11/03/2012 11:12AM

Breeders' Cup Saturday at Santa Anita


Greetings from Santa Anita on a clear, crisp, slightly cool Saturday morning, one that makes you feel you can just reach out and touch the San Gabriel mountains in the background. The sun will really go to work soon and it will be a touch warmer here today than it was yesterday, which means conditions will again be perfect.

One day-after subject I want to address about Friday has to do with the way the main track here played. Some folks feel the main track Friday favored speed. I am one who is always on the lookout for a track bias, but I am not at all sure about this one. Calidoscopio and Hightail both won from off the pace. My Miss Aurelia, Grassy, Miss Oops and Amy's Outburst all ran well to hit the board from off the pace. Big Tiz, Beholder, and Royal Delta were all pace winners, but they were either favored and/or very logical, although I concede Royal Delta's method of victory was a surprise. The only race here Friday that might have inferred a speed bias was the third, but I am reluctant to call a bias off only one race.

Anyway, if the shaky wi fi here holds up, I'll check in with some thoughts at various times during the day. In the meantime, let's make money.

10:13 - Now THAT is a race that might make you think there is a speed bias. Today's opener, the Juvenile Filly Sprint Preview, was a conveyor belt race with little change of position. We have one more dirt race to survey, the third, before the Breeders' Cup action starts.

11:15 - Well, Politicallycorrect proved in the third race, the Damascus Stakes, that with an intense enough speed duel, you can win from off the pace. But for Private Zone to hold on, and even come close to winning, after contesting a sub-44 second half, makes me prefer speed right now to any other running style.

12:03 - George Vancouver was a touch icy on the board in the Juvenile Turf at 9-1 considering his prior placings in Group 1 races, but that didn't stop him from throwing a mile in 1:33.78 at them, and that was just too much for this field. Chad Brown finished second and third with Noble Tune and Balance the Books. Both ran well, but they were just simply outkicked by the winner, particularly Noble Tune, who had every chance.

12:51 - Any potential speed bias on the main track is irrelevant when it comes to Groupie Doll. She is a certified monster, and she romped for the fifth straight time since adding blinkers in the Filly & Mare Sprint. Although I know there is no reason anymore for a female spinter to meet male sprinters in the Breeders' Cup, I still would have liked to see how Groupie Doll would have done against this Sprint field later on. I suspect she would have done very well. In any case, she should be a unanimous divisional champion.

Internet problems persist here. It's almost as if some here didn't know the Breeders' Cup was scheduled for this weekend, and were caught by surprise by it.

1:26 - Tapizar had shown an affinity for this main track in the past, but not in races anywhere near this level, which is why he was a 15-1 upsetter in the Dirt Mile. Tapizar pushed an early pace that really wasn't all that fast. It also helped that Shackleford, Emcee, and Fed Biz all failed to produce anywhere close to representative performances. Then again, Tapizar was cauight three to four wide on the first turn, which surely did not help. I think it can be said with some certainty that a lot of people are relieved that the Dirt Mile was not the first leg of the Pick 6.

2:10 - Given the wide open nature of the race and the relative merits of those involved, Mizdirection was backed consistently from the time the windows opened until the bell rang, and she got the money over males at 6-1 in the Turf Sprint. And trainer Mike Puype deserves a tip of the hat for having Mizdirection ready off a late May layoff.

Mizdirection had prior success on the Downhill course, as did runner up Unbridled's Note, proving once again to even hard heads like me that when the Turf Sprint is run at Santa Anita, that is a critical prerequisite.

3:26 - Handle a 12 furlong distance at which he was beaten 28 1/2 lengths in his only previous attempt? No problem. Be effective despite having to concede the early lead, the place where he has always set up shop? Piece of cake. Little Mike, under a masterful Ramon Dominguez, handled all of that with aplomb, upsetting the Turf at 17-1, getting the distance in 2:22.83, a mere three one-hundredths off the mind boggling official time credited to Hawkster 23 years ago.  Runner up Point of Entry and third-place finisher St Nicholas Abbey got the fast pace that played to the strength of their late runs, but they just couldn't get to Little Mike.

Little Mike won the Arlington Million and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic earlier in the campaign (as well as the Sunshine Millions Turf), and is now the leader for champion turf male, with Wise Dan, who runs in the Mile in a couple of races, probably being the only one who could possibly unseat him.

One race before, Shanghai Bobby clinched the 2-year-old male championship with a gusty decision in the Juvenile. The Juvenile pace, which Shanghai Bobby was a major part of, was fast, which is why the race was a staggerfest late. Still, Shanghai Bobby had every reason to chuck it, even if the main track is kind to speed, and he didn't. Shanghai Bobby does not yet know what it is to lose.

4:11 - I have been hard on Trinniberg this year because in all three of the 3-year-old stakes he won, he got easy-loose early. He didn't get easy-loose early today in the Sprint, however. Trinniberg disputed a fast pace, and he deserves credit for going on to win, even if he might have been helped by a track kind to speed, and even if this isn't a great group of male sprinters this year (Groupie Doll would have crushed this field, I think). And now, Trinniberg is one of the leading candidates for one of the most open divisional titles.

As an aside, the double of Little Mike and Trinniberg paid $771.60 for a deuce. I'm having a terrible Breeders' Cup handicapping-wise and deserve to be criticized for it, just so long as my punishment is meted out in civil fashion (as if losing my money wasn't punishment enough). That said, in my mind, that Little Mike-Trinniberg double could have easily paid $77,160, because that's how close I was to having it.

4:43 - So what's stronger, Wise Dan's Grade 1 trio of wins in the BC Mile, the Shadwell Turf Mile, and the Woodbine Mile, or Little Mike's trio of Grade 1 wins in the BC Turf, the Arlington Million, and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic? That, in a nutshell, is the debate for this year's champion turf male. But one can also see a scenario of maybe Little Mike being turf champ (historically, the distance races he won tend to carry more weight), and Wise Dan, who also has a Polytrack stakes win and a near miss in a dirt Grade 1 this year, being a Horse of the Year finalist. It will be interesting.

In any case, Wise Dan was as dominant in the Mile as he has been since switching to turf over the summer, and won in the track record time of 1:31.78 to boot. And Animal Kingdom, last year's Kentucky Derby winner who was making his first start since February, deserves credit for finishing a rallying second.

6:01 - Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man put on a thrilling battle in the Classic, going around the track one-two (underscoring the speed-favoring nature of the main track Saturday), and while it was a shame there had to be a loser, Fort Larned held on with grim determination (all while carrying me and making up for a multitude of sins the last two days for yours truly) to prevail, and become a top contender for older male honors. But Mucho Macho Man deserves a big shout out because he ran so well despite the Classic's 10 furlongs probably being a real stretch for him.

Of course, the big disappointment in the Classic was the dull effort by Game On Dude. Whether he was just sluggish in the initial stages, it was a shock to see him as far off the early pace as he was. But then instead of moving up into sharp contention into the backstretch, Game On Dude was taken under a hard hold. In any event, this loss does serious damage to Game On Dude's Horse of the Year chances, but he remains a strong candidate for a divisional title on the body of his work this year.

As for Horse of the Year, the Classic result helps Wise Dan greatly. It also, incredibly, keeps I'll Have Another's chances alive. There will for sure be debate on it in the coming weeks, likely to the point of overkill. But that's okay. Horse of the Year is a big deal.

That's a wrap for Breeders' Cup 2012. Thanks for reading.