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Day 35: 9/6/09
12:09 pm: The handful of commenters who keep saying a horse has to run in the Breeders' Cup to win a championship are welcome to share that opinion (once a day max, please) but to state this as if it is either a fact or a rule is simply incorrect.
Dozens of horses have won Eclipse Awards without competing in the Breeders' Cup, including both of last year's champion 3-year-olds (Big Brown and Proud Spell) and several Horse of the Year titlists including John Henry, Spend a Buck, Holy Bull, Charismatic, Point Given and Mineshaft.
Analogies to other sports with year-end playoffs and championships are specious. In horse racing, like it or not, titles are in fact often earned during the "regular season."
As for today at Saratoga, the scratch of Adirondack winner Worstcasescenario leaves a field of 8 for the G1 Spinaway, the only race of the day in which none of the four contenders for the two-legged Saratoga titles is involved. (Update: Garcia picked up the mount on Opus A in the Spinaway.) Linda Rice begins the day with a 20-19 lead on Todd Pletcher, and has 11 horses entered today to Pletcher's four, but those 11 are in only five races: She has three two-horse entries, and an uncoupled four-horse entry (in a field of just seven). In the jockeys' race, Ramon Dominguez starts Day 35 with a 42-37 edge on Alan Garcia and both have 10 mounts on the card:
3:15 pm: Rice sent out three of the six starters (Meriwether Jessica was a late scratch) in the inaugural Commentator Stakes but did no better than a third with Ahvee's Destiny. Hardly her fault: Cannonball and Silver Timber, the 1-2 finishers in a blistering 1:00.84 for 5.5f, were clearly the best horses in the race.
Perhaps Commentator, who made a farewell appearance in the paddock and got one of those edible keys to the city, could be honored in future seasons with something more appropriate than a turf sprint. It also would be nice if some of the recent daily $70k stakes were at least run for the same divisions of horses every year instead of having their names slapped on completely different sorts of races each year.
Dominguez's victory on Cannonball gave him a six-victory lead over Garcia with 17 races left at the meeting.
4:30 pm: If Pletcher ends up losing the training title by a single victory, it will be Winthrop House's nose that made the difference. Pletcher's Echo to Eternity lost a head-bobber to Winthrop House in the 7th to keep him one behind Rice. Doubt it takes the sting out that Winthrop House is trained by Pletcher's friend, and fellow former Lukas assistant, Kiaran Mclaughlin, last year's leading trainer at the meet.
(Photo-finish photos courtesy of NYRA.)
6:10 pm: Hot Dixie Chick both got the job done at 1-5 and received some useful schooling while winning the G1 Spinaway.
Those two things may not have seemed in sync to bettors who needed her. and there may have been some anxious moments as she sat third on the turn while Beautician ranged up to take on Bickersons, who Hot Dixie Chick and Robbie Albarado had not engaged early. Once they straightened out, though, HDC and Albarado came through at the rail and wee in complete command, as Beautician continued on well to hold second and Bickersons faded to be a distant third.
Hot Dixie Chick, a Dixie Union filly, was purchased for $435k at a February 2-year-old sale by Barbara Banke's Grace Stables. Banke is married to Jess Jackson, who owns Rachel Alexandra and campaigned Curlin. It remains to be seen whether Hot Dixie Chick will be sent west to try a synthetic trrack in the BC Juvenile Fillies or try to wrap up a title while staying on dirt. Her next start is likely to be the Frizette at Belmont Oct. 10. The way she rated and drew off today, the one-mile distance shouldn't be a problem.
No carryover into closing day unless Rosary Beads or Lovable McGriff takes the finale. A victory by favorites Runfromthestorm or Better Than Swiss would complete a chalky pick-6 payout of either $1237 or $1268.
6:35 pm: Runfromthestorm was a runaway winner of the 11th, completing a $108 late pick-4 and $1237 pick-6. No carryover, but don't forget there's a mandatory pick-6 payout tomorrow since it's closing day, with an 11-race card featuring the Hopeful. I'll be taking a final swing.
Beyer figs are not the beginning or end all in the race biz. Secretariat got beat by some pretty average stakes horses, he never carried 130lbs or more, pre beyers HE had some outstanding final times in important races. 1:45.2, 1:59.2, 2:24 with the likes of secretariat one would only percieve a 4 year old season would be unimaginable, but a race with the likes of the mighty forego at his peak is no easy task even for the likes of the great man o war.
qev, There is a point in any discussion when the steam goes out of it and so, if I may, I should like to offer one final contribution on this subject. I would suggest there is an element of splitting hairs here. Your post of 6 Sep @ 1:10:02pm makes a totally unproven claim that "dirt racing is a far superior test of a horses greatness". If that were true, God help all the great horses who for 230 years have graced the turf tracks in Britain, Ireland, France and the rest of Europe. I have now read Mordin's piece and am still baffled. My dictionary defines "lottery" as "something whose success is governed by chance". Isn't that a perfect description of a horserace? If it wasn't, wouldn't all experienced betters be living in luxury? Before you tell me about having an edge I would refer back to Da'Tara and to your own words. You said that "Dirt handicappers....handicap accordingly". Thats exactly the point. Just think of all the hours that expert handicappers spent analysing that Belmont race and still the horse was sent off at a massive price because very few people thought Da'Tara could possibly win. He did win because in horseracing shocks happen - there is always a huge element of chance. And remember, chance equals lottery. Of course, if that means that Nick Mordin has to revise his existing betting strategies, so be it. New patterns of success, new angles will be established in time and they will reward the intelligent better. Be lucky qev. Regards - Bernard
Oh dear! Oh dear! I just got back to London from Dublin, where I saw Sea The Stars demonstrate his briliance in the Irish Champion Stakes, and I am hugely disappointed by some of the comments on here. Someone attacks the Racing Post website for its claim that Sea The Stars would "destroy" Rachel Alexandra. Why? All websites attract their share of morons as well as genuine, intelligent fans. I think it would be close between the two champions on ANY surface, but I would just favour Sea The Stars, certainly at 10 furlongs and further. That said, I can see perfectly respectable arguments for going the other way. Someone else makes the startling claim that dirt horses are superior to turf or synthetic horses. That strikes me as a very subjective (and dare I say insular) opinion. Indeed, I suggest that most racing fans throughout the World would offer a different opinion. Face reality, modern organised racing started on grass and it will end there and on ever-improving synthetic surfaces. The final point that irked me was the dig at last year's Breeders Cup Classic winner, Ravens Pass. Why? The list of runners was pretty strong. There were no major hard-luck stories. And the winner was much the best horse ON THAT DAY. In a recent E-Mail I asked Steven to lend his support to the Breeders Cup. I now repeat that plea. If these hostile dirt versus synthetic attitudes become accepted, the Breeders Cup will lose most of its statues. Instead we will end up with a US East Coast championship when it is run on dirt; and a Californian/European championship when it is run on synthetics. That would be a great pity. Regards - Bernard
Robert ginnerty, The Breeder"s Cup classic was not run on dirt in 2008, rather,it was run on the synthetifarce which is much more akin to turf than dirt.
Beyers are a tool ,a product of the final time and track variant.Easy Goer had freakish beyers but lost three out of four times to a supposedly slower Sunday Silence.Best beyers do not equal best horse.
If I had my choice of the top ten jocks in the country to ride my maiden claimer, I would pick Prado, he understands that owners need that third place money and gamblers deserve his full effort. Never question this mans intergrity.
@robert_ginnerty European horses have never finished one-two in any BC Classic run on (Dirt). Ravens Pass and Henry the Navigator beat the world’s best “dirt” horse while racing him on “synthetic turf”, a substance that British racing writers themselves admit was developed in an attempt to mimic “turf” racing during the U.K. winter; they did a great job. Steve Asmussen’s lament, “That was a turf race”, after the 2008 Classic was spot on; it was. Just look at the continuous shelling of last-to-front rally-wide bombs that frequently populate the winners circle at synthetic ovals and tell me that this is not turf—or at least “turf-like” racing. Yesterday’s wacky Pacific Classic is exhibit A … do you honestly believe that Richard’s Kid, previously a mediocre stakes winner on the Maryland circuit, would have come last to first to gobble up horses like Einstein, and Rail Trip on a dirt surface… or anything remotely dirt-like for that matter.
Big difference, at least from my viewpoint, she is a three year old filly that has competed vs. older males only once, and not at a classic distance. While Macho Again might be a tad better than most give him credit for, like you say he is no hall of famer. If she announced today she was running in the JC gold cup, and she won, even if everyone else ducked her, I would give her the championship.
Prado is always stuck inside like that on turf. I bet the horse too, but i am not sure if its a stiff, i think he just cant ride anymore.
Easy Goer was a freak, and not just a freak in terms of his amazing beyer speed figures, his amazing final times, his fastest mile ever run by any 3yo in history in 1:32 2/5, his second fastest Belmont Stakes ever run behind only Secretariat! He only got beat in the Preakness because of Pat Day's terrible ride(which Day totally admits in his TVG Legends Interview), and he only got beat in the Classic because Shug McGaughey put Easy Goer through one of the greatest 3yo campaigns, along with one of the most grueling campaigns leading into the Breeders' Cup in history,with so called "prepping" Easy Goer at a 1 1/2 miles in the Jockey Club Gold Cup for the Classic. He is the only horse to have ever won the Belmont Stakes, Whitney, Travers, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup-a truely historic run of historic, prestigious and championship races.