06/24/2012 9:08AM

Mother Goose, Hollywood Oaks, and Black Caviar


As if to say, “Hey, all of you have pretty much ignored us all year, so we’re going to do something that can’t help but get your attention,” the 3-year-old filly division turned itself on its head Saturday.

Believe You Can and Contested, who went into the weekend as no worse than two of the top three 3-year-old fillies in the nation on the strength of last out victories in the Kentucky Oaks and Acorn Stakes, respectively, were absolutely crushed in the Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont Park. A couple of hours later, Eden’s Moon, a Grade 1 winner who had everything her own way in the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks at Betfair Hollywood Park, couldn’t get the job done at even money.

Contested was 1-2 in the Mother Goose. And even those who thought her five length romp over the track in last month’s Acorn was not the airtight performance it appeared to be because she had an uncontested lead over what many feel was a speed-favoring track that day were fearful of her Saturday. That is because she was loose on the lead again. But Contested dropped anchor at the quarter pole, seven furlongs into the 8.5 furlong Mother Goose, and a furlong short of the Acorn Mile she had just dominated.

The popular excuse for Contested, and for Believe You Can, is that they both ran on the worst part of a tricky, drying out main track that seemed deeper on the inside. Of course, that begs the question why either of them was on the inside in the first place, for there was ample opportunity for them to get away from the rail if it was so bad, especially Contested, who was clear of the Mother Goose field in a matter of strides out of the gate.

But Contested, who wound up fifth and last (causing some bridgejumpers to have a bad day), was beaten almost 15 lengths. And Believe You Can, who finished third and never really seemed like a serious threat to win despite holding close stalking position early, was beaten over nine lengths. You have to wonder if there wasn’t something other than the track at work to explain their non performances. If not, you have to wonder if these two just aren’t as good as first thought.

As for Eden’s Moon, she returned to the front-running style Saturday that she used when she was so impressive winning the Las Virgenes earlier this year, and which at the time made her the leading member of her division in Southern California. But even though she set a very comfortable pace in the Hollywood Oaks, she still couldn’t get the job done. Yes, Eden’s Moon was game in the way she fought back when hooked in the stretch, and she did actually have the lead a couple of jumps before the wire. But if Eden’s Moon was the filly she was thought to be, she should have given her field the slip turning for home after the trip she had.

The saving grace is the fillies who won the Mother Goose and Hollywood Oaks are good horses. Although she beat a bad field, and did so after controlling a slow early pace, the way Potesta got her maiden win (by the length of the stretch in good final time) at the distance over the track just prior to the Hollywood Oaks suggested she might be something special. But Potesta deserves credit for laying that lip on Eden’s Moon Saturday, and not only because she managed a big class jump. Potesta also did the dirty work pressing Eden’s Moon’s pace.

I knew from the moment I saw her win her second career start early this year at Gulfsfream that Zo Impressive was going to win a big 3-year-old filly race at some point this year, and in fact said so in this space on a few occasions. But frankly (and wrongly), I didn’t think it was going to be the Mother Goose because the pace scenario was again against her. But Zo Impressive was determined turning back Disposablepleasure, who has shown vast improvement over her last two starts, and there is no reason to think she can’t win another big one, or two.

Finally, a word about Black Caviar’s victory in the Diamond Jubilee Saturday morning (our time) at Royal Ascot. Or more specifically, a word about John McCririck’s hysterical comments right after the race as seen on TVG about Black Caviar’s jockey, Luke Nolen, which I found, well, hysterical.

Yes, there was a lot on the line for Black Caviar – her perfect record and the tremendous sporting gesture of traveling from a half a world, and a different hemisphere, away. And yes, Nolen did a dumb thing and nearly blew it all when he obviously misjudged the finish line. But McCririck was so over the top in his criticism of Nolen that he made it sound as if the rider should have been hauled off Black Caviar in handcuffs, dragged into the town square, and hung as the reincarnation of Jack the Ripper. And that’s after Black Caviar won! Imagine what McCririck’s punishment would have been if Nolen’s mistake had cost Black Caviar the race!

Too funny.

Update - Thanks to the commentor who noted that the Mother Goose was indeed run at 8.5 furlongs. Correction has been made.