11/06/2010 9:39AM

Reporting From Churchill Downs On Breeders' Cup Saturday

Email

Hi y'all. How y'all doin'?

It's Breeders' Cup Saturday and here at Churchill Downs it is clear, and it is cold. The big news of the morning was the scratch of strong favorite Workforce from the BC Turf. Workforce's connections had been complaining for days about what they perceive the condition of the turf course here to be. I'm sure in their minds they really weren't comfortable with the footing. But too many other horsemen have stated that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the turf course here, and that gets the conspiracy theorist in me going. This is just pure speculation on my part, but maybe in some small way the scratch of Workforce was also a pre-emptive strike against him laying an egg here. He has been known to do that before. As brilliant as Workforce was winning the Epsom Derby and Arc, he was not impressive losing the Dante, and he was a dud in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth.

Anyway, I'll be paying attention to the early races to see if the main track is playing like it did on Wednesday, Thursday, and on Breeders' Cup Friday, when outside paths were the place to be.

Will be back later and throughout the day with on site updates.

Update, 12:39 - After the first two races, it seems very clear that again, the outside is the place to be and the rail is the deeper part of the main track. I keep hoping that this will change, because no one wants to see a biased track on big race days like this. But this trend has been obvious for days now, and maybe there isn't any good reason to think this surface will even out any time soon.

If the main track does stay the same, you have to wonder about Big Drama and Girolamo in the Sprint. They break from posts 1 and 2, they figure to be close to the pace, and those type of horses just have not been winning here over the last few days.

1:57 - European shippers looked like they had a good chance to get in the win column in the Juvenile Turf, but instead, their futility at this Breeders' Cup continued. Pluck, who stumbled at the start and was still last turning for home, ran by everyone in the stretch to win with complete authority. The race was marred, however, when Rough Sailing sustained an injury to his right front, either as a result of or just before slipping and falling going into the first turn.

This Euro shut out can't continue, can it? How ironic would it be if the Euros, who came over to North America and won a bunch of major stakes over the summer and fall with second, third and fourth stringers, were denied at the Breeders' Cup with their first stringers? But we're getting ahead of ourselves. They still have Goldikova and Behkabad to race, among others.

2:34 - Outstanding ride by Eibar Coa on Big Drama to win the BC Sprint. Coa did the one thing you have to do when you're burdened with a pace horse from the one hole on a main track with a deal rail: He sent Big Drama right to the front, got well away from the inside as fast as he could, and stayed away from the inside as though it was poison, which it is. Ask Girolamo.

Big Drama's win opens an interesting debate for champion sprinter honors. Big Drama was no match in the Vanderbilt at Saratoga last summer for Majesticperfection, who was the best sprinter anyone saw this year. But Majesticperfection was injured soon after and never ran again, while Big Drama just won the biggest sprint race of the year. Majesticperfection was the better horse, but did he do enough?

3:22 - All year long, Silver Timber has had Chamberlain Bridge's number. But not today, not when it counted the most. Chamberlain Bridge finished like a shot down the middle of the track, in the process blowing past Silver Timber like he was tied to the sixteenth pole, to prove clearly best.

Turf spinters are a perfectly likeable bunch. But this is not an Eclipse Award division (nor should it ever be), so you will have to forgive me if I still fail to see the need for a Breeders' Cup race like this, or the Marathon, for that matter. I mean, if you are going to have this race, then why not have a Breeders' Cup race for grey horses, or one for 8-year-olds and up? Is it really all that different? Okay, maybe a little, but still ...

4:12 - I don't know if he will or won't ever want to go 1 1-4 miles, but it is plainly obvious that Uncle Mo is the best 2-year-old of this year by a significant margin and is thoroughly deserving of the Eclipse Award that will certainly be his. I especially liked the way Uncle Mo conceded the early lead to Riveting Reason. Whether Riveting Reason was totally overmatched or not (he was) is not the point. The point is, Uncle Mo showed depth to concede the lead to another opponent for the first time in his life while also going two turns for the first time in his life. Oh yeah, as Steve Crist pointed out, nice Breeders' Cup for Todd Pletcher-trained 2-year-olds. Uncle Mo, the two Juvenile Turf winners (Pluck and More Than Real), and the Juvenile Fillies runner up (R Heat Lightning) all reside in the Pletcher barn.

4:53 - Greatness. There is no other word to describe Goldikova and what she has done. To cross the Atlantic three straight years and win the same Breeders' Cup race over males twice at a warm weather site and now at a cold weather site is incredible. And to do it all with a turn of foot that is truly breathtaking. I mean, she ran all of a sixteenth of a mile today, blowing past horses in upper stretch in a twinkling, and then she geared herself down. She was toying with her field in the run to the wire of her third straight BC Mile. Greatness.

5:05 - Goldikova's connections in the post race interview just now did not rule out the possibility of her coming back next year. They said they want to enjoy this win first, understandably, but they did not close the door right now on her racing next year. As amazing as her Breeders' Cup accomplishment already is, wouldn't it be something if she tried to win the Mile for a fourth straight time?

5:29 - I didn't like him or use him even in a Dirt Mile where I thought you had to spread, but Dakota Phone, who just got up to nip Morning Line, was a serious overlay at 37-1. There was nothing wrong with his recent form. Dakota Phone won the Gr. 2 San Diego three starts back, was third, beaten a little more than a length, in the Gr. 1 Pacific Classic two starts back, and was third in the Gr. 1 Goodwood last time out, beaten 2 1-2 lengths for second by Crown of Thorns, who would have been the favorite in the Dirt Mile had injury not forced him to scratch. I know hindsight is 20/20, but 37-1 was too big on this horse.

6:21 - I suppose after Dangerous Midge wore down Champ Pegasus to upset the BC Turf and provide Europe with their second and last winner of this Breeders' Cup, that Gio Ponti might be the leader to win a second straight Eclipse Award in this division on the basis of two Gr. 1 wins this year and his second to Goldikova in the Mile. But if Gio Ponti does repeat as male turf champion, he would be one of the weakest repeat Eclipse Award winners I can think of. And I say that not as a Gio Ponti hater, which I am not, but as a realist.

7:05 - If ever a horse was a winner in defeat it was Zenyatta in this BC Classic. So far back in the run past the stands the first time that it almost looked like there was something wrong, then in traffic late on the far turn, lots of dirt kicked back in her face against the best field she had ever faced, Zenyatta still almost caught Blame. This loss I'm sure really, really hurts for Zenyatta's connections and her legion of passionate fans. But there has to be some solace in that Zenyatta might have shown more class, ability, determination, and heart in this one defeat than in many of her wins combined. Zenyatta lost nothing in this race except the win picture. She is still a truly great horse, a champion, and a mortal lock first ballot Hall of Famer. She is also the reason why this Breeders' Cup Classic will be remembered for as long as horses race.

As for Blame, he got a great ride from Garret Gomez. Although Blame was on the dead rail for much of the early running, Gomez angling Blame out late in the stretch so that his mount could get see the oncoming Zenyatta and fight back in my opinion made the difference in the outcome.

Now, about Horse of the Year. Of course Zenyatta is champion older female and Blame is champion male, but Blame has to be Horse of the Year. Yes, the finish of the Classic was painfully close, and Zenyatta did more for racing this year than any other horse. But Blame won their head to head matchup as well as two other unrestricted Grade 1 races. Zenyatta won five Grade 1 races this year, but all of them were restricted to females.

Well, that's if from a Breeders' Cup where the best really was saved for last. Thanks for reading.