10/29/2008 12:00AM

All but Conduit were below average


PHILADELPHIA - If you judge this Breeders' Cup by what we saw on the track last weekend, it was difficult not to be impressed by some of it. If, however, you judge it by Beyer history, there was just a single performance that beat par.

By the Beyers, the best performance of the day came in the $3 million Turf. Conduit got a 116 Beyer for his victory against a field that included two former Turf winners, a colt that finished third in the 2008 Arc de Triomphe, and a bunch of other Group 1 and Grade 1 winners. The race was just Conduit's ninth career start so the 116 may be a sign of things to come.

As impressive as Raven's Pass was in the Classic, the colt's 110 was well off the 117 par. Curlin got a 106 for his fourth-place finish, his worst main-track Beyer since a 105 in the 2007 Haskell Invitational, his first race after the grueling Triple Crown. Curlin's last five American main-track Beyers were 111, 112, 110, 119, and 114. So what happened to Curlin?

Was it the Pro-Ride, as trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Robby Albarado think? Certainly, Curlin made a big run, what looked like a winning run. If Curlin had run back to his typical Beyer of 2008, the colt would have been in a photo with Raven's Pass. But he didn't and he wasn't.

The synthetic surface is the only tangible reason for Curlin's worst performance since August 5, 2007. Can we be certain of that? Not really, but it seems the most rational explanation.

If you are going to be wrong, you may as well be so wrong that there is no rationalizing anything. I have never liked Midnight Lute. I did not like Midnight Lute in Saturday's Sprint. I thought he was overhyped and overbet. I was wrong on every count.

All hail Bob Baffert. He knew what he had, told anybody who would listen what he had, and Midnight Lute proved it on the track. The big horse got a 112 Beyer, the second best of his career. Other than the 124 he got in the 2007 Forego, Midnight Lute had never been as high as 110.

I thought Midnight Lute was a bet against until the horse loomed at the quarter pole. My horse, Fabulous Strike, never looked good at any time. Fabulous Strike had the back Beyers, but may not have liked the surface. Mike Welsch's clocker comments on Fabulous Strike in Daily Racing Form were the tipoff. By the way, if you don't factor Welsch's comments into your big-race evaluations, you are doing yourself a real disservice.

As good as Midnight Lute was, the horse was still just below the Sprint par of 114.

Like everybody else, I am a fan of Zenyatta. Going last to first, she ran her fourth quarter-mile in a touch more than 22 seconds so her final Beyer does not tell her whole story. It is very clear she can run by her fields at any time. The Beyer was 103, five points below the 108 par.

Given what we saw last Friday and every other time Zenyatta ran, I can't just judge her on the Beyers. She is the exception to most of the rules.

Goldikova got a 107 in the Mile, four points below par. But, like Zenyatta, it is difficult to judge her just by the final time. Just watch the stretch run when she was on even terms with Kip Deville and just ran away from the defending Mile champ, a horse that clearly ran his race and got beat by that Euro acceleration.

Forever Together got a 105 in the Filly and Mare Turf, three points below par and exactly the same as Lahudood for winning the race in 2007.

There were no stars in the 2-year-old main track races before the Cup. There are still no stars despite how it may have looked.

Midshipman got a 91 in the Juvenile, eight points below par. Baffert said before the race this colt was not anywhere near what he is going to be. Clearly, there is room for improvement.

Stardom Bound is a very nice filly with a pleasing style. Her career-best 94 Beyer was better than Midshipman's, but still one point under the Juvenile Fillies par.

I will leave the synthetic discussion to others, but synthetic form clearly mattered. I thought the most obvious example came in the Filly and Mare Sprint. Indian Blessing's last four dirt Beyers were 106, 110, 110, and 104. She got a 96 when second to synthetic/grass specialist Ventura, who went by with complete ease.

Muhannak got a 100 for winning the Marathon, Desert Code a 101 in the Turf Sprint, Albertus Maximus a 102 in the Dirt Mile, Maram an 87 in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, and Donativum a 93 in the Juvenile Turf.

Again, there were several fascinating races, but no transcendent performances like Curlin's 119 in the 2007 Classic, Artax's 124 in the 1999 Sprint, or the great Miesque's 118 in the 1988 Mile.