11/01/2013 7:34PM

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.