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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.
I was lucky to find your www.drf.com website. You truly can write and teach and inspire. Keep writing - I'll keep reading.
Before the 2009 Breeders Cup Classic , Zenyatta's detractors claimed she would never, could never, defeat a group of "exceptionally talented" male horses. Then, after her sensational finish, they described the same BCC field as "relatively weak"! C'mon folks, you can't have it both ways. Last year, Gio Ponti earned $3,153,800, Summer Bird $2,323,000 and Einstein $2,945,238... Any thoroughbred that wins more than two million dollars in purses is a tough animal, worthy of respect. The truth is, Zenyatta's powerful stride and relentless stamina has so far exhausted all of her competitors. Is she better than Ruffian? Better than Cigar? Will she retire undefeated? Who knows? To me, what really matters is the enthusiasm and excitement this amazing horse generates every time she enters a starting gate. The sport I love so much desperately needed a star - a unique, charismatic creature to lure new fans to the track. Even if she wins the 2010 Classic, a few resentful, handicapping "experts" will still question Zenyatta's "credentials". We railbirds will be tossing our "Z" hats in the air and yelling like Banshees!
I cannot believe people are going to make a female horse who has only beaten two horses of substance this year (St. Trinians and Switch) the BCC favorite. I have posted my distaste for Zenyatta before, but I never hated her. I just think it's a bit presumptuous to rank her ahead of all time great female dirt horses off 2 dirt wins, considering none of those horses ran on the same type of surface as Z, while Z never had dirt as her main surface. If we are going to do these theoretical rankings where dirt and synthetic wins can be compared to each other, then why not include turf filles/mares in the discussion? But the only thing I ever get called by some overzealous Z fans is dumb, idiot, a Zenyatta hater, that I am just some emotional Rachel fan. If Zenyatta fans were just a little bit more respectful in their arguments that Zenyatta is the greatest female ever, and don't automatically belittle or put down those writers or non-fans that have a different opinion, then maybe we could all get along with our own opinions. I seriously wouldn't be surprised if Andy Beyer is getting threatened with bodily harm after writing his latest Z article. Of course, I am just being presumptuous though. Perhaps Z fans are being totally respectful of his opinion and making calm arguments against it in their emails to him. Who knows? I also wish a writer would call out Z fans on their tendency to treat those with a different opinion like dirt. She has a chance to win the BCC. But I mean...the most likely 2/1 or 3/1 ish favorite? Then again, I would not want to be the writer that didn't pick Zenyatta to win. I wouldn't want to be threatened in every other email, which is my imagination of what would happen if I were in a DRF handicapper's shoes and tried to publicly make an argument that Quality Road will beat Z while Z will finish in midpack. I say good luck to the handicapper that is brave enough to put out that opinion in a public blog like this.
70 years ago today, October 6, (http://i47.photobucket.com/albums/f167/Lisa_Simpson/1940/October/1006/1006-largefiresd.jpg) Shot Put won the $61,450 (very real money!) NY Handicap, closing day feature at Belmont Park. Equitable was second by a nose in the run of two and a quarter miles.
An online sportsbook is offering: Blame 5-1, Quality Road 5-1, Zenyatta 5-2.
Will the wussies who keep crying to retire Zenyatta before the BC please stop watching this sport and just go away. The sport is thoroughbred racing- horses are born to race and as long as she is sound, every race is an opportunity to showcase her greatness. There is no better opportunity to do so than in a race on DIRT packed with males who can actually run on that surface. I am not in the least bit worried that Zenyatta won't win in her usual nail-biting fashion. Don't deprive us of this fantastic spectacle you whiners.
...Sure, she hasnt been facing the beasts that she will face in the Breeders Cup, but to be frank, the filly and mare divsion (east and west) hasnt been that strong since Zenyatta arrived. What that tells me is: Zenyatta is THE point of reference. Everyone else in the division pales in comparison. When Mike Tyson seemed unstoppable in the mid 1980's, the boxing world said the same thing: Tyson was beating up on a bunch of duds. History now shows that those "duds" weren't chumps at all Simply put, Tyson was in a different league at the time. [In] Zenyatta's Apple Blossom win at Oaklawn Park (dirt), she annihilated a soft field in what amounted to nothing more than a paid workout! I left the track that day convinced that Zenyatta is a dirt horse after all. In fact, she detests synthetic tracks but wins over them anyways. Thats how good she is.
...Horse races at the highest level are determined by heart, focus and the will to win as are all major championship level sporting events. Great athletes both human and equine overcome any and all obstacles and just simply win. How many horses have won 19 races at this level-----zero! Who won the biggest race of the year last year-----no excuses---just win?? Zenyatta.
Just caught up with this latest blog. For interest, in particular george Quinn and wilson's comments, the British Bookmakers are pricing up the BC Classic as a much more open race than you might imagine. As of today (Wednesday), the best prices are Lookin At Lucky 9/2, Zenyatta 5/1 and Blame 7/1. Can't wait for the race myself, but I do hope we can get one or two Euro horses in there, even on dirt.
Yes, it's a shame that Rail Trip isn't transferred to a real trainer. Lousy Rick Dutrow has only won 391 races out of 1,558 starts (25.1% win rate) since the beginning of 2008, including a KY Derby win. Those stats clearly demonstrate he isn't as effective as other trainers.