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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Life After Ghostzapper

- Ghostzapper’s retirement gives new meaning to graded stakes for older horses such as Saturday’s Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs. The race for best older horse is now obviously wide open, especially with Rock Hard Ten sidelined, and though Afleet Alex would be considered the current leader for Horse of the Year, there’s plenty of time for someone to step up, as Limehouse did in the Brooklyn Handicap on Saturday for Pletcher, earning a career best Beyer of 112.

Life goes on for Bobby Frankel as Saint Liam will make his first start in the Foster since his big disappointment as the favorite in the Santa Anita Handicap, and he worked 4f in :47.45 yesterday at the Big A. "He went perfect. He's coming up to this as good as any race ever," said stable manager Mark Reid. [DRF] Saint Liam is currently under Frankel's care with Richard Dutrow serving his suspension, and he will also send Badge of Silver. The two have different owners who both want to go in the Foster, and Frankel is concerned by the fact that both have similar running styles. "I hope they don't hook each other and kill each other off…That's what worries me." [Courier-Journal] Perfect Drift is expected to be entered as well, but Second of June is out with an injury.

- The Foster will be one of four races to be televised nationally Saturday by ESPN (5 PM in the East) as part of the new Emirates Airlines Super Saturday series, and they’ll be a Pick 4 wager offered on the Foster, the Ogden Phipps at Belmont, the Fleur de Lis at Churchill, and the Californian at Hollywood. Also at Hollywood Saturday, Buzzards Bay, whose trainer Jeff Mullins obviously made a wise decision in not sending him to the Belmont, is scheduled to go in the Affirmed Handicap. He worked 7 furlongs in a sparkling 1:24.3/5 on Monday. Mullins’ win percentage at Hollywood is at 12%, which is below is 20% mark for the year. He still is not getting the kind of numbers he did before he came under increased scrutiny for use of milkshakes earlier this year. He did, however, score a big Grade 2 win on Sunday as his Brooke’s Halo (Southern Halo) took the G2 Hollywood BC Oaks in her first try around two turns.

The Ogden Phipps is a Grade 1 test for fillies and mares, and last year’s 3 yo filly champ Ashado will be looking for her first win in three starts this year. She worked 5f in 59.06 seconds at Belmont Sunday, and Todd Pletcher said "I think she's training better as a 4-year-old than she has her whole life….She's bigger, stronger, and a little more willing.'' [DRF] She’ll be tested by Society Selection, back in top form after her win in the G1 Shuvee.

- According to the Albany Times-Union, a grand jury is probing alleged improprieties regarding the reporting of jockeys’ weights; you may recall that NYRA offices were raided by investigators in December.

It appears, he said, the grand jury probe involves alleged inaccurate weights recorded by Mario Sclafani, clerk of scales, and Braulio Baeza, assistant clerk and a Hall of Fame jockey. Both have been suspended with pay the past six months by NYRA, Lakow said. He said jockeys have been called in by the investigators as well.

Jockey weights appear on official race documents and are an important factor used by handicappers and bettors on horse races.
While we certainly cannot condone any wrongdoing at racetracks, anyone who pays close attention to jockey overweights please raise your hand.

- Do you think there’s any scenario – suppose, as unlikely as it seems, that Afleet Alex falters from this point on, and no one emerges in any other division – that Ghostzapper could win Horse of the Year based on his awesome performance in the Met Mile?