10/01/2011 9:35PM

California reflections


Drill got beat and Blind Luck finished off the board before order was restored at Santa Anita. Here is a review of the four Breeder’s Cup prep races Saturday in California.

Norfolk Stakes, race 5

Drill got hammered to 3-5 but finished second as Creative Cause ($5.80) turned the tables with a perfect-trip win in the mile and a sixteenth race that was the first route for both colts.

Creative Cause pressed the slow pace (:48.50 and 1:12.69) two-wide, while Drill tucked in fourth position. Creative Cause was running easily, while Drill was not comfortable taking dirt racing inside.

Drill’s trainer Bob Baffert was not happy with jockey Martin Garcia’s ride. “I think he just rode him with too much confidence … he rode him like it was a synthetic race.”

Mike Harrington trains Creative Cause, whose tactical speed led to the perfect trip. He extended his margin late and re-emerged as a top colt and a deserving contender in the BC Juvenile. His time of 1:42.66 earned a Beyer Figure of 84.

Drill and Creative Cause now have traded decisions. Which colt is better? Those that liked Drill, who is still green, will be tempted to stay with him for the BC Juvenile. Those that liked Creative Cause going into the Norfolk were validated by the outcome.

The bottom line at this point in the season is Creative Cause has more tactical speed, and is more professional. Creative Cause is a better colt than Drill, and if he runs as well at Churchill Downs as he did at Santa Anita, he figures as a top contender.

Lady’s Secret Stakes, race 6

Blind Luck finished last as the 1.30-1 favorite; Zazu ($5.80) rallied from last to win by a half-length. It was the 22nd start for Blind Luck, and the first time she finished off the board. Something went wrong; her BC Ladies’ Classic status is up in the air.

Zazu, trained by John Sadler and ridden by Rosario, won the mile and a sixteenth race by a half-length in 1:41.59, which earned a 95 Beyer. While Lady’s Secret runner-up Ultra Blend can be a contender dropping to seven furlongs in the BC Filly and Mare Sprint, Zazu will stretch to a mile and an eighth in the Ladies’ Classic.

“She has an amazing turn of foot, one that I’ve never seen before,” Rosario said about Zazu.

That is the problem. Turn of foot is meaningful at “short” distances up to a mile and a sixteenth. However, at a mile and an eighth on dirt, turn of foot is less important than the ability to carry speed. Zazu does not carry her speed. She finishes strongly in short races that unfold with a fast pace.

The bottom line is that if the Lady’s Secret has any influence on the Breeders’ Cup, it will be the Filly & Mare Sprint, and not the Ladies’ Classic. Have to pass on Zazu.

Goodwood Stakes, race 7

Game on Dude was expected to make an easy lead in the mile and an eighth Goodwood, and lead wire to wire as the even-money favorite. The race unfolded in surprising fashion when Tres Borrachos sped to the lead with a wicked opening half-mile in 45.28 seconds.

Nonetheless, jockey Chantal Sutherland attacked with Game on Dude. It was a good move. Game on Dude’s weapon is speed; she let him use it. Six furlongs in 1:09.03 ripped the heart from those in pursuit, and although Game on Dude decelerated (final three furlongs in 38.33 seconds), it did not matter.

Game on Dude ($4.20) won by a half-length in 1:47.36; the time translated to a Beyer of 102.

Awesome Gem picked up the pieces with an optical-illusion runner-up finish. Coil, the over-rated Haskell winner, wasted a perfect trip third behind the speed. He sputtered and finished third. Acclamation was scratched to run Sunday.

It is doubtful Game on Dude is world-class. At this point, he is merely the king of a soft West Coast handicap division. But if Sutherland rides the same way in the BC Classic as she did in the Goodwood, Game on Dude has a longshot chance to steal the race. Pass on the others.

Yellow Ribbon Stakes, race 10

Dubawi Heights remains queen of the California female turf division, even if runner-up Cozi Rosie probably was best in the mile and one-quarter Yellow Ribbon.

Dubawi Heights ($6.40) pressed the soft pace (:48.81 and 1:13.28), got first run, opened up inside the eighth pole and was not threatened. It was a solid win by a good filly whose speed and finishing kick always equals a perfect trip.

But it is never easy for Cozi Rosie, a closer always at the mercy of pace and traffic. Cozi Rosie raced near the back, commenced her rally on the far turn, steadied between horses while searching for a seam at the top of the lane, and exploded late.

If she had not been stopped, Cozi Rosie might have won. Yet even on the gallop-out, Dubawi Heights did not allow Cozi Rosie to get past. Perhaps the best horse won.

As for the BC Filly and Mare Turf, Dubawi Heights enters as one of the top U.S. challengers. Cozi Rosie is headed to the same race, and once again she will be looking for a clean trip.