11/01/2013 8:34PM

Breeders' Cup Friday Thoughts


Okay, so now, who is champion 3-year-old filly?

As I discussed in this space a couple of weeks ago, the connections of Princess of Sylmar were taking a huge chance by extending her season and coming here to Santa Anita, and competing in Friday's Breeders' Cup Distaff. It was a very sporting thing to do. But if Princess of Sylmar didn't fire in the Distaff, and Beholder won on her home Santa Anita track, the 3-year-old filly championship that seemed a certainty to go to Princess of Sylmar after she made the Beldame her fourth Grade 1 score of the year could be taken away by Beholder, especially if the latter won impressively.

I should have bought lottery tickets after posting that blog entry, because that is exactly how it turned out.

Beholder dominated the Distaff. I mean, she won with complete authority, somewhat surprisingly rating just off the early pace on a speed favoring track before blowing the race open on the far turn, and going on to win her fourth Grade 1 race of the year.

But as big as Beholder ran Friday, the 3-year-old filly title is still a tough call. Beholder and Princess of Sylmar split their head to head matchups this year. But while Princess of Sylmar's wins in the Kentucky Oaks, CCA Oaks, Alabama, and Beldame came in championship-type races that are held in higher regard than the Las Virgenes, Santa Anita Oaks, and Zenyatta, the Grade 1's Beholder won, Beholder winning on the big stage Friday counts for more. And winning the way she did counts for even more than that.

Princess of Sylmar was disappointing Friday, of course, but at least she had the excuse of being a closer compromised by a speed-favoring track. Royal Delta had no excuse in the Distaff, so she was an even bigger disappointment. After being right with the early pace, it was clear before the far turn that Royal Delta was not going to win. And while Royal Delta will win another older female championship this year because there are no other viable alternatives, she enhanced her reputation as a horse who mixed more than the usual share of duds to go along with her brilliant performances.

Some other Breeders' Cup Friday thoughts:

Goldencents's victory in the Dirt Mile was a stunning illustration of how intensely speed favoring the Santa Anita main track was again on Friday. Sent for his life out of the gate by Rafael Bejarano, partially because of his outside post and the relatively short run to the first turn, and partially because of the track bias, Goldencents wound up battling with Broadway Empire through insane fractions of 22.12, and 44.75. Understandably, Goldencents was one tired puppy in the late stages, slogging home through a final quarter in 26.48. Yet despite being in a literal crawl, no one caught Goldencents. In fact, no one came anywhere close to catching Goldencents. That no one even gained meaningfully into that final quarter speaks volumes on how speed was holding.

It continues to be an unfunny joke that the Marathon is blessed with the Breeders' Cup moniker because its just not close to a big-time race. European London Bridge won this year's staggerfest, probably because he was the only one in the race actually turning back in distance, and thus became the first New York bred ever to win a Breeders' Cup race. With no asterisk! For me, the best part of the Marathon was Worldly. Worldly has some talent, but he's so adverse to winning, he wouldn't pass me in the stretch if it meant getting his picture taken.

That was some late kick by Outstrip in the Juvenile Turf. The last quarter of this race was run in 23.67, which was pretty strong, and yet Outstrip still made up about six lengths with his whirlwind finish. One can see why Outstrips's connections were talking in terms of next years 2000 Guineas after his victory.

That said, the first three finishers in the Juvenile Turf are all very nice colts. I think runner up Giovanni Boldini ran well enough to have won any of the past runnings of the Juvy Turf. And for Bobby's Kitten to finish as close a third as he did after setting that ridiculously fast pace (the turf is fast too, but this wasnt the main track) is to his credit.

Chriselliam was almost as impressive as Outstrip winning the Juvenile Fillies Turf. She had winner written all over her before they even turned for home, and after powerfully kicking clear, she completed the mile only 52 hundredths of a second slower than Outstrip went, with the paces in the two races being comparable. She was also another European winner, and they went 3 for 5 on Friday.

Anyway, here's hoping for a more even main track for Saturday, although I'm not sure what can be done between now and then to make that happen short of dumping 10 tons of sand on it. It's just a pity that championships will be riding on a main track that so favors horses of one particular running style.

Donna Straley More than 1 year ago
Beholder should win the 3 yr old championship because her win in the Distaff was the best performance by a female horse this yr. As for Royal Delta, I think Mike might be being a little too hard on her. It's obvious she's not the same horse she used to be. In retrospect, she started going into the downward slope of her career in the PE when Mikey had to get after her in deep stretch to keep her going. Not even Bill Mott can keep a horse performing @ the top level indefinitely, &, from what he's been saying post-race, it sounds like Royal is off to motherhood. Unfortunately, the fact that Royal has been in a decline makes the Princess' win in the Beldame less impressive than it initially appeared which only makes Beholder's case for the Eclipse stronger.
robert NEVEU More than 1 year ago
Not that anyone cares or should but in my original comment earlier I started by saying that a one turn mile is ideal for a horse stretching out while I meant to say the exact opposite. IMO a two turn mile or almost any two turn race is a much easier spot for a quality sprinter to use his speed to easily clear a field and then be able to get a breather saving ground around the clubhouse turn. Though obviously Goldencents got no such breather yesterday
robert NEVEU More than 1 year ago
True his final quarter was 26.48 however only the final 1/8 was real slow the 7f split was 121.62 and as slow as the last 1/4 was it was still about as fast as some closers run their first quarter. .... yes I know all you talking heads are 100% convinced there was a huge bias, speed was obviously good but plenty of horses who showed good early speed did not run on, the horse that tried to stay with the winner in this race finished way back and a pretty deep closer did run second. IMO to say that front running is only "particular running style" is to say slow is as good as fast bottom line is the best horse won the race period, name one other horse in there that on paper should have won if someone wanted to beat him all they had to do was out run him at least one of the early winners didn't figure to be able to get the lead at any point in the race but it was also a restricted state bred race and a crap shoot to begin with maybe the real pity is for all of the talk of the extreme bias not one favorite won meaning apparently that the public is not to good at identifying speed
Keith Taylor More than 1 year ago
Mike, great horses, smart trainers and talented jockeys adapt to any and all conditions. I'm so tired of the belly aching about biases. They only matter because some horses aren't talented enough to get it done. MAKE CHANGES INSTEAD OF EXCUSES.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Do any of you guys on-track know, or can you find out how deep the cushion is? Thanks.
Robert Brown More than 1 year ago
Track is like last year --a JOKE
Philip C More than 1 year ago
I agree!! This is pathetic!! I want to see the best horse win, not the horse fastest out of the gate.
robert NEVEU More than 1 year ago
In many cases they are one and the same
Philip C More than 1 year ago
I totally agree!!!
phil bailey More than 1 year ago
To the Powers that Be. Pls move the BC cup away from Santa Anita. I am begging you. I know they have it for 2014 which is horrible. It actually was a better Breeders Cup at Santa Anita when they had poly just because closers could do well. Not saying change SA back to poly at all. Just saying pls stop awarding the BC to SA. I understand SA might be the only track who is vying for it. We need some other tracks to go for it.
David S More than 1 year ago
Mike, like yourself, I was sceptical on how the track would play and for most, the 'championship races' we're far from that. Even worse, for the horses that won, their performances are somewhat diminished by the unfairness of the track surface. Were they the best horse or simply the best horse on this surface? Isn't Beholder 5 for 5 at Santa Anita? To be honest, the turf races have been infinitely more exciting to watch and they are the races I am looking forward to in tomorrow's card. Santa Anita has everything you want for championship races except for the most important ingredient, a dirt surface that is fair to all or even most. Which is a shame.
Roger Wiskavitch More than 1 year ago
I think if Zenyata were racing this weekend the track would be playing more evenly.
John Haas More than 1 year ago
I think everyone is forgetting the probable reverse effect of the speed bias. Everybody and their brother is expecting speed to hold and think that goldencents race is an indicator of that. However, cheap speed isn't goldencents quality. I predict insane early fractions all day and horses fair well from 3-5 lengths off the pace tomorrow. Everybody thinks you need the lead now, just read all the posts. You can only imagine that connections are thinking the same! Cal-Bred races are horrible indicators of bias because most are bred for speed and picking them are a total crapshoot
phil bailey More than 1 year ago
very good point. I think the Juvenile dirt races will be interesting. The Juvenile races are pretty much like the So Cal races as far as maturity and no lasix. I still think speed will prevail because Goldescents came home in only .26 and nobody else was coming. If you come home in .26 at Belmont you finish last. Can we start a petition to BAN Santa Anita from ever holding another BC event after 2014?
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Excellent point. Whatever bias there was in favor of speed for the Dirt Mile was at least partially offset by that insane pace. Goldencents' performance reminded me of Bodemeister's performance last year in the Derby on that speedy Churchill surface. Yes, Bode benefited from the bias, but that pace he set really worked against him. Ultimately, they cancelled out and he was simply 2nd best, as he would again be in the Preakness.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Given the way Beholder dominated, the 3 year old filly Eclipse would have been put back in play even had Princess of Sylmar not run. Simply, Beholder turned in the best maintrack performance by a North American female this year. She's a very, very special filly. And I think even many of PoS's strongest supporters might now have doubts whether that filly is really better than Beholder because the Beholder of the spring was a shade of the filly she has become now, both physically and mentally. However, acknowledging that Beholder is probably the superior filly doesn't mean she deserves the Eclipse. I still think many voters are going to give PoS a pass for the Distaff and point to her longer and more ambitious campaign. And I would have zero problems with voters doing that.
nick More than 1 year ago
Dear Mr. Jordan, Princess of Sylmar may not even be the 2nd best 3 yr old filly in 2013.Close Hatches wins the Grade 2 Gazelle, runs badly in the slop in the Ky. Oaks, runs 2nd in the Grade 1 Acorn, wins the Grade 1 Mother Goose, wins the Grade 1 Cotillion, then runs 2nd in the Grade 1 Breeder's Cup Distaff, beating Royal Delta convincingly, and TROUNCING Princess of Sylmar. 'Hatches did what good closers are supposed to do on alleged speed favoring tracks, she closed well to be second. 'Hatches was only about 2 lengths in front if the Princess in the middle of the far turn, and she literally ran away from her. Close Hatches has now beaten Princess twice, while Princess has beaten 'Hatches once. And while I'm at it, where is the longer and more ambitious campaign of Princess of Sylmar vis a vis Beholder? Princess ran 8 times, Beholder 7. They both shipped across country for important races, otherwise Princess spent her year racing the New York circuit while Beholder raced the California circuit. They both had trouble in 1 big race: Beholder ran 2nd by 1/2 length after having a tremendous amount of trouble before loading in Kentucky, Princess was nowhere to be found after having a bad start in California. Beholder deserves to be 3 year old Champion, but then again the votes don't always go to the most deserving(Right, Big Z?).
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Beholder took off the summer, and her comeback race at Del Mar, a non-graded stakes, should hardly be counted. PoS raced the entire year.