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Submitted by John Piesen on Friday, September 6, 2013 at 12:00 AM

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By John Piesen

Where have all the horses gone?

They seem to have gone to Bossier City, La. -- at least as far as the first week of the September of our years is concerned?

A check of Saturday’s racing calendar discovers that the racing cards at Belmont Park and Monmouth Park reveals one stake (with a six-horse field and 3-5 favorite); two allowance races (both for state-breds), and a not so sweet 16 events for maidens and claimers.

You want action Saturday!

Thanks to simulcasting, you’ve got it.

Saturday is Super Derby Day at Louisiana Downs, hard by the Red River and thriving casinos in northern Louisiana, It’s not an easy place to get to. In most cases, you have to fly to Dallas, shuttle to Shreveport. and motor to Bossier City, where it no doubt will be 90 degrees and climbing.

Louisiana Downs is so tough to find that, despite a half-dozen six-figure stakes, topped by the 500K Super Derby, not one top-tier jockey is making the trip. The only riders with any kind of a national profile are Robby Albarado, and Pat Valenzuela, who is embarking on his umpteenth comeback.

Oh, for the days when Ramon Dominguez would be there, riding every favorite, most of them winners.

By the way, that was a surreal moment on the final day at Saratoga when thousands surrounded the winner’s circle to cheer Ramon as he was receiving the Mike Venezia Award. And not a dry eye in the place.

That was the highlight of the Spa meet. But there was no shortage of lowlights, notably the tragic equine deaths on the racetrack, the reduced quality of the racing product, and the investigation into Buzzergate.

In case you missed it, the brother of trainer Eric Guillot, whose Moreno got beat a nose by Will Take Charge, charged that winning jockey Gabriel Saez was packin’. The Gaming Commission is studying the evidence, and we await the results.

I have no opinion as to the validity of the charges. But I do see the racing establishment (see Steve Christ and Jerry Bailey) wasted no time condemning the if no such thing as an electric device exists.

I know better. I have covered racing at racetracks where "packin" was a way of life. You need look no further than jockey Billy Patin and longshot Valhol in the 1999 Arkansas Derby.

And a veteran trainer told me: "Hell, there were at least four or five other guys packin’ that day."

In the Travers case, the chances are slim to none that Saez was packin’, but I believe racing does itself a disservice when it pleads total ignorance.

Speaking of jockeys, here are two riders to watch this Fall at Belmont Park, which opens Saturday after a four-day NYRA break.

One is Jersey Joe Bravo, who, after a quarter-century of knocking ’em dead in the Garden State, plans to ride full-time at Belmont. In a rather light colony, Joe figures to make an impact. While the real world will be occupied with the NFL on Sunday (go Bucs), Joe will be riding seven at Belmont.

Of course, even at age 42, Joe still moves ’em up on the grass.

The other newcomer is apprentice Manuel Franco, who comes to New York after a successful career debut season at Monmouth Park, which is down to two days a week. For openers, Franco rides five on Saturday, including Salvator Mile winner Raging Daoust for Buddy Carlesimo, P.J.’s first cousin.

Otherwise, keep an eye on some of those horses who ran out of track at Saratoga. They will benefit with the change to Belmont, which traditionally favors closers.

As does Louisiana Downs, whose homestretch seems to go on forever.

Let’s take look at the LAD six stakes-pack:


Thunder Run, a 150K son of Colonel John, finished widest and fastest in his Ellis debut. Has the right connections (Mike Maker and Robby Albarado) for the 100K Sunday Silence. Pontotoc and Got Shades are the main rivals.


Grandma’s Rules has been beating better in richer venues. Makes the last move with Robby in the 100K River Cities. Miss Addison and Artemus Kitten are the ones to beat.


Bern Legacy impressed winning Ellis debut. Robby again in the 100K Happy Ticket. Redgrass Cat and Thegirlinthatsong figure noses apart.


The super-fast Gantry is using this 50K Temperence Hill as a prep for the Breeders’ Cut Sprint. Short price with Eramia. Joe Hollywood and Unitas money prospects.


Major Marvel, a Saratoga winner as the stick, gets slight call over String King and Global Power in wide-open 100K Unbridled.


Departing, my Preakness pick, looks like a lock with Robby in the 500K Super Derby. Pval will be on the lead with Cameo Appearance. Bashaar saves all the ground with Channing Hill from the one-hole.

At Belmont, gotta like Hyper to wire the 250K Bowling Green for the red-hot Chad Brown-Javier Castellano team.

Thanks for tuning in. Have great weekend, go both Bucs, check out the red-hot John Piesen Hot Line (1-888 612 2283), and see you back here next Friday.

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