10/10/2010 12:34PM

Breeders' Cup Implications For the Oct. 9 Preps


What did Saturday's plethora of preps mean in regard to the Breeders' Cup? Let's take a crack at figuring it all out. As we did last week, we'll break it down by track.


Woodford - I thought Silver Timber was the best horse on paper going in. But I also thought that, after losing at odds on in his last two starts, Silver Timber was out of form. Wrong. Silver Timber's half-length win margin belies how comfortable his win here really was. And now, he might actually be a tepid favorite for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, depending, of course, on exactly which Europeans decide to run in this race. As for the first two betting favorites here, California Flag and Chamberlain Bridge, Chamberlain Bridge did okay to rally from last to be fourth. But now he seems to only occasionally show his positional speed, which is troubling, although no more troubling that California Flag's fade to last after being in perfect position early.

TCA Stakes - I thought deep closers were up against it on Keeneland's Polytrack Saturday. For evidence of the advantage speed had Saturday, you need look no further than this race, and Old Time Religion improbably holding on to second at 69-1 after setting the pace. In fact, a huge factor in Dubai Majesty's victory here was her being closer to the early pace than she usually is. In any event, any criticism of Informed Decision's third place finish here as the strong favorite should be tempered because of how the track was playing. Nevertheless, it is clear that Informed Decision isn't nearly as automatic as she was last year when she won the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint and was the divisional champion. It is also clear that this Filly & Mare Sprint will be yet another wide open Breeders' Cup race.

First Lady - That was some late kick from Proviso to make this her fourth straight Grade 1 victory and solidify her ranking as the country's top turf female. It should also be noted that Proviso ran 25-hundredths of a second faster than Gio Ponti did winning the Shadwell Turf Mile two races later after very similar early paces. But this race will have zero impact on the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. If Proviso starts in the Cup, it will be in the Breeders' Cup Mile, not the Filly & Mare Turf, because the 11 furlong distance of the F & M Turf this year is just too far for her. And as for Proviso's prospects in the Mile, how can anyone be optimistic with that freak Goldikova out there?

Breeders' Futurity - It's easy to be skeptical about this race and its potential implications for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The winner, J. B.'s Thunder, won a maiden race on turf in his only other start, and he rode the crest of the speed bias in his front-running victory. And not only is he a complete question mark on dirt, his mere participation in the Breeders' Cup is only iffy at best. Santiva, a maiden who finished second in J. B.'s Thunder's debut, ran well to be second and has a future, and I'm not saying that just because I picked him in this race. Santiva's nice wide run from well off the pace looks even better when you consider he was going against the grain of the track.

Shadwell Turf Mile - This was the real, real good Gio Ponti. I have long suspected that a mile might be Gio Ponti's best game even if he was still good enough to win big up to 1 3-8 miles, and he showed why that might be the case here, winning with total authority while never being asked to run. Gio Ponti and Courageous Cat, who ran okay finishing third in his first start since March, are capable of having a big impact on the Mile (don't forget, Courageous Cat was a close second to Goldikova in last year's Mile), although as noted, Goldikova casts an imposing shadow over that race.


Jamaica Handicap - Beyond being happy for trainer Michelle Nihei getting her first career Grade 1 victory here with Prince Will I Am, there's not much to say here. In truth, this was not a legitimate Grade 1 race, and it will have zero impact on the Breeders' Cup.

Frizette - For the second time in as many days, the 2-year-old fillies from Southern California saw their stock receive a big boost. On Friday, Wickedly Perfect, who finished between Tell a Kelly and Oak Leaf winner Rigoletta when second in the Del Mar Debutante, went wire to wire in the Alcibiades at Keeneland, only to unfortunately come out of the race with a season-ending bone chip. Here, A Z Warrior, who couldn't make a dent on Tell a Kelly, Wickedly Perfect, and Rigoletta in the Del Mar Debutante, finishing a soundly beaten fifth, won by open lengths after disputing a strong early pace. Now, there were some mitigating factors at play here. It's tough to know exactly how much A Z Warrior's victory was also due to the horrendous trip had by runner up R Heat Lightning, or a distinct affinity for dirt, which A Z Warrior did seem to take a liking to. Either way, this result did elicit increased respect in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies for Rigoletta and Tell a Kelly.

Champagne - Two turns and whether Uncle Mo can handle them will be a big story line in the run up to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. But after another brilliant performance from Uncle Mo in this race, a performance that will make him the favorite for the Juvenile, it would be foolish to put anything past him. Most people probably thought that it was just not possible for Uncle Mo to be as impressive Saturday as he was in his debut on Travers Day. But he was, finishing strongly despite disputing a fast early pace, all while going a quarter of a mile longer than he did in his only other start. How many 2-year-olds do you know of who can run fast early and run fast late at a meaningful distance? Not many at all. This is a very exciting prospect.


Oak Tree Mile - When Sidney's Candy was scratched due to an impending sale, whatever potential implications this race had on the BC Mile took a major hit. And when Liberian Freighter, the longest shot on the board at 22-1, got up to nip Colgan's Chip for a California-bred exacta, and when Victor's Cry never got out of a gallop, it meant that this race had no Breeders' Cup implications. As an aside, I understand that when a sale is pending as was the case here with Sidney's Candy, you want to eliminate as much risk as possible until all the papers are signed. But if whoever buys Sidney's Candy still wants to run him in the Mile, it means that the colt will go into that race off a 12 week layoff, which is far from ideal. If the new owner of Sidney's Candy still has the Mile in mind, then they should have done whatever it took to see that this colt got the prep he needed.

Ancient Title - Fourth place finisher Cost of Freedom looks like he might be finally done dealing, and though he finished third, E Z's Gentleman never really ran a jump. Fast closing runner up Supreme Summit is of dubious stakes quality, so there is a temptation to downgrade Smiling Tiger's victory in the race when it comes to what it might mean regarding the Breeders' Cup Sprint. But the Sprint picture is so wide open that it wouldn't be smart to downgrade anything, including an improving 3-year-old like Smiling Tiger who, while an unknown on dirt, has managed to win Grade 1 races over older opponents in two of his last three starts.


Monmouth Cup - The way Musket Man seemed to want to lean in on Etched during the stretch battle of this race, and his failure to change to his proper lead, kind of puts all the layoff lines that appear in his past performances over the last year and a half into perspective. But Musket Man is still a quality horse who has been competitive this year with the likes of Blame and Quality Road. And even though Musket Man lost a narrow decision at odds-on Saturday, the opponent who edged him, Etched, has shown quality throughout a career also punctuated by plenty of layoff lines. Both could be Breeders' Cup-bound. Presumably we're talking about the Breeders' Cup Classic. But I can't help but think that these two would have far more significant a presence in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.