11/02/2013 8:40PM

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.