11/02/2013 9:40PM

Breeders' Cup Saturday Notes


It seems hard to believe, but the last Breeders' Cup Classic won by a horse who went on to be Horse of that Year was the 2007 edition, won by Curlin. My educated guess says well be waiting at least another year before the Classic winner gets the game's top year-end award.

Raven's Pass, Zenyatta (she wasn't Horse of the Year the season she won the Classic), Blame, Drosselmeyer, and Fort Larned accounted for the Classics since Curlin, and it seems likely Mucho Macho Man will join this unique group.

Nothing against Mucho Macho Man. He was a determined winner of the Classic Saturday after, I believe, moving too early on the far turn. It is to Mucho Macho Mans credit that he stayed on, and on, to resist Will Take Charge and Declaration of War. But even with his Classic win to go along with his victory in the Grade 1 Awesome Again, Mucho Macho Man just didn't do enough this year to be Horse of the Year. He was winless in his first three starts of 2013, and his two big victories came in just a five-week span over a Santa Anita track Mucho Macho Man clearly likes. Mucho Macho Man has two big wins this year to be very proud of, but not nearly enough of a resume to be a Horse of the Year.

After completely flopping in his second straight Classic, Game On Dude certainly won't be Horse of the Year. His Big Cap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic scores were all big ones, but his propensity to fold when it really matters is difficult to overlook.

So like last year, it seems we are back to Wise Dan, who now, whether by default or not, must be considered the prohibitive favorite to be Horse of the Year. Wise Dan's victory earlier Saturday in the Mile wasnt easy, or necessarily pretty. But he got the job done (to be the third Breeders Cup repeater of the day), and getting the job done is the bottom line. He certainly seemed to be the Horse of the Day for the crowd on hand, anyway, as they gave Wise Dan a resounding reception on his return to the winners circle, a spot he has now visited 19 times in his 27-race career.

One other point before moving on to other matters. Kudos to management at Santa Anita for finding a way to make the main track Saturday much more even than the speed-biased surface that existed Thursday and Friday, and, in fact, the weeks prior to the Breeders Cup. They saw a problem and heard the complaints, and found a way to improve the situation. Well done.

In other Saturday notes:

No way else to put it, the Juvenile Fillies was ugly. As if the fatal breakdown of Secret Compass and the virtual easing of four others in the stretch wasnt enough, Ria Antonia, whose fourth in the Swynford on Woodbine's Polytrack was her previous best stakes finish, got the 32-1 upset win on the disqualification of She's a Tiger in a borderline call that was a majority, not unanimous, stewards decision. I'm going to wait and see what happens in the late-season 2-year-old filly stakes before I even think about who best deserves a title in this division.

One thing the Juvy Fillies did provide, however, was supporting evidence to what we saw in race 2 (the one in which Zeewat upset Flashback), that the Santa Anita main track had changed. Although She's a Tiger staggered to the wire first after setting fast fractions, three horses (Ria Antonia, Rosalind, and Sweet Reason) made impactful runs from well off the pace. And that would not have happened on Thursday or Friday's speed-biased tracks.

Dank is just really, really good. I dont think being on or near the pace is the way she really wants to run, but thats the way it broke for her in the Filly & Mare Turf. She didn't win as dominatingly as she did in the Beverly D., but her performance Saturday was impressive for different reasons, and she is a slam-dunk for champion female turf horse.

Groupie Doll did what champions often do. She rose to the occasion, and even if she isn't quite the 2012 version of Groupie Doll anymore, she was still good enough to win the Filly & Mare Sprint for a second straight year, which in turn should secure her another female sprint title. I really liked Dance Card in this race, and she lost nothing in my eyes finishing third. She raced very wide, but still made a huge move in the race, all while going a seven furlong distance that is likely shorter than her best.

Mizdirection gave us a second straight Breeders Cup repeater with a relentless run after being floated very wide into the stretch to win another Turf Sprint. Trainer Mike Puype really has this mare's number. This year, as was the case last year, Puype had Mizdirection ready off a layoff of some five months. And given the importance of past success on the downhill course in all of the Turf Sprints that have been run at Santa Anita (Mizdirection is now 6 for 6 on this unique course), Tightend Touchdown deserves some props for dead-heating for second with Reneesgotzip in his downhill debut. Interestingly, Tightend Touchdown was claimed for $35,000 last January.

If the Juvenile Fillies failed to impress, then what can you say about the males in the Juvenile? It seems hard to believe, but Juvenile upsetter New Year's Day completed the 8.5 furlongs in 1:43.52, 51 one-hundredths of a second slower than the Juvenile Fillies went the same distance. Still, I think New Year's Day has some potential. He was jumping in class off only a maiden win, but a maiden win in which he beat subsequent FrontRunner winner Bond Holder. As for Juvenile runner up Havana, it looked at first that he just didn't stay. That might be the correct assessment. But I also suspect that once he struck the front, he waited on horses.

The European domination in this Breeders' Cup was humbling to an American racing fan, and the one-two finish in the Turf by the European pair of Magician and The Fugue was the exclamation point. For me, Magician was hard to make off a June layoff, and the fact that he had never been anywhere close to the 12-furlong distance. But Magician was just another reminder that his trainer, Aidan OBrien, is an absolute master. However, Magician might have also had a bit of luck, because I do think The Fugue was too close to soon to the fast pace, and moved needlessly early three wide around the final turn.

Secret Circle was good and game winning a Sprint that this year seemed below par, holding off a furious late run from the Grade 3 horse Laugh Track. Secret Circle has now won two races in the last three weeks, which were his first two starts off an 18-month absence. Secret Circle has but one Grade 1 win this year, and even if that Grade 1 was a Breeders Cup race, and even in an off year for sprinters, its not easy giving a horse a divisional championship with that sort of resume. But there aren't many other palatable alternatives, so Secret Circle seems a live title contender.


Robert Walton More than 1 year ago
Mike, you were so right about speed holding at Santa Anita. I should have listened to you. The track was so biased. Is there anything the track maintenance guys could have done to make it fair?
Michael Watchmaker More than 1 year ago
It was strongly speed biased on BC Friday, and on Thursday, and for that matter, for at least two weeks beforehand. But it was DEFINITELY different on BC Saturday, and much more fair. I was told by several people that the track maintenance crew worked overnight into Saturday on it. My guess is they cut it up. Whatever they did, it was definitely more fair.
Jerome Waldemar More than 1 year ago
By the way, Watchmaker, 'speed bias' is a myth! The track is the same for all the horses. So why do we have days when speed wins all day and vice versa? Because when a race happens with a speed winner or with a come from behind runner is strictly by CHANCE. Anyone who has looked at odds and probabilities knows that CHANCE causes steaks. You will always get streaks of a lot of something and then a lot of something else.
Jerome Waldemar More than 1 year ago
The DQ of She's A Tiger was a 'no brainer'. No DQ would have been a travesty. Watching on TV I knew something had happened instantly, before the race even hit the finish line. The stewards at most tracks usually enforce the rules about like referees call 'traveling' in basketball or 'pass interference' in football. In other words they usually don't enforce the rules but, for once, they got it right.
David Juffet More than 1 year ago
Steve I didn't bet the dude. That's besides the point anyway.handicap division to me was weak all year the dude was a major factor all year. Look at all the 3yo who retire no wonder the ranks are thin.
Steve S More than 1 year ago
What bothers me the most about racing iss the way the SKEW the races by making the track favor certain running types. I have a great betting weekend, but the bet that made me the maddest was the SPRINT. I turned for home 2 1/2 in front with a $3000 win bet on Gentleman. and although my horse should have done what all the others did (draw out0 I think the trainer sent out a short horse. i don't mind losing and I can read between the lines that this horse has some physical problems, but I think he was just a short horse.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Game on Dude = Sky Beauty Sky Beauty won the Acorn, Mother Goose, CCA Oaks, and Alabama in 1993. Those outside New York pointed to the weak fields she was facing and her average figs. For the 1993 BC Distaff, Sky Beauty had to run at Santa Anita where she would face a mare in Paseana who, although winning at only 50% that year, was faster, more tested, and simply better. Well, not only did Paseana finish ahead of Sky Beauty, so did another 3 year old filly, the winning Hollywood Wildcat. Sky Beauty ran 5th, and lost the Eclipse to HW. Sky Beauty came back at age four in 94' a much better horse. She entered the Churchill BC of that year 5 for 5 on the season, with 4 grade 1 wins. She was winning races by large margins and running figs about 6 lengths faster than her figs from 93'. She appeared all set to avenge her 93' Distaff failure. However, she finished 9th, of 9. Those two dismal BC efforts didn't nullify everything else Sky Beauty had done in her career. Even with that last place finish in the Distaff, Sky Beauty finally got her Eclipse, as the champion older mare. And recently, Sky Beauty was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Game on Dude is no Hall of Famer, but he should be seriously considered for the champion older male Eclipse. His accomplishments this year tower over his rivals for the award. The last 2 Classics certainly exposed Dude's flaws, namely that when confronted by another very fast speed horse, and one that has the class and stamina to resist Dude when Dude comes calling for the lead, Dude has some quit in him. The reason that this weakness hadn't been exposed more between last year's Classic and this year's is because the type of classy, and stamina strong speedster needed to expose the weakness is rare. Fort Larned is one. Maybe Cross Traffic or Graydar were others. But that's it. Just because Dude bombed in these last 2 Classics doesn't mean his owners have to return their 7 grade 1 trophies or the $5.5 million the horse has earned. These two efforts simply highlighted that although very good, Dude is not a great horse, a Horse of the Year, or Hall of Fame type. But, he's been durable, and has accomplished alot.
Michael Watchmaker More than 1 year ago
You said yourself that Sky Beauty was inducted into the Hall of Fame (in 2011 and justifiably so, in my opinion), and that Game On Dude is not a Hall of Fame type. Therefore, Game On Dude does not equal Sky Beauty, contrary to your original, and I believe, off base assertion.
Steve S More than 1 year ago
Quality of the fields, my firend. Game on Dude can not beat a quailty field with a pressured pace. He has proven it time and time again. Hallof Fame horses overcome pace/track/bias.
Perl More than 1 year ago
I think in some ways Game on Dude is a product of his environment. Early in his career, this horse earned a deserved reputation as a fighter. He liked to mix it up on the front end and usually this spelled more trouble for his competition than it did him. He was never a great finisher and this fact got neatly hidden in his last two years when his connections (wisely, some might suggest) kept him in very soft "Grade 1s" on the west coast where he used his considerable talent to overwhelm local competition. The best comparison for Game on Dude is clearly Lava Man, though Game on Dude is probably a bit more accomplished. In any event, I think his carefully planned out racing schedule has helped make Game on Dude soft in the past two years. I can't blame his connections, who have banked over $6m with this excellent horse. He's more a byproduct of the scattered nature of top handicap races today and the major decline in the past decade of top California stakes routers.
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
Your assessment of Game On dude in my opinion is right on. Lava Man had a ton more fight in him than Game On Dude though.
Eric More than 1 year ago
In the "Weekend Winners and Beyers" section at the top of the homepage, the BSF of the Juvenile race was listed as 88. The Juvenile Filly race was listed as 81....even though the filly race was 0.51 sec faster and the pace was similar. I assume there was a miss print on the colt's race ....right? Someone from DRF want to explain this one? Anyone?
Michael Watchmaker More than 1 year ago
Beyer already explained this in a column. In his opinion, the track slowed down after the first couple of BC races, and he elected to split his variant.
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
I saw Andy out on the track measuring the depth and taking soil samples before the colts hit the ground. Unbelievable what people buy into.
MIKE MOBLEY More than 1 year ago
Wise Dan just wins and still gets critizised--Excuses are only good for those who make them, HOY--Wise Dan
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
Wise Dan has sold me. He's the new John Henry.
Steve S More than 1 year ago
News Flash. Game on Dude has crossed the finish line. (What a gift that race was)
Steve Wilson More than 1 year ago
Agreed Steve - Can we PLEASE stop talking about Game on Dud? As NBC pointed out, not one horse he beat this year even made the BC Classic, and he got beat soundly again! Please, just stop!
David Juffet More than 1 year ago
It's amazing to me that a horse one win away from an undefeated season and horse of the year title can't be talked about. I think there's plenty to talk about.
Steve S More than 1 year ago
Aww. You bet on him, didn't you?
David Juffet More than 1 year ago
Lol good one Steve!
AzLimitPoker More than 1 year ago
Now that the Breeders Cup is over all I can say is since 1991 I have been a regular by betting and following this once great game but I guess all good things come to an end and that end is today...with the recent changes in racing because of synthetic surfaces, tracks closing, smaller field sizes and race days, medication changes, rising costs to forms, admission, parking, programs, news, etc. I have placed my LAST bet on this game and will no longer follow it...Good luck with surviving and I would say it's in good hands but after watching that beyond embarrassing coverage NBC put on this weekend I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel...greed has ruined the game just like many other sports and I refuse to spend my hard earned money on something that has become so wrong...I pray for the Horses because unfortunately they don't have a say in this but I can only hope that good people like Kathy Ritvo stay in this game long enough for change...watching her run to her horse and her jockey after the biggest win in her career made me realize why I do still love this game...it's a shame the people running this once great game don't see what I see...what a shame the best horse race of the year in the biggest stage of the year had to be on a network that only cared about celebrities rather than the true celebrities of the sport which are the HORSES and the GREAT people like KATHY that care for them!
Mother More than 1 year ago
@azlimit poker, It would be arrogant of me to say i could articulate what you just said, the words just wouldnt come out.. It was as if you were speaking my mind. I have been a lifetime fan of the horses, the trainers, and racings rich history steep in the breeding shed, and its rivalry on the racetrack. Its a shame what[NBC] did by putting that celebrity nonsence on air instead of showing the great classic winners of the past, or the trainers that made west coast racing what it was at its apex, trainers like charlie wittingham, ron macanally, frankel, bob baffert. They should have done more on showing the great thoroughbreds of the game, but they put celebrity butt kisser ''billy bush'' to make a mockery of a once great institution. yes i picked the exacta ,but not being gambler made my decision one of exclusion.as you made mention of miss ritvo and how racing is in need of her kind. i say May god bless kathy ritvo and her family along with her love for that horse, however i think, she will be fine. It is racing that needs all the help, sad to say. Its has been 19 years now since i last witnessed a real trainer ,and great horse combination on these american racetracks. Ironic as it may,TO have been witness to greatness in the form of JIMMY CROLL and the great gray HOLY BULL, putting on a year long display of historical significance by winning 8-10 races 6-G-Is and 2-G-IIs, a feat that seem to be a rarity nowadays. Pardon emoi for crying out loud, darn it a HOY contender today is running 3 or 4 races a year expecting honors.... what a shame,but then again that's just my opinion. I haven't seen another like his kind since the mid 90s. And it makes me sad to see what the breeding industry has done to our great game game GREED!!! $$$$$$GREED!!!$$$$ GREED!!$$$$$$$..
David Juffet More than 1 year ago
I agree with the network coverage but its always been that way.its actually hard to watch people talking about what they know very little about. Pincay was the only one I respect.but......I love the breeders cup!