11/04/2011 10:51AM

Breeders' Cup Friday at Churchill Downs


Greetings from Churchill Downs on Breeders' Cup Friday, where at 11:50 a.m., it is overcast and breezy.

The one thing I'm going to focus on early is how Churchill's main track plays, because there has been, in my opinion, a streak of dead rails on big race days here. I believe the rail was dead here on Foster Day last summer, on Kentucky Derby and Oaks Days here last spring, and on both Breeders' Cup Days here last year.

The sort of drying out track were are going to have here today is a recipe for a track bias. So it's important to scrutinize the early races here (a reminder, first post here Friday isn't until 2 p.m.). Let's not jump the gun and get bias happy. But we should be attuned to a potential bias given recent history.

I'll check back in a time or two later on with some thoughts on how the day progresses.

3:12 - I didn't want to make any judgement on how the main track might be playing after the first because a horse did clunk along the rail to finish second behind a blowout winner. But I didn't see anyone make any moves on the rail in the second race, and now, after the third race, I'm really starting to wonder if we might have another dead rail.

Yes, Gladding hadn't raced in more than six months, but his form was still strong enough to make him one of the ones on paper in the third, the Ack Ack Handicap. But to see Gladding get inhaled after setting fractions along the inside of 25.53, 51.03, and 1:15.25, and see looping outside moves be successful, I just have to think that the rail is not the place to be.

Maybe as the track dries out, it will even out. But until I actually see a horse make a winning move inside, I'm playing accordingly.

3:40 - You know all that bias talk? Umm...nevermind.

Will's Wildcat just went wire to wire on the rail to win the fourth, and he just doesn't strike me as a bias buster-type horse. And Wine Police did some rail running to be second.

Hey, in the end, this is a good thing. Who wants races that will decide championships to be run over a track that is anything less than fair?

5:12 - While some might have been disappointed that heavily favored Secret Circle only prevailed in the Juvy Sprint after getting the staggers late instead of winning off, I thought it was a gutsy performance considering he disputed a sub-21 second opening quarter. The question I have is, why did Secret Circle have to go up and battle early with Trinniberg? Secret Circle wouldn't have been a fraction of the horse he appeared to be if he couldn't have won after letting Trinniberg go early. And if he let Trinniberg go early, he probably would have had the reserves to win much more impressively.

I doubt she's the best overall 2yo filly in the country (we will know after the Juvenile Fillies is run), but after winning the Juvy Fillies Turf, Stephanie's Kitten, who previously won the Alcibiades on Polytrack, is certainly the best turf and synthetic 2yo filly in the land.

6:21 - Have we really gone from thoughts of a dead rail to possibly thinking we have a gold rail? It did cross my mind after Musical Romance poured through on the wood to upset the F&M Sprint. But a gold rail is, of course, ridiculously extreme. The track does look fair now.

Interesting note about Switch and Her Smile. Among the workout watchers, Switch was getting knocked (as she did when second in the F&M Sprint last year) while Her Smile was getting hyped as a very live longshot. They wound up a hair apart finishing second and third.

My Miss Aurelia is clearly a special filly. And one of the reasons why she is so special is she handled a very, very good filly in Grace Hall in the Juvenile Fillies with complete authority. My Miss Aurelia should be the unanimous 2yo filly champ.

7:44 - It's hard to get excited about the result of the F&M Turf, unless, of course, you were part of the Perfect Shirl camp, or bet on her. There were a handful of imperfect to downright bad trips in this deliberately run race. But even with that said, what does it say about the strength of this race that a filly in Pefect Shirl who had no wins and but one second in six starts this year wins? Not much, I think.

The Ladies' Classic was a much more satisfying affair because it left zero ambiguity. Royal Delta didn't even get the hot pace that figured to set up her late run, but she still won decisively, and will be the thoroughly deserving 3yo filly champ.

Overall, Breeders' Cup Friday was a good show with two Eclipse Award winners - Royal Delta and My Miss Aurelia - all but officially crowned. See you back here tomorrow.