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Submitted by John Piesen on Friday, May 31, 2013 at 12:00 AM


The race of the year. A modern-day Forego-Honest Pleasure. Whatever you want to label it, the Met Mile last Monday evening at Belmont Park was one for the ages.

Cross Traffic, after turning back three challenges through blistering fractions, got nailed in the last jump by Sahara Sky, who was 10-wide out past the crown of
the racetrack.

At least the camera says he got nailed. You could have fooled the betting public, notably the 11,000 who spent the 10 hours on-site.

Pity the media people who bad to interview losing trainer Pletcher. Of course, there were no media people. Yanks-Mets down the LIE was already starting.

But the folks tuned in to the John Piesen Hot Line (1-888-612-2283) would not leave disappointed. The JPHL called it: 1) Cross Traffic, 2) Sahara the $77 payoff for a $2 exacta box wasn’t too painful. For all of this weekend’s BEST BET Winners, CLICK HERE.

I wish the NYRA news this weekend was as good. Saturday at Belmont is "Big Apple Showcase Day". one of the annual highlights on the NYRA schedule.
Nothing but New York-breds, and seven of the races are stakes.

So far so good.

But where will New York’s top riders be?

Glad you asked.

After riding the Bouwerie Stakes, the Affirmed Success Handicap and the Mike Lee Stakes (races three thru five) at Belmont, jockeys Castellano, Johnny V, Rosario and Saez will be whisked by limo to a private Long Island airport, from which they will be flown to Grantville, Pa., to ride the lucrative evening stakes at Penn National by the Casino -- thereby blowing off the Mount Vernon Stakes, the Dancing Renee Handicap, the Commentator Stakes, and the Kingston Stakes, worth a combined half-mill.

Hey, I don’t mean to tell the jockeys how to run their business, especially when they are risking their lives and careers every time they throw the boots on, but don’t they own at least some loyalty to the horse owners who pay their way, if not the fans who support the game.

Too bad that jockeys Cordero, Migliore and Jorge Velazquez, who will be on hand to sell autographs before the Belmont races, can’t stick around to lace ’em up.

Oh, yes, the four Penn National stakes will go as the first four races on the PN card, starting at 6 p.m., and they will gross a collective $960,000.

’Nuff said.

As the late Mike Lee was want to say, they love the chalk in New York, and, appropriately, they will love the chalk in the state-bred stakes Saturday, notably Lovely Syn (race three); Saginaw (race four); Sunny Desert (race seven), and Spa City Fever (race eight).

I’ll make the over-under 3 1/2.

Jo Beth Scovazzo, for years did well as a horse therapist on the NYRA circuit, well enough to breed and own horses of her own. But with Hall of Famer Frank Martin running the shedrow, Joe Beth couldn’t buy a winner.

At the time that Frank passed on two years back, Joe Beth had a New York-bred yearling filly down on the farm whom she named Lovely Syn. 

Long story short.

Unraced at two, Lovely Syn, now in trainer Schettino’s care, is three-for-three by a combined 13 lengths at 3, capped by a blowout victory in the New York Stallion Stakes at 2-5. She’ll be a similar price Saturday under Castellano, who subs for the injured Luzzi.

Saginaw, odds-on in seven of his last nine starts, is batting a remarkable .500 (19 for 38 lifetime), and current trainer Davidson continues to dominate the Belmnt standings (21-for-75).

But Saginaw had the misfortune to draw the rail, and his opposition includes Willy Beamin, the 2012 Kings Bishop winner, who makes his first start for trainer Rodriguez, currently mired in an awful slump.

After losing his five starts, Sunny Desert, has won eight of her last nine for trainer Parisella. This is the toughest spot yet for the 4-year-old filly, who is drawn well in six with jockey Maragh.

Spa City Fever couldn’t buy, beg or steal a win for numbers maven Jerry Brown and ace handicapper Roger Neubauer. But then Jacobson stepped in to claim the 7-year-old gelding for $62,500, and he won an allowance first pop by daylight, albeit a three-horse race.

Now Jacobson wheels SCF back a week later in a stake, and we’ll see what more magic Buddy’s son can pull off.  

Meantime, what are the chances that the Belmont Four form the superfecta in the Penn National biggie, the inaugural running of the 500K Penn Mile, going as race four?

The BF are Noble Tune (Castellano), Are You Kidding Me (Saez), Jack Milton (Johnny V), and Charming Kitten (Rosario).

Last time out, Charming Kitten was a respectable ninth in the Kentucky Derby, coincidentally to a horse ridden by Rosario.

Charming Kitten and Jack Milton form an uncoupled entry for Pletcher, who, the last we looked, has five in the Belmont Stakes this year.

Maybe these five equal one Rags to Riches, who won the Belmont for the Toddster in ’07, Todd’s lone winner from his 36 TC starters.

The Toddster will hope to be high fivin’ in this Belmont with Revolutionary, Overanalyze, Palace Malice, Midnight Taboo, and Unlimited Budget..

Since jockey Borel made the mistake of getting beat (third) in the Derby, Pletcher switches to Castellano for the Belmont. Todd also gets Rosie for the filly Unlimited Budget when Baffert changed his mind on Code West, Rosie’s original call.

I would not be at all surprised if Revolutionary goes favorite over Orb and Oxbow.

One thing is certain: with Pletcher running five, there is no way Stevens will get to repeat his Preakness larceny on Oxbow.

Entries will be drawn Wednesday for the Belmont, which like, the Met, will be run late Saturday.

Speaking of late Saturday, did you notice that a Pax shipper named Big Sur won the Majestic Light Stakes as the rank outsider late last Saturday at Monmouth Park?

This was the first stakes win for Big Sur...but back in the early ’90s, a horse by the very same name won several stakes for D. Wayne, including the Southwest at Oaklawn Park.

I guess nobody told The Jockey Club, which has rules against such things.

Thanks for tuning in. Good luck this weekend (go Buccos). and keep the JP Hot Line at your ready. See you back here next Friday for some more good Belmont talk.

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