one should pay attention this column.
Last Friday, for example, in this venue, I hit the $38.80 exacta cold in the next day’s $1 million Delta Jackpot, the second richest race for juveniles in the U.S. The winner was Rise Up; the runnerup Casiguaqo.
It’s a long way to the first Saturday in May, but Rise Up, presently 50-1, is sure worth a play in the Derby futures.
Thanks for tuning. Enjoy the rest of the holiday, check out the JPHL, good luck with those eight maiden-specials Saturday at Churchill, and see you back here next Friday!
And how ’bout those Steelers!
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