10/27/2011 11:55AM

Four First Preference Surprises

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If you have been following the run up to the Breeders’ Cup this fall, you would probably agree that there were few surprises at the just completed pre-entry stage. But what surprises there were at the pre-entries, for me, anyway, concerned the first preferences of four of the horses cross-entered in two Breeders’ Cup events.

Now, it should be noted right here that in each case, the four horses in question are in the main body of both their first and second race preferences, so they have the opportunity to run in the second and seemingly more logical spot if that’s what they want. Still, in reading between the lines, the first preference of these four horses makes for interesting discussion.

Here are the four, in alphabetical order, followed by the Breeders’ Cup races they entered in order of preference:

Dullahan – Juvenile Turf, Juvenile – That Dullahan made the Juvy Turf his first preference is not shocking when taken in the context that he did race on turf before he got his maiden win in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity. But it is surprising when you consider that he won the Breeders’ Futurity on the main track, even if that main track was Keeneland’s Polytrack. You would think that there would be no question that a 2-year-old who won a Grade 1, two turn race on the main track before the Breeders’ Cup would shoot for a divisional title in the Juvenile on dirt, not to mention define his status as a potential Kentucky Derby candidate. But reports say that Dullahan’s connections are just as likely to start their colt in the Juvenile Turf as the Juvenile.

Gio Ponti – Classic, Mile – The Breeders’ Cup Classic would be the first ever outing on dirt for Gio Ponti, a 6-year-old who has made 28 career starts. Moreover, Gio Ponti just won a Grade 1 prep for the Mile, and was a good second to Goldikova in last year’s Mile. The Classic just doesn’t seem to make any sense, even if he did finish second in it in 2009 when it was run on a synthetic surface. Unless, that is, you consider that Gio Ponti is already a multiple Eclipse Award winner who has earned over $6 million, and factor in that he is expected to call it a career after this Breeders’ Cup. In other words, if you’re ever going to take a shot like this, this would be the time. He has nothing to lose – another, say, second in the Mile would be nice but not game changing – but perhaps much to gain.

Midday – Turf, Filly & Mare Turf – Midday won the F & M Turf in 2009 and was a narrowly beaten second in it last year, but she is bound for a start against males in the Turf. This is in keeping with the way Midday has been campaigned this year. She has made three of her six starts this year against males after making only one of her prior 16 starts came against males. But it is still a surprise to me to see her pass on a race in the F & M Turf she would be favored to win for a tougher spot. To me, this reeks of stable confidence. It is also a different situation from Sarafina’s. Sarafina was also cross-entered in the Turf and F & M Turf, but she was always a candidate for the Turf.

Stopshoppingmaria – Juvenile Fillies Turf, Juvenile Fillies – Stopshoppingmaria was a soundly beaten to My Miss Aurelia in the Grade 1 Frizette, but that was perhaps the strongest prep this year for the Juvenile Fillies, and Stopshoppingmaria was the favorite in it. But even though Stopshoppingmaria has some turf pedigree on top, the fact that the Juvy Fillies Turf is her first preference might suggest that her connections don’t think she can beat My Miss Aurelia, at least not at this point in time.

rene More than 1 year ago
i just read a blog that GIO PONTI is going in tne MILE and not the CLASSIC, so i guess a SURE SECOND won over FIRST ON DIRT BUT TESTED AT THE DISTANCE! I still believe that at this point and time, GIO PONTI is the best among the AMERICANs and that i will make him my protection bet to GOLDIKOVA......at least my pick 3 and pick 4 will have a SURE POINT in the MILE !!!
yuwipi More than 1 year ago
Been a big Gio Ponti fan since before he was inside tripped out of the Juvenile Turf back at Monmouth. What do I know, but I was hoping his connections would send him in the Turf. Never have believed that he is as distance compromised as some experts believe. Wherever he goes, and it looks like the Mile now, I'll be rooting for him. Nothing against Goldikova, but I hope he blows her doors off.
usmc68 More than 1 year ago
best bet B.C. secret circle....elusive kate///y miss aurelia....midday...........good luck
silkcity More than 1 year ago
Greetings Mike, I have one question . Why is the" purse" of a race not in the past performance chart's ? My father used to keep a log of the purses of each race run at belmont and cross check the dates of todays race " purse" . If today's race is a $30,000 " purse" regardless of maiden , claiming price , etc. I would want to look for the horse that ran at $ 30,000 purse , is said horse dropping in purse money " class " etc. Am I missing something ? Thanks Mike respecfully Ken (MW - In some cases, purses are listed - maiden special weight races, straight allowances, listed stakes. In many cases, not listing purses is a matter of space available in that class slot, and in claiming races it could cause confusion listing both the claiming price and the purse. But given how purse values can fluctuate wildly even during the course of a single race meet, it's really not information that denotes class movement the way actual race condition does.)
mr velvet More than 1 year ago
Regarding Gio Ponti s decision.. If you look at the accomplishments of the horses in these two fields, the Mile is unquestionably the stronger field. In the Mile, you have Goldikova-3 time BC winner, more than 10 graded victories at this distance. She may have lost a step, but she has beaten the Mile field by more than a few steps the last 3 years. The field will also have a few other group winners from Europe, Courageous Cat, and Turallure....All proven grade 1 winners at the distance and surface Classic- The top notch contenders are a talented 3yo with no wins past 1 1/16th(UM), a very solid filly (HDG) but hardly a dominant mare like zenyatta, another older horse who is dismal, winless perhaps, at Churchill downs (FO), and a Euro with no starts on dirt Then there is ruler on ice, headache, to honor and serve, stay thirsty etc nice horses but hardly in the same breath as gio ponti This should be a no brainer. Winning the Mile does little for his stud value at this point anyway compared to a classic victory. I say go for the big one
Sam C. More than 1 year ago
I sure hope Gio Ponti runs in the Classic. Like evryone is saying he has nothing to lose. He can get the distance for sure. And maybe dirt could end up being his best surface. I would like to see him win it to go out on top. He has been a great and consistent racehorse. On a side note I have to say this has got to be the weakest field for the Classic that I can remember. ICE BOX..really!!!
bluessinger1962 More than 1 year ago
I think the real surprise was daddy Long Legs having a preference in the Juvenile as opposed to the Juvenile Turf..... But last night when I went to bed he was 33/1 on William Hill to win the Juvee Turf... this morning he is 6/1..... Im thinking somebody across the pond knows he's going in the turf and he is very live for Aidan O'Brien
Shibbley More than 1 year ago
I agree with most of what you say here Mike, but of course, will add my two cents. Concerning Gio Ponti; Do I think Gio Ponti has a better shot to win the Classic than the mile? No way, no how. I think if Goldi is off a step or two or has trouble that Gio can get up and win. However, there isn't a ton to gain other than the purse. It's a horse race and Gio Ponti is clearly talented enough to produce in the Classic, but the unknowns make the odds of him winning far greater than in the mile. But what if? He is bred to run on dirt and he has handled the distance (which already puts him ahead of at least half the Classic field). A win in this race makes a huge difference in the shed and there seems to be no world beaters in the field (as each of the main contender has their own set of ?'s) . Risk/reward is always of the utmost importance when making a decision like this. If that is the case with the connections of Gio, than it really is a no brainer to run in the Classic. Since this is his last race and 100% of his earnings with be in the shed from after the BC on (and winning the mile won't change his price nearly as much as a Classic win would) and considering the purse of the Classic is 2 1/2 times larger, well... No brainer, indeed.
David H. More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the post, Mike. I think that if we take an objective look at the Classic field this year, we must be honest and characterize it as a relatively weak field. I'd go so far as to call it a very weak field. And if you accept my opinion as reflective of reality, then it makes a lot of sense for Castleton Lyons to enter Gio Ponti into the biggest unrestricted race in North America. Gio Ponti is proven at 10F (two wins in the Arlington Million, a second to Zenyatta in the Classic, and a good showing in Dubai in the World Cup). As you note, it's his last race, so he's encouraged to "leave it all on the track" and find his bottom. In short, I think Gio Ponti's connections believe he can go out on top, winning "the big one" and going down in history as a $9,000,000 horse and (soon to be) three-time Champion.