11/05/2010 9:10AM

Reporting From Churchill Downs On Breeders' Cup Friday


Greetings from Churchill Downs on Breeders' Cup Friday, where it is cold and now only partly cloudy, but at least the snow showers that were threatened never materialized.

One of the things I'm most interested in right now is how the main track will play today. Many who were here Wednesday and Thursday commented on how outside paths seemed to have a distinct advantage on the main track. But Churchill is a place that gained a justifiable reputation over the years of considerably tightening up it's main track a day or two before the Kentucky Derby. Here's hoping that a few screws were turned on the main track overnight, at least on the inside paths, because no one wants a biased surface on big race days like this.

I'll be back frequently during the course of the day with updates. In the meantime, it's "only" six hours until the first Breeders' Cup race, and that's the Marathon, one I know we have all been waiting impatiently for.

Update, 10:20 am - Crown of Thorns has been declared from tomorrow's BC Mile due to a reoccurring knee problem. This is a real shame as he was strictly the horse to beat in that race.

12:06 pm - I find the scratch of Rightly So from today's F&M Sprint frustrating for purely selfish reasons. Rightly So was the morning line favorite at 3-1, and while I don't think she would have gone off at quite that low a price, she still would have taken a lot of money. I didn't like her at all (because of the August layoff and the fact that her Ballerina win was bias-aided), and now with her out of the picture, there will be a lot of money around to drive down the prices on the horses I do like.

2:47 - It's hard to tell after the first two races about how the main track might be playing and if outside paths are still the place to be as they were Wednesday and Thursday, especially since head-on shots don't seem to be available in the Churchill press box for whatever reason. But the rail didn't seem to be a great spot to be in the first race, and while inside runner Solar Rocket held on to the place in the second race, it did appear he raced well off the rail down the backstretch. It does seem that most jockeys right now are getting off the rail when given the chance.

3:07 - Well, after watching Noble's Promise, Backtalk, and Don Tito run one-two-three after all making outside moves in the third race, the Jimmy V. Stakes, there is more reason to believe that outside runners do have a distinct edge right now on the main track. But you have to stay sharp, because there is nothing that says this trend has to hold. For one, careful watering can change the nature of any racing surface.

4:24 - Eldaafer won the Breeders' Cup Marathon, a race that if you ran it 10 times you would probably get 10 different results. But overshadowing Eldaafer's win was the disqualification of runner up Prince Will I Am, and Calvin Borel's reaction to the infraction that warranted the dq. Under Javier Castellano, Prince Will I Am came out on the far turn the final time, almost dropping Romp, and knocking romp into A. U. Miner. Borel, who rode A. U. Miner, went almost beserk after unsaddling and got into it hot and heavy with Castellano, and I don't blame him. A. U. Miner somehow managed to get his legs under him after the incident and rallied from 11th turning for home to finish fourth, beaten only 5 1-2 lengths. As for the European shippers Bright Horizon and Precision Break, who attracted my attention because the first two runnings of this race went to European shippers, they backed up after holding easy striking position and were nowhere. Was it the dirt, or was it because they weren't good enough?

By the way, Apart, the 3-year-old who beat older horses in the Ack Ack Stakes the race before the Marathon, is a very nice horse who I think will be a major player in next year's handicap division.

5:02 - That was a pretty weak foul claim by Jose Lezcano on Winter Memories, runner up in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, against winner More Than Real, and I'm glad it was dismissed quickly. I can't make an excuse for Winter Memories, who was a powerful even money favorite in an international field of 14. I know she had some traffic trouble entering the stretch, but she was out in the clear in plenty of time to get victorious More Than Real if she had the run, and she didn't have the run. In fact, Winter Memories struggled to save the place from Kathmanblu.

5:43 - The female sprint division has been unsettled all year, so it seems sort of fitting that Dubai Majesty would throw her hat in the ring with a win in the F&M Sprint. This wasn't Dubai Majesty's first stakes win of the year, but it was her first Grade 1 win of the year, and an emphatic score it was at a seven furlong distance many questioned her at because she was 0 for 7 at it going in. This divison is going to cause headaches for Eclipse Award voters, but being a Breeders' Cup winner might give Dubai Majesty the edge. I know that to be the case because colleague Marcus Hersh said it was so.

6:18 - Hard to argue with Awesome Feather being champion 2-year-old filly, as her decisive victory in the Juvenile Fillies extended her undefeated streak to six. And what's remarkable about it is, as of now, you can still purchase this probable divisonal champion Monday in the Fasig-Tipton sale in Lexington. As for Euro invader Theysken's Theory, my pick in the Juvenile Fillies because I wanted a new face as I didn't care for the known commodities from New York, California and Kentucky, she indeed became the international steam horse I feared she'd become. She also was finished before reaching the stretch. But Frankie Dettori keeping her on an inside that still looks like the worst part of the track didn't help.

I have an upcoming media committment, so I'll be back after the Ladies' Classic to put a bow on Breeders' Cup Friday.

7:41 - Unrivaled Belle clearly has a thing for Churchill Downs as on the same track over which she upset Rachel Alexandra last spring, she upset Blind Luck to win the Ladies Classic. Unfortunately for Unrivaled Belle, she has no shot of the older female Eclipse Award, not with Zenyatta around. But by virtue of finishing second, Blind Luck did enough to secure the 3-year-old filly championship, a title for which she was the leader going into Friday.

I missed it as I was in the elevator on the way back up to the press box, but I was told that Jerry Bailey interviewed John Velazquez, the rider of Life At Ten, on tv before the Ladies Classic, and Velazquez said something to the effect that Life At Ten was not herself. The vet apparently checked Life At Ten at the gate before the race, but she was deemed sound enough to run. Life At Ten did start, but she was virtually eased coming right out of the gate and finished last.

If this is the way it all went down, then this is a bad situation. If the vet disagrees with the jockey and declares a horse - in this case Life At Ten - fit to race, then that jockey either has to put forth his best effort, or he should refuse to ride the horse. The idea of just taking such a horse in hand right out of the gate might be noble in terms of safety, but it shows a total disregard for the betting public, who never got a fair shot with the money they bet on Life At Ten.

As for the F&M Turf, Shared Account's upset over Midday completed a shocking shut out for European shippers on BC Friday. That, the Borel-Castellano fight, the mishandling of the Life At Ten situation, and a main track that favored outside runners were, for me, the storylines of the first day of Breeders' Cup 2010

Back at it tomorrow. See you then.