SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER
By John Piesen
With Saratoga and Del Mar closing up shop for the year, the racing world this weekend turns its lonely eyes toward downtown Bossier City, La., for Saturday's stakes-filled Super Derby card at Louisiana Downs.
You need to know that it's really easy to get to Bossier City, You fly into Dallas, grab a piper job to Shreveport, La., and rent a car for the 10-mile drive to Bossier City...and if you can avoid the multiple casinos on the Red River, you'll find yourself at LAD as the natives call it.
Of course you do have the option of heading to your neighborhood simulcast location, catch some college football, and catch up to the seven stakes at Louisiana Downs. All you'll miss is the crawfish.
Of course, the Super Derby isn't all that super anymore. In past years, the nine-furlong stake for 3-year-olds was won by the likes of Sunday Silence, Unbridled and Editor's Note, and the purse reached $1 million.
This year the purse is down to 400K, there's not a Grade 1 winner in the group, and only one Grade 2 winner. But the crawfish is as good as ever. As is the catfish.
Of the seven stakes on the Super Derby program, four are packaged in a 100K guaranteed all-stakes pick four, capped by the Super Derby.
There are two options when it comes to playing the pick four:
1) The large, competitive fields can produce a huge payoff, or
2) Trainer Mike Maker and jockey Rosie Napravnik can pull off a chalky sweep.
Rosie, one of only three New York jocks to make the trip (the others are Edgar Prado amd Junior Alvarado), has the call on the favored Vicar's in Trouble for Maker in the Super Derby, which will go as race 11 and as the capper in the pick four
Curiously, the Vicar's three lifetime wins, including the Louisiana Derby, all have come downstate at Fair Grounds. He exits thirds in the Iowa and West Virginia Derbys, and looks the one to catch and beat from the four-hole in a field of 11.
Are we looking at an all-New York jockey trifecta here?
Prado rides Florida shipper Victory Nor Defeat, a pricey Unbridled's Song colt for Sagamore Farm, which years back gave us Native Dancer. And like Native Dancer, Victory Nor Defeat is a one-dimensional closer who should like the long LAD stretch.
Alvarado rides Announcement, who is 2-for-2, admittedly against modest competition at Ellis Park. His sire is two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow, and he is a homebred from Winstar Farm, which gave us 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver.
Super Saver, in case you missed it, is off to some fast start as a sire. Sons of this first-year stallion ran one-two in the Hopeful Stakes closing day at Saratoga.
There are two other major players in the Super Derby. They would be East Hall and Jessica's Star, fresh from a one-two finish, a head apart, in the
But Jessica's Star, to be ridden by James Graham for Mike Stidham, had a troubled start from the eight-hole that day, and draws inside for the Super Derby, a huge advantage going two-turns at LAD.
I know from experience. I made that Dallas-Shreveport-Bossier journey several times for DRF in the '90s.
Back to point 2:
The Maker-Rosie combo will be represented by short-priced runners in all of the pick four races:
Know It All Anna (#4) in race eight, the Happy Ticket Stakes.
Sassy Kitten (#4) in race nine, the River Cities.
Coalport (#7) in race 10, The Unbridled. and
Vicar's in Trouble (#4) in race 11, the Super Derby.
It says here that Rosie will be three-for-three before getting knocked off by Jessica's Star in the Super Derby.
Meantime, I'll be up and running with daily selections on-line and on the John Piesen Hot Line (1-888-612-2283) at Belmont Park, which opens its 38-day Fall meet on Friday and runs thru Oct. 26.
There will be seven Grade Ones run at the meet, all concentrated into two days: the Beldame, Flower Bowl, Vosburgh, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, and Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 27, and the Champagne and Frizette on Oct 4.
As for the first Saturday of the meet, the ninth-race feature is the first running of the 100K Yankee Affair, an ungraded stake for 3 and up at 1 1/2 miles on the turf. Red Rifle is the one to catch and beat from Pletcher/Velazquez.
Congrats to Pletcher and Javier Castellano for winning the Spa training and riding titles, respectively, and to Johnny V for being voted the winner of the annual
Mike Venezia Award for outstanding sportsmanship.
And so sadly condolences to Eclipse Award rider Frankie Lovato Jr., whose beloved wife Sandy tragically was killed Wednesday in a motor vehicle accident in Norwalk, Ohio. She was 54.
I remember when Angel Cordero Jr. lost his wife Marjorie in the same terrible fashion in 2001. Angel and Frankie rode together for years in New York, and remain to this day good friends. Sandy and Marjorie, expert horsewomen and humanitarians both, will never be forgotten.
Thank you for tuning in. Have a good week, and see you back here next Friday.