08/17/2010 12:52PM

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 It was so soft that two of that day's key runners were withdrawn because of the going.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.