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Submitted by John Piesen on Friday, April 5, 2013 at 12:00 AM


By John Piesen:

The late, great New York sports journalist Mike Lee would often remind the unwashed masses that "they love the chalk in New York."

One look at the action on the Aqueduct racetrack on Thursday, and I would slightly amend Mike’s pet phrase to:

"Beware the chalk in New York".

You need reasons?

Here are three.

Race One:

Anyone who has been exposed to my work for the last quarter-century knows how much I despise the uncoupled entry.

Here was the perfect example:

The customary five horses competed in the mile allowance. Tenango, the 7-10 favorite trained by David Jacobson, was picked on top by every public handicapper in the city. Much Stronger, also trained by David Jacobson, was the 6-1 third choice.

You lnow the rest of the story.

Much Stronger looked like Spend A Buck wiring the field by 3 1/2 lengths. Tenango raced a comfortable second every step, middle-moved going nowhere, and was content to finish second, five-plus lengths before the third choice.
Too bad. sucker...

Natch, there was zero coverage in the media.

Race Two:

Honest Johnny, the stick in a field of six maiden-claimers going three-quarters, was wiped out at the break by Tish’s Bad Boy. HJ did well to close for third after spotting the field 15 lengths. For his troubles, Tiz’s Bad Boy checked in last, negating any reason for a beef.

Race Three:

Peggy Jane, the 6-5 chalk in a field of six fillies in a mile allowance, was a day and half the best, but settled for fourth, beaten a total of three-quarters of a length, because jockey Cohen, on the 8-1 Princess Mara, trapped PJ on the fence for the final half-mile behind Carameaway, the $48 rank outsider, who went wire to wire.

By getting beat, Peggy Jane caused a 22K Pick Six carryover into Friday, but we’re not talking conspiracy theorists here.

But if the reader hits the two-day jackpot on Friday, a thank-you note to Cohen would be a nice gesture.

Wood Memorial & Santa Anita Derby Plus Calder Magic on Saturday

This should very well turn out to be John Piesen’s BIGGEST SATURDAY YET in 2013. He is absolutely confident that the information he has put together from trainers, jockeys and on site contacts WILL GET BOXCAR RETURNS ON TWO MAJOR PREPS and the FULL CARDS at Aqueduct and Santa Anita on Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby Day. John knows how vital it is to take advantage of all the amateur money up for grabs on Saturday, so he will TAKE IT ALL at these two major venues. In addition, John is heading to Calder for THREE BIG OPENING DAY PLAYS, his Insider Long Shot, Horse For The Course Exotic and the Win-Exacta-Trifecta for the Calder Derby. Get this BIG TIME PAYDAY...JUST $50

That said, they will run two big-money Kentucky Derby preps on Saturday, and, in each, the public will bet as though the chalk is a lock. We have the unbeaten (4-4) Verrazano at 3-5 in the $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct -- and the irony is that Jersey and Staten Island folks will gladly fork down the $13 toll at the Verrazano Bridge to get to bet the four-legged Verrazano (named for the bridge) in person.

If Verrazano wins the Wood, and does so decisively, he will go Louisville as the shortest-priced Kentucky Derby favorite of modern times. If he gets beat, anything with a four legs, a mane and a tail will catch Derby fever.

If Verrazano should crumble. Vijack, likewise unbeaten (3-3), is the logical candidate to pick up the pieces. Under the new points system, a one-two finish by Vip boys (remember the Rock Hudson-Doris Day epic) would guarantee that none of the other eight Wood horses would have the points to qualify for Louisville.

And there are some talented colts in that group -- notably Normandy Invasion, Mr Palmer, Always In a Tiz and Elnaawi.

What if Always In a Tiz produces a fast-closing third or fourth under new rider Borel, who made the long trip from Hot Springs for the mount (change at Dallas).

That would mean that Borel is denied the chance to win his fourth Derby in six years.

Just saying.

We already have one talented 3-year-old ineligible to run in the Derby because of the newfangled point system. That would be the filly Dreaming of Julia, who last week won the Gulfstream Oaks by a dozen lengths...and she went her nine-furlongs two seconds faster than Orb did in winning the Florida Derby an hour later.

That reminds me. People really need to pay attention to my Derby Top Ten list.

In the last list, two weeks back, Orb was rated No. 1...and went off third choice in the Florida Derby.

A reminder that this is the fifth anniversary of the Derby in which Big Brown, Eight Belles and Denis of Cork finished 1-2-3 in the Derby -- just as they finished 1-2-3 in our final Top Ten.

That 2008 Derby trifecta paid 3K and change. The fifth anniversary would seem a good time to repeat history. For my selections on the the Derby preps and Triple Crown races, check out (888 612 2283).

Like the Wood, the 750K at Santa Anita Derby, to be run Saturday at glamorous Santa Anita, is a nine-furlong Grade 1 worth 100 Derby points to the winner, and also will feature an odds-on favorite. His name is Flashback, and he will be the speed from the rail in a field reduced to eight by the late scratch of likely second-choice Hear the Ghost.

This race goes one better than the first at Aqueduct on Thursday.

In this case, trainer Baffert will run a three-horse uncoupled entry --Flashback, Power Broker, and Super Ninety Nine, who is wheeled right back after stopping in the slop as the 6-5 favorite in the Rebel at Hot Springs.

Two of the three get rider changes. Gomez takes off Tiz a Minister to replace Leparoux on Flashback, and Martin Garcia replaces Bejarano on Super Ninety Nine. Rafael stays on Power Broker, who makes his first start since an OK  fifth at 2-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Shanghai Bobby, the winner of that race, was removed from Derby consideration days after his ugly Florida Derby, thus maintaining a remarkable stat: BC
Juvie winners are now 1-for-28 in the Derby, the exception Street Sense in 2006-’07.

We’ve been on the Tiz A Minister bandwagon since nailing him at $19.40 in the Cal Breeders’ Cup, a race in which runnerup Omega Star won a Santa Anita stake last week.

In the subsequent San Felipe, Minister closed from 15 lengths back to finish third, beaten a length, while being cut off by the winner, Hear the Ghost, inside the eighth pole. Gomez didn’t bother to beef, and the stews showed no interest in getting involved.

Now, Tiz A Minister goes from Gomez to Talamo, which is the racing equivalent of Jimmy Fallon for Jay Leno.

Then there’s Goldencents, who’s still a player despite his fourth in the San Felipe.

As the fates would have it, Rick Pitino will be occupied late in the second half with Louisville in the Final Four at Atlanta at the precise time that Goldencents will be trying to get to Louisville via the Santa Anita Derby.

That RAP Racing in the ownership line of Goldencents stands for Rick A. Pitino.

Sometimes you get the feeling that this is Rick Pitino’s world, and the rest of us are just living in it.

Meantime, trainer Pletcher, who merely won six stakes last weekend -- three at Gulf, three at Fair Grounds --  is conspicuous by his absence in the Santa Anita Derby.

Then again, the Toddster is perfectly capable of pulling off another stakes triple at Aqueduct with Verrazano, Princess of Sylmar in the Gazelle, and Discreet Dancer in the Carter. All are chalk.

The Gazelle (race eight), kicks off a consecutive all-stakes 250K guaranteed pick  four, to be completed by the Bay Shore, Carter and the Wood. My Aqueduct (and Santa Anita) full-card picks will be available here online and at 1-888-612 2283.

Thanks for tuning in, have a great racing and hoops weekend, and we’ll be back next Friday for a detailed look at The Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass.

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