10/27/2007 7:31PM

BC Day 2: Classic


7:31 pm: Bad news for pundits: There is not a single debate to be had over which horses deserve to win Eclipse Awards this year, in the wake of a Breeders' Cup that settled every divisional title in the sport.

Curlin will be the Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old after his clear-cut Classic victory, which completed a trifecta of key triumphs. He ran down Street Sense in the Preakness, Lawyer Ron in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Hard Spun today in the Classic. A few contrarians may vote for Rags to Riches, who will be the champion 3-year-old filly after none of her classmates could win the Distaff, on the basis of her victory over Curlin in the Belmont, but it won't be a close tally.

War Pass and Indian Blessing, both undefeated, will be virtually unanimous selections as champion 2-year-old colt and filly after winning the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies as easily as they did the Champagne and Frizette. There will be plenty of discussion over the winter over whether these two front-runners will continue to dominate their divisions as the races get longer next year, but for now they stand alone at the head of their classes.

Curlin and Rags to Riches will win the 3-year-old titles, and Lawyer Ron and Ginger Punch are obvious leaders of the older males and females. English Channel's triumph in the Turf, following his United Nations and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic victories, leaves no room for argument among the grass males. Lahudood's season-ending victories in the Flower Bowl and the F&M Turf will probably make her the female grass champion. There will be some lingering support for Nashoba's Key and her 7-for-8 record, but Lahudood has a 2-1 edge in Grade 1 grass races and won today while Nashoba's Key finished fourth behind her.

Finally, Midnight Lute is a cinch to be named the champion sprinter after his brilliant Forego and today's breathtaking stretch run to win the Sprint. Maryfield nailed down the new filly sprinter title when she won Friday's inaugural BC F&M Sprint.

Curlin does not exactly have the most cuddly connections, and some have had trouble warming up to a horse whose trainer began the season serving a six-month medication suspension and two of whose owners are sitting in the Boone County Jail awaiting trial. The colt, however, is really something special. An unraced maiden on the morning of Feb. 3, Curlin has had an amazing nine-month run. There's even a sliver of hope he might race next year, unlike Street Sense and Hard Spun, both headed off to Darley Stud. Not a good classic result for the Maktoums, who saw both of those stallion prospects as well as Any Given Saturday, their other purchase, lose today. The hottest stallion in the world tonight is Smart Strike, the sire of both Curlin and English Channel.

There has never been a Breeders' Cup so thoroughly dominated by horses who won their final preps in major New York fixtures. Six of the day's eight winners were coming off victories in Grade 1 races at Belmont or Saratoga (Indian Blessing-Frizette; War Pass-Champagne; Lahudood-Flower Bowl; Midnight Lute-Forego; English Channel-Joe Hirsch Turf Classic; Curlin-Jockey Club Gold Cup). A seventh, Ginger Punch, was coming out of a third-place finish in the Beldame while Kip Deville, based in New York, prepped at Woodbine. By contrast, horses who made their last start at Keeneland or Santa Anita were a combined 0-for-25 on the day with just one second and two thirds. It could of course be a very different story next year when the Breeders' Cup is held at Santa Anita.

The pick six paid $321,813.20, which might seem like a lot, but as one dunderhead amply demonstrated in this space, you could easily put in $5,000 this year and use every winner without putting more than 3 of 6 on the same ticket. The pool was a low $3.2 million, down from $4.5 million in 2005 and $4.7 million last year. Clearly bettors were apprehensive as the day began about the sloppy main track and soft turf, though as it turned out the races were more formful than chaotic. The favorites in the day's two richest races clearly did not run anywhere near their A race -- Dylan Thomas was beaten 8 1/2 lengths and Street Sense lost by 10 1/4 -- but it's hard to say that the weather put any undeserving horses into the winner's circle. All eight victors were already Grade 1 winners.

As for my own parimutuel performance, I chipped away at the debit from my horrendous pick-six play with a couple of supers and the early pick-four, but couldn't get out of the red. Better luck next year.

And now, it's way past time for a cocktail.

Michael More than 1 year ago
Steve, Please return with the blog as soon as you can. How about on big race weekends like Thanksgiving and during Gulfstream? Wanted to add that I was horrified by Andy Beyer's BC Day column in which he took yet another transparent huge swipe at Pletcher, one that looked incredibly foolish after English Channel won the BC turf by a record margin, and Honey Ryder and Octave ran so well in hitting the board. Icon or no icon, how many thinly veiled swipes does he get to take at Pletcher before being called to task by someone? His columns are no longer fit for your publication, and his slanted journalism reeks of a vendetta.
Bill More than 1 year ago
I forgot...YouBet reported that the reason for the delay in making the last race official was due to making the pick 6 official. Perhaps the pick 6 needs to be scheduled as a seperate event in the tote so that everyone not playing the pick 6 can cash their tickets at the end of the day and not wait over an hour to do so.
Bill More than 1 year ago
2 comments after reading the above... 1. I agree with Teresa on the condition of the LIRR platform from Belmont after the 2004 Triple Crown. The people on that platform were far from orderly. Pushing and cramming from all sides. Even for the most hardened of subway/train passengers, it was a ridiculous scene. I love Belmont, but it was totally unprepared for a crowd of that size using LIRR. 2. Given that everyone here has access to the internet, I'm surprised that so many watched the ESPN coverage. The online stream of the simulcast signal was excellent. Even on my laptop I could make everything out just fine. The only thing that ruined the experience were some of Denman's horrific race calls. Since I know Durkin won't be back, I would have been perfectly happy to have Larry Colmus call the races.
Davie Florida Nick More than 1 year ago
Steve, As all have all ready said, thanks for the great blog. It was above and beyond anything, anyone has ever done for the horse players of America. Regarding the payoff problem that some have written about, there was obliviously a miscalculation of the larger pay outs. Originally but TVG and YOUBET reported the Curlin Pick6 payout to be 424,000. Yet at the end it only returned 321,000. Catching that mistake may have been the reason for the delay.
Mike P More than 1 year ago
In terms of the exacta grids commented by Richard Dorfman, I looked at the exacta grid o n Brisbet after the running of the Turf and it showed the English Channel-Shamdinan at $263. I was very disappointed when it came back $153. I just wonder how current those exacta grids are on big days, with so many users and so much money moving around?
Deon R More than 1 year ago
The real qustion is how will the horses from the eastern and midwest tracks handle the Oaktree surface next year.
bobby vegas More than 1 year ago
Regarding GW in the classic, what an absolutely horrific decision. The horse had no business in the race and by all reasonable accounts had "done enough". If the owners weren't going to put him in the mile, they should have left him at home. He had no chance. I Personally don't beleive that any of the O'brien trained horses were in anything close to decent form. I know that the turf was soft, but are you telling me that the turf at Longchamp on Arc day was much firmer? I have to beleive that Dylan Thomas was way over the top and was nowhere near being up for this race. The only euro pointed for this race was Red Rocks, and he ran decent considering that he isn't the same horse as he was last year. As for the mile, Kip Deville is a nice horse but he would have been drummed by a close- to-form Excellent Art. Bet the O'brien horses next year at Santa Anita with caution.
Phil More than 1 year ago
I have to agree with Todd. George Washington should not have been in the Classic. At his best, he was a grass miler. And there's nothing about his form this year to suggest he was at his best. His run last year confirms that he was suspect past 1 mile. And this years field was much deeper than last years.
toddsincharge More than 1 year ago
It was terrible decision to go to ESPN. I read on Sportsbusinessdaily.com that ratings went down from 1.0 last year to 0.8. That's almost hockey ratings. Leaving NBC was a huge mistake.
todd More than 1 year ago
this particular note is in response to jrzingg: i agree that racing great horses, dynamic horses, for longer periods would be great for the game. i hope that curlin comes back next year, and wish that more owners would consider the fact that their 3 year olds are not truly mature yet, and this may be why a number of young stallions have been less than fertile over the past 10 years. that said, the owners of GW were wrong, dead wrong, IMHO, for racing him in the classic. they could have raced him in the mile, where he belonged, or simply given him some time away from the breeding shed, and see if his fertility might have improved with age. he was nowhere near winning last year, and this year was just simply an awful miscalculation on their part. he was overmatched, had not raced well at all this year, and he was up against a deeper filed, IMO, than last year. it was avoidable, and a real shame.