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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.
I looked at the Racing Form's charts. Here is the position of the winner, two calls from the wire. First the dirt races: FRIDAY R4 4TH HIGHTAIL R5 5TH CALIDOSCOPE R7 1ST BEHOLDER R9 1ST ROYAL DELTA SATURDAY R5 4TH GROUPIE DOLL R6 1ST TAPIZAR R8 1ST SHANGHAI R10 1ST TRINNIBURG R12 1ST FROT LARNED TURF RESULTS FRIDAY R6 9TH FLOTILLA R8 3RD ZAGORA SATURDAY R4 5TH GEORGE VANCOUVER R7 11TH MIZDIRECTION R9 2ND LITTLE MIKE R11 2ND WISE DAN Here are where the winners came from (where they made their previous start): FRIDAY R4 KEENELAND R5 HAR (EUROPE) R6 LCH (EUROPE) R7 SANTA ANITA R8 BELMONT R9 BELMONT SATURDAY R4 NEW (EUROPE) R5 KEENELAND R6 BELMONT R7 HOLLYWOOD PARK R8 BELMONT R9 BELMONT R10 PARX R11 KEENELAND R12 BELMONT I see somewhat of a speed bias on the dirt, none on the turf, yes that magic carpet turf where 3 Europeans won. Also, Californa horses won just two races, meaning that the track didn't favor them at all. But it's also a statement that Cali just doesn't have much talent anymore, thanks to slots on the east coast. Belmont dominated, once again . . . skits,
Baffert said it himself, Game on Dude had NOT run against horses like this all year,there's something to be said for the company you keep, how many excuses does this horse need, oh lets let him get a head start, a clear lead-then you just watch out, yeah right he would not have won this race any way -period.
I'll Have another is horse of the year, santa anita derby, k derby & preakness are much tougher races to win. wise dan is a great miler on turf. all 3 wins at the same distance, lost his only dirt race and has distance limitations on the turf. woodbine mile, shadwell turf mile & b'cup mile are nice wins but you cant top what I'll have another did earlier. they raced about the same length of time as well.
Mike, You may want to burn a copy of this column and read thru it on the morning of the next big day of races you face... I'm gonna.
Wise Dan for turf male and Horse of the Year. However, Groupie Doll's smashing victory was the most astounding of the weekend for me. She had to overcome not only her rivals but a pronounced speed bias while circling horses on the far turn and losing ground. Then she said, "Sayonara," and scooted away from them. In addition to F&M sprint Eclipse, what about a nomination for older female? Not that she would win, but she should be honored by receiving consideration.
The track, especially the concrete turf track was making really good horses look like super horses- 20 year old records being broken or near broken...how are the Beyers going to look after this weekend? dont they know how to put a little water on the track down there? 125 beyer for wise dan, 115 for trinnyberg, 120 for little mike-1 1/2 miles in 2:22 is ridiculous.
East coast trainers 11 west coast trainers 3...it is so much harder to win when security is tight and you can't get away with the normal day to day BS I guess. However I have said for several years that OUR west coast 25-30% winning trainers can't win at over 10% away from the confines of Calif. Also the AMAZING Russell (Bucky) Baze has not won a stakes race away from No Cal in almost 10 YEARS on a horse not named Lost In The Fog. Any sincere replies?
If there is a bias [and I believe in track biases] it's in the perspectives of those who have accumulated a pile of losing parimutuel tickets. It's human nature to validate our handicapping with all sorts of explanations which don't always have a basis in fact. Santa Anita usually favors those who don't stray too far from the pace. Saving ground is a good idea too. Don't know whether you could call that a bias.The horses that won after coming off the pace did so by virtue of the pace collapsing - which could have been foreseen in some of the races. The one race I was confident about was the downhill sprint. Always bet the horses that have some experience on the course. You could have nailed the tri if you listened to the Mig. Horse had an incredible workout the other day. I didn't like Trinniberg, nor Little Mike. Those two are really difficult to read. At least the former is pretty consistent at 6F, but the latter amazes me. Even on Santa Anita's pool table surface for him to not only last at a mile and a half, but to finish that strongly is just stupifying.
The main bias was the talent imbalance favoring the Kentucky and New York horses over the locals. Like in 01' when Euro domination was curbed only by Tiznow's remarkable heart, I realized after Bobby and particularly Trinni won(the Sprint and Juvenile divisions were two of the very few divisions I thought Cali might be superior in) it became clear to me that the Eastern horses, almost to a divsion, were simply superior to the locals. And I live in California. Baffert's horses ran like they were over the top, and given his earlier failures and the dismal showing by the local team, I was stunned to see Game on Dude still bet to 7-5. As a racing fan living in California, this was an awesome Breeder's Cup if only because I saw a bunch of champions and other stars who I otherwise wouldn't have been able to watch in person. However, as a fan of Cali racing, these two days bordered on humiliation. Only things comparable, in terms of road teams smashing the locals, were Eastern dominance in the 97' Cup at Hollywood, Cali's 00' at Churchill, and the Euros in 01'. Granted it was just one Breeder's Cup, but I interpret these results as an indictment of the quality of California racing, racing that has seen the purses of elite races slashed(the BC preps at Santa Anita carried purses of $250k, uncompetitive against the purses at Belmont), and seen a generation of wonderful trainers and jockeys either die, retire, or decline. The results indicate to me that the elite horsemen(like Rosario) and their horses have flocked East for superior purses(much infused from slots). All in all, I think most will leave this BC satisfied. The maintrack played safe and for the most part allowed the best horses to win(although there was a bias favoring speed). Any concerns that bias in the maintrack could hurt the Eastern shippers was emphatically muted.
Royal Delta also has to be in consideration for HOY. At this point, it seems to be a toss-up among 4 or 5 contenders. Maybe the Clark, Cigar Mile, etc., will help provide clarity - but don't count on it, the way this year has gone.