11/02/2012 11:39AM

Breeders' Cup Friday at Santa Anita


It is entirely fitting that this Breeders' Cup is right next to the center of show business. As a Long Islander who is still stunned by the massive devastation in the Northeast wrought by the hurricane early this week, it is not easy to get in a celebratory mood. I am hopeful that will change once the races start. But as they say, the show must go on, and it will.

Breeders' Cup Friday dawned cloudy, but the sun is already burning off the haze, and the conditions here will be perfect. I will check in with thoughts at various times during the day, but I have to chime in right now with an opinion on the first event in the 2012 Breeders' Cup, the Juvenile Sprint.

This Juvenile Sprint is Exhibit A for anyone trying to make a case that the Breeders' Cup expanded too far, and now includes too many races. The second choice on the morning line in the Juvenile Sprint (Super Ninety Nine, who I actually picked) is a horse who won just a maiden race in his only start. The field also includes a maiden, a gelding who has only started in claiming races, and a European shipper who will be making her dirt debut in her eighth start. This Juvenile Sprint is easily the weakest race in Breeders' Cup history. Thank goodness we have a spectacular Ladies' Classic later on to compensate for it.

10:05 - The scratch of Super Ninety Nine from the Juvenile Sprint just makes this race look even worse. Forget about it being the weakest Breeders' Cup race ever, it might be the worst $500,000 stakes ever.

1:30 - Hightail, probably the first maiden to ever win a Breeders' Cup race, was a fitting, if implausible winner of a sub-standard Juvenile Sprint. Hightail, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, was making his ninth career start. The question now: What is the over/under on the number of starts Hightail makes between today and the Kentucky Derby. How does seven sound?

2:02 - Considering the cheers he got from the crowd, it's a wonder how Calidoscopio paid as much as $36.40. Maybe it was because this 9-year-old Argentinian, who hadn't raced since June, is trained by Frankel, Guillermo Frankel, in this case. Not so amusing is about five horses were eased in this race. None appeared injured, they were just badly beaten.

3:16 - Give Beholder all the credit for holding sway in the Juvenile Fillies after going the opening quater in a fast 22.62. Runner up Executiveprivilege wasn't good enough, and third place finisher Dreaming of Julia certainly wasn't good enough.

The Juvenile Fillies result sets up an interesting debate for divisional honors. Beholder and Executiveprivilege split their two meetings, and Executivepriviledge has two Grade 1 wins to Beholder's one. But Beholder won on the big day, and was clearly the best doing so. That gives her the edge right now for me.

In the race before, Europe got in the win column in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, only not with the one most expected. Flotilla got the clear outside run and made it count with a clear cut victory. But European Sky Lantern, the favorite, was absolutely buried and blocked virtually the entire stretch run. These things will happen in 14 horse fields on a tight-turned turf course.

3:59 - Racing luck was again a big factor in the Filly & Mare Turf as favored The Fugue was blocked and stymied for most of the stretch run, and had to settle for third. The other well backed Euro, Ridasiyna, suffered from a ride that was patient to a fault. Last turning for home, Ridasiyna was left with way too much to do and finished a fast closing fourth.

But you can't take anything away from Zagora. On the firm footing she prefers, Zagora rebounded with a game victory and by virtue of her score in the big one, she is the driver's seat for a divisional title.

4:45 - Royal Delta winning the Ladies' Classic was certainly no surprise. Winning in the way she did was. With the speedy Questing going wrong literally strides out of the gate and the quick Love and Pride, for whatever reason, lacking her early zip, Royal Delta found herself, of all places, on the early lead. And even though the early lead is something completely alien to Royal Delta, this was no base on balls deal. She set a legit pace (22.69, 45.81, 1:09.80), and proved clearly best over a game My Miss Aurelia. Royal Delta wrapped up the older female championship and, depending on what happens tomorrow, might have made herself a finalist for Horse of the Year.

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.