10/27/2010 1:07PM

Aikenite, Mine That Bird, and the Breeders' Cup Selection Process


Over the years, the Breeders' Cup Racing Directors/Secretaries Panel, the largely faceless selection committee that determines which horses do and don't get into the main body of oversubscribed Breeders' Cup races at pre-entry time after starting spots are first taken by "Win and You're In" race winners and top Cup point earners, has done a good job. I can think of only two glaring mistakes this panel has made - not putting Five Star Day into the 1999 Sprint field, and denying Quiet American a starting spot in the 1990 Classic, which was a particularly egregious error - and that is a pretty good record in an event that is now 26 years old.

But this year, I take issue with one of the decisions this panel made, and that was making Aikenite the one also eligible in the Dirt Mile, and putting Mine That Bird into the field ahead of him.

Now, I want to say right off that I have no dog in this hunt. I'm not a part owner of Aikenite, and I don't hate Mine That Bird. I also want to make it clear that I understand that Aikenite is far from a super horse. But based on what they have accomplished in 2010, Aikenite deserves a starting spot in the Dirt Mile far more than Mine That Bird does.

Aikenite at least has won two races this year, even if they were only allowance races, and he did manage to hit the board in two graded stakes races. Mine That Bird, on the other hand, hasn't done anything this year - I mean anything - so it's not like he got in on points. He has made three starts, finishing eighth, fifth (beaten 12 1-2 lengths), and seventh last time out (beaten 21 1-4 lengths). Sure, Mine That Bird's starts this year came in two Grade 1 races and a Grade 2 event. So what? He was not the least bit competitive. Hey, Aikenite has two uncompetitive Grade 1 starts on his record this year, too, if that is something to recommend him.

Some will say this is much ado about nothing, because all Aikenite needs to start in the Dirt Mile is one defection, and with five horses in the main body of the Dirt Mile cross-entered in other Breeders' Cup races, there is an excellent chance that a spot will open up for him. That is not the point. The point is, given his record this year, it seems like the only possible explanation for Mine That Bird getting a starting spot in the Dirt Mile ahead of anyone is because he won the Kentucky Derby last year. And that is wrong. What happened 17 months ago should have absolutely no bearing on the composition of oversubscribed Breeders' Cup fields right now.

Look, between the Win and You're In program and the Cup points system, there are many instances when the selection panel is powerless to do the sensible thing. They were probably frustrated - or they should have been, anyway - when First Dude, whose one and only career victory came in a maiden race, got into the Classic on points over Morning Line, who just won the Pennsylvania Derby, beating First Dude! But putting Mine That Bird into the Dirt Mile over Aikenite, something the committee had complete control of, well, that one is a head scratcher.