06/24/2012 9:08AM

Mother Goose, Hollywood Oaks, and Black Caviar

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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.

Sean Nolan More than 1 year ago
Perhaps the best 3 YO filly in the country ran in the 1st race at Belmont on Sunday? Questing was very impressive and her gallop out was awesome. CCA Oaks and Alabama have to be next. Hope I. Ortiz can keep the mount.
John Davies More than 1 year ago
I will agree that McCririck's comments were a little over the top, but for my American cousins Mr McCririck as done as much to promote the sport of kings than anyone, his eccentric demeanour and comments as livened up racing in the UK, if you are a punter over there you know this man as always fought for the ordinary punter, and surely I do not have to remind Americans that he like yourselves as every right to his opinions, if you do not like them then don't watch him, but I will always watch him as he is entertainment. As for TVG's coverage thought it was by most part OK but there continual obsession with betting on exchanges and in running leave me totally cold, I live in a state where everything gambling except state run numbers racket and the stock exchange is banned and thought to be a sin, so when I watch the racing i am watching for the fun and love of the great sport which it is, and that fellow Brit back in LA, now I will not watch him, he does not even have the decency to put a suit on. As for Royal Ascot I will tell and have told any American who loves horse racing you need to go just once, I have been to a lot of tracks in the US and have loved most of them but Royal Ascot is something a racing fan should experience at least once, and as for BC what those Aussies did was fantastic, some of the connections in the UK and especially in the US should learn it is now a global sport, and to be isolationist in this day and age does not work. Take Frankel you will not see him over here, he probably will never leave the shores of the UK to race, and what a crying shame that is.
Alex More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed McCrick, although I didn't see his comments on the Black Caviar ride, but... his transition with Christina Olivares was a little creepy... and he is a Torry...
Grazyna Mianska More than 1 year ago
Very well put.
charming idiot More than 1 year ago
mike, i'm a fan but you need a proofreader. the mother goose was 8.5 furlongs not 9 as you state. i know it was 9 furlongs as recently as 2009 when rachel won, but it is now a mile and 1/16th. the acorn, mother goose and coaching club american oaks, a mile, a mile and an eighth, and a mile and a half. what was wrong with that? when the next great filly wins all three how can we compare her to the great ruffian, open mind, sky beauty, mom's command, davona dale or dark mirage? the closing race at royal ascot was 2 3/4 miles. it was won by a horse who won 5 days earlier at 2 1/2 miles. there is not a single horse in america who could have even finished both of those races. black caviar traveled half way around the world and ran injured on a soft track she had never experienced before and she still won. my hat is off to her.
Hoarse Whisperer More than 1 year ago
Mike, you write (and handicap) as if consistency were a thing to take for granted with stakes horses. Why? Many Sheets players weren't surprised at the poor races from Contested and Believe You Can because the first filly was coming off a pair of big #s with little rest, while the other was coming off a big jump in figures. Not every filly with those patterns bounces, but lots do, even if they get a nice trip and pace. Those two were clearly faster than the others going into the race, so it looked like a difficult race to predict. But if you want, go ahead and wonder if these two fillies really wern't so good before. That way, when they give an indication of good form returning, you and your readers will ignore them and their prices will be jucier. Did Rachael Alexandra's troubles at age 4 mean that her performances at 3 were some kind of illusion? Of course not. Change happens. And it happens so routinely in racing that I'm suprised it still surprises you.
Bill Kaup More than 1 year ago
Well, I wouldn't be too harsh on Nolen. Now that we know the horse tore her quadriceps and obviously was not able to put forth her best effort it seems that Nolen was aware there was something amiss with Black Caviar and didn't want to extend her anymore than he had to. As far as Belmont's rail on Saturday goes it certainly wasn't the place to be. I am surprised the jocks didn't make an effort to get to the outside of the track {when they were able to do so}. Let's see what happens next time they get together....if there is a next time.
Kimberly Shugars More than 1 year ago
I knew it was only a matter of time before one of Hard Spun's babies got a grade 1 win. I've been a big fan of Zo Impressive all along. Hard not to Like also. She fought like a trooper for that win.Also a fan of Believe You Can. I think Larry Jones is one of the best horseman in the business. She sure did not seem like herself on Saturday. Belmonts a tough track, lots of horses don't like it and given the conditions on Saturday it may have been especially tiring. I did think they all looked very tired at the end of the Mother Goose. Regarding Black Cavier, She barely eeked it out, didnt she? I thought this was the best chance ever for her to get beat, mainly because of the soft course at Ascot on Saturday. She looked uncomfortable the whole way and those other two were gaining like gangbusters on her. Now we know she not only didnt like the course but she was injured, tearing back muscles. All I can say is she won, likely her last race and proved she is one of the best. I'm sure all of Australia can't wait to get her home, she did them proud.
Mike Rutledge More than 1 year ago
The difference between Nolan and other jocks mentioned here is that HE WON THE RACE.
Mike Bilinskas More than 1 year ago
What Nolen did was bad, but the riders in the US do far worse things everyday and are never called out for it.
William Hubbell More than 1 year ago
My comment is to Mike Watchmaker.........regarding McCririck......since when is being "honest" and "filling air time" over the top?
Yuwipi More than 1 year ago
The more 3 yr old fillies winning spring and early summer stakes the better for me Mike. I much prefer the Alabama to come up with a juicy field of possible contenders rather than a field of 6 with a 4-5 and a few pretenders. Don't have either of the "racing channels" but thought this mutton chops guy was only trotted out for comic relief on Breeders Cup days. Find it hard to believe that someone is giving him a serious podium to do his vaudeville act.