10/02/2010 3:04PM

Gold Cup Day 2010


Here's the timetable for the 13 graded stakes, nine of them Grade 1's, being run around the country today on what amounts to an unofficial Breeders' Cup Preview Day. Three of the current four favorites for the BC Classic -- Zenyatta, Blame and Lookin at Lucky -- are in action today and heavily favored to win their final preps, with Quality Road training up to the race off his Woodward victory Sept. 4.


Just half an hour until the Vosburgh, the start of a Belmont pick-6 that I'm passing due to difficulty (despite the whopping $23, 233 carryover from Wednesday.) I'd have to go 6 or 7 deep in both the Vosburgh and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, and the Flower Bowl's no picnic either. I think the $500k guaranteed pick-4 starting with that race will prove challenging enough for me, and maybe we can get the pick-6 to carry into tomorrow, when the card includes three more graded stakes, the Kelso, Pilgrim and Miss Grillo. (Oak Tree at Hollywood offers two Grade 1's tomorrow, the Oak Leaf for 2-year-old fillies and the "other" Clement L. Hirsch, the one for older turfers.)

Speaking of Oak Tree at Hollywood, several readers have questioned the "OTH" abbreviation being used for the meeting. If Oak Tree at Santa Anita was OSA, why not OHol? The problem is that the databases are set up for only two- or three-letter abbreviations for American tracks and "OHo" or "OHl" would have looked silly, like an exclamation or Ohio. So OTH it is.

The track at Belmont is fast but not unusually quick thusfar today, with two 8.5f dirt routes going in 1:43.05 (an overnight stakes for 3-year-olds won by Colizeo) and 1:43.34 (a 2-year-old maiden off-the-turfer won by To Honor and Serve.) 

My plan is to scoot out to Belmont shortly for the Beldame, Turf Classic and Gold Cup, then scoot back home to watch the California races on ESPN Classic starting at 6:30. I'll post my pick-4 play before leaving, and then resume this entry later on.


3:40 pm: Guess the Vosburgh wasn't as tough as I thought, as 2-1 favorite Girolamo was a clear and comfortable winner in 1:09.41. Riley Tucker was second best and Wildcat Brief rallied late from last to be third. This was far from a vintage Vosburgh field -- no Grade 1 winners, and the injured Majestic Perfection and resting Discreetly Mine missing from the lineup -- but Girolamo was in complete control of the race and could move forward again making just his third start of the year in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

We're all guessing about the condition of the Belmont turf courses today, unused since Wednesday after two days of intermittent heavy rain that prompted Belmont to cancel the Thursday and Friday cards. So my pick-4 play may well be casting a bigger net than necessary as I'm using some horses I otherwise would not have on the theory that they might move up on softer ground. One example is Forever Together, whom you couldn't possibly like off her last start in the Glens Falls but who has caught one hard course after another this summer and might rebound.

Anyway, here's the play, and I'm off to Belmont, hoping to be back in time for the Norfolk:


7:00 pm: Made it back just in time to see the maiden Jaycito wear down J P's Gusto to win the Norfolk. Next up is Zenyatta in the Lady's Secret, a race that just lost its second choice when Rinterval reared up and hit her head in the paddock stall. She looks okay on tv but was scratched as a precaution.

Haynesfield's victory in the JCGC obviously ruined my wagering day. Those were some nice pick-4 willpays to the Gold Cup favorites -- $2 prices of $660 to Blame, $1658 to Fly Down and $1754 to Rail Trip -- but Haynesfield blew them all away setting moderate fractions on the front end and beat Blame by four. Oh, and no pick-6 carryover either: there was one live ticket to each of four horses in the finale, and favored Whateverittakes beat uncovered Ponte Vecchio by 12 1/4 lengths for a $150,711 payoff.


7:10 pm: Rinterval's trainer, Eric Reed, just said in an ESPN interview that Hollywood Park security told him that there had been "death threats" against his filly this week for running against Zenyatta, and that it was fans holding up Zenyatta signs that just spooked her and caused her to rear up in the paddock. ESPN then reported that RInterval will run in the Spinster next Sunday.

Still haven't see a replay of the Indiana Derby, where Lookin at Lucky won by 1 1/4 lengths. He ran only one-fifth faster than Always a Princess did winning the G2 Indiana Oaks one race earlier (1:43 2/5 vs. 1:43. 3/5 -- Hoosier Park does not time in hundredths) but was last early and wide throughout circling the field to beat Thiskyhasnolimit by 1 1/4 lengths.

Both the Indiana Oaks (Always a Princess/Ash Zee) and Derby (Lookin at Lucky/Thiskyhasnolimit) ended in Bob Baffert/Steve Asmussen exactas. Asmussen also trains Haynesfield, whose Gold Cup victory had to be particularly uplifting for the stable, which lost three stars in recent weeks with the retirements of Rachel Alexandra, Majestic Perfection and Kantharos.


7:40 pm: Jerry Moss and Mike Smith swore they didn't have an anxious moment, but when Switch spurted away at the top of the stretch I had a few strides of doubt whether Zenyatta would get there. She did, as always, and there's no question she'll be favored in the Breeders' Cup Classic five weeks hence.

How heavily? Fascinating question. You could argue that she faces a tougher task than she did a year ago winning as the 2.80-1 favorite, facing accomplished dirt horses on a dirt track and at a new venue. Of course since being 2.80-1 that day, she's won a Classic and five other races.

If you're following along on the Disney/ESPN networks, the Yellow Ribbon will be the last race shown on ESPN Classic, with coverage of the Goodwood (8:25 ET) moving to ESPN3.com, whatever that is.


8:00 pm: Godolphin has been having a rough year in the United States, winning only seven races through Oct. 1, but just won its second Grade 1 of the day as Hibaayeb took the Yellow Ribbon in her American debut. (Godolphin now also owns Vosburgh winner Girolamo.) The 3-year-old Singspiel filly was a Group 1 winner last year taking the Fillies Mile, but had run three straight bad ones in Europe before coming here and getting Lasix for the first time today.

With only the Goodwood left to run, favorites are just 2 (Girolamo and Zenyatta) for 8 in today's Grade 1's but all have hit the board. Of the other six, four finished second (Unrivaled Belle, Paddy O'Prado, Blame, J P's Gusto) and two finished third (Red Desire, Gypsy's Warning.)


8:30 pm: Make that 2 for 9 with one off the board (except for superfecta purposes)  as a strangely overbet Twirling Candy faded to fourth behind Richard's Kid, Crown of Thorns and Dakota Phone in the Goodwood. Twirling Candy, unbeaten in four starts but moving from turf to the main track and facing Grade 1 and older rivals for the first time, pulled himself to the lead down the backstretch and had daylight turning for home but appeared to hit a wall after a mile. You'd have to think he'll be heading for the BC Mile rather than the Classic after today's performance.

Lots or replays to watch and charts to dissect, but that can wait until morning.