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Monday, August 01, 2005

Monday Blues Edition

- With no Saratoga for me until probably Sunday, I'll be observing the proceeding forlornly from the city this week. I wrote yesterday about Leo O’Brien’s winner at Saratoga yesterday, and then read in the NY Daily News that it was his first winner at Saratoga since Some Irish Legend won on Aug. 28, 2002 (and coincidentally, that horse was in the race too). I had written that he does well on the turf up there, but I obviously don’t sit and study Jim Mazur’s stuff and go more on my recollection of events. Time blurs however, and perhaps I did spend too much time in the official pot-smoking area. In my defense however, I had noticed O’Brien bubbling under at the Belmont meet, and perhaps he can regain some of his old form.

O’Brien should thank jockey Rafael Bejarano for helping him get off the Saratoga schneid. He saved ground all the way, sitting behind John Velasquez on heavy favorite Russian Sweetiepie, also hugging the hedge. But while Velasquez swung his mount out about halfway around the turn, Bejarano continued to save ground, didn’t move outside until they turned for home, and got up to beat the favorite by a driving neck. The little bit of extra saved ground could have made the difference; nice job by the rider.

- Also been mentioning George Weaver, and his 20-1 winner Secret Forest yesterday also benefited from an expert ride, this one from Ramon Dominguez. Asti was a totally legit 4-5 favorite in the 8th, having been competitive against stakes horses, but Dominguez got the jump and set the pace in 24:1 and 49:3, a :25.2 second quarter. When the favorite moved to challenge, Secret Forest had enough left to hold her off with quarters of 23:2 and 23:3 before the final eighth of 6 1/5 seconds.

- Weaver has an entry in today’s 6th; unfortunately for him and everyone else, so does Todd Pletcher, with an astounding TEN winners thus far, with the first week not even over! Last year he had six winners in the first week. We thought 35 for the meet was a lot? This guy is on pace to 60! Mott is the closest competitor with three. Weaver has two wins and three seconds in six starts. Pletcher sends Copyco, dropping back to 50K claimers, a class in which he won 2 back before faltering in allowance company last time (though he earned a field-high last Beyer). Also, John Velaszuez replaces Mike Luzzi, and the horse is 2 for 2 with the former, Pletcher’s main guy.

Listed at 8-1 morning line is Weaver’s Belknap County, also dropping from allowance company. Two back was a good second against cheaper; he’ll have to improve, but with Castellano on board and the barn this sharp, he must be considered despite his 1-15 lifetime record. Morning line favorite Poco Bueno ships in from Churchill, where he won for 40K two back; I’d be shocked if he actually goes off favored here. Sightseeing goes first off the claim for trainer Bradley Wallace, 2 for 58 this year. Crowd’s Delight should benefit from a rider switch from Jara to Ramon Dominguez, but he gets the outside 9 post after a series of races with good posts.

I’m going to take a shot with 12-1 morning line Jesus Carboni. He lost his first three races at Gulfstream by a combined 88 lengths at double digit odds; but in his 4th start he was suddenly bet to 8-1 despite losing his last by 43, and wired the field, though he was DQ’d to third. He promptly got his maiden win in his next race, rained off the turf. In his last, at Calder, he set the pace on a soft course, and tired to 8th. With the weather maps looking clear, let’s say the course is firmer today. He drops into claimers for trainer Ed Plesa Jr., picks up Edgar Prado, gets the one post, shortens up to a mile, and catches a field without much other early speed. So let’s try him on top, and save in the exactas with Belknap County and Copyco.

- Bad with the good – let’s make that the horrible with the good. Weaver may have a live barn now, but his start sprinter Saratoga County was tragically put down with a case of laminits. "He's my hero," Weaver said…." It's a shame. He deserved the good life that he earned as a stallion.” You look at this as well as Pico Central’s last place finish, and Roses In May’s slow progress in returning to the races, and you have to wonder how many trainers will take their shot at Dubai in the future.