11/09/2011 7:57PM

Breeders' Cup Thoughts

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The weather couldn't have been more glorious for Breeders' Cup Saturday, but chalk-players were snowed by longshot winners that rendered the Pick 6 unhittable.

When the field turned for home in the Marathon, I put down my binoculars, smug in the satisfaction that I was going to be proven right. 

Finally, GIANT OAK would get his due. 

After receiving a nice setup from midpack, he forged to the lead in upper stretch.  Just as he made his way past me, however, he remembered who he was. After letting 41-1 longshot AFLEET AGAIN by him from the outside, Giant Oak, ever the gentleman, allowed BIRDRUN to re-rally along the inside to grab second money. 

"That amazing son-of-a-gun," I roared, although I used neither “amazing" nor "son-of-a-gun" in that sentence. 

"This horse tries hard every time," said Giant Oak's rider, Shaun Bridgmohan, following the race. "He got a little strong with me early on, but then he settled into a good rhythm. We had a good trip and we got beat only a head for second.”

"The horse ran hard," reported his trainer, Chris Block.  "He just ran out of gas the last sixteenth.”

From this observer's standpoint, Giant Oak hung like a chandelier.

Favored A. U. MINER suffered a fractured sesamoid to his right front fetlock during the running of the Marathon.  He underwent surgery on Monday afternoon.

***

Although finally vanquished last weekend, GOLDIKOVA's remarkable achievements should be celebrated. 

As the champion paraded to the post prior to last Saturday's Breeders' Cup Mile, all I could think oft was Andre the Giant, another product of France, peering down at his ex-best friend, Hulk Hogan. 

"Three years to be a champion," boomed the Giant.  "It's a long time."

Three years is an eternity in today's racing game.  It's an era when champions are retired early, sometimes before they even reach full maturity.  Don't blame the owners of such horses.  Who can resist the financial rewards of the breeding shed, especially in a sport where something, anything, can go wrong at any given time?  This game, after all, is a business.

Over the last three seasons, while champions like Midshipman, Summer Bird, Big Brown and others have gone to the breeding shed, Goldikova, worth ten times her weight in gold as a broodmare, continued to win accolades where it mattered most.

On the racetrack.

After her first Breeders' Cup Mile tally, Goldikova raced 18 times with 11 wins (all Grade 1 victories seven against males), 4 seconds and 2 thirds.  She won in England, France and North America.  More importantly, until last Saturday at Churchill Downs, she always came through when the world was watching, the ultimate clutch performer.

Watching from high above Churchill Downs, my binoculars never wavered from Goldikova once the mare entered the track for the post parade.  Unlike Zenyatta, she is not a ham.  She neither struts nor prances.  Led by a pair of handlers, Goldikova trudged along, all the while flashing her tail from left to right.  Reportedly a bit cantankerous at times, she was somewhat of a handful as she walked sideways for a few strides.  Then, she was off, galloping up the stretch with her head carried extremely low. 

There were no real excuses for Goldikova during the running and some will argue that she should have been disqualified to last for causing interference with COURAGEOUS CAT. 

"I’m very proud of her," said her trainer, Freddie Head.  "Today, she just got beat by a better horse.”

Despite the defeat, my disappointment subsided fairly quickly.  Over the last three years, I have been blessed to watch a true champion perform at the highest level.  The racing world needs more Goldikovas.  As racing fans, we need to appreciate them when they do arrive on the scene.

Kudos must go to the Mile hero, COURT VISION, a redoubtable six-year-old that has won Grade 1 races in each of the last four years.  A good juvenile on dirt (he won the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs and the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct), Court Vision bloomed on grass, winning the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at 10 furlongs in 2008.  The following year, he nosed out Karelian in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland.  At five, Court Vision was promoted to first via disqualification in the nine-furlong, Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and took the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile.  Although vanquished by Goldikova in the Breeders' Cup in 2009 and 2010, Court Vision finally received his day in the sun.  He will go to stud next season in Canada.

Multiple champion GIO PONTI finished fourth in his farewell to the races.  The six-year-old son of Tale of the Cat retires with 12 wins and over six million dollars in earnings.  He'll stand for $20,000 next year at Castleton Lyons in Kentucky.

***

Friday's undercard races were contested over a tiring, muddy surface.  ROTHKO, the winner of an 'n2x' optional claimer at six furlongs, was particularly impressive.  The three-year-old son of Arch, a half-brother to Grade 3 winner Electrify, stalked the early leaders while under a good hold, took control when given his cue and bounded away with a minimum of fuss.  He looks like a stakes horse in the making for trainer Steve Asmussen.

***

GLADDING, returning from a stifle injury that kept him from the races since April, set tepid fractions of 25.53 and 51.03 in the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap at 1 1/16 miles.  He turned for home with the lead, but had nothing left when MISTER MARTI GRAS came running late.  From a conditioning standpoint, Gladding should benefit greatly from this run.

***

The track was unsealed prior to the first Breeders' Cup race, the Juvenile Sprint and the fractions were hot and heavy.  TRINNIBERG, SECRET CIRCLE and HOLDIN BULLETS sparred through a quarter in 20.96 before the Baffert-trained Secret Circle, an undefeated son of Eddington, took command.  European invader SHUMOOS, a filly facing the boys, rallied sharply along the inside, but had too far to come.  Secret Circle, despite drifting out considerably in the stretch, held on to win by a length. 

"I was a little worried about him coming down the lane, he kind of lost focus, but he’s just young," Baffert told the press after the Juvenile Sprint.

"He wasn't comfortable on the track," said Secret Circle's rider, Rafael Bejarano. "That's why he was lugging out a little.  I think he'll be able to go two turns. This horse is getting experience and learning. When you send him, he can go really fast, but he can come from behind too.”

***

At one of the Breeders' Cup parties on Thursday evening, trainer Wayne Catalano was lighting up the dance floor like a man with no worries.  In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, his charge, STEPHANIE'S KITTEN, rallied from off the pace to nip pacesetting STOPSHOPPINGMARIA.  Stopshoppingmaria, making her turf debut for Todd Pletcher, gave it her all following a nifty ride by Javier Castellano, but may be at her best at slightly-shorter distances.  Horses like ELUSIVE KATE and SOMALI LEMONADE may have been compromised by their outside posts coupled with the absence of pace. 

“The slow pace hurt her," jockey Alex Solis said of Somali Lemonade.  "Going down the backside, the horses were all stacked up and we had nowhere to go.”

“The draw killed her," remarked trainer John Gosden of Elusive Kate.  "She was wide at the first turn and the slow pace didn’t help her. Maybe she should have gone on and made the running.”

***

Favored TURBULENT DESCENT didn't have the easiest of trips in the Filly and Mare Sprint, breaking poorly and checking from in between horses down the backstretch before uncorking an early move to the lead.  She just didn't have it when the real running began, however, faltering badly to fifth behind 20-1 MUSICAL ROMANCE, a supplemental nominee to the race. 

"I saw Turbulent Decent and Pomeroys Pistol move and I thought they moved a little early," said winning rider Juan Leyva. "But I like to hold on to my horse as long as I can because she has a short run.”

"On the turn when I made my move, two horses in front of me started to back up," opined Joel Rosario, the rider of the consistent runner-up, SWITCH.  "I had to pull her up. It probably cost me the race. She was really running when I had to grab her.”

"They harrowed the track," noted John Velazquez, the rider of the third-finisher, HER SMILE.  "It's deeper. It's changing from race to race, and it's going to change all day. Some parts are really fast, and some parts are still a little wet. The trick is to find the right path.”

Frank Stronach purchased Her Smile for $1,000,000 at Fasig-Tipton on Sunday.

Turbulent Descent's trainer, Mike Puype, was understandably displeased with the result.  "She got slammed leaving the gate.  She got slammed leaving the backside. Then it made her eager and she pulled her way right up to the leader – moved too early and then she flattened out after all that."

***

Making her first start around two turns, MY MISS AURELIA cemented a championship season with a powerful victory in the Juvenile Fillies.  Prominent throughout under Corey Nakatani, My Miss Aurelia won by three comfortable lengths over the good fillies GRACE HALL and WEEMISSFRANKIE.

***

STACELITA, plagued by an eye ailment, was nonetheless slammed to 19-10 favoritism in the Filly and Mare Turf.  She was caught in some traffic after being pocketed for most of the running, but failed to fire once clear in midstretch.  NAHRAIN was given a wonderful midpack ride by Frankie Dettori, made the front turning for home and just didn't stay the eleventh furlong.  MISTY FOR ME, a filly that likes to run freely, broke poorly and rallied late for third behind PERFECT SHIRL, a 27-1 shot under Velazquez, who appeared to relish the "good" going. 

"I was very concerned because she’s never been able to handle a soft course," said winning trainer Roger Attfield.  "Once I saw how she was moving down the backside, I could see she was moving beautifully and I became very excited.”

***

ROYAL DELTA started a memorable weekend for trainer Bill Mott with a resolute score in the Ladies' Classic.  Her rider, Jose Lezcano, kept Royal Delta in the clear down the backstretch run and the filly used her strong stamina to wear down IT'S TRICKY in the final furlong.  PLUM PRETTY, returning to the scene of her Kentucky Oaks triumph in May, carved out sensible splits (24.18, 49.00) but failed to stay.  Her trainer, Bob Baffert, wasn't pleased with the turn of events.

"He (jockey Rafael Bejarano) should have sent her," offered Baffert. "When you slow her down like that, it’s no good. She’s gotta go. She’s gotta rip.”

PACHATTACK made up some late ground for a non-threatening third-place finish.  She sold for $1,200,000 at Fasig-Tipton and will join Graham Motion's yard for a 2012 campaign.

Trainer Neil Drysdale reported that ninth-place finisher MISS MATCH had an excuse.  "“(Jockey Garrett Gomez) felt that the (protective) goggles (worn by Miss Match) got too clogged up with mud, and she couldn’t see.”

***

WROTE, under a perfect ride from the great Ryan Moore, pulled off an 11-1 upset for Europe in the Juvenile Turf.  MAJESTIC CITY didn't see out the trip in his turf debut.  STATE OF PLAY failed to muster a rally. 

"I’m a little disappointed," said State of Play's trainer, Graham Motion.  "State of Play looked like he just weakened. Missing that last race (spiked a fever) cost him.”

***

The consistent AMAZOMBIE took advantage of a hot pace to take the Sprint at 7-1 odds.  Never off the board in his last 13 outings, Amazombie watched EUROEARS, GIANT RYAN and FORCE FREEZE lock horns through splits of 21.12 and 44.41 before attacking at just the right time. 

"The thing I worry about with this horse is hitting the front too soon; he tends to wait (on horses)," noted winning rider Mike Smith.

Force Freeze ran a big one for Peter Walder, gamely holding for second despite being up and on that quick pace.  Both Walder and Force Freeze's rider, John Velazquez, believed that the gelding made the lead a bit too soon. 

Favored JACKSON BEND, outsprinted early, rallied belatedly for third.  Seven furlongs is his preferred distance.

***

REGALLY READY, the lone winning favorite on Breeders' Cup Saturday, was prominent from start to finish in taking the Turf Sprint over his favorite course. 

CARACORTADO ran wide after breaking from a tough post.  His rider, Joe Talamo, believed the ground was against him. 

“It wasn’t a bad effort considering we came from the 13 hole. I just don’t think he liked the soft going. It’s not like California.”

***

WILBURN took a ton of early money for the Dirt Mile, but drifted up to tepid 5-2 favoritism at post time. He failed to make an impression from midpack.  THE FACTOR, dead on the board at 7-1 from the time wagering opened, made the front, was rated down hard and was dead in the water turning for home.  Instead, it was the solid CALEB'S POSSE, the impressive winner of the Amsterdam and King's Bishop at Saratoga, who ran down the speeds in the final furlong.  The extremely underrated three-year-old, trained by Donnie Von Hemel, has won five stakes races in 2011 at distances ranging from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.  Tough-luck SHACKLEFORD, the Preakness winner and runner-up in the Florida Derby, Haskell Invitational and Indiana Derby, once again found just one that was better. 

***

ST NICHOLAS ABBEY, a brilliant juvenile that battled injuries throughout a shortened three-year-old campaign last season, took his second Group/Grade 1 race in 2011 with a come-from-behind tally in the Turf.  Ridden by trainer Aidan O'Brien's 18-year-old son, Joseph, St Nicholas Abbey may have been one of those European invaders that appreciated receiving Lasix for the first time. 

Favored Sarafina may want firmer going. 

“The trip was a bit long for her on that kind of ground," said her rider, Christophe Lemaire.  "Soft ground. It’s quite soft. I was in a spot where I could improve my position without any effort, but when I put her out, she couldn't quicken really, like she’s used to doing on good ground.”

***

Late-runners were doing quite well on the main track during the afternoon, so you may want to give HANSEN a thumbs-up for going gate-to-wire in the Juvenile.  The undefeated gray son of Tapit gamely fended off 11-10 favorite UNION RAGS in the stretch to prevail by a head.  Union Rags was wide throughout.  He's still a little green, but tried hard all the way to the wire. 

"He could have won the race except that he jumped at the start and that cost us six or seven lengths,” said Kent Desormeaux, the rider of the fourth-finisher, Dullahan. 

***

In the Classic, DROSSELMEYER came rolling late to nail the gritty pacesetter GAME ON DUDE. The Baffert-trained Game On Dude was sent immediately to the front under Chantal Sutherland and set fractions of 23.61 and 47.84.  Juvenile champion UNCLE MO attacked the leader going into the turn, but Game On Dude, a street fighter, punched right back, sending Uncle Mo into retirement by refusing to yield.  Game On Dude was clear in upper stretch, but was sufficiently weakened for Drosselmeyer. 

"He just didn't see that horse," said Baffert. "He's game, but he just didn't see the horse."

"No regrets about running here," said Larry Jones, the trainer of fourth-place finisher Havre de Grace.  "She didn’t do anything to tarnish herself. She has another year ahead of her.”

"When he went up the back, the track started breaking underneath him a little bit and he kind of lost it," said John Velazquez of Uncle Mo. "He was struggling with the track for whatever reason. I tried to give him his head where he would feel comfortable, but he never really got into a good rhythm to get a good grip of the track. I didn’t want to beat him up in the stretch when everybody started going by me.”

Mott was understandably elated after sweeping the Ladies' Classic - Classic double.  "

"He was mowing them down the last eighth of a mile. I guess his biggest attribute is his stamina, and he showed it today. When they were wearing down, he was coming. It’s great. Maybe they’ll want to run him another year.”

***

Here are the top 25 Winning Beyer Speed Figures from last week's races (10/31/11 - 11/6/11):

1.  CALEB'S POSSE - 111 - Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) - 1 Mile - Churchill
2.  ST NICHOLAS ABBEY (Ire) - 108 - Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) - 1 1/2 Miles (Turf) - Churchill
3.  AMAZOMBIE - 107 - Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) - 6 Furlongs - Churchill
3.  CALIBRACHOA - 107 - Bold Ruler Stakes (G3) - 7 Furlongs - Aqueduct
5.  COURT VISION - 105 - Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) - 1 Mile (Turf) - Churchill
6.  DROSSELMEYER - 104 - Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) - 1 1/4 Miles - Churchill
6.  ROYAL DELTA - 104 - Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (G1) - 1 1/8 Miles - Churchill
8.  REGALLY READY - 102 - Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G2) - 5 Furlongs (Turf) - Churchill
9.  PERFECT SHIRL - 99 - Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) - 1 3/8 Miles (Turf) - Churchill
10. MUSICAL ROMANCE - 98 - Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) - 7 Furlongs - Churchill
11. WILL'S WILDCAT - 97 - Jimmy V. Stakes - 6 Furlongs - Churchill
12. BOISTEROUS - 96 - Red Smith Handicap (G2) - 1 3/8 Miles (Turf) - Aqueduct
12. ROTHKO - 96 - OC 62k/N2X -N - 6 Furlongs - Churchill
14. AFLEET AGAIN - 95 - Breeders' Cup Marathon (G2) - 1 3/4 Miles - Churchill
14. FILLED WITH WONDER - 95 - Alw 40000N1X - 6 Furlongs - Penn National
14. SECRET CIRCLE - 95 - Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint - 6 Furlongs - Churchill
17. HANSEN - 94 - Breeders' Cup Juvenile - 1 1/16 Miles - Churchill
17. PLUTONIUM - 94 - OC 80k/N3X -N - 1 Mile - Churchill
17. SALTY STRIKE - 94 - Dream Supreme Stakes - 6 Furlongs - Churchill
17. WALLIS (GB) - 94 - Spice Island Stakes - 1 Mile (Turf) - Aqueduct
21. AFLEET LASS - 93 - Alw 16000s - 6 Furlongs - Calder
21. MISTER MARTI GRAS - 93 - Ack Ack Handicap (G3) - 1 1/16 Miles - Churchill
21. MR. BOSSY PANTS - 93 - Clm 32000(32-28) - 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - Santa Anita
24. ARENA ELVIRA - 92 - Turnback the Alarm Handicap (G3) - 1 1/8 Miles - Aqueduct
24. ESCAPISM - 92 - Alw 20200N2L - 6 Furlongs - Mountaineer
24. CROWN THE CHIEF - 92 - Alw 50658N1X - 1 Mile - Parx
24. ESCROW KID - 92 - OC 45k/C -N - 6 1/2 Furlongs - Charles Town
24. JOAN'S CHOICE - 92 - Clm 25000B - 1 Mile - Aqueduct
24. JOHN JOHNY JAK - 92 - Lure Stakes - 1 Mile (Turf) - Santa Anita

Caleb's Posse's past performances are available at the end of this blog post.

***

Dan Illman or any other Formlogging Pick Players,
I need clarification please.
I was in partners w/a friend & he or we, played the Pick 4 on Friday's BC @Churchill..
---------------Races 7, 8, 9 10........On one ticket was the following::::
R7>#5 Musical Romance....Winner..
R8>#9 Miss Aurelia...........Winner..
R9>#6 Announced.............Gate Scratch..
R10>#6 Royal Delta...........Winner..
I see the all the Pick 3's w/#6 Announced & the Pick 6 all had conso's.
Why did the Pick 4 NOT have a conso ? Is it a Churchill thing ? Please explain, as I'm totally not into the rules of the Pickem's......I just pick the horses..........& obviously the winners....
3 winners out of 4 races, w/one race gate scratch, & we don't get squat ? Is it the post time favorite Gizmonic thing or what is it ? I know I couldn't cash it.........
I'm all ears people......... Don't all respond right away.....Lmao.........
Curt V.

The following is Churchill's Pick 4 Scratch Rule (from their website): 

"In the event a Pick-4 ticket designates a selection in any one or more races comprising the Pick-4 and that selection is scratched, excused or determined by the Stewards to be a non-starter in a race, the actual favorite, as evidenced by the amounts wagered in the final win pool of the race, will be substituted for the non-starting selection for all purposes, including pool calculations and payoffs.  In the event the win pool total for two or more favorites is identical, the substitute selection shall be the betting interest with the lowest program number."

After the scratch, Stacelita (finished tenth) went off the betting favorite for the Filly and Mare Turf.

***

Dan,
I am studying a trainers' profile. Could you please give me
the PP's for My Buddy Bubba? Thank you.
okiesharp

My Buddy Bubba's past performances are available at the bottom of this blog post.

***

Congrats to Belvedere for finishing first in the Breeders' Cup Classic HandiGambling exercise.  Let's take a week off to refresh.  Our scorekeeper, tencentcielo, can select the next race.

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Caleb'sPosse.pdf60.69 KB
My Buddy Bubba.pdf57.94 KB