09/17/2012 9:58AM

The Cotillion, the Pa. Derby, and Wise Dan

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One of the most appealing pre-Breeders’ Cup matchups this fall (I know it’s not technically fall yet, but it is from racing perspective) is the one this Saturday between Questing and My Miss Aurelia in the Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing.

Of course, given the overwhelming way Questing won the CCA Oaks and Alabama at Saratoga, one might wonder how much of a matchup there could possibly be in any race this filly is in right now. Especially after the horrible injury last week that befell Potesta, who at the time was Questing’s main threat in the division. And especially when My Miss Aurelia’s comeback victory in the overnight Mandy’s Gold Stakes is viewed in context of Questing’s last two scores.

My Miss Aurelia’s performance in the Mandy’s Gold was, frankly, messy. She broke awkwardly, didn’t change leads when she should have and lugged in significantly in the stretch. My Miss Aurelia didn’t win by the 15 lengths some might have expected her to win by, which was unfair because she was coming back off a nine month absence. She did win by three lengths, primarily because she just has so much class.

Questing’s two stakes scores weren’t exactly picture perfect either, but they both had the wow factor that compensates for many imperfections. In the stretch of the CCA Oaks, Questing ran sideways almost as much as she ran forward, but she still drew away to score by more than four lengths over Zo Impressive, who at the time was arguably the leader of the 3-year-old filly division. And her Alabama, well, that was a performance that will not soon be forgotten by anyone who watched the race. Questing set fractions for a 10 furlong race that would undo the vast majority of horses regardless of age or sex, and yet she kept right on going despite again misbehaving in the stretch, although not as severely. Questing won by nine, which is plenty, but given the pace she set and her playfulness in the stretch, she was about 20 lengths the best.

The Cotillion will be My Miss Aurelia’s first start around two turns in almost 11 months. It will also be run at an 8.5 furlong distance that is shorter than the Alabama and CCA Oaks, and should, given her running style, be in Questing’s favor. And yet, there seems to be this quiet confidence coming from the My Miss Aurelia camp that is most interesting. They don’t seem at all interested in ducking this battle, in which they will be the underdog, and don’t seem the least bit concerned with protecting My Miss Aurelia’s record, which you unfortunately see too frequently with undefeated horses like her.

Let’s not forget that My Miss Aurelia emphatically won the Frizette and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall, and you don’t win those races the way she did unless you are really something special. My Miss Aurelia was a towering 2-year-old filly champion, and I learned a long time ago to never underestimate a champion. I’ve got a feeling that this Cotillion will be a lot more of a battle than recent performance says it should be.

Also to be run at Parx Saturday is the Pennsylvania Derby, which will be billed as the means to settle the Travers dead-heat between Alpha and Golden Ticket. But the one I hope ships and runs in it is Fed Biz.

Early this year, Fed Biz was my Kentucky Derby horse. I was taken with him when he won his first two starts around two turns, both after attending fast early paces. But Fed Biz was taken out of training after the second of those victories when he wasn’t quite right, and never made it to Kentucky. He did make it back to the races late in the Del Mar meet, however, and stayed perfect around two turns with a game score in the El Cajon. I think Fed Biz has a ton of talent. I also think that, given the current Breeders’ Cup Classic picture, there is an opening for Fed Biz to put on a fall surge and be a real Breeders’ Cup factor.

Wise Dan will be a real Breeders’ Cup factor. Man, is this horse good right now. And what makes Wise Dan so unique is that dirt, synthetic, turf … it doesn’t matter at all. He’ll throw a big triple digit Beyer Figure at you regardless of the surface, and few can do that.

It does make sense that turf, specifically the Breeders’ Cup Mile, would be in Wise Dan’s near future given the way he dominated Sunday’s Woodbine Mile. It should be noted that within the sphere of turf, footing doesn’t matter to Wise Dan as he ran away with Sunday’s race on firm going much the way he ran away with last month’s Fourstardave Handicap over a bog. But though staying on grass and at a middle distance makes sense, I wouldn’t fault Wise Dan’s connections if they gave the Classic a go. The way Wise Dan was drawing off at the end of the nine furlong Clark Handicap on dirt last fall, 10 furlongs might certainly be within his range. Hey, I wouldn’t put anything past Wise Dan with the way he’s going now.

Update - Fed Biz did not enter the Pennsylvania Derby when it was drawn Monday afternoon. The Indiana Derby on Oct. 6 was the other race reported to be under consideration for him. That's too bad from a betting standpoint. He would have been a far more playable price at Parx than he figures to be at Hoosier.

Richard More than 1 year ago
I do not know what has changed with the now horses beyer speed figures! Wise Dan ran a 107 at Woodbine last Sunday. Wise Dan is an older experienced horse. To give an example Silver Charm in 1997 when he was a three year old ran the Santa Anita Derby in 110, The Kentucky Derby in 115, and the Preakness in 118. I cannot find what he ran his other races in but they were always triple figure beyers. The great Gary Stevens remarked that riding Silver Charm was like driving a Porsche! I cannot understand why the beyers seem to be so slow now. Dullahan ran the 2012 Pacific Classic in track speed (three seconds faster than the Travers) and was not close to the beyer speed records they rode then. I wonder what is up.
john deksnis More than 1 year ago
To sort of answer my own question, I just looked it up. It costs a maximum of 6k to pass the entry box and get into the Cotillion gate. And every starter is guaranteed 10k no matter where they finish. So, with 30k for 5th, how is possible this race has only four entries? Too bad the 16 year old mare out in one of our paddocks is 13 years too old for this race... how are all the connections passing up the free cash in this race?
Don Passidomo More than 1 year ago
I agree wierd, I know at Delaware Park, for several years some of their biggest races have had only a few entries, it is very disappointing from a betting view as well.
Robert More than 1 year ago
really, in this case they are literally passing up free money by not entering. It comes down to the point Mike was making about My Miss Aurelia's owners not being afraid to having their horse lose a race. You cant have an upset if your dont challange the favorite.
john deksnis More than 1 year ago
I didn't yet check to see how much money it might have cost to get a horse into The Cotillion field, but I still find it shocking that a million dollar race that pays 30k for fifth, drew only four entries. I'm also getting a little depressed about how so may graded races are coming with such short fields. Wow... has the game changed!
Don Passidomo More than 1 year ago
MW: I agree, Fed Biz would have been my top selection, I also had him in my KD futures with Gemologist and I'll Have Another, two of which will return to the winners circle soon. Now the PA Derby looks wide open, any of the boys can win, I will not be betting on the favorite here. Alpha's main positive is RD his rider,but at Parx consider to others.
W.G. More than 1 year ago
My opinion remains the same: If Dullahan wins the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic a week from Saturday on turf (Sept. 29) and can follow that up with a win in the BC Turf, I suspect he is three year old champ with in that scenario four Grade 1 wins, including three against older horses that would be all at 1 1/4 Miles or longer. That to make makes him the three year old champion and would set up an interesting scenario for Horse of the Year where the Clark could decide that on Thanksgiving weekend.
sat.customer More than 1 year ago
I agree but has less than zero chance of winning both. He's a synthetic monster,gr 3 turf and gr3/ stakes dirt
Chris Butler More than 1 year ago
While I agree with you but Dullahan has no shot at three year old champion. I'll Have Another has it locked up. Animal Kingdom won one classic last year and won it. I am sure Barry Irwin's begging and politicing played a part in it too. I'll Have Another won two classics this year. Even though IHA is/was trained by the West Coast's version of Richard Dutrow, IHA will still win three year old champion.
Perl More than 1 year ago
People sure do love taking potshots at Barry Irwin on this site.
Ann Maree More than 1 year ago
Like your show of obvious excitement about some of the horses, Mike! It must be hard to muster at times given what we have seen this year, the loss of some great horses in mid-career. When one retires, I sigh and think "I'm done", no more getting up for any horse, and then "bam", along comes a horse like Wise Dan, or My Miss Aurelia, or Questing, and it's hard not to want to stand and cheer for horses like this. On my radar, though, is the upcoming Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on October 7, which will feature an absolute plethora of top world class horses, maybe the best match-ups we will see in a long time. Reminds me of what they used to say about M-G-M: More stars than there are in the heavens! Because of online live streaming of Euro races, more and more people are following the races overseas. I don't know what it's like trying to handicap and bet on these races, but I would love to have you give your take on the field that is shaping up for this year's Arc. I'm rooting for a dead heat between Snow Fairy and Danedream. I believe the favorite right now seems to be Orfevre, but, I'm betting the fillies shine again this year.
Margi Foley More than 1 year ago
Regarding a couple of remarks about Wise Dan and Dullahan meeting up on a synthetic surface......it you want it to be a GI, then you'll have to pray to the racing gods that they both stay healthy (which we will all do anyway) and they both show up in California next spring/summer. As far as I know, Del Mar and Hollywood Park are the only synthetic surfaces in No America that card a GI on the main track for older males going a route of ground. I know Arlington doesn't have one, and I'm pretty sure about Woodbine and Keeneland as well. I guess the next best choice would be the Ben Ali at Keeneland.....the race that Wise Dan crushed earlier this year. That's not a GI, but it might not matter if we could get those two together on a surface that they both absolutely love. I've actually always wondered why there isn't a big race of historical significance at Keeneland for older males on the main track. They have the Futurity & Alcibiades for 2yos in the fall, the Bluegrass & Ashland for 3yos in the spring, but then there's no big race for older males in the fall to be a counterpart to the Spinster. And this has nothing to do with the synthetic surface.......I don't think there has ever been such a race. The Ben Ali is the closest, but that's not really a race that finds itself on the national radar as they load the gate. I don't know......just curious.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
come on are you serious wise dan would be an underlay at 10/1 in the classic,as good as he is on dirt hes better on synthetic and eons better on turf,especialy at a mile,his best shot in the breeders cup is the mile turf,in the turf classic he will probabl face euros who are just as talented as he is but better over the distance,in the classic he would face what is looking more and more like a mediocre field but on a hard dirt surface like santa anitas against game on dude going 1 1/4 m he would be running for third or fouth.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Ray, Alotta guys are looking to pas because of that hard surface and I applaud them.
Yuwipi More than 1 year ago
Looks like they've got plenty of options with Wise Dan. He's a smoker. Was privileged to see Questing's Alabama and it blew me away. That said, I think My Miss Aurelia's comeback was a lot better than some see it, and I definitely would not underestimate her. I don't think the price will be juicy enough however.
Josh More than 1 year ago
Completely agree with you on Fed Biz, this horse has a ton of talent, but Baffert is only going to place his horses where they can win. So Fed Biz going to Indiana Derby doesn't surprise me, he is taking the same route Lookin' at Lucky did in 2010. Fed Biz is one race away from a big performance. Earlier this year, the same owner/trainer combo had Take Control (AP Indy/Azeri) who won an allowance and was a sneaky good 4th in the San Diego Handicap, he was on my radar for the BCC, but was hurt, again, but Fed Biz can take his place. Wise Dan should stay on the turf going 1 mile, that is his optimum distance and surface, the connections should stick to it. Questing will be really tough to beat, but MMA might be the horse to do it, she will be at a better price. As far as the 3 YO males go. It's sad to see what it once was earlier this year. Alpha should win the dead-heat rubber match this weekend. IMO the best older horse is Point of Entry and if can win the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic AND BC Turf he deserves a strong HOY consideration. The other older horses don't strike me as HOY type unless To Honor and Serve decides to run in the Gold Cup and win that race plus BC Classic, especially when Mott is unsure of racing him 1 1/4 miles.