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BC Pre-entries: First Look
The 184 horses pre-entered for the Breeders' Cup have combined to win 865 races from 2,286 career starts, including 132 Grade 1 or Group 1 races, and earned $125,803,733.
The table below is my first step in the intensive but highly enjoyable annual ritual of handicapping the Cup races, which have drawn bigger and more contentious fields this year with the eight main-track races back on dirt at Churchill Downs. This first iteration of an oversized cheat sheet lists each horse's age, sex, starts, victories, earnings, highest winning level and number of career Grade or Group 1 victories:
(I do this by hand, with the past performances on one side of the computer screen and the spreadsheet on the right, so please feel free to draw any errors or omissions to my attention.)
Here's a little leaderboard from the statistics above:
A few scattered notes and observations:
--With 4 of the 14 races now being for 2-year-olds, juveniles account for 56 of the 184 pre-entries, just over 30 percent. I was struck that while the BC Juvenile will have only 10 starters, an astounding 7 of them are already Grade 1 winners: All five winners of the five G1 races to date in the U.S. for 2-year-old males (Boys at Toscanova, J P's Gusto, Jaycito, J. B. 's Thunder and Uncle Mo) plus the undefeated foreign Group 1 winners Biondetti from Great Britain and Murjan from Peru. Can anyone think of a 2-year-old race that ever had seven G1 winners it? I can't.
--In addition to the 56 2-year-olds, the pre-entries include 32 3-year-olds, 46 4-year-olds,, 32 5-year-olds, 12 6-year-olds and five 7-year-olds -- the geldings Awesome Gem, Silver Timber and Stradivinsky,, and the horses Alcomo and Society's Chairman.
--Note that there's been some tinkering with the order of races on both days based on expected field size. The Juvenile Fillies and F&M Turf were switched on Friday as were the Sprint and Dirt Mile on Saturday. So now the race order is as follows:
Friday: Marathon, Juvenile Fillies Turf, F&M Sprint, Juvenile Fillies, F&M Turf, Ladies' Classic.
Saturday: Juvenile Turf, Sprint, Turf Sprint, Juvenile, Mile, Dirt Mile, Turf, Classic.
So get to work, though you're allowed time off for Game 2 of the World Series tonight. Of course I'm delighted the Giants took Game 1 last night, but after the Great Collapse of 2002, no Giants fan is exactly cocky.
Note to the 3 million Cablevision subsribers in the New York area who are blacked out of the World Series on cable because of the ongoing Cablevision/Fox dispute: Did you know that you most of you can still get Fox over the air simply by attaching that old rabbit-ear antenna you never threw out to your HD-ready monitor? The over-the-air hi-def picture is as sharp as cable or sattellite and it sure beats trying to watch it on your computer via Major League Baseball's "enhanced Postseason coverage," which gives you a choice of camera angles but provides no graphics or replays.
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Steve, not to labour the Goldikova/Paco Boy question, can I ask if, when you are handicapping horses, do you use the individual race ratings or the lifetime best (i.e. the horses potential)? For my part, unless a horse is clearly out of form, I tend to favour the career best figure. Of course, you have to make sure it is not a freak, never to be repeated rating, but I see no need to worry in Goldikova's case.
In 2009 the Zenyatta camp campaigned their horse with one goal in mind; A Breeders’ Cup win. They got that and an Eclipse award to boot. They should have had no complaints. Here in 2010, her connections have, once again, shunned any consideration of the criteria that goes into (or should go into) any and all HOTY voting decisions. Things like the level a horse has competed at during the year in question; the importance of the races a horse has competed in (competitively); and, the toughness of competition faced. Instead of providing her with the HOTY campaign that she and her fans so deserved—not to mention one that horse racing could ‘so’ use right about now—they chose, again, to target a singular end of year goal; A Breeders’ Cup victory. I hope they get it. But, if they don’t, and end up losing HOTY to a more deserving horse that has competed successfully at the ‘truly open’ and toughest Grade 1 level during the year in question…oh well, they’ve no one to **Blame** but themselves.
Steve, Great job as usual. As to your Zenyatta piece, that was awesome as well. I am happy you stuck to the facts as well. I wholeheartedly agree that she has to earn HOTY on the track. It was very disappointing to read in your article that there are voters who have already decided that they are voting for her no matter what happens in the Breeder's Cup. I was wondering if they worked for ESPN who likes to decide championships in various sports before the game is even played. Zenyatta's a great mare, but she should be awarded HOTY on merit and not on sentimentality or because some people thought she was ripped off.
Zenyatta should have run the Arc. How can one own a mare like that and not try to conquer Paris? Imagine her at Longchamp passing the fans, then the rustling trees, and finally, stunned Grade I horses of international fame, who appear to trot in comparison. Ahh, a missed chance of a lifetime. And, truly, whether she won (or lost by a nose) would be besides the point, if such a worthy setting had been chosen to display her majesty. Perhaps, in a week, we'll be able to say, "Well at least we have the Classic at Churchill". But, then again, in poor grammar..."What if she don't".
I was puzzled by the question from Stat Geek re the respective ratings for Goldikova and Paco Boy. According to my reading of the Racing Post website, the career best ratings for the 2 horses gives the edge, 131 to 127, to Goldikova. About right in my opinion given their existing head to head record. [He was asking about the individual RPR's assigned to each race, with Paco Boy having gotten slightly higher ones in races where he finished behind Goldy. -SC]
Zenyatta will lose at CD. She will not beat older quality males on real dirt. Last year she basically beat up on a weak classic field full of turf horses trying to run on synthetic and a true dirt horse Summer Bird who did not like the synthetic. Now she faces dirt males on a true BC Classic track run on real dirt. The BC Classic, the Juvenile, the Juv Fillies, the Sprint and the Distaff have all been bastardized and cheapened in recent years by being run on synthetics. If anyone thinks Ravens Pass for example would have beaten Curlin on real dirt you need a drug test. Those BC races I mentioned were designed to test the best DIRT horses in those categories, not the best plastic/rubber protrack pretend turf horses. Having BC's run on any synthetic tracks should not be permitted, period. Thanks goodness Santa Anita is going back to real dirt, let Hollywood and Del Mar run the equivalent of 10 race turf programs which is really what sythetic tracks offer as all the races are either on turf or its near fake rubber equivalent. If I want to see nothing but turf racing I'll go to France or GB or Ireland, I have no desire to watch it or wager on it. Its shameful how american dirt racing is being compromised by all these synthetic tracks which statistically have proven not to be one iota safer than the dirt tracks they replaced, and thats why they were supposedly installed. Future weathercast for Churchill is clear the whole week. That bodes very well for Lookin at Lucky who will take the classic. Sorry Mike, Zen and John but their is no fake rubber track upon which you can take advantage of ok turfers and dirt horses who do not like it this year. And when she does lose please do not start all the whining about track bias or other stuff being her downfall because the reality is that most of her synthetic wins have been on tracks which inherently have a bias towards her deep closing style and i heard none of her cheerleaders chirping about that for the last 17 to 19 races. She;ll lose because shes simply not fast enough to beat older males on the real thing.
(inspired by CSK) People who voted for Rachel Alexandra for HOY 2009 should respectfully recuse themselves from ever casting another vote for the Eclipse Awards. Minimal research into the matter revealed the only logical conclusion for 2009. Twas only haste and personal bias which could render anyone to have voted for Rachel Alexandra over the only deserving candidate in 2009. Having said that, I cannot yet commit to Zenyatta being a shoe-in for 2010 at the present time and pending next Saturday's outcomes.
This is a little off-topic, but I wanted to thank you, Steve, for your article about Zenyatta and the horse of the year honour. I do agree with you, though little about Zenyatta and that award is uncontroversial. What I liked about your article was the absence of criticism of Zenyatta. Many on the east coast bash her as having faced weaker opposition, etc. etc. But 19 of 19, most in stakes races, speaks volumes. Even a great horse has an off day. The great horse Secretariat lost a couple of times. Zenyatta has always won, and often in thrilling style. I suspect that you are right that if she loses to a horse like Quality Road, her title as Horse of the Year is justifiably in doubt. I assume Zenyatta retires after the Classic. The possibility that Zenyatta does not win horse of the year, and justifiably so, suggests there is a gap in the award structure. Perhaps it is time for a new Eclipse award, for Career Achievement - for the retiring horse that has shown a sustained extraordinary achievement throughout its career. And to make it extra special, it does not have to be awarded every year. Rather, the recipient must get 80%+ support on the ballots. What do you think? [I think that gap is already remedied by having a Hall of Fame, where -- after a five-year gap for reflection and context -- many horses who were not Horse of the Year are rightly enshrined for the quality of their entire careers. For example, only four fillies have been HOTY in recent decades but dozens have rightly been inducted into the Hall of Fame. I think a Best Retiring Horse Eclipse would be redundant and confusing. -SC]
Steve, I believe the order of races for Saturday is wrong in Formulator? It has the Dirt Mile as 2nd BC race. Believe it was flipflopped with Sprint, and your chart is correct. But Formulator is wrong. [You are correct. The race order in Formulator is as it stood when we were given the entries by Equibase, which now says it can not change the race order without compromising the entire database. -SC]