11/09/2009 4:21PM

Wild Breeders' Cup

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On Thursday afternoon at around 3:30 p.m. Pacific, I could have told you that the Dynamic Duo of Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez were in for a rough Breeders' Cup. 

Johnny V. was on my JetBlue flight that had just pulled into the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, and Pletcher was waiting by the baggage check to greet him.  Now, I am never, ever, lucky when it comes to getting my luggage in a timely fashion.  I've accepted it as scientific fact that if there were only three other people on a plane with me, that my bag would be the last one to reach the carousel. 

I've even prepared a little ritual so I don't have to stand there, hands on hips, watching everyone else grab their stuff, and joyfully leave the scene.  Upon de-planing (silly word), I stop off at the men's room (don't like airplane restrooms), pick up a copy of the local newspaper (have an obsessive need to know what's going on in the local area), grab some candy (if you haven't tried See's Peanut Brittle, well, it's another reason to live), and then trudge glacially to the baggage claim.  By then, most everyone is gone, and my lonely piece of luggage is on a solitary circular quest. 

A strange thing happened at around 3:30 p.m. Pacific, however.  There were still loads of people waiting for their bags when I entered the fray.  Surprised, and a bit perturbed, I jostled into a nice spot next to Mr. Pletcher, and waited. 

And there she was.  First out of the chute.  I rubbed my eyes, figuring this was some sort of peanut brittle-induced mirage, but it was real.  See ya later suckers.  Let's forget that Pletcher and Johnny V. zoomed by a few minutes later while I was still waiting in line for my overpriced taxi.   The baggage gods were finally smiling down on me.

I didn't think about it for another minute until Quality Road started acting up prior to the Breeders' Cup Classic.  When he was a late scratch, I began to wonder.  Were the gods favoring me, or dropping thunderbolts on Team Pletch-azquez?

For those keeping score, I think I beat out Michael Iavarone of IEAH Stables at the baggage claim back at JFK.

*How 'bout that Better Than Honour?  You can add Man of Iron's name next to Rags to Riches, Jazil, and Casino Drive as major North American stakes winners that were foaled by the Deputy Minister mare.  Man of Iron's Marathon victory was the only win for the two-day mini-meet for trainer Aidan O'Brien.  Interestingly enough, Man of Iron was the only O'Brien runner to race with Lasix.  Lillie Langtry (8th, Juvenile Fillies Turf), Viscount Nelson (8th, Juvenile Turf), Beethoven (6th, Juvenile), Alfred Nobel (10th, Juvenile), Mastercraftsman (4th, Dirt Mile), and Rip Van Winkle (10th, Classic) all raced without the anti-bleeding medication.  I wonder if last year's snafu with O'Brien being fined for not announcing that all of his runners were racing with Lasix at time of entry got into his head. 
Cloudy's Knight is such a hard-hitter, and he tried his heart out, but he might have made his bid a bit too soon.  Mastery hung like a chandelier when the real racing began. 
"He danced one too many times this year," said Mastery's rider, Frankie Dettori.  "Everything is all right, the whole race went perfect, but the horse just had a long season."


Marathon
Benoit Photo

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*Pletcher almost nailed down a Breeders' Cup win after Javier Castellano masterfully slowed down the second quarter aboard Rose Catherine in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.  After using his mount to get the lead through an opening stanza in 22.95, Castellano nursed Rose Catherine along with a 24.07 clocking for the next two furlongs.  The pacesetter was strong turning for home, but so was Tapitsfly, a gray lady that was tracking Rose Catherine from the start.  Those two engaged in a spirited stretch duel with Tapitsfly and Robby Albarado grinding out the half-length win. 
"She's a little fighter," Albarado said of Tapitsfly after the race.  "She's a true grass horse for sure."

Tapitsfly 
Benoit Photo

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*She Be Wild was reportedly training beautifully leading up to the Juvenile Fillies, and the diminutive daughter of Offlee Wild nailed down the 2-year-old filly championship with a determined victory over tough-luck Beautician. 
"I was a little worried when it looked like she might get trapped, but I have a good rider who is patient," said winning trainer Wayne Catalano.  
"I had a bounced-around trip into the first turn," offered Albarado, the rider of Beautician.  "I was shuffled back further than I wanted to be, but she ran really well."  
"She got bumped hard on the first turn," said Tyler Baze, the rider of third-place finisher Blind Luck.  She got jostled around pretty good at that point.  She tried real hard, like she always does.  I put her in a place to win, but she just got outrun."  
The hot second-favorite, Connie and Michael, tired badly after forcing the early issue. 
"It's just her second start," said her rider, Kent Desormeaux.  "I wouldn't throw rocks at her.  She's very classy."

She Be Wild 
(Benoit Photo)

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*Midday put up another one for Europe with a victory in the Filly and Mare Turf.  Favored, and defending champion, Forever Together, never looked comfortable from the moment the gates opened, and finished third on class alone. 
"The biggest win of my career - undoubtedly," said winning rider Thomas Queally.  She hit a flat spot over on the backside, and I had to get after her.  She has a top gear that is really something, but we had to find it.  When she quickens, it's just a dream."
"I warned him (jockey Leparoux) in the paddock that I didn't see much pace here, and told him you might want to be a little closer," noted Forever Together's trainer, Jonathan Sheppard.   "I was very concerned after a quarter-mile that she was too far back.  She made her run, she always does, but from an almost impossible position."

Midday 
(Benoit photo)

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*Forever Together wasn't the only defending champion that failed to receive the desired pace scenario.  Ventura, last year's Filly and Mare Sprint heroine, lagged far behind dawdling splits in this year's edition.  She made a mad dash from the rear of the field, but couldn't make up the tactical advantage that Informed Decision, a synthetic freak, held over her turning for home. 
"She's a champion," said winning rider Julien Leparoux.  "That's what champions do.  She just has to be comfortable, whether she's in front, close to the pace, or behind,"  
"Pace makes the race," opined Ventura's rider, Garrett Gomez.  "They were going exceptionally slow up front, and there wasn't anyone up there to help me.  She gave me her usual kick as we started to make our run.  She's the kind of filly that you have to time just right.  If I ask her too soon, that's not good either."

 Informed Decision
(Benoit Photo)

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*Favored Careless Jewel ran off and hid during the opening six furlongs of the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, but she was out of gas when the field turned for home.  The pace was hot, closers made their moves, and Life Is Sweet finally emerged from the shadow of stablemate Zenyatta, at least for the next 24 hours. 
"I was a little disappointed the way she left the gate," said winning rider Gomez.  "She was a little antsy today; she halfway hopped when she left the gate and she got pinched a little bit.  I actually thought they'd go ahead and start backing up about the three-eighths pole, and they kept kicking on, and I started to get a little worried.  I started making a little run, and all of a sudden, about the quarter-pole, they all started coming back really solid and she started finding her stride.  She's had some tough races.  She had to run against Zenyatta a couple times.  She ran against the boys once." 
Music Note and Careless Jewel were the disappointments.  
"She had a little trouble in the stretch, but I don't think that cost her the race," said Music Note's rider, Rajiv Maragh.  "The pace was fast, and I thought that she would get to it, but she just didn't have it."
Robert Landry, the rider of Careless Jewel, expected his mount to settle better during the early portion of the race.  "At the first quarter she was going okay, but then she locked onto the bridle and went as far as she could as fast as she could.  That's not her.  Normally, she'll just relax.  It's disappointing because she is a much better filly than she showed today." 

Life Is Sweet a1 72
(Benoit Photo)

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*Saturday's Breeders' Cup action began with Pounced, a lovely son of Rahy that took most of the wagering from start to finish.  Pounced couldn't have received a better trip under Dettori while saving ground most of the way, and he wore down pacesetter Bridgetown in the final sixteenth.  Pletcher's Interactif raced well for third after being wide most of the way.  
"I had a box seat," said Dettori.  "Very pleased that we got the split, and he fought really hard for me.  I was worried about getting clear, but the gap was big enough for me to go through, and my horse was very brave."
"He really responded" stated Landry, Bridgetown's jockey.  "When I asked at the top of the lane, he dropped his head, and really dug in.  That other horse just ran past him.  He ran a courageous race.  He's a really good horse who is only going to get better."
Interactif drifted very wide turning for home.  "We quickened so fast going into the turn that I couldn't quite compensate for the turn, and that left some room for the others," said his rider, Desormeaux.  "I hope this horse can 'dirt' because he acts like he wants to be my Derby horse."

Pounced
(Benoit Photo)

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*Last year, California Flag and Mr. Nightlinger dueled through unbelievable fractions of 20.73 and 41.81 before understandably retreating to the back of the pack.  This year, Mr. Nightlinger was absent from the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, and California Flag felt no pressure.  He shook clear through splits of 21.50, and 43.09, and that was all she wrote for his 13 opponents.  Gotta Have Her, a courageous mare that really adores the downhill turf course attempted to cut the late gap, but California Flag was just too good.
"The difference between this year and last year is that last year we just said 'go,' and this year we used our heads," said winning trainer Brian Koriner.  "Once we made the lead, it was over."
"She ran awesome considering the trip she had," said Gotta Have Her's rider, Baze.  "Nobody stayed straight down the lane.  I had to alter course three times and she should have won for fun.  She was unlucky, that's all.  I was the best horse."

California Flag 
(Benoit Photo)

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*Bob Baffert was going for three straight Sprint wins, but his favored entrant, Zensational, had a difficult trip, and had to settle for fourth.  Upsetter Dancing in Silks received a clean jouney under Joel Rosario to post the upset for his extremely underrated trainer, Carla Gaines.  
"The way Zensational had been training, and Gayego won the Ancient Title, it looked like a tough situation," said Gaines.  "The way the post positions set up, we were able to sit off the pace, and make our run.  The racing gods were smiling upon us today."
Crown of Thorns and Cost of Freedom, the second- and third-place finishers of the Sprint, have been plagued by physical setbacks throughout their careers, but did their connections proud on Saturday.
"He ran great," said Richard Mandella, the trainer of Crown of Thorns.  "He's always made me think he's something special, and he continues to make me think that."
"I'm thrilled," said Cost of Freedom's trainer, John Sadler.  "It was a race of a lifetime.  He ran very well - just got beat in the last 20 yards."
The favorites didn't have the cleanest of runs.  "I had to go through a hole that was so tight, and it slowed my horse down," said Gomez of Gayego.  "If the hole wasn't so tight, I think I win the race."  Gayego's trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, reported that the colt would return to Dubai for the winter.
"He broke a little better than usual, but he got bumped hard when we passed the gap," stated Zensational's rider, Victor Espinoza.  "He tried hard, but it was just too much for him after that."

Dancing In Silks ins1 72 
(Benoit Photo)

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*Godolphin nabbed yet another winner for Europe with Vale of York's upset win in the Juvenile.  He won a war of attrition during the final sixteenth with America's leading two-year-old, Looking At Lucky.  The Baffert-trained Looking At Lucky, lost nothing in defeat after breaking from the far outside post, and racing wide throughout.  Pletcher's Eskendereya had a terrible trip.
"He ran huge," said bin Suroor of Vale of York.  "I fancied the horse before the race.  He was improving all the time.  He ran a big race last time when he finished second in a Group 1 in Italy.  He's a tough horse, and next year we'll bring him for the Kentucky Derby."
"The last time I rode the horse about three weeks agoi in Italy, he was very unlucky," said winning rider Ahmed Atjebi.  "We were going to win, and he saw the crowd, and he stopped himself.  By the time I got him going, we got beat.  He was unlucky to lose the time before that also.  Today, it all went well."
Despite the loss, Baffert and Gomez were pleased with Lookin At Lucky's performance.  "He showed today what a good horse he is," said Baffert.  "It's just frustrating to know you have much the best horse and to come up short like that.  I didn't give him any chance at all at the half-mile pole.  At least, you know that you can look forward to the Derby."
"Today, my horse got banged around pretty hard a couple of times going into the first turn because there were a couple of horses going into the turn that came out," said Gomez.  "It turned him a little sideways, but he took all that.  For a young horse to keep on doing what he did - and when that horse came to him and he could fight with something, accelerate and show me that much more - makes me really excited about next year."
Ken McPeek, the trainer of third-place finisher Noble's Promise, was proud of his charge.  "The work we missed a couple of weeks ago beacuse of the infection he had got us beat today.  He just got a little weary in the last few jumps, but he ran great.  I didn't think we were going to be able to run two weeks ago.  But we got it together, and he ran super."

Vale of York Suroor #3DD599 
(Benoit Photo)

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*Finally, a defending champion got it right.  Rumors of Goldikova's demise were obviously greatly exaggerated as she stormed down the center of the track to defeat males for the second straight year in the Mile.  The pace was very hot as Cowboy Cal and Gladiatorus battled through a half-mile in 45.22, and three-quarters in 1:08.34.  That set things up for the late-runners, and the favorite didn't disappoint although fellow Europeans Delegator and Zacinto did not do well at all.  
"The draw wasn't a big help," declared winning rider, Olivier Peslier.  I didn't want to make a run until the last turn.  I came wide because that was the only place to go.  She's lovely."
"She was a little keyed up going to the gate, but quieter than usual," said trainer Freddie Head.  "She's very special.  It's been a long season, and now to make this long trip in November.  We haven't discussed her future - maybe we'll come back and try for three."
Jockey Ryan Moore was baffled by the poor effort from his runner, Zacinto.  "I pulled him up.  I was afraid that he might have hurt himself.  He took a bad step or something like that, and I was concerned, but it trns out he's fine.  He is okay."

Goldikova 
(Benoit Photo)

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*Mastercraftsman looked very tough to beat on paper in the Dirt Mile, but he never got on track in the stretch, and was upset by up-and-coming Furthest Land, the recent winner of the Kentucky Cup Classic over Turfway Park's polytrack surface.  Last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, Midshipman, off only one race this year, ran big to finish third.  Pyro and Bullsbay seemed to have problems with the footing.
"He's a big galloping horse, and he was in tight," jockey John Murtagh said of beaten favorite Mastercraftsman.  "He looked out in the straight, and he wasn't quick enough, and then the gap closed on him.  We're slower than Americans out of the gate.  I was following Julien Leparoux (aboard the winner).  I would have liked to have been out at the three-eighths pole, but like I said, there was no place to go."
"I sat on the rail right behind the leader," said Leparoux.  It opened up at the quarter-pole.  I found room to strike, and that was it.  He always runs big on synthetics."

Furthest Land ins1 72 
(Benoit Photo)

***

*Ho-hum, another European victory.  Conduit made it two Breeders' Cup Turf scores in a row, but his win was overshadowed somewhat by the extremely game performance from runner-up Presious Passion.  The speedy Presious Passion zipped right to his customary spot on the lead, set very fast fractions, and dug in resolutely when Conduit came calling in the stretch.  I watched this race with a British racing fan, who thought Presious Passion was done when the first two splits (23.08, 45.14) appeared on the board.  "Too bloody fast," he murmured.  "You don't know this horse," I shot back.  "He doesn't know what 'too fast' is."
Trainer Mary Hartmann doesn't get enough credit for the tremendous job she's done with Presious Passion, and she was understandably delighted by her horse's effort.  "I thought he ran his race.  He laid it all on the line, and he just got caught.  He fought back.  He just doesn't like to let them go by.  
Jockey Elvis Trujillo noted how eager Presious Passion was going by the stands the first time.  "The horse didn't want to relax.  The first part was a little fast.  I know this horse very good.  He fights.  Doesn't matter how fast we go.  The last quarter, he'll fight everybody."
Winning rider Moore gave Conduit a heady ride, covering him up behind horses on the backstretch before decisively splitting his foes late on the turn.  "I was stuck behind a lot of horses early, but that didn't worry me.  I got a nice spot down the backside, and I went inside to move up.  Last year went about as planned, but this year wasn't according to plan."


 Conduit a 72 
(Benoit Photo)

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*Zenyatta answered all questions, save one, with her authoritative late rally in the Breeders' Cup Classic.  The undefeated Amazing Amazon lagged far behind the moderate fractions set by Super Derby winner Regal Ransom, then roared by them like they were standing still in the final eighth of a mile.  She is unquestionably one of the most special specimens we've seen in recent years.  Superstar?  Check.  Undefeated?  Check.  Champion Distaffer?  Check.  Horse of the Year?  Well, I have a feeling we'll be discussing that for the next couple of months.  
"I still never got to the bottom of her," said jubilant winning jockey Mike Smith.  "That's the amazing thing.  She still had run left.  She's incredible.  She's sent from heaven. I was able to cut the corner with her off the turn, and that made the difference right there.  When we loaded the second time, she sure stood there when the gates opened.  I needed to help her out of there, but once I got out of there, she settled into stride really well.  She started to get to them in the stretch, and the crowd started screaming.  Then, she started looking at the crowd, so I had to get after her a little bit, but she still won within herself."
Take nothing away from Gio Ponti.  What can you say about a four-time Grade 1 winner that doesn't have to carry around his racetrack with him?  It's a shame that when we look back on 2009 a few years from now, Gio Ponti may be the forgotten runner due to the Rachel-Zenyatta hoopla.  
"He ran so awesome," said Gio Ponti's rider, Ramon Dominguez. "He split horses like a champion inside the sixteenth pole, and just took off when he got clear.  That filly's an extremely nice filly and I am so pleased and so happy with the way my horse ran."
Desormeaux, the rider of Belmont, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Summer Bird, felt his horse didn't do his best on the surface.  "Synthetic tracks are more conducive to horses with turn of foot and stone closers.  He is an obvious stayer.  He needs to pick it up a little quicker.  You need that quick turn of foot.  Not the best finish for him, but he still ran an awesome race.
Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird couldn't go with the winner on the turn.  "It's been a phenomenal ride," said his jockey, Calvin Borel.  "He needs to get a little rest, and then get back on the dirt."
Rip Van Winkle's reported foot problems made him an iffy proposition, and he wasn't flattered by the earlier performances from Delegator, Zacinto, and Mastercraftsman.  He was cold on the board in the early wagering, and didn't do much running.  "He sat off them just fine, but when we got to the three-eighths pole, he emptied out pretty quick," said jockey Murtagh.  "He warmed up well.  I suppose the big delay at the start may not have helped him, but really no excuse today.  It's after having a long season in Europe, and maybe this race was just one race too many."
The delay was caused by Quality Road's refusal to enter the stalls.  "The horse is okay," Pletcher said of his Florida Derby winner.  "He's got some scrapes and scratches.  We're very disappointed, but it's just one of those things.  We'll have to regroup and try again.  It was bad timing.  We got the worst luck at the worst time on the biggest day."

Zenyatta a1 72
(Benoit Photo)  

All horsemen quotes courtesy of Breeders' Cup.

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Congrats to Wilson for finishing first in the Breeders' Cup HandiGambling contest.  He picked a race for later this week, and I'll get the past performances up for you on Wednesday.
 
 
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Here are the winning Beyer Speed Figures from last week's stakes races:

Here are the lifetime past performances for all of the Breeders' Cup winners:

Download BC Winners 2009

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Take care,

Dan