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Day 23: 8/18/10
The most radical distance change in this year's Breeders' Cup races at Churchill Downs will be the shortening of the BC Turf Sprint from 6.5 to 5 furlongs. The inaugural two runnings of the race, on Santa Anita's downhill turf course, had to be run at the longer distance but the intent was always for the race to be 5 or 5 1/2 furlongs.
This all come to mind on Day 23 because today's feature is the ungraded $70k Troy Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on the Mellon course. It's conceivable that in a year or two, it could be the Grade 3 $100k Troy, as a road to the BCTS is beginning to emerge and the Troy would fit well in the currently limited roster of graded turf sprints:
Silver Timber, the only horse in the country to have won two graded turf sprints this year, is the 8-5 ML favorite in the Troy.
The list above is obviously a geographically-unbalanced mess (six graded turf sprints at Santa Anita, one in all of New York, and none for fillies all year east of Arcadia?) in need of attention from the Graded Stakes Committee.
There are six so-called "Win and You're In" races that provide a berth in the Turf Sprint, but only the Morvich on the above list is among them. The five others, four of them outside the United States,
*The Group 1 T. J. Smith at Randwick, near Sydney, Australia, won April 10 by Melito;
*The ungraded Arlington Sprint H., won June 26 by Chamberlain Bridge;
*The Group 1 Manikato at Moonee Valley, near Melbourne, Australia, Sept. 24;
*The Group 1 Prix l'Abbaye at Longchamps Oct. 1;
*The Group 1 Nearctic at Woodbine Oct. 16.
Like much of the WAYI program, anointing these races as automatic qualifiers is redundant window dressing. With no G1 turf sprints on the American calendar, obviously any Group 1 winner abroad will get into the race on points. Making the ungraded Arlington Sprint H. one of only two American WAYI races, bypassing eight other actual graded races, is a bit like making Arlington's G3 Washington Park Handicap one of only five WAYI qualifiers for the Breeders' Cup Classic.
2:00 pm: Rudy Rodriguez can not only send out winners at a 35 percent clip, he can keep a secret too: His first-timer in the 2nd race, a New York-bred 2-year-old filly named Saltamontes, won her debut by four lengths....and paid $27.00.
Two of his first three winners as a trainer paid 12-1 and 21-1. He has won 30 races since then, and Saltamontes was the first that paid more than 7-2.
3:30 pm: I meant to add in the opening item that the Turf Sprint is not the only race with a distance change this year: the Filly & Mare Turf, which was 1 1/4 miles the last two years, will be 1 3/8 miles this year -- as it was at Gulfstream in 1999, Churchill in 2000 and 2006, Lone Star in 2004 and Monmouth in 2007.
And the fourth running of the BC Dirt Mile will be the first that is both a mile (it was 1 mile + 70 yards at Monmouth in 2007) and on dirt.
5:05 pm: Awakino Cat, who won last year's Troy as the 5-2 favorite, defended his title at 6-1, running down 24-1 Ravalo at the wire with Yield Bogey coming from last to be third. Ravalo, a winner of 14 races and $859k (and 2nd to VIneyard Haven in the G1 DeFrancis last year) was making his first start on grass in his 38th career start and may have found a new home in turf sprints.
Silver Timber, sent off at 3-5, was fifth after being boxed in for much of the race, but when he finally found running room in the final furlong he was unable to gain any ground and flattened out.
All but two in the finale (the 5 and 10) are covered in the Pick-6.
5:45 p.m.: Glacier Bay ($26.20), one of those two uncovered horses, wired the field in the finale so there's a $60,986 pick-6 carryover into Thursday's card. Tomorrow's pick-6 pool was guaranteed at $100k but will now attract far more than that. The Thursday $100k guarantee has been made moot three out of four times at the meeting by Wednesday carryovers, and handled $112k the one time there was no carryover.
Mr. Crist, It appeared again today that there was less-than-honest racing on at least two occasions. The first inicident occurred in the 5th, when it looked as if the public again was going to be switched into a dead fave when #4 Diamond Dina was scratched. That is, until Leparoux quit riding #6 Connie Mac in deep stretch. The slo-mo clearly shows Leparoux riding nonchalantly after striking the horse only twice inside the final furlong, and he even appears to look towards the bigscreen in the infield to see if #1 Quebrada Shiner is coming. Of course, his horse was rather easily nailed on the wire. If he doesn't get days for that, it's a travesty. The second happened in the finale, when un-covered #5 Glaicier Bay was handed a facile lead in a race loaded with pure front-runners. Of course, Glacier Bay won in a cakewalk after setting unpressured slow fractions to set up a carryover going into the guarantee tomorrow. Surely you saw both of these races. What is your opinion on what took place in both instances? Thanks. [Personally, I think one guy rode overconfidently and another horse got away with an easy lead but I don't believe there was anything less than honest or sinister about it. And I think that the idea that some sort of conspiracy is hatched in the 20 minutes after it's known what horses are uncovered in the pick-6 is preposterous. -SC]
Breeders Cup Rotation - Here's a plug for a rotation system. ( I am sure others have proposed the same.) Belmont - Churchill - Santa Anita - with Gulfstream, Woodbine, Arlington alternating on the fourth year. I put in a plug for Arlington because they had the most even playing, unbiased track surface of them all *( at least at the time they hosted the breeders cup.) Dave [Arlington had a dirt track when it hosted the Breeders' Cup. Now it has a Polytrack. -SC]
"And the fourth running of the BC Dirt Mile will be the first that is both a mile (it was 1 mile + 70 yards at Monmouth in 2007) and on dirt." LOL, too rich.
Cannot deny Linda Rice when it comes to the Saratoga Turf Sprints. Re: Walmatt - That race was really tough to figure out. I did not have the 9, but had it on the Grand Slam only because I was doing a number that was meaningful to me. [The tumble of the 7 knocked me out of the GS]
The biggest overlay of the Saratoga meet was Awakino Cat (Champagne d'Oro was second biggest overlay, La Cloche was third) How did Awakinho Cat go off at 6-1 in the exact race he won last year? He was coming in to the race exactly the way the Turf Queen wanted him too. This was his third race, since being given time off for the big turf sprints this summer and fall. His last race was perfect at Suffolk, winning easily while rated. Lastly, Silver Timber was going backwards since he had the most unbelievably perfect trip on Oaks Day (I was there and won over 7 thousand on him-I couldn't believe my luck with the trip). Silver Timber is no longer showing the great speed anymore, which used to allow him to get in great stalking position. Too bad I was working alll day. I tried to make it to the OTB but Chicago traffic would not allow it.
Steve, The Breeders cup has become an absolute joke.It should be run on one day. The win and your in should also be eliminated, only graded stakes earnings should qualifier horses for breeders cup entires.
THANKS for brightening the more intelligent side of the horseplayers world - from beginner to the most seasoned pro. I'm an avid reader and always learning new things from you.
Glenn: Agree the Governor's Cup ($200,000) at Penn National should be a Grade 3, along with the Turf Monster (a $250,000 race on Labor Day) and for fillies and mares, the Turf Amazon ($200,000 on September 25) at Philadelphia Park. With there being a turf sprint in the BC, some of these other stakes do need to get Graded status, and I do suspect if Monmouth is able to maintain their stakes at the minimum qualifying level for Graded status through next year, some of those, especially the Turf Sprints could see Grade 3 ratings for 2012. Steve: The BC Marathon was at 1 3/4 Miles last year. Personally, I would like to see that race lengethened to 2 1/4 Miles as part of a massive overhaul of the BC that would have both the Classic and Ladies Classic lengethened to 1 5/8 Miles, both the Turf and Filly-Mare turf to two miles among others (including lengthening the BC Dirt Mile to 1 1/8 Miles and renaming it the Middle Distance for those trainers who don't know how to train horses to consistently get the longer distances or don't want to do so, cutting the purse of that race in the process to $600,000). Lengethening the Classic and Ladies Classic to 13 furlongs each would force some long-overdue changes that would include the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Beldame going to 1 1/2 Miles and many other major races to either 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 Miles from a mile and an eighth, and force horsemen to change their ways. The breed might suffer for a while with these changes, but I suspect breeders would adjust and start breeding horses for stamina over speed if they realized their horses, in order to win championships would have to go considerably longer distances and much more frequently at such.
Walmatt: Wait until you see the late pick four sequence on Friday... three maiden claiming races, including one that's restricted to state breds!
The Penn Governor's Cup should be a grade three. Own part of one with Westpoint--Phosphorescent -who is on the improve-ran 2nd to Chamberlain Bridge in the Gov. Cup. Going to the Monster Turf Sprint if all goes well at Philly. It's a tough bunch!