10/09/2011 10:00AM

Thoughts On The Latest Saturday Breeders' Cup Preps

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Let’s talk about Super Saturday, Part 2:

BELMONT PARK

                Jamaica – I still don’t understand how this race rates a Grade 1 ranking. It never was a major destination for 3-year-old turf horses, and it has no direct link to any Breeders’ Cup race, or Eclipse Award division. And I doubt this paceless procession, won in sleepy, front running style by the modest English shipper Western Aristocrat, will have much of an impact on future stakes of any real importance.

                Frizette – Yeah, now we’re talking. I was suprised at the difference in odds between the even money Stopshoppingmaria and the 2-1 My Miss Aurelia. I know that Stopshoppingmaria stumbled at the start (though not severely) when beaten by My Miss Aurelia when they both made their debuts opening day at Saratoga. And I know that Stopshoppingmaria earned a field-best 101 Beyer Figure when she came back with an impressive maiden romp. But My Miss Aurelia came back to win the Grade 2 Adirondack, and did so while being under pressure every step of the way. Well, it turns out the disparity in odds did indeed reflect a difference in ability between these two fillies, at least currently. The only thing is, it was the other way around, as My Miss Aurelia just ran off through the stretch to trounce Stopshoppingmaria. You can talk all you want about Stopshippingmaria breaking a half-step slow Saturday. The fact is, she simply isn’t in My Miss Aurelia’s league right now.

                Champagne – Well, I guess Union Rags doesn’t need the sort of sloppy track he had when he won the Saratoga Special in his last start. Union Rags was full of run on the far turn, and it was obvious that the only question with just over a quarter of a mile to go was how much he would win by. After a few anxious moments in upper stretch when he tried to find clear racing room, Union Rags proceeded to blow this field away, and leave no doubt whatsoever that he is clearly the best 2-year-old male in the country at this moment.

KEENELAND

                Woodford – He might not be the flashiest turf sprinter around, but right now, Havelock might be the most dangerous. With a strong late run, Havelock proved clearly best here, and has now won three stakes from his last three turf sprint starts.

                TCA – On a personal note, I really, really wish this race was six furlongs and a jump, because I needed Musical Romance, who just missed catching Holiday for Kitten, an undeniable horse for course on Keeneland’s Polytrack. But the real story here, even in defeat, was Switch. Switch may have only finished third at 4-5. But she was up against it cutting back sharply in distance to six furlongs and breaking from way outside, which locked her into a wide trip. I think this sprint sharpener set up Switch beautifully for the Breeders’ Cup F&M Sprint, which is run at a seven furlong distance that she’s better at, anyway.

                First Lady – This race had a few mares who did not fire their best shots (Daveron, C. S. Silk, Theyskens’ Theory) and a couple who seem past their once-formidable peaks (Wasted Tears, Gypsy’s Warning). That said, I don’t want to take anything away from the winner, Never Retreat, who has had a busy and productive year. This was her 10th start of the season, and her fifth graded stakes victory.

                Breeders’ Futurity – The way this race unfolded early with a very fast pace, there was no doubt that it had to fall apart late. So with that in mind, Majestic City deserves credit for his runner up performance. Majestic City (who is sprint-bred both sides being by City Zip out of a Meadowlake mare) was close to the fast pace, and yet was only caught in the late stages. On the other hand, the fact that Dullahan, a maiden turf specialist who also had trouble on the first turn, got up to win, and Optimizer, another turf specialist, rallied to be a clear third, does not speak well for the chances of this being a serious prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Juvenile Turf? Better chance.

                Shadwell Turf Mile – It appears the concerns over Gio Ponti’s decline were premature, as he made up 2 ½ lengths in a final quarter mile run in 23.26 seconds to win this race for a second straight year, and add weight to the belief that he’s just been spinning his wheels not focusing on being a miler. And while I don’t pay much attention anymore to earnings because purses can fluctuate so wildly, it is an achievement well worth noting that by virtue of this score, Gio Ponti has passed the $6 million mark in career earnings. Irish invader Zoffany was the big disappointment here, as he never even so much as lifted a hoof. It seems he’s more Viscount Nelson than Cape Blanco or Treasure Beach.

SANTA ANITA

                Ancient Title – On paper, it seemed like the only horse who could possibly run early with the Bob Baffert-trained 2-5 favorite, The Factor, was the Baffert-trained Irrefutable, and you knew that wasn’t ever going to happen. So it was a shock to see the 45-1 Sirocco Strike battle The Factor through early splits of 21.27 and 43.80, and set this race up to be won with a looping off-the-pace move by the always honest Amazombie. I have no idea where Sirocco Strike came up with that speed. He had never shown anywhere near that kind of zip in his eight prior starts, and he was taking blinkers off, which usually takes a little speed out of horses and allows them to settle. You can debate all day the ethics of using a horse as a public battering ram the way it appears Sirocco Strike was used. All I know is, this was not the kind of race The Factor needed going into the Breeders’ Cup, and it hurts his status.

                Oak Tree Mile – Jockey Martin Garcia, who failed with The Factor, won this race with Jeranimo by stealing a march on the field in upper stretch, quickly opening a clear advantage that the odds-on Mr. Commons couldn’t quite make up. Mr. Commons ran another good race finishing second. But since Jeranimo had lost six straight and is a Grade 2 horse on his best day, it’s hard envisioning this being a meaningful Breeders’ Cup Mile prep.

HAWTHORNE

                Hawthorne Gold Cup – Speaking of races unlikely to have major Breeders’ Cup impact, here’s one. Favored Giant Oak had a wide trip, but he didn’t run well, finishing fifth. Rule just can’t go 10 furlongs and he finished a weary seventh. Headache outstayed the rest to cap a huge couple of days for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Earlier in the day, they won the TCA with Holiday for Kitten, and on Friday, they won Keeneland’s Grade 1 Alcibiades with Stephanie’s Kitten. But if there is a horse out of this race I would want for down the road, it’s Cease. Cease, stepping up off a entry-level allowance win at Saratoga, finished third, beaten a half length, after running hard every step of the way. He’s been a revelation since switching to dirt, but I think next year is when he’ll be best positioned to make some noise.

Gary Camejo More than 1 year ago
Hi Mike, just a word on Mr.Commons prep race, i thought Mike gave him an overly tender ride, so i expect a much better showing on Cup day. I think as well the connections of of Preakness winner Shackleford should really close of his season and give him a vacation.
hialeah More than 1 year ago
I find it interesting to watch the development of the 2 yos. So I personally have no problem with specifically moving the winners from last Saturday at Belmont to the top of any sort of divisional list. And while the Frizette was in fact run faster than the Champagne, they were both won impressively. My Miss Aurelia wired the field by 5 1/2L in 1:35:22 after leading by 2 L at 6F in 1:10:38 for a final 1/4 in 24:84. Union Rags came from off the pace after being down by close to 2L at 6F in 1:10:37 and ran right by to win by, err, 5 1/2 L in 1:35:55 - yes, slower - but if you adjust for a 2L deficit his final 1/4 is, ahh, 24.84. Both were very impressive - in different ways As for Switch - given her finish to last year and her start to this year - she has been a bit of a disappointment. And the 3rd at 6F should set her up for a good run at 7F. But she might run into the likes of Turbulent Descent who also seems to have found a home at the 7/8 distance. Thanks!
JEFF More than 1 year ago
Mike hope everyone sees Union Rags Champagne the same as you so I can get a better price on the best 2 year old Creative Cause in the Breeders Cup
Telfe More than 1 year ago
I disagree with your opinnion about Union Rags being the real deal, and the best 2 year old in the country. The time of the Champagne was worst than the one in the Frizette, that a lot to tell, i think Currency Swap is the best 2 yearl old, and someone still could be coming. As for the ladies, i think you're not taking into consideration that saturday's was asmussen day 4 for 4 while pletcher' horses in the last day have not been running good, come BC day that could change in a hurry....
Curt V. More than 1 year ago
Hello Mike, It seems everybody wants to compare horses to Uncle MoMo..He is by far the best horse in the Country..He's a lightly raced 3 yr. old w/tons of upside, as if he needs more upside..Those other horses can't smell a 118 Beyer Fig..of course horses in his category.. & Carlos, Nobody likes a Slewster{out of the greatest, Seattle Slew}{Tapizar}, more than myself..But, you have to stop the liberties..Tapizar broke his Maiden @Churchill in 1:44.19..Uncle MoMo did his in the BCJ @Churchill in 1:42.60.. Mike, Please get rid of Animal Kingdom & Twirling Candy.....AK won't run, & TC can't run.......Union Rags was more impressive than I originally thought, & it was impressive then too.......So much for disregarding races in the slop ? They all have to race in it, no ?
Carlos More than 1 year ago
Mike, Now that Asmussen will ship Tapizar to KY,do you think they'll consider the BC Dirt Mile after his impressive comeback?.. I think he's a freak.Asmussen loves him and remember when breaking his maiden last year @ CD he ran faster than Uncle Mo did in the BCJ. I could see him running in one of those BC undercard races then going in the Clarke afterwards. Union Rags looks very good,but the'll all have to catch Hanson,IMO,especially if he takes to dirt like he does to synthetics.
Doug P More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure why Mr. Watchmaker thinks Union Rags is the best 2yo male in the country. Did he see the Norfolk at Santa Anita? Let's wait until Nov 5th and see who REALLY is the best 2yo male in the country.
dc More than 1 year ago
I am with you I needed Musical Romance for a $20 pick 3......I am still sick.......Graded Stakes at Keeneland on Poly the stats just dont lie.....favorites are under 15% since Poly put in....
Ben More than 1 year ago
Agree with you about Switch...like the way she finished in the TCA, and should really benefit returning to her best distance in the Breeders Cup. She has run some serious races around 2 turns as well, losing a 1/2 length to Blind Luck and 3/4 length to Havre de Grace, plus her 1/2 length loss to Zenyatta last year. I'll need to look at the PPs, but she seems like a very strong choice in a few weeks. If the Hawthorne Gold Cup has any relevance to the Breeders Cup, perhaps it would be the Marathon rather than the Classic? Either way, it was not an overly visually impressive race in the home stretch. Ultimately, I'd probably side with Jockey Club Gold Cup also-rans like AU Miner or Birdrun over most exiting this race. One last thing--it was great to see Gio Ponti get back to the winners circle...I really appreciate that they have kept this guy in training through age 6. As a fan, it was getting to be painful watching him sit too far back in these NYRA turf Grade 1s that always seem to go out at a snail's pace. Hopefully he can make some noise in whatever Breeders Cup race they choose.
Bill Daly More than 1 year ago
I too, was amazed at the odds in the Frizette. I think bettors are mesmerized by recent Beyer numbers and fail to look any deeper. Three things struck me about that race: First, My Miss Aurelia had already beaten Stopshopping Maria and then in her next start toughed out a win in a stake. The second thing that hit me was that Nakatani had the mount. Never seen a jock in a zone like that. Didn't seem to matter what horse he rode - and to be fair he was on some good mounts yesterday -he was absolutely on fire. Last but not least Asmussen is also in the zone and went 4 for yesterday. How doesn't this horse go off the favorite??? Just goes to show you that you never know what you'll see next at the track.