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Submitted by John Piesen on Friday, October 11, 2013 at 12:00 AM




It wasn’t Affirmed-Alydar, but along media row back in the day, there was no better rivalry than Russell Harris (New York Daily News) vs. John Piesen (New York Post). Times have changed, up to the point where no longer is there racing coverage in the News or Post...but the Wednesday feature at Belmont Park brought us back to the glory days of what remains over favorite sport.

First, some quick background.  

Russ made his reputation taking the chalk, while I would try to beat him with prices. That is why when Russ picked Coastal over Spectacular Bid in the’79 Belmont, it was back page news before, and especially after Coastal  won at a $9 mutuel.

The Bid was denied the Triple Crown at 1-5, and Russ gloated over Coastal the rest of his years.  

Fast forward to last Wednesday. The Belmont feature was, you guessed it, the Coastal Stakes. Emerging from the pack in the last 50 yards was Vegas No Show, who got up by a head in a blanket finish.

As one of my three daily selections online at, and on the John Piesen Hot Line at1-888-612-2283, Vegas No Show, the rank outsider in the field of six, paid $29.  

For good measure, I nailed the $148.50 exacta.

In the immortal words of Newman on Seinfeld -- "oh, the humanity."   Or just: how ’bout "oh, the irony."  

Hope that Russ got the word down there in Eagles’ country...

And, for a footnote, Vegas No Show was one of three straight double-digit winners in as many days for the JPHL.  

The third was Secret Soul at $11.60 in the seventh on Thursday. That one was a fluke because the Soul man’s number was put up when the much-the-best winner was DQd.

A reminder that sometimes -- but only sometimes -- you get lucky in this game.  

This is the right time of the year, with Breeders’ Cup coming up in three weeks at Santa Anita, where it pays to be lucky AND good.

Which is why it would be a good idea to check out my picks down the road for the 14 Cup races (five on Friday, Nov. 1; nine on Saturday, Nov. 2).  

Already there have been some major pre-Cup developments.

In various BC prep races over the last two weeks, the likes of Royal Delta, Wise Dan, Departing, Groupie Doll and Obviously were beaten -- mostly soundly, and all at odds-on.  

So the next time someone tells you racing is an easy game, tell him he’s got his sports confused. See baseball’s League Championship Series where the chalk went 4-for-4.

Sorry about the Bucs.  

I would think that the recent racing carnage portends a wild and wonderful Breeders’ Cup, one in which you will be hard-pressed to find a single on your pick six tickets.

At this point, trainers Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher are scheduled to run 22 horses between them. Double trouble? Perhaps. But a reminder: the Toddster and Bullet Bob did likewise just last year -- and got shut out.  

Here are the likely favorites:


Race 1: Bobby’s Kitten  

Race 2: Graydar    

Race 3: Sky Kingdom  

Race 4: Clenor    

Race 5: Royal Delta    


Race 6: Groupie Doll  

Race 7: Mizdirection  

Race 8: Dank  

Race 9: Sweet Reason  

Race 10: Havana    

Race 11: Big Blue Kitten    

Race 12: Points Offthebench    

Race 13: Wise Dan    

Race 14: Game On Dude    

One notable omission from that list is Honor Code, the bestest 2-year-old in the land, and already a clearcut Derby Futures favorite in Vegas at a very short consensus 10-1.

Instead of running Honor Code for the $2 million purse in the BC Juvenile, in which he’d be 3-5, the Shugster, with his eyes on a second straight Derby, will stay home to run Honor Code for about one-fifth the purse in the Remsen at Aqueduct.  

Let’s project Honor Code the winner at 1-9 in a four-horse Remsen. Does that single stakes win, in a Grade Two no less, give Honor Code the 2-year-old title over the BC winner?

That will be interesting to watch   

Another interesting query:

Does Joel Rosario replace Javier Castellano on HC?  

Rosario, who won the Derby for Shug last spring on Orb, has been sidelined since sustaining a broken foot in a spill on Aug. 28 at Saratoga, returns to action today at Belmont, and, on Saturday, he will ride major players in both stakes --Za Approval in the Knickerbocker, Abaco (for Shug) in the Athenia.

If all goes well, Rosario will be in serious demand for the BC, and serious handicappers have to take note.  

Boisterous, who won the Knick as the stick for Shug last year, will be the one to beat under Castellano, who replaces Johnny V., who is at Keeneland these days.

Boisterous is a multiple graded stakes-winner on the grass, is 6-for-10 over the course, and should get the perfect stalking trip from the 11-hole.  

Going as race seven, the Knick will be the first leg of the 300K guaranteed Late Pick Four.

Boisterous probably will win at a short price, but to single him is doing so at considerable risk.  

Quinby Pete came off the bench to wire maidens last out for Trombetta, and is a likely repeater with Luzzi in race eight. Freeride and Confrontation should challenge.

Jockey Gabriel Saez will be looking to steal the Athenia on Assateague for trainer Matz. Abaco will be running late as will Samitar and Ruthenia.  

Deterrent and Upward hook up again in the 10th. Trainer David Jacobson, who fills races all by himself these days, has a dangerous contender in Force Multiplier.

Thanks for tuning in. We’ll touch more Breeders’ Cup bases next week, maybe uncover a $9 winner or two, and, in view of the Bucs’ exit, let’s go Steelers. And, of course, by no means let the red-hot JP Hot Line out of your sight.  

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