09/27/2008 11:01PM

Neither Rain Nor Rubber

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Despite slop and yielding turf at Belmont and the new Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita, Saturday's record 11 Grade 1 stakes at the two tracks were generally formful affairs, with 6 of the 11 going to favorites and 9 of the 11 won at 3-1 or less. The only jokers in the deck were the two sprint races, with Black Seventeen scoring at 23-1 in the Vosburgh and Cost of Freedom, claimed for $50k two starts back, upending three G1 winners to win the Ancient Title at nearly 6-1. Four of the six favorites sent off at even-money or less came through (Curlin, Zenyatta, Wait a While, Stardom Bound) while Ginger Punch (Beldame) and Mauralakana (Flower Bowl) both finished second.

I sat outside at Belmont to get what might have been a final look at Curlin, at least outside of Los Angeles or Tokyo, the likeliest venues for his next start. It sounds like his connections are at least thinking about running over Pro-Ride in the BC Classic. Personally, I'd rather see him try the Japan Cup Dirt, which would be groundbreaking and make him a winner of the year's biggest real-dirt races on three continents (Dubai World Cup, JC Gold Cup, Japan Cup Dirt). But the chorus of people claiming he'd be "ducking" Big Brown, and the muscle of a Breeders' Cup board intent on validating its controversial decision to run the next two Classics over a new synthetic surface, may yet sway his owners from their initial sensible stand.

Curlin received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure, subject to review, of 111 for his second straight JCGC, beating runnerup-to-the-stars (Invasor, Bernardini, Lawyer Ron, Curlin) Wanderin Boy by three-quarters of a length. The Belmont figures look pretty straightforward for the second half of the card: The preliminary Beyers for the other G1's are 99 for Cocoa Beach, 104 for Dynaforce, 108 for Black Seventeen and 112 for Grand Couturier (who won by 10 1/4 lengths.)

The Oak Tree figures aren't up yet and could be troublesome, not just because of possible fluctuations in the speed of Pro-Ride but because of the vastly different paces of Saturday's two G1 10-furlong grass races.

On the main track, Zenyatta's 1:40.30 winning the Lady's Secret comes up a length or two better than Well Armed's 1:47.11 in the Goodwood, but it's also quite possible she's just better than the California-based older males. As for the turf races, it's unlikely that Red Giant and Out of Control are really 12 lengths faster than Wait a While despite their time of 1:57.16 as opposed to her 1:59.16. The come-home times are a lot closer, though. The pace of the Clement Hirsch was a scorching 1:08.86/1:32.88 as opposed to the 1:12.31/ 1:35.63 of the Yellow Ribbon.

Red Giant and Wait a While are both trained by Todd Pletcher, who was previously 1 (Monba) for 27 in G1 races this year after winning 17 such events in both 2006 and 2007. He also won Saturday's G2 Hawthorne Gold Cup with Fairbanks.

There's a lot to digest in today's results, but for now it looks like Zenyatta -- undefeated and improving while she stays that way -- could be the biggest favorite on the entire Breeders' Cup program. She toyed with Hystericalady today, Ginger Punch lost, and Music Note has yet to run a race in Zenyatta's current territory. Zenyatta will get an additional sixteenth of a mile to work with in the Ladies' Classic, and she's proved she can run on anything, including Pro-Ride.

And it looks like the male sprint division, especially after the Ancient Title and Vosburgh results, is in complete disarray. Unless someone really steps up, Benny the Bull could well end up the titleist despite suffering a career-ending injury in July.

On the wagering front, I played the stakes-related pick-4's at Belmont, Oak Tree, Hawthorne and Turfway and had all the little ones that didn't pay for themselves while missing the healthy ones thanks to Wise River in the Carey at Hawthorne and Black Seventeen in the Vosburgh. I know Black Seventeen had a competitive race on wet dirt at Calder last summer, but after desperately needing him to win the restricted Pirate's Bounty Stakes on closing day at Del Mar and watching him fail despite a loose lead, I had trouble liking him to outduel the likes of Fantastic Strike in a G1 race.

Finally, here's the new list of the highest earners in racing history who have made at least one start in North America:

Flipper Dawson More than 1 year ago
Secret Play rules coming in time for BC Day. With multiple DD's rolling all day, there should be 1-4 winners with this method. The large fan count will guarantee a higher price than normal. Several bloggers are using it now, with success. Works at all tracks where you can get the DD will-pays. Stay tuned.
Virgin Queen More than 1 year ago
FLIPPER_DAWSON, good 2 c u posting again.buffalo joe told me u were busy with work i think.u never explained 2 the blog your secret play i.e the late dd.now your working on the super high 5 great i c your a man 4 all seasons.if u think u have the high 5 nailed wensday plz let the u.s. gov know so they can use the payoff 2 wards the 700 billion bail out 4 wall street
dan c More than 1 year ago
Why do you people really think BB has any chance. He is too slow. His beyer, tom, sheets etc are all too slow to win. He is running against a bias against the best horses he has ever seen after traveling half way around the country. He has no chance, remember I told you. Even if Curlin stays home this 3 yr old in a crop of the worst 3 yr old's maybe in history has no chance. I cant believe any rational pro gambler could pick him when every number points to him running out. I am not trying to be mean but numbers in big races usually dont lie. Especially in the classic. Has any horse ever won the classic with beyers that low??? I sure cant remember any, well at least any that were not 100-1. And he doesnt get steriods either.
jim More than 1 year ago
Breaktime, Im looking at Tiago to upset. Not that sure of the distance for him but over this poly stuff at least he is proven. The few times i saw him run last year he had some tough trips, but he may be rounding into form and could spring the upset.
breaktime More than 1 year ago
Steve, don't the distance and class requirements of the BC Classic make it fairly easy to identify the contenders and pretenders, this year? Isn't this where were supposed to keep our eye on the prize? Brown will control the race tactically, and his only concern - tactically - will be Curlin. Curlin can be tactically beaten if Brown can force him into running faster in the 3rd and 4th quarters than he normally might like. If Brown establishes control early with a 22 or 22 and change 1st, he can take an early breather in the 2nd, hitting the 1/2 in 46 or 46 and change. If able to do this, Brown will probably have taken the upper hand. It is the 3rd and 4th quarters that Brown can win the race. After a getting a slight breather in the 2nd quarter, Brown should turn it up a notch in the following 2 quarters, forcing Curlin to have to go a bit faster than usual in order to stay in touch, something for his style that he must do. This has the effect of making Curlin's late kick a little more ordinary, which is the whole point. This is important because it will allow Brown the opportunity to respond to Curlin when Curlin engages him in the stretch (as opposed to Curlin running right by him), and make no mistake, Curlin will get even with Brown, but the Brown will have enough left on Class and Ability to re-break, find another gear, and repel the challenge - and that's exactly what I think will happen if Kent uses his tactical advantage in the first 4 quarters. This scenerio opens the door for a true closer like Tiago, who had an eye-opening prep. He will, under this scenerio, be eating up ground faster than anyone in deep stretch, and I believe that after fending off Curlin, Brown will have to hold off the late-charging Tiago. I think he does by half a length, with Curlin only a length back of Tiago. If Commentator enters the race - and he should - Brown may be compromised just enough in the 2nd quarter (although his overall strategy should not change) that Tiago might nail Curlin and Brown in a 3-way photo. 1. Tiago is a GRI winner this year 2. Tiago likes the track, even if hot and cuppy (no small matter)- Tiago is proven on the surface, unlike Brown or Curlin, possibly making him the most certifiable runner who fits on class and distance 3. Tiago will relish 1 and 1/4 miles with a fast pace 4. The tactical decision that Brown's team MUST make (to beat Curlin)ultimately hurts Curlin, but helps Tiago, even w/o Commentator 5. Commentator presence hurts Brown, helps Curlin to a degree, and favors Tiago.
Wayne80 More than 1 year ago
What does Zenyatta have to gain from running in the Distaff? $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ This is by far the biggest purse she will ever have a chance to win. Mares do not have the big pot of gold at the end of their career that the Boyz do.
Justin More than 1 year ago
Other than Zenyatta I thought Grand Couturier and Stardom Bound won real easy, also Zanjero ran big, not sure if if was the great trip or he's getting right, at the right time, he may be worth a play at a good price, also Fatal Bullet ran lights out.
Walt More than 1 year ago
To correct: As of now, ABC is showing the first four BC events from 1:00-3:30 PM ET before its regularly scheduled college football game at 3:30. ESPN has the last five BC races from 3:30-7:00 PM ET on Saturday. Especially now that Curlin and Big Brown are scheduled to face each other in the Classic, what I would be lobbying for if I were at BC Ltd. (and if necessary, paying Disney through the nose) is to move back Friday's BC telecast on ESPN2 to 6:00-9:00 PM ET/3:00-6:00 PM PT (ahead of the scheduled college football game on ESPN2 between Boise State and San Jose State) and then switch around the Saturday schedule, with the first five BC events on ESPN in the scheduled 3:30-7:00 PM ET/12:30-4:00 PM PT slot and the last four on ABC from 7:00-9:30 PM ET/4:00-6:30 PM PT (switching ABC's window from it's scheduled 1:00-3:30 PM ET window) following the regularly scheduled college football game that if necessary I would move up to 3:00 PM ET (from 3:30 ET) so that ABC stations got 6:30-7:00 PM ET for local news before ABC's portion of the BC were to air in a 7:00-9:30 PM ET window (and in turn, ABC's Saturday night college football window begins at 9:30 PM ET with most likely it being a regional telecast of Texas Tech at Kansas (which would be an 8:30 PM local time kickoff) and USC at Arizona, with the likely current scheduled prime time game, Penn State-Ohio State switched to a 3:00 or 3:30 PM kickoff before the BC telecast on ABC. That to me could work.
buffalo joe More than 1 year ago
Flipper- Glad to see you back, I was expecting to see something from you after Saratoga closed for the season. Sorry to hear of the diabetes problem, just watch your diet,(no more sweets) start a good jogging program, and you will be good to go. Also nix on he "Blue". I'll be expecting some help on Wed. nights WO card. I screwed up on the secret play in the last a FE Mon.I should have made a little score, but got stubborn. Stay healthy friend.
AndyScoggin More than 1 year ago
All Directv gang, TVG is back to 602!