10/27/2007 6:31PM

BC Day 2: Classic

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Eclipse2
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.