11/05/2011 9:32AM

Breeders' Cup Saturday at Churchill Downs


Hello from Churchill Downs on Breeders' Cup Saturday. The day dawned frosty, but clear, which is good because the sun will be needed to help dry out the main track. I got a close up look at the track this morning and was surprised at how much moisture was still in it. The track is being floated and squeezed as I write this, but it was just announced that it will soon be cut open and harrowed. It was also just announced that while there is an outside shot the track could be labeled "fast" for the first race, it will likely start off as good.

One leftover impression from Breeders' Cup Friday: The late, pre-race warm up vet scratches of Shotgun Gulch from the F&M Sprint and Announce from the F&M Turf made some snicker that racing officials were overcompensating for the Life At Ten debacle from last year. I don't care if this is true. Scratching horses when there is even just a hint that a physical issue might prevent them from performing up to their best shows, among other things, an understanding of the importance of protecting the betting public. And that is a good thing.

I'll check in later with a few thoughts as the day unfolds.

12:50 - Track has been upgraded to fast for the Marathon. Considering there are three European shippers in the Marathon, here's an interesting trivia question: Who was the last European shipper to win a BC race on dirt? The answer is Wilko, who won the 2004 Juvenile at Lone Star. There have been, of course, European shippers who have since won BC races on the main track, but not on dirt.

3:14 - I thought I was home free with Cease in the stretch of the Marathon, but I can't even hold it against him for failing to stay the silly distance of 14 furlongs. I wouldn't shed a tear if the Marathon went away, and I say that not because I lost, or couldn't have come up with Afleet Again if you gave me 10 chances. It's just that this race doesn't prove anything.

The Euros got their first win with Wrote in the Juvy Turf, confirming the suspicion that our 2yo turf males were as a group weaker than our 2yo turf fillies.

Amazombie has been good all year, but it's what he's done in the last four weeks - win the Ancient Title, and then win the BC Sprint - that will earn him the male sprint championship.

4:17 - Have to give Regally Ready full credit. He turned a Turf Sprint that seemed wide open on paper into a blowout. I was surprised that Caracortado didn't really kick after being surprisingly close early. But it could be the energy expended to be close early took away from his late punch.

After the Dirt Mile, a colleague commented that, considering the way the race was run, and won, Nick Zito must be kicking himself for not running Jackson Bend here instead of the Sprint. Maybe, although I thought Jackson Bend was just a little flat today, and he might have had his work cut out for him in the Dirt Mile, for Caleb's Posse was most impressive in victory.

5:35 - Joseph O'Brien and St Nicholas Abbey winning the Turf really is a neat story. O'Brien became the youngest jockey ever to win a Breeders' Cup race, he did so for his dad, trainer Aidan O'Brien, and did so knowing his flat racing career can't have much longer to go because of his size. The other thing about the Turf is that it was a minor surprise that the Europeans didn't run one, two, three, four, five, and I'm only half kidding. The U.S. represenation in the Turf looked so weak in comparision to the European runners, but Brilliant Speed (third) and Stately Victor (fifth) denied that Euro sweep. U. S. A.! U. S. A.!

Yes, Union Rags lost a ton of ground in the Juvenile, and yet only lost by a head to Hansen, but I have to admit I was still a little disappointed in him. Despite all his ground loss, Union Rags still looked to have Hansen's number in the stretch, and if he was really the horse many thought he was, he would have gotten up, anyway. That isn't to say Union Rags is a stiff, and it isn't meant to take a thing away from Hansen. It is to say that, at least right now, Union Rags might not be that special colt.

The other thing about Union Rags's ground loss is, maybe it wasn't as costly as it seems at face value. There are some folks who are wondering if, as the main track dries out, the rail might not be trending toward dead. I'm not convinced, but it is something to think about.

6:24 - I'll try and say this as calmly as I can: I just can't believe the stewards did not disqualify Goldikova from third in the Mile. Here I was agreeing with a comment I think I heard Randy Moss say which in so many words was, it's a good thing Goldikova had lost a step, because if she hadn't and finished first, it would have gotten ugly after all the jockey objections were sorted out. In other words, just about every seasoned racetracker around knew Goldikova had to come down for coming out on horses in the stretch for racing room. And yet somehow - amazingly - she stayed up.

The only thing more amazing than Goldikova staying up was Court Vision narrowly winning the Mile at 64-1. I couldn't have bet counterfeit money on Court Vision. This is just one of those wacky results that can't be made even after the race.

7:15 - On a day when Afleet Again and Court Vision won Breeders' Cup races, why not Drosselmeyer in the Classic?

It wasn't that long ago that people had to think for a moment or three when asked who won the 2010 Belmont Stakes. But Drosselmeyer will certainly be remembered now, for managing to implausibly re-route himself from the Marathon to the Classic, for beating a game Game On Dude and sparking the whole Mike Smith-Chantal Sutherland thing, and for helping rehabilitate the image of the Belmont Stakes, which had taken a bit of a beating in recent years.

As for the Classic favorites, Flat Out and Havre de Grace clearly did not run their races. So You Think seemed to handle dirt well enough and had every chance in the stretch, but wasn't good enough. And Uncle Mo is obviously not a 10 furlong horse, which is certainly no surprise.

And after Breeders' Cup Saturday, the Horse of the Year picture is as clear as mud. Havre de Grace was probably the leader for that going in, and given the Classic result, she is still a viable candidate, mainly because there aren't a lot of other palatable choices. Older male will be an imperfect battle between Tizway, Flat Out, Acclamation, and, yes, Drosselmeyer. And champion 3-year-old male? The only 3yo who ran well in the Classic was Ruler On Ice, the Belmont winner, who finished third. And he wasn't a divisional contender going in. Stay Thirsty didn't help his candidacy with his meek effort Saturday, so Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, who hasn't raced since sustaining a season-ending injury in the Belmont, is incredibly still a top title contender.

Anyway, so long from Louisville. Thanks for reading.