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Queen Elizabeth II Stakes: Prep for Mile or Classic?
Conventional wisdom has it that the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, which will be run at Ascot on Saturday, is the most important European trial for the Breeders' Cup Mile. Both races are run at that distance, and timingwise the QEII is perfectly scheduled, coming five to seven weeks before the Mile.
But that is not the case on two counts. First, the most informative European prep for the Mile is Deauville's Prix Jacques Le Marois. Second, in recent years the Queen Elizabeth II has emerged as a more important prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic than the Mile.
That may be the case again this year as the defending QEII titleholder Rip Van Winkle could opt for the Classic just as he did last year after his Ascot heroics. Of course, it is difficult to predict which way his trainer Aidan O'Brien will go, especially before the QEII is run. In keeping all options open, Rip Van Winkle's run at Ascot on Saturday must be seen as a prep for both the Mile and the Classic. Depending on how he performs and what other horses O'Brien has lined up for those two races. "Rip", whom O'Brien defines as "a miler who stays a mile and a quarter," was only tenth in last year's Classic on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface, but European horses have done well historically on the Churchill Downs dirt.
Coolmore likes to have a runner in the Classic, as it enhances the breeding value of any European horse that can finish in the first three. At this stage, Coolmore has Fame and Glory penciled in for the Turf, and a number of possibilities for the Mile, among them Rip Van Winkle, Steinbeck and perhaps even Starspangledbanner, the sprinter who won a Group 1 mile in his native Australia. For the Classic, Coolmore must be consideraing Rip Van Winkle and the lightly raced Await the Dawn, a Giant's Causeway colt out of a mare by Dixieland Band who won the 1 1/4-mile, Group 3 Kilternan Stakes by 8 lengths at Leopardstown on Sept. 4.
Steinbeck is scheduled to join Rip Van Winkle in the the QEII lineup on Saturday along with French 2000 Guineas and Prix Jacques Le Marois winner Makfi, who is pointing to the Mile, and Irish 2000 Guineas, St. James''s Palace and Sussex Stakes winner Canford Cliffs, who is not under consideration for the Mile or any other Cup race.
Nothing will be certain about any of their Breeders' Cup plans until after the the race, but it might be revealing to see which way previous QEII runners went and how they fared in their Cup races.
No Queen Elizabeth II Stakes winner has ever won the Breeders' Cup Mile. Eight have tried and all have failed. In 1985 Shadeed finished fourth in the Mile. In 1987 Milligram was thirteenth. In 1989 Warning was sixth. In 1990 Markofdistinction was seventh. Bigstone was sixth in 1993. Mark of Esteem was seventh in 1996, and Desert Prince fourteenth in 1998, since when no QEII winner has even tried the Mile.
There is a rather simple reason for their failures. The QEII is run on the one-turn mile course at Ascot which is all uphill for the first 5 furlongs. This has the effect of turning the race into a stamina contest more reminiscent of a 9-furlong race in America. Generally speaking, it is nice to see a European horse prepping for the Mile honed for speed. The QEII does not offer that opportunity.
Goldikova was honed for speed last year when she used the 7-furlong Prix de la Foret as her Mile prep. She didn't win the race but in finishing a close third she set herself up perfectly for a fast-run American mile. The two-time defending Breeders' Cup Mile champ will use the Foret as her prep once again this year at Longchamp on Oct. 3.
Three horses have vaulted from second-place finishes to win the Mile, most notably Miesque in 1987. She was followed by Barathea in 1994 and Ridgewood Pearl a year later. Miesque was a filly for whom a mile was her optimum distance and the QEII probably proved too "long" for her. A year later she used the less testing Prix du Moulin de Longchamp as her Mile prep despite the fact that it came two months before the Mile.
The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes was not used as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic until 2000. That year Aidan O'Brien sent his QEII runner-up Giant's Causeway to the Classic at Churchill Downs. The son of Storm Cat and Mariah's Storm had already won three Group 1 races going 1 1/4 miles on turf and might have won the Classic had not Michael Kinane gotten fouled up in changing whip hands in mid-stretch. As it was, Giant's Causeway finished a neck second to Tiznow and has become a grand success standing at stud for Coolmore in Kentucky.
O'Brien tried the same trick with QEII runner-up Hawk Wing in 2002, but the 1 1/4-mile Eclipse Stakes winner could only manage seventh in the Classic behind Volponi at Arlington Park.
The Queen Elizabeth II as a Classic trial blossomed in 2008 at Santa Anita when the QEII one-two, Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator filled the same two places in the Classic. They may well have been taking advantage of the synthetic surface at Santa Anita, one that has proved more amenable to turf horses than to dirt horses, but the fact remains that over the last ten years, QEII runners in the Classic have a record of one win and two seconds from five starts. During the same period QEII runners have a record of two seconds from six starts in the Mile. Both of those runners-up were trained by O'Brien, Antonius Pius in 2004 and Excellent Art in 2007.
European-trained horses have a good record in Classics run at Churchill Downs since 1998 when Swain was an unlucky thrid behind Awesome Again and Silver Charm, followed by the equally unlucky second of Giant's Causeway two years later. Rest assured that the Coolmore braintrust will be sifting through the result of Saturday's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes for any possible evidence that might suggest victory in the Classic.
BLOODHORSE feature article 1/14/09 IF I WAS A HORSEMAN??? If I was a horseman I would know that unbalanced Thoroughbred Racehorses breakdown. I would look at finish line videos and see that almost every American trained Thoroughbred Racehorse runs slightly slanted to the left, unbalanced in its action and stride. If I was a horseman I would know or learn how to balance a racehorse. I would know that it is impossible to produce balanced racehorses training and racing left-turn only. If I was a horseman I would not allow exercise riders or jockeys to ride acey-ducey; putting their weight slightly off center on my racehorses back, adding to unbalancing my Thoroughbred Racehorses. Nor would I allow exercise riders to hold a neck strap or martingale (bib) and a rein in one hand pulling my racehorse’s heads unnaturally to one side contributing to unbalancing my racehorses. If I was a horseman I would know that the Seven (7) minutes maximum the average American Thoroughbreds racehorse spends on the training track is not enough training time for developing the bone, ligament, tendon densities plus heart and lung strength necessary to withstand racing’s pressures. If I was a horseman I would know or learn what type of track work is needed to develop the correct bone, ligament, tendon densities plus heart and lung development that produces sound, non-bleeding racehorses able to withstand racing’s pressures. I would study the training schedules of old-time trainers during the days of America’s drug free iron racehorses who raced every 7 to14 days, started 20 times as 2yo’s and stayed sound for an average 100-plus lifetime starts who breezed their horses 2 or 3 times per week and I would study the training charts of modern leading Australian trainers who breeze their racehorses 2 or 3 times per week, sometimes their full race distance. I would know that breezing only once a week does not provide enough race specific exercise to keep my horse’s race-fit, sound and not bleeding. I would know that harmful unnecessary, legal race day drugs like anabolics, lasix (salix), glenbuterol, bute, injecting joints with steroids are negatively affecting my racehorses health and racing longevity plus these destructive drugs allow non-caring owners and trainers to run half-fit, unsound racehorses instead of turning them out letting nature heal them as nature intended. If I was a horseman I would walk my horses for 15-30 minutes BEFORE they go on the training track starting a correct and necessary warm up process. If I was a horseman I would slow jog my racehorses for at least a half-mile BEFORE they workout to continue a correct and necessary warm up process and I would slow jog my racehorses for a mile AFTER they workout, providing a correct and necessary lactic acid flush of their musculature systems. If I was a horseman I would sand roll my racehorses after every workout, before they are hosed off or washed so that they would not roll in their stalls, casting and injuring themselves unnecessarily? If I was a horseman I would hot-walk my racehorses to the left on the day they worked right turn and I would hot-walk my racehorses to the right on the day they worked left turn to help prevent arthritic back and neck conditions that affect far too many left-turn only American Thoroughbred Racehorses. If I was a horseman I would know that tree-less exercise saddles cause the sore backs prevalent in far too many American Thoroughbred Racehorses. I would know that when a rider stands up in the stirrups for slow gallops he or she is forcing my Thoroughbred Racehorses to work off the forequarter (pounding the ground), that if the riders sit down in the saddle they would help my Thoroughbred Racehorses work off their hindquarters, developing more driving power and helping keep them sound. If I was a horseman I would know that a horse (or human) standing unnaturally still and stiff in a tight physically destructive space (racetrack stall) for 23 hours per day is susceptible to arthritic conditions. I would know that a horse needs an hour afternoon walk in the sun to keep it limbs mobile and to receive some of the vital natural vitamin-D that helps keep racehorses sound and healthy. If I was a horseman I would provide small sun-yards (or pens) for my racehorses so that weather permitting they would spend a second hour in the sun, receiving more vital natural vitamin-D that definitely helps keep my racehorses sound, healthy, not-bleeding and helps keep racehorses horses from suffering the terrible boredom of 23 hours locked in far too small unventilated racetrack stalls continually breathing in virus and bacteria laden air. If I was a horseman I would not overfeed and under work my racehorses. If I was a horseman I would provide good clean dust free hay, clean water and fresh-cut green-chop for my racehorses. If only I was really a horseman??? E. Abraham Ola email@example.com Florida Farm Owner, Equine Performance Science Research Pioneer and International Racing Consultant AMERICAN HORSERACING IS IN TROUBLE “UNNESSARILY” America is the only major horseracing nation not using the ONLY internationally proven promotion that brings new people to racetracks and keeps them coming back. The nations using this proven promotion have 25% plus of their total general populations interested in horseracing; while less than 2% of America’s general population is interested in horseracing. Modern Americans are far more interested in the humane treatment of animals than their predecessors where. American racing must understand that modern Americans will not develop any interest in an animal based sport where they know the animals are drugged (all drugs Steroids, Lasix, Glenbuterol, Bute, Anabolics, etc) to train and race, overly whipped and have far too short racing careers. America is the only major racing nation not racing both ways around over a variety of racetrack shapes or designs. Equine performance science research has proven that racing and training both ways around will lesson breakdowns possible as much as 50%. Almost every American racetrack is a flat oval, dirt or artificial outside, grass inside, left turn racing only and sprint race dominated programs. American horseracing is Boring!!! If you ask the average American, he or she will tell you American horseracing is Boring! Racing should be conducted for its fans and potential fans. America is one of the only two major racing nations using a show bet. In all the other major racing nations the place bet covers 2nd and 3rd place finishers. America’s gaming wins are taxed twice. Drag car, Quarter Horse and Greyhound racing have never been popular and never will be because their races are over too quick to allow American fans necessary time to get emotionally involved in each race while NASCARS multi hour 3 to 500-mile races are popular with the American public. The successful racing nations (25% + general population interest) have an average race distance of 9 furlongs (1800 meters) or longer, while America’s (2% - general population interest) average race distance is 6¼ Furlongs (1250 meters), which does not allow American horseracing spectators necessary time to get emotionally involved in most horse races. The most internationally successful horse races both thoroughbred (flat races) and standardbred are 2 to 2½-mile races. Australia’s one 2-mile Melbourne Cup draws greater on course and international interest and betting handle than does the entire two days of America’s Breeders Cup races. Life is not a sprint race, life is a distance race and distance racing is naturally more interesting to most people. America’s racing movers and shakers need to watch the international races on TVG/HRTV particularly Royal Ascot, Arc de Triomphe week, Japan Cup day, Sydney and Melbourne Cup days, etc to see what constitutes interesting, drug free horseracing. The far too few Americans who visit a racetrack rightly expect to see the racehorses they might bet on warm up before a race instead racehorses are hidden from their vision behind totally unnecessary lead ponies. A second negative to America’s unnecessary unsightly lead ponies is that American racehorses are not sufficiently warmed up for their races. Horseracing should consider doing away with morning line odds, every horse starting at 25 to 1, letting betting fans make true odds on their selections, because first time, mostly last time racetrack attendees not knowing what to bet will mostly go with morning line favorites, which usually loose, giving those people the idea that the racetrack may be inducing them to bet false favorites. Too end the apparent certain future demise of American horse racing, American horseracing must end the tragedy of ALL legal race day drugs, terminate the careers of trainers found drugging racehorses, end whipping of racehorses, end dull left handed only sprint filled race programs, institute a fair and interesting betting system and implement the one proven international promotion that really works at bringing new fans to racetracks and keeps them coming back. America’s racetracks have hired the best advertising minds available, using every idea they have and they have failed to increase fan attendance. How many free cups, umbrellas and caps do you give away and how many on course, rock and country concerts do you put on before you realize these things which are ineffective replacements for interesting racing and effective race promotion, do not work! The overpaid unimaginative executives of GM, Ford and Chrysler have lead their once hugely successful companies to the brink of collapse and the people who run American horseracing are doing the same thing. Japan’s auto execs have succeeded beyond their wildest expectations in America because the Japanese unlike the Detroit’s big three gives the American car buying public what it (the US car buyer) wants in an automobile! American horseracing would succeed IF and only IF it ever does the same thing; give Americans interesting race programs, a fair betting system and prospective American racing fans come to know that racehorses are treated humanely. Japan’s horseracing execs have in the past 30 years created the world’s most successful horseracing system by giving Japanese fans what they want in horseracing and betting; and by using the only promotion that brings new fans to racetracks and keeps them coming back. “Go Baby Go,” was the NTRA’s sole solution for developing new fans for American horseracing??? As an American who has worked with racehorses internationally and was partner in a successful advertising firm, I have to say for all the money the NTRA has spent, they should have done better, much better!!! And America’s horseracing fan base keeps declining!!! E. Abraham Ola Florida Farm Owner/ Equine Performance Science Research Pioneer/International Racing Consultant. firstname.lastname@example.org THOROUGHBRED RECORD feature article 2/14/09 MINOR LEAGUE HORSERACING Owning a minor league baseball team is one of professional sport’s most successful financial investments. Baseball is popular because many of us played baseball as young people, some of us play softball in senior leagues. Minor league baseball has helped increase major league baseball’s fan base by bringing quality baseball to smaller cities and towns to people not close enough to major cities with major league teams. If baseball, football, or basketball was played in the same stadium, five-days-per-week, for six months or more of every year; local fans would quickly tire of their favorite professional sports. Free agency, pure financial greed and lack of commitment to one team, has hurt the image of our pro-sports sports stars. If our professional sports stars retired after only one or two seasons, those sports would suffer an even greater decline in fan interest and attendance would fall off. America a nation of 200-million plus has 100 thoroughbred racetracks, Australia a nation of less than 30-million has over 400 thoroughbred racetracks (not one racino) and building more. Forty years ago America had 220 racetracks, today about 100 and that figure continues to decline. More than twenty five percent (25%+) of Australia’s general population are horseracing fans while less than two percent (2%-) of our American population are horseracing fans. In today’s mechanical age most modern Australians like most modern Americans have little to no association with horses; so why is horseracing far more popular with the Australian public? Because almost every small town in Australia has a racetrack where a once monthly race day is held; locals enjoy that occasional day at the races, developing an interest in horseracing naturally leading to an interest in major league horseracing. Drug free Australian horse racing, which ours should be, is far more popular with Australia’s big city dwellers than with America’s big city dwellers because in Australia’s cities they race year round but only two-days-per-week of top quality racing, Saturdays and Wednesdays plus the occasional added racing day on public holidays. More than two days per week and most Australians like most Americans would tire of horseracing. Sydney, like most Australian cities has four racetracks, Randwick, Rosehill Gardens, Warwick Farm and Canterbury, spread out around the city. Each individually, uniquely designed racetrack has a race day every two weeks bringing racing to local Sydney area citizens. Each racetrack has at least four training tracks, Randwick has seven training tracks. Training, racing and betting facilities are far superior to what we have here in America. Racehorses are vanned across town for their races, plus there are numerous country tracks around Sydney and throughout New South Wales where racing is conducted occasionally and trainers ship out for those race days as well. Because trainers and racetrack workers are permanent residents of their local communities they are able to live decent family lives and have the respect of their local communities. Watch Australian racing on TVG/HRTV and you will see training tracks at country racetracks and private racing stables around each country racecourse. Some of Australia’s leading trainers train at country racetracks or at country training centers. One definite reason for the far greater popularity of drug free horseracing with Australia’s general popularity is their minor league of racetracks across Australia bringing racing to local residents, where they develop their interest in horseracing. Plus they do not have five days of racing, day in and day out at the same racetrack which is too much racing in each city or town that over time bores local residents. This is a real big reason why American horseracing is not anywhere near as successful as it could or should be. Using my state of Florida as a example what Florida needs in order to implement successful “drug free” horseracing is to construct new small unique minor league racetracks near Orlando, near several larger east coast and pan handle cities, that each feature one race day per week, Tampa should race one or two days at most per week, year round. Gulfstream, Calder and a resurrected Hialeah should each race one day per week, year round, plus Florida needs a separate world class training center patterned after Japan’s “Miho or Ritto” training centers, where all Florida’s racehorses should be trained. This training center, like Japan’s “Miho or Ritto” must feature real racehorse training facilities like multiple right and left handed training tracks of various surfaces, uphill gallops, swimming pool, free walkers at every barn, a sports medicine rehabilitation center, equine hospital, large ventilated single row stalls, small sun yards for every horse, turn out paddocks and motel type housing for racetrack workers. The same model should be implemented in every American racing state. Eliminating physically destructive racehorse stabling at racetracks, selling that land for development would more than pay for this training facility and for vanning racehorses to each track for racing. Japan has over the past thirty years developed the world’s most successful drug free horseracing industry by copying then modernizing Australia’s racing industry blueprint, plus they developed their two extraordinary training centers “Ritto & Miho” where all Japan Racing Association (JRA) racehorses are trained. Added to the fact that minor league racetracks and limiting race days creates a real general population interest in horseracing, Australia, Japan and all the twenty-five-percent-plus (25%+) nations use the one internationally proven racing promotion that brings new fans to racetracks and keeps them coming back, we here in America do not use it, we have never even tried it!!! Years ago I presented this promotion to the man I considered the most imaginative, creative racetrack manager in America. He said it was the best idea he had ever seen and asked me to implement it at his major league racetrack. His unimaginative, uncreative racetrack owners, because it had not been tried in America would not agree to finance what to them was a new idea, never mind I showed them how well it works every place it is used and how it would have increased their racetrack’s attendance figures substantially, they refused to be the first in America to try it. America’s horseracing execs, like Detroit’s unimaginative auto execs will likely not make the necessary changes to our horseracing system until it is too late to save our American horseracing industry. E. Abraham Ola email@example.com 352-465-749
What do you think of the reconfigured British Pattern races for fall 2011? (I am opposed to moving the Champion Stakes away form Newmarket to Ascot. As a straight race it has always provided a particular test available only at Newmarket. Moving it to Ascot makes it a carbon copy of the Prince of Wales's Stakes. This is not a good idea, but the big boys at Ascot have gotten the ear of these marketing people at Racing For Change. This is not the kind of change that racing needs in Britain or anywhere else. Imagine moving the Belmont Stakes to Churchill Downs or the Jockey Club Gold Cup to Keeneland. That's what they are doing to the Champion Stakes.) AS
Alan , No I didn't know how BG got his name. Horses names can be interesting stories in themselves. Thanks for the response to my question. Good luck to you this weekend. BSB
Alan , Very nice piece. I'll give the Giant bonus points for the way he handled being abused by the assistant starters before the race and coming out of the 14 hole to be placed in 3rd where he liked to be and making a serious challenge on a surface he wasn't used to but he didn't lose because he was unlucky he had every chance to get past a horse with more heart than him and couldn't do it . Same goes for Sakhee. Hell of a horse though. Swain wasn't unlucky either, he was rode badly and might have won that if not . Silver Charm was also rode badly in that one. I made a lot of money that day but my swain/charm exactas were losers because of bad rides not bad luck. Swain was also a hell of a horse. All that being said I don't see any Giant's or Swains this year and Silver Charm and Tiznow while very game horses were by no means in Zenyatta's league. The only way Z is losing is if she's sponged like Lost in the Fog (nerf football shaped tumor, More like nerf football shaped nerf football ) I'd be sleeping in Z's Barn if I was Sheriffs . CD is where they invented sponging not to mention mysterious skin rashes etc. The home of DR. Derby Alex Harthill the admitted cheater that gave Northern Dancer Lasix before his Derby. I'm sure he passed on the secrets of his dirty tricks before he retired or died. Remember what Jimmy Croll said about Holy Bull ? I know Lost in the Fog ran at Belmont but they had detention barns there where somebody could get to him. I'm not paranoid , just smart and well versed. The game we love can be pretty shady especially when there is hundreds of millions in the pools. Most of the Biggest Ky. Derby longshots have come in the Tri/ Super/ computer age . Coincidence , I think not. Don't believe me ? check it out. Thats why I like cheap claimers where the cheaters are individuals not institutions. BTW, Did you ever see Brigadier Gerard ? He must have been something !! If so tell us about him. Thanks for the informative piece. Keep up the good work. BSB (No, I never saw Brigadier Gerard, but I have seen the film of his loss to Roberto in the first Benson & Hedges Gold Cup, now the Juddmonte International, when Braulio Baeza gave British riders a lesson in pace, putting Roberto on the lead and letting out a little more every time Brigadier Gerard came to him. By the way, do you know how Brigadier Gerard got his name? He was the title character in a series of comic short stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle after the author had grown weary of Sherlock Holmes. Gerard was a charming, headstrong colonel in the the Napoleonic army who was always getting himself out of tough scrapes. The complete stories are published by New York Review Books Classics.) AS
Just echoing Suzanne's comment so you know your information and take on foreign racing is much appreciated. Every time I see Bigstone on a list of failed mile entrants it brings back bad memories although he is not the only Euro whose hype I've bought into. Please keep feeding us as Breeders Cup day approaches.
Alan, First, thanks so much for keeping us informed about the European scene. I really value this information. Second, do you have any sense about the likely size of the European contingent for the Breeders' Cup compared with the past 2 yrs on synthetic? I was thinking they might not contest so many dirt races, but perhaps I'm wrong. Certainly the Marathon cries out for Europeans to give it some class! (Because the Cup is being run this year at Churchill Downs, a track like Belmont where Europeans had their best success before the synthetic age, I think the number of foreign runners this year will be comparable to the last two years, especially with two Japanese- Espoir City and Red Desire- coming. The Europeans should certainly dominate the Marathon, but this has been a so-so year for European stayers.) AS
For all the talk about how well the Euros do in the Classic at Churchill Downs, they have won exactly twice, both at Santa Anita.