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Goldikova Signals Soft Ground Warning...Again!
Did Freddy Head miscalculate in allowing Goldikova to run on very soft ground in the Prix Jacques Le Marois on Sunday when she was beaten by Makfi?
In her only previous try on a soft surface in May 2009, the 10-time Group 1 winner had failed miserably when seventh in the Prix d'Ispahan. At the time, some thought that the Ispahan distance of 1 1/8 miles, 55 yards had been too long for her, but she proved that was not the case when winning the same race this year on good ground.
Daylong rain at Deeauville on Saturday had turned the turf course soggy. It was so soft that two of that day's key runners were withdrawn because of the going. Daryakana, who had beaten older males on good gorund last December at Sha Tin in the Group 1Hong Kong Cup, was scratched from the Group 2 Prix de Pomone.
And Argentine champion Interaction, scheduled to make his European debut for Pascal Bary in the Group 3 Prix Gontaut-Biron, was a late scratch as well. The latter move was very wise because almost all turf races at San Isidro, where Interaction had won the Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini and the Gran Premio Jockey Club, are run on firm ground. Indeed, one might say they are run on hard ground as the grasss at San Isidro is left deliberately short, thus insuring lightning fast times in most cases.
Interaction would most likely have floundered on the very soft turf at Deauville. With evidence that Goldikova doesn't like soft going, why then did Head run her on Sunday?
If he had scratched her from the race, he could have run her in the one-mile Prix du Moulin de Longchamp on Sept. 4 and still have had plenty of time to prepare her for her Breeders' Cup Mile prep in the 7-furlong Prix de la Foret on Oct. 3. She thus would have had about one month between each of her last four races, since her previous start had come on August 1, a victory in the Prix Rothschild.
Now Head has seven weeks before the Foret, a race Goldikova lost last year. More importantly, he and Goldikova's owners, Gerard and Alain Wertheimer, must keep their fingers crossed that the rain stays away form Longchamp on Oct. 3 and especially from Churchill Downs on Nov. 6, when she will go after an unprecedented third Breeders' Cup Mile title.
The horse to which Goldikova is most often compared, Miesque, won the second of her Breeders' Cup Miles at Churchill Downs on what was offically deemed good ground but which was running much more like soft, as her winning time of 1:38.60 tends to suggest. Goldokova has shown no problem with good to soft ground, the equivalent of our yielding. Two of her Group 1 triumphs have come on good to soft surfaces, as has her single Group 3 victory. Genuine soft ground, however, deprives her of her instant and sustained acceleration, and would put her in jeopardy at Churchill Downs.
Goldikova's loss on Sunday had bookmakers refiguring their Breeders' Cup Mile prices. Stan James eased her out to 3-2 from 11-10. Paddy Power lists her at 7-4 with Makfi, previously the winner of the 2000 Guineas, at 3-1. There is more improvement left in Makfi and the lightly raced 3-year-old son of Dubawi is now being aimed at the Mile with a prep coming in either the Prix du Moulin or the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
Even the Jacques Le Marois third, Paco Boy, might wind up at Churchill for the Mile. A 3-time Group 1 winner, he was not expected to be considered for the race as his trainer Richard Hannon disdains the event. He is 0-for-3 in the Breeders' Cup, one of his losses that of Mr. Brooks, who died in the 1992 Breeders' Cup Sprint.
The weekend may have produced a viable American challenger for the Mile in Sidney's Candy. He put in a world class effort in winning the La Jolla by 5 1/2 lengths while setting a new Del Mar track record of 1:39.52 for 1 1/16 miles on turf.
But even if Sidney's Candy and Makfi continue to improve, the feeling is that if Goldikova gets firm- or even good ground- in the Breeders' Cup Mile, she wiill make history. Soft ground is the only thing that has stopped her in the past. Only soft ground can stop her in the future.
Mr. Shuback: I must give you credit..very interesting article, very few American writers "get" European racing. As a hugh Goldikova fan, who has scruntized her carrer, and had the good fortune to see her run on person, this article has made me think. Maybe Head thought that if he pulled her from the race after Paco Boy had committed, it would look as if they were scared of getting her beat by him? or maybe he was afraid that Longchamp in the Fall ( Prix du Moulin ) would have a good chance at a very soft turf. Maybe, he though that because she trains there sometimes and was unbeaten there, she could overcome it. I don't know...but you make interesting points..Thanks for the article.
Watched the race and thought Goldikova ran on pretty well. The winner is no slouch, that's for sure. I'm fascinated to watch the French feed of these races and always marvel at the dual announcers featured on the video. Can you tell me if this is the actual call that is sent out over the PA system at the track? If the Saratoga product continues to deteriorate into more and more maiden claiming and New York State Bred races Deauville might look pretty good next year. (Yes, in France for the last seven or eight years they have employed two on-track racecallers on every race. I cannot recommend Deauville more highly as an August racing vacation, what with the beach, the casinos and dozens of restaurants, some on the beachfront, some on the river along restaurant row in Trouville. There is also good racing at Clairefontaine just up the street from Deauville, and Honfleur, ten miles east, is a great fishing resort with plenty of restaurants and a world class art museum.) AS
Hello Alan, A nice article to kick off the BC Mile discussion on as relevant a weekend as I can remember to such discussions (what with Sidney's Candy stunning performance). If the Kentucky weather can stay dry for the Breeders' Cup, I think this year's Mile will be the best edition of the three Goldikova will have run in. I sincerely hope Paco Boy makes it here because those two have a great rivalry going (from this Yank's perspective). And even though I think it would be a poor decision, I hope Sidney's Candy races in the Mile. (I think it's a poor decision because the Del Mar Derby, Oak Tree Derby, and Hollywood Derby are better choices for a 3YO on the turf who's based in California. They can run Sidney's Candy in the Mile later in his career, while taking advantage of the unique races available to 3YO turfers in California. Plus I'm not a big fan of 3YOs taking on physically mature horses like Goldikova, even if it's November). David
Hi Alan....I am curious as to what soft ground in Europe could be compared to over here..I see it must be even softer than yielding. Would such races be taken off the turf in the U.S.? (Soft ground in Europe is generally softer than in the States. If an American track had very soft ground like they did at Deauville on Saturday and Sunday, all races would have been off the turf, perhaps for the next couple of days as well. Heavy ground in Europe might necessitate all races off the turf at American track for nearly a week. Europeans are much more careful and exacting about labeling turf courses, just as we are more careful and exacting in labeling dirt track conditions. In England they go hard, firm, good to firm, good, good to soft, soft, heavy. Lately some tracks say good, good to firm in places, or good to firm, good in places. In Ireland they go firm, good to firm, good, good to yielding, yielding, yielding to soft, soft, heavy. In France, where I have seen a track officially labeled firm just once in my life (it was in southern France where the sun shines hotly in summer), they go good, good to soft, soft, very soft, holding (which the British translate as sticky), heavy and very heavy.) AS