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Submitted by John Piesen on Friday, August 1, 2014 at 12:00 AM


By John Piesen

To no one’s surprise, Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown have been the dominant trainers at Saratoga. On Saturday, we will find out how dominant
when the Toddster and CB each run seven on the Whitney card at the Spa.

I’ll make the over-under six winners, and I’ll take the over.

Pletcher has Designed for War in race three; Royal Son and Mariano intheninth in race five; Lawn Party in race six; Silsita in race seven (the De La Rose); Capo Bastone in the eighth (the Vanderbilt); Red Velvet and Sweet Whiskey in race nine (the Test) and Palace Malice in race 10 (the Whitney). 

Brown counters with Leroy Jr. in the first, Rubindy in the fourth; Granny’s McKitten in the sixth (all morning-line favorites); Pianist in the seventh; Bakken in the eighth; Last Gunfighter in the tenth, and Big Blue Kitten in the eleventh. That’s five chalks total.

But the biggest chalk of the day is Palace Malice, perhaps as low as 3-5
It’s nice to see that after all these years, Cot Campbell, at age 85, and with a half-century in the game, comes up with the horse of a lifetime.

But I have to admit I was ripped last November when I confidently gave out Palace Malice at 6-1 online at and on the John Piesen Hot Line 1-888-612-2283 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic...and he checked in sixth, beaten three lengths, thanks to a magical mystery tour ride by Rafael Bejarano .

It’s all about the timing.

Palace Malice hasn’t lost since. He’s won four straight, all graded stakes; he tops the current TRA weekly poll with 32 of the 36 first-place votes, and is regarded as the best racehorse in America, the favorite for Horse of the Year.

Oh, yes. Macho Macho Man, the winner of the Classic, has been retired to stud, and Will Take Charge, the runnerup, is a subsequent one-for-five.

But Will Take Charge has every reason to knock off Palace Malice again in the Whitney. He has (for him) been rested; he gets rider Luis Saez back, he gets the
ground-saving one-hole, and he likes the Spa (see last year’s Travers).

Moreno, who got beat a zap by WTC in that Travers. capping a $324 exacta score for the followers of the Hot Line, also returns for the Whitney, and he’ll be very tough to catch. If he gets loose on the lead. such as we suggested about Bayern in the Haskell last week, he’ll be long gone...especially what with the seven-pound pull he’ll be getting from Palace Malice and Will Take Charge.

I’m still kicking myself for the Haskell. I tossed the odds-on filly Untapable in this space, and made the race between Bayern and Social Inclusion.

Social Inclusion at 12-1 was soaking wet going to the gate, and he got whacked by Untapable leaving the gate, losing his position. Instead of getting the perfect trip right off Bayern, he was squeezed back to mid-pack, leaving Bayern loose on the lead and home free. 

The only two people who felt worse than I did were Social Inclusion’s owner, who responded ny canning his trainer the next day, and hiring (who else?) Chad Brown, and Travis Stone, the full-time Monmouth track announcer.

Three days before the Haskell, Stone, who this year replaced Churchill-bound Larry Colmus at the Monmouth horn, was quoted in an on-line piece as saying how much thrilled he was to be calling the Haskell— on national television no less.

A life-changer perhaps?

But what happened?

Imagine my shock when Larry Colmus turned up to call the Haskell (leaving Stone to work the other 13 races). I don’t know if that was NBC’s call or Monmouth’s, or maybe a combination of the two. But I’m sure you’ll agree it still stinks.

That was only one blemish for NBC.

The network had six self-proclaimed experts on the hour-long show. They all made selections, yet not one picked Bayern, although he was the morning-line and post-time second choice. Bad enough. But even worse was that co-hosts Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey said, with a minute to get down, that Untapable was a lock.

Both these guys are both pros and should no better. Anyone with a passing interest in racing knows there is no such thing in this game as a lock.

Then, after the race, Rosie Napravnik and Steve Asmussen, the rider and trainer of Untapable, refused to come on camera. A common courtesy for the connections of the losing favorite. Especially in this case when the entire broadcast was focused on Rosie and Super Steve.

Don’t cry for me Rosie. On Thursday, she won the Shipman Stakes at Saratoga with a $58 horse, and, on Saturday, she will pass up the super Spa card to rideTapiture, for Asmussen, in the 750K West Virginia Derby, the highlight of a six-stakes card at Mountaineer. And she’ll probably win it.

Alan Garcia will ride Vicar’s in Trouble (replacing Rosie), and Corey Nakatani will pilot Candy’s Boy in a field of nine.

A reminder: once again it pays to read this venue. Last week I touted in this space a mare named Starstruck in the Matchmaker Sunday at Monmouth. Under a
nasty ride by Kevin Clark, she split horses mid-stretch and won by two at a $13 mutuel.

That capped a big weekend for Larry Jones, who is mending from potentially fatal injuries sustained in a spill at Delaware Park. The Cowboy also won the
Amsterdam at Saratoga with Coup de Grace, and was second with the 15-1 Albano in the rich Haskell.

Speaking of rich, they are running the $1 million Hambletonian on Saturday at The Meadowlands...and you wager at your own risk.

The first three choices— Father Patrick, Nuncio Trixton, a combined 17 for 21— are uncoupled stablemates from the Jimmy Takter barn.

Talk about controlling a race.

Thanks for tuning in. Keep the Hot Line on call, go Bucs, and see you back here next Friday.

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