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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.
Racing is great, however, HRTV's coverage is the absolute worse display I have seen in 29 yrs. I mean pathetic.
I had a fabulous time during Friday's Breeders' Cup races. Totally lived up to the hype for me, and I was thrilled to see Royal Delta and Zagora win, along with Flotilla, Calidoscopio and several others on the card, BC races and the undercard. May Saturday's races from Santa Anita be exciting as well. If so, it will make for a fabulous Breeders' Cup weekend from sunny Southern California.
Thanks MW, was an exciting day of racing for sure.
Great to see two class acts like Mandela and Mott win two of the three "traditional" Breeder's Cup races. Both guys have been training at the highest level for a couple of decades, and they've done it the right way.
As for the racing, it would be hard for anyone to claim either surface was biased against horses from a particular region. The 6 Breeder's Cup winners came from Kentucky, South America, Europe, California, with the final two coming from New York. When Royal Delta hit the wire to repeat in the Ladies Classic, I turned to my friend and exclaimed that this was a championship performance. Actually, it might have been a Hall of Fame performance, as the win should just about seal Royal Delta's place among the greats of the sport. No, Royal Delta did not win off by herself, nor did she run particularly fast, with a 13 and 2 final eighth and final quarter of 26+, and her Beyer will likely only be in the 100-102 range. However, sometimes in Breeder's Cup races the only important thing is the bottomline, winning and losing. And Royal Delta won. With Questing pulling a Life at Ten, Smith made the gutsy decision to place Royal Delta right up on the pace, and when no one else made a definitive bid, went ahead and chose to set the pace. Although Royal Delta has always shown solid tactical speed, and has been ridden closer to the pace this year, few if any envisioned her to set the pace given the quality speed in the field. Simply, Smith was setting himself up for a tidal wave of criticism if Royal Delta ended up being caught in the stretch. Smith, as a local rider, had to have realized that speed has been holding the entire meet on the maintrack, but he probably wasn't aware that he was asking Royal Delta to set what turned out to be a demanding pace. Ultimately, Smith's decision was born out by the result, but this startegy forced Royal Delta to do all the heavy lifting, and put her in a position where she was going to be the target and have to take everyone's best shot. Under these circumstances, and considering Royal Delta was running in manner she is unaccustomed to, it was going to be difficult for her to post a dominating victory. No, the only thing important after that first quarter mile was to maintain this lead by however much and get to the wire first. And that's exactly what Royal Delta did. She disposed of Love and Pride, turned back a gut check from the local star Include Me Out, and then brushed aside a final challenge from the undefeated champion My Miss Aurelia before actually starting to draw away again under the wire. Although Royal Delta has had difficulty in the past paring together top efforts, she concluded this year with a romp in the Beldame and now this courageous win in the Ladies Classic. And while her resume does contain some less than stellar drubbings(CCA Oaks, 11' Beldame, Sabin, Dubai World Cup) and some lukewarm efforts (Personal Ensign), many of these disappointments came in designed prep races. Royal Delta has found a way to shine brightest in the biggest races, and now owns 4 grade 1 wins for her career, with those wins coming at Saratoga, Churchill, Belmont, and Santa Anita, with strong grade 2 wins at Pimlico and Delaware Park(Del Cap should be a gr.1). The fact that she won the Ladies Classic last year back East at Churchill and then this year out West at Santa Anit further underscores her class and consistency. I also think that Royal Delta having won major races from off the pace, stalking and now on the lead is yet another feather in her cap. The win today undoubtedly secured Royal Delta her second Eclipse, this one for Older Female to go aong with her 3 Year Old Filly statue. It also, depending on tomorrow's results, could vault her into being a finalist for Horse of the Year. However, with only 2 grade 1 wins on the year I can't see her getting more votes than I'll Have Another even should the top HoY contenders bomb tomorrow. The good news is that it appears Royal Delta will be back next year at age 5 to go for a 3rd Eclipse. My guess is that they'll make Horse of the Year a target. As such, I would expect to see her challenge the males a couple of time. I think her team made the absolutely correct decision to run her in the Ladies Classic rather than against males in th Classic, but I would expect that next year, if Royal Delta is healthy and sharp, they go for the big one. This second Ladies Classic likely put Royal Delta in the Hall; next year will be about Royal Delta finding her exact place among the greatest females of all-time. Finally, a question. Will Royal Delta be the biggest equine name in the sport come January 1st?
I thought it was an excellent opening day of the Breeder's Cup, with the exception of the stupid decision to block off the saddling enclosure area to all but owners and media. That is an area where, on an average day and even for the 09' BC, the common man gets to spend 10-15 minutes up close with the star equines of the sport. For a sport that desperately needs to be promoting greater access and intimacy for fans, closing off half the paddock makes little sense. Secondly, in a time when many are having to scratch and claw economically, dividing the "haves" from the "have nots" comes across as elitist and even insensitive. The new-age couches and tubs of alcohol provided to those privileged enough to have access to the area only rubbed it in further.
While watching the turf races and all of the less-than-perfect trips mentioned above I kept thinking to myself how differently these races would probably have turned out had they been run at Belmont. Those tight turns at SA really put a premium on saving ground - much more so than Belmont. Also, the bog that is now Belmont would have played much more to the Euro's liking I'm sure. Hats off to Royal Delta for a tremendous performance. This is truly a champion mare!
1:30 Hightail....I'll take the "Over 7 starts" as Lukas will run him in EVERY Derby prep this winter and he won't win ANY of them! He'll head into the Derby as the longest shot on the board but Lukas will run him because "you can't win if you don't start." Sorry, D. Wayne, the past performance line in the form might read that Hightail won the BC Juv Sprint, but he really won a N1X Allowance in a 5 horse field that included 2 fillies, a maiden, and a horse that never raced on the dirt or 2 turns before! 2:02 Calidoscopio...Sure,he paid $36.40 but owns 9 wins in 39 career starts, mostly at marathon distances and entered Friday's race winning 2 of his 3 races this year....He fit as well as any of these. 3:16 Beholder....Not only did he win the important match-up between the 2 fillies, this BC race, but she is a PERFECT 2-for-2 on the dirt and a BETTER horse then ExecutivePriviledge when racing on the DIRT. 3:59 The Fugue....Ok, this horse should have won if it wasn't for the horrible trip. HOWEVER, she is 2-for-2, including a Group 1 against OLDER fillies & mares with jockeys OTHER THAN Buick on her, but a combined 1-for-6 when Buick is in the saddle...After watching this ride, I now understand the math. Excuse me, but who's idea was it to get a plane ticket for this guy to Santa Anita????? (Don't want Bejarano, Gomez, or Johnny V. on her back) 4:45...IMPRESSIVE win by Royal Delta. However, the bigger question is WHERE WERE the 10-for-10 Awesome Feather (#5) who never got a serious call during the race and Love and Pride (#8), who was 2-for-2 since removing blinkers, including a victory over Royal Delta?
My last drop in the race 4-6 pick3 was High Tail. I saved $12 by dropping him, and lost the $3,500 pick 3, hiting the last two legs. He had been running longer-- against two top horses running tomorrow (Balance the Books, and Joha). I had actually written him in on DRF Bets, then deleted him--the only horse I dropped all day. Sure nice I saved that $12.
Personally, if I ran BC Ltd., I would have once we knew how big Sandy was going to be gone into discussions with both Santa Anita and Hollywood Park about postponing the Breeders' Cup by one week to next weekend, when people in the east would be better equipped to handle this BC (one that is going to take a SEVERE hit in handle because of everything that has happened here), not to mention the criticism BC Ltd. could very well wind up having from those who don't normally follow the sport and look at having events like this (even at a place like Santa Anita that was far away from Sandy) as being insensitive. It would have created a LOT of inconveniences for people who made plans to be there this weekend, but given the extreme circumstances with Sandy, I probably would have postponed and faced the wrath of those upset about doing so looking at the bigger picture. That said, if this BC had been at Belmont Park like so many felt NYRA was "entitled" to, we likely would have been looking at a postponement to Thanksgiving weekend due to it possibly needing that long for all essential services to be fully back to normal in the region.