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Saturday's Breeders' Cup Prep Recap
There was a boatload of stakes Saturday with major Breeders’ Cup implications. Here are thoughts on all of them:
Flower Bowl – Stacelita really is something very special. Wide every step of the way on extremely deep going no one had to like, including her, Stacelita still put in a big run around the far turn and was as dominant a two length winner as you will see for the sixth Grade or Group 1 victory of her career. Stacelita is a quasi-European – she only relocated to this country over the summer – but we can call her ours now, and she will be formidable in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf no matter who the Europeans send over.
Joe Hirsch Turf Classic – Jamie Spencer put odds-on Cape Blanco into a full out drive five-sixteenths of a mile from the finish. What was his hurry? But while Cape Blanco gets credit for surviving Spencer’s impatience, and for showing guts in gamely lasting over Dean’s Kitten, the feeling is Cape Blanco’s “sell by” date is up, and that all his trans-Atlantic crossings has finally caught up to him.
Vosburgh – I was starting to think that Belmont’s muddy, sealed track was speed biased, at least in sprints, after a 31-1 first time starter went wire to wire in the third race, and the fourth race was won easily by a horse who carved out a fast early pace. But this result sealed it for me, no pun intended. Yes, I know Giant Ryan’s trip to the front was made easier by the early bumping that virtually eliminated Euroears and Apriority. But Giant Ryan still going wire to wire on what was left leads me to affix a big question mark on this race, and the horses who ran in it.
Kelso – Even in view of how the track was playing, and what a huge advantage he had on an uncontested lead, this was still a very nice win by Uncle Mo. And runner up Jackson Bend ran lights out considering he was racing against the grain of the track, and was compromised by the slow opening quarter mile. I firmly believe that mile races like this are absolutely what Uncle Mo was born to run in. But I do understand owner Mike Repole’s position regarding Uncle Mo and the BC Classic. I get it when Repole says that if Uncle Mo won the BC Dirt Mile, he doesn’t want to have to think about what might have happened if he ran Uncle Mo in the Classic instead. Under those circumstances, Uncle Mo should run in the Classic. But, not that it matters, I’ll be betting against. I don’t think Uncle Mo wants any part of 10 furlongs.
Beldame – Oddly run race with Life At Ten opening up big early, and then dropping anchor to let others come to her. I thought it was interesting how Havre de Grace and Royal Delta were a little closer early than usual. But man, Havre de Grace is some terrific horse. And her runaway victory here over a surging 3-year-old in Royal Delta, as well as her overall record, which includes that big score over Flat Out in the Woodward, put her in my mind back on top in her division over Blind Luck even before Blind Luck started later on in the Lady’s Secret.
Jockey Club Gold Cup – Nice ride by Alex Solis keeping Flat Out closer early than usual, and Flat Out’s decisive victory here not only enhanced his status, but also boosted the stock of Havre de Grace and Tizway, who Flat Out chased home in the Woodward and Whitney. The one unsettling aspect to this race is that the limited Drosselmeyer finished second. As for Stay Thirsty, he wasn’t as fast as Flat Out going into this race, and he still isn’t. Stay Thirsty’s ineffective third lends credence to the notion that he is a Saratoga specialist, and did not help his candidacy for the 3-year-old male title.
Norfolk – This race was a timely reminder that there is a big difference between one turn and two turn 2-year-old form. Drill was clearly better than Creative Cause in the Del Mar Futurity going one turn. In this two turn race, Creative Cause was obviously much better than Drill. Yes, I know Creative Cause had a good trip prompting a slow pace, but Drill had dead aim on him in upper stretch and just couldn’t keep up.
Lady’s Secret – While we all wait to find out what in the world happened with Blind Luck, whose distant last place finish (a non-effort, really) was the first time she finished worse than third in her busy career, Zazu’s victory deserves some discussion. The pace here was hotter than expected, and as a result Zazu was much farther back early than anticipated. But as it turns out, the hot pace for Zazu was a good thing because dropping back and making one big run is probably Zazu’s most effective style. The other thing about Zazu is, she just gives off the unmistakable impression that her best races are still in front of her, something to keep in mind when she heads to the Breeders’ Cup.
Goodwood – You have to give Game On Dude credit for holding on after contesting a fast pace. On the other hand, you have to wonder how good this race could have been when Awesome Gem, a thoroughly admirable veteran, but who is really a Grade 3 horse at this stage of his career, finishes a gaining second. As for Coil, he had no excuse, and is not the horse I thought he might be after he won the Haskell.
Yellow Ribbon – The added distance, which I thought might be a problem for Dubawi Heights, turned out to be no problem at all. Still, Dubawi Heights’s victory here was as much flattery for Stacelita as anything else, for Dubawi Heights was no match for Stacelita two starts back in the Beverly D. Harmonious got no help losing ground every step of the way, but she just did not have the kind of stretch kick that was expected from her.
Impression from a few other Saturday stakes:
Cotillion – Plum Pretty ended her three-race emphatically with a runaway score, injecting new life into her candidacy for the 3-year-old filly championship. Runner up It’s Tricky, who finished in front of Plum Pretty in the CCA Oaks and Alabama at Saratoga, was put into a full out drive on the far turn, but had no response, and seems to have tailed off sharply.
Indiana Derby – Terrific ride here by Julien Leparoux on Wilburn. Okay, Wilburn did get a base on balls with the rail being open on the far turn. But I really liked how Leparoux sent Wilburn through to quickly open a clear lead on the far turn with the intent on putting favored Shackleford at a strategical disadvantage. That’s a move jockeys should use more often. As for Shackleford, we’re still waiting for him to validate his Preakness win.
Blue Hen – This race was not graded, didn’t have a six figure purse, and wasn’t much more than a public workout for the 2-5 Grace Hall. But it did afford Grace Hall, winner of the Grade 1 Spinaway, the opportunity to go two turns on dirt without shipping before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The Blue Hen might not have been a serious prep, but make no mistake, Grace Hall is a serious race horse.
Captain B, Summer Bird won the Travers and then went on to win the JCGC at Belmont. And I dont think Giant Ryan winning the Vosburgh was a fluke and bet him to win. If you look at his past races they were pretty good. Big Drama won two of the same races last year that Giant Ryan went on to win this year at Calder. They could be on similar paths......BC sprint champion?
Hi Mike, Can't argue with the Uncle Mo eval- think he would win at one mile - Classic seems a reach. Hated Stay Thirsty going into the JCGC, so the eval on him seems a tad harsh. I credit a week 3yo group that makes a weak older group look strong. If that makes sense. Like the "sell-by" angle on Cape Blanco
Mike, Wilburn is a nice horse who has run three very good races in a row, but he not only benefited from the rail opening up on the turn, he benefited from a HUGE track bias, too. The rail was by far the best path to run in on Saturday, and Wilburn ran almost seven furlongs of the race on the rail. I wouldn't discount Shackleford's performance too much, because he ran the whole race in the three and two paths.
And the reason Uncle Mo does not want any part of 10 furlongs is what? Does anyone seriously belive that Mo could not have won the Jockey Club on Saturday in 203? Of course he could have and one more thing, he is the best horse in the country so he will beat them all next month just on talent.
Mike, Not sure i agree with you on bias i had the first starter on saturday by indian charlie great first time sire and mud lover. Also he raced head and head for the lead put that rival away and when the second horse came at him he gutted out a game win . I know i'm prejuiced. Uncle Moe's victory i thought was great J.R. never asked him got surprised by Jackson Bend and he asked and U.M. answered. He might not want 10 furlongs but I'm with him in the classic. He loves chuchhill and if he gets on the lead he wins . Great blog and i love your video chats with steve crist. thanks again
What is the reasoning behind this notion that Uncle Mo won't get a mile and a quarter? I look at his pedigree -- by Indian Charlie out of an Arch mare -- and see nothing that would prevent him from handling the distance. I look at his giant, ground-gobbling stride, and find that encouraging for his chances. And while it's true that his worst race came at a mile and an eighth, only a month later he was desperately ill, which leads me to believe that he was far from right on Wood Day. All I can come up with, then, is a widespread tendency to regard fast horses with a forwardly-placed style as inherently distance-challenged, which strikes me as wrong-headed.
Mike, Good analysis. I wanted you t comment on the next step for Haver de Grace. With the defection of Blind Luck, maybe she does not have to go to the BCC to ensure Horse of the Year. She should romp in that race, and that should lock the award to her. Even though I love Uncle Mo, and I think he has a great chance in the BCC, HDGs campaign is much better. Flat Out was manhandled by her in the Woodward, so the only one that can steal the prize to her is Tizway, and I am very suspect of his condition now that he had to skip the JCGC. The Vosburg looked like a strangely ran race. Cape Blanco was compromised by both a suspect ride by Spencer and the boggy turf. He should be much better at Churchill. Also wanted you to comment on Goldikova's chances for a 4peat. She is a step slower, no doubt. But I don't think the Mile will be a strong race at all this yer. Thanks.
GIANT OAK. Pick up a DRF guys!!! See the way AU MINOR was gaining? And this was in a 1:12 3/5 pace. Giant oak wilkl run by the BC field with any kind of legitimate pace to run at, which Uncle Mo will guarantee. It's not all "who beat who", as you people seem to think.
MW ...great insights, as usual ...I agree with you, and tons of others ...Mo wants no part of 10F. Repole would be remiss to head into the Classic, but I understand why he would consider it....chance of a lifetime. Really too bad C Nak gave Jackson so much work to do...imagine that move approaching the 1/8th instead of the 5/16ths. Zito, just because he's Zito, has this hard working, guttsy colt razor sharp for the race of his life in the mile. I'd love to see the rematch on Churchill's mie surface, but with Mo headed longer, JB should run lights out again ...he's the "key"
Hey Mike love your blogs but can you do us a favor, when you update the Watchmaker Watch can you please post the new past performances please. This would be really helpful; thank you so much