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Quick Takes on Saturday's Action
Hard Spun, Tiago and Student Council all won their final Breeders' Cup Classic preps Saturday but my frst reaction is that I won't be backing any of them four weeks hence in the big dance at Monmouth Oct. 27.
Hard Spun's 1 1/4-length victory over Street Sense in the G2 Kentucky Cup Classic was hardly a stunning upset, not only because Street Sense was barely favored (at 0.80-1 vs. the winner's 0.90-to-1) but because the race unfolded exactly as a four-horse race with one speed horse might have been expected to: Hard Spun led at every call while Street Sense was taken totally out of his game pressing and chasing from the outset. In the real Classic, a bigger field, a faster pace and an extra furlong are very likely to reverse the order of finish.
Hard Spun ran his opening quarter in 24.45 (the slowest of five route races on the Turfway card), his opening half in 48.18, and finished the nine furlongs in 1:48.48, good for a career-best Beyer of 109. Street Sense earned a 107, slightly below his best, and perhaps encouraging if you consider that it was a lot better than his two previous Polytrack preps before major events: He ran an 87 in the Breeders' Futurity before popping a 108 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall, and a 93 in the Blue Grass this srping before a 110 in the Kentucky Derby.
As for Student Council, who followed his Pacific Classic upset last month with a 1 1/4-length victory over Jonesboro in Saturday's Hawthorne Gold cup, and Tiago, who won Saturday's G1 Goodwood in a desperate photo over Awesome Gem, they're both nice horses but they're just not running very quickly or beating anyone very good. (Don't be fooled by Tiago's time of 1:46.93 in the Goodwood; the new Cushion Track at Oak Tree is playing lightning-fast, including a Goodwood opening quarter of 22.79.) I haven't seen Beyers for their Saturday performances yet, but I'm guessing something in the low 100's for both Student Council and Tiago. Their common thread is Awesome Gem, beaten less than a length in both the Pacific Classic and the Goodwood and a horse who has done nothing to suggest he's in the same league as a Lawyer Ron, Street Sense, Hard Spun, Curlin or Any Given Saturday.
Quick takes on Saturday's other Breeders' Cup preps:
--Nashoba's Key ran her career record to 7-for-7 after running down Citronnade in the G1 Yellow Ribbon and could be favored in BC Filly & Mare Turf if no top Europeans come over for the race, especially after Wait a While's no-apparent-excuse defeat in the G1 Flower Bowl at Belmont Saturday. Nashoba's Key is obviously a very good filly, but Citronnade was the first top-quality rival she has beaten on the grass, and was a little suspect at the 10-furlong route going in.
Lahudood, the 21-1 winner of the Flower Bowl, won her first stakes race while benefitting from a rail-skimming trip under Alan Garcia to win a race where less than two lengths separated the first five finishers. Rosinka spent the entire race fending off Wait a While and did well to hold second.
--The G2 Kelso probably yielded a pair of BC Mile starters in the victorious Trippi's Storm and runner-up After Market, who finished well to miss by half a length while conceding nine pounds to the winner. (Why in the world is the Kelso, a race that is always going to get a full field as a BC Mile prep, still run as a handicap? Don't get me started.) Trippi's Storm, who had been fading late going longer, earned a Beyer of 104 for his mile in 1:32.36 over the parched turf. (If by any chance we have a rainy October in the east, a lot of the form established in recent months may go out the window. It seems like forever since there's been a grass stakes on anything but a hard course in New York.)
--The G1 Oak Leaf at Santa Anita wasn't pretty, with Cry and Catch Me holding on by a diinishing nose in an uninspiring 1:42.91, but the winner deserves more than a little extra credit. She had to fight early with a rank The Golden Noodle, fend off upper-stretch challenges from Gentle Audrey and Tasha's Miracle, and then turn back a surging Izarra at the wire. Cry and Catch Me was making only her third career start while stretching out from 5 1/2 to 8 1/2 furlongs.
Farther up the west coast, a longshot possibility for the BC Juvenile Fillies may have emerged at Emerald Downs when Smarty Deb ran her record to 4-for-4 beating colts by three lengths in the $100k Gottstein Futurity, the northwest's premier juvenile race. No, she's not by Smarty Jones, whose first foals are still yearlings, but by Smart Strike.
--The other Kentucky Cup races, which in the past have produced BC winners such as Vindication and Cajun Beat, seem unlikely to have a similar impact this year. The two juvenile races earned low figures (a 71 for the Juvenile Fillies won by Sky Mom and a 79 for the Juvenile won by Texas Fever), as did the Sprint, where favored Piratesonthelake won a three-way photo in 1:09.09 that translated to a Beyer of 93. The card may have yielded a BC Distaff starter in Danzon, who won her first start on anything but grass by five lengths in the Kentucky Cup Distaff. Danzon, a 4-year-old by Royal Academy, was third beaten just a length to males in the G1 Woodford Reserve on Derby Day but is at her best at the nine furlongs of the BC Distaff rather than the 11 furlongs of the BC F&M Turf.
--Etched, a Darley homebred by Forestry and BC Distaff winner Unbridled Elaine, made a highly impressive debut in Saturday's fifth race at Belmont. The big 2-year-old colt swallowed the leaders on the turn, blew out his lead from 1 1/2 to 8 lengths during a fifth furlong in 11.96, and coasted home a 6 3/4-length winner in 1:09.72, good for a strong debut Beyer of 90.
--The Leopard, a disappointing fifth in the Futurity last time out, won his grass debut in Belmont's fourth, the ungraded $81k Pilgrim Stakes, and will make his next start in the new BC Juvenile Turf Oct. 26. The $2.5 million Storm Cat-Moon Safari 2-year-old got a dream setup, strolling to the lead in a five-horse field in 24.82, 49.17 and 1:13.89 and then flying home, if the timer was working correctly, with a final five-sixteenths in 27.72.
--One race earlier, 42 percent of the remaining Belmont SHOWdown contest entries went up in flames when 1-2 favorite Indian War Dance ran fourth in a field of five. That result eliminated 732 players, leaving just 881 live entries from an initial field of 2,724 after just 4 of 20 days.
--Sunday brings five more Grade 1 races, all of them major Breeders' Cup preps: the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, Beldame and Vosburgh at Belmont, and the Norfolk at Oak Tree. The four Belmont races will be shown live on a two-hour ESPN telecast scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. EST.
The Sunday card at Belmont also marks the debut of dime superfectas in New York on both live and simulcast races. Due to the needs-to-be-changed rule requiring eight starters and no coupled entries in superfecta races, the live dime supers will only be conducted on races 6, 7 and 11 Sunday -- the Vosburgh and a pair of impossible turf sprints where penny supers might be necessary to nail the first four finishers.
Steve, Enjoy the blog. I follow your reasoning to some extent about most of these preps, but I disagree slightly with your take on what became a match race between Street Sense and Hard Spun...In the typical match race the speed horse gets loose on the lead running at fractions that are faster than the closer usually runs early on, and this forces the closer into a pace he is uncomfortable with. Yet in the KC Classic, HS set a tepid pace of 24.5 for the first 2 furlongs and 48.18 for the first 4 furlongs. Pino slowed HS down so much that I thought he might back up on SS at one point. How is making SS run these fractions taking him out of his game? I mean, I could understand if SS was forced to stalk off of fractions of 23.5 and 46 flat, but that was not the case...SS ran his first 2 furlongs in the Derby in 25 flat and his half mile in 48.2, almost exactly what the pace was in the KC Cup that he was up on. And the final 5 furlongs were run at increasingly faster fractions, again, something SS is familiar with. Another problem with your scenario is usually in match races between speed and a closer, the closer is closing in on the speed but can not catch him and the speed is saved by the wire...Not so here. From the top of the stretch to the finish line, HS gradually began pulling away from SS, from 1/2 length, to 3/4, to 1 length, to 1 and 1/4 lengths. That is atypical for a match race, not typical. In fact, had they went another furlong at that clip, HS would have won by almost 5 lengths. He won that race going away, although I will agree SS ran very well on Polytrack and is set up well for the Classic... And to tell you the truth, as a handicapper I love it that people may be jumping off of SS, he is still a top 3 pick of mine, trained by a master. But I am at a loss to understand your rationale for saying that there will be a faster pace in the Classic...Based on what? The longer the distance, the more measured the pace--and this year there is a complete void a strong speed runners, save Hard Spun. I cannot see any horse pressing HS for the lead. Considering that early crawl of a race, I thought HS finished well and only a fraction off the track record at that distance...What speed to you think will be forcing the issue on to Hard Spun at Monmouth? If pace pressure were to cook HS don't you think after running 6 panels at 1:08 and change (faster than Fab. Strike did Sunday) that he would have folded in the Kings Bishop in the final furlong and lost? After all, pace pressure is far more intense in those 6-7 f sprints than in will ever be in routes? That is just the nature of the beast. HS ran 18 other horses off of their feet in the Derby.
**** One race earlier, 42 percent of the remaining Belmont SHOWdown contest entries went up in flames when 1-2 favorite Indian War Dance ran fourth in a field of five. That result eliminated 732 players, leaving just 881 live entries from an initial field of 2,724 after just 4 of 20 days.*** ***** Steve: Here are Indian War Dance's last eight Beyers, starting in late April: 105, 93, 90, 102, 98, 100, 98, AND . . . 76. Did he run his worst Beyer in five months on Saturday? Yes! Was it a full 22 points worse than his average Beyer in that span? Yes! Did he manage, under a bent-on-getting-the-lead-at-any cost ride from the gate by Mike Luzzi, to stop as if he were shot and end up fourth in a five-horse field? Yes! Did he knock out ALL THREE of my Showdown entries? You bet! Two Showdown lessons learned: (1) You Must Have More Than One Entry, and (2) assuming you are live with two entries or more, Never Put All Eggs in One Basket. Worse weekend: Mike Luzzi's or Tom Glavine's?
Hi Steve: With English Channel and Lawyer Ron apparently being the cinch in their respective races, the pick six must feel like a pick 4 to you but can still offer a good value should couple of your C's shows up in other legs. So how do you plan to play your ticket this time? If you don't mind sharing :) Best, Arazi
Watching the KC Classic it was pretty obvious that Carl and Calvin weren't going to empty the tank catching Hard Spun Saturday but I wonder if they got what was needed in terms of conditioning. A 3yo colt like Street Sense is going to really start putting on weight this time of year and I will be very interested in his work pattern between now and BC day.
to STEEL, Try the trifecta key with your key horse in all 3 places with 4 other horses, only costs $36 on a $1 bet. Key/ABCD/ABCD ABCD/Key/ABCD ABCD/ABCD/Key Or in otherwords, this is a trifects key box!
The Classic could be one for the ages. Lawyer Ron supporters beware. You saw a horse today who was up to his old tricks, had everything his own way and still got beat on the square.
Great blog steve. With your great disdain for all of the 6 furlong grass sprints at the spa and belmont,. What would you think of a pick six that contained only 1 mile races on the main track at the spa? Eliminate post positions 6 thru 10 and build your ticket, tickets. Oops we dont run those anymore.
Damn, I was one of the 732 knocked out on Indian War Dance. But I was right that it took 4 days to lose roughly 75% of the field.
Hi Steve, The impressive Forestry/Unbridled Elaine Belmont winner yesterday is "Etched," not "Edged" i.e. etched in my mind as a colt to watch!!!!
Enjoy the blog very much, thanks for having it. Really agree with you on the recaps for Saturday like Hard Spun getting the easy lead, and even though I thought Street Sense should have run him down we all know he will be ready to fire down the lane in a month. I thought Izarra ran great to be second in the Oak Leaf while being very wide the whole way and closing well. Nashoba's Key was visually impressive as usual and she seems to keep getting better, I think she is the real deal and will be a major force next month. I have a random wagering question for you Steve: I find myself in a situation sometimes where there is a big field that is offering a lot of value, and there is one horse at big odds that I feel will hit the board, maybe even win. For example, in last year's breeders cup Sprint I loved Friendly Island even before the inside bias was obvious that day, the fact that he was going turf to dirt and looked as if he had learned to rate which he showed in the Forego got me really pumped. He was 50-1 and while I am not a $2.00 bettor by any means, I also don't have a huge bankroll to work with. I ended up placing a pretty good win place wager, and keyed him in a $1.00 exacta with the field first and second. Now I am not complaining because I came out extremely well that race, and I did try to box a trifecta with some others I liked like Pomeroy, Thor's Echo, and Too Much Bling. I actually almost hit it, but felt I could have been smarter in wagering the tri or even the super since I had a key horse that thought would hit the board. Just curious on your thoughts/advice on something like this. Hope all is well and good luck Sunday. -Steel