10/21/2007 11:00PM

Breeders' Cup changes got it right

EmailNEW YORK - Some thoughts on this year's Breeders' Cup:

Regarding the topic of the Breeders' Cup adding the additional day to its format, sure, Breeders' Cup officials could have run this year's three new events along with the eight established Breeders' Cup races on one day, and could have done it comfortably. But it seems plainly obvious that in the not too distant future the Breeders' Cup will introduce a few more new, certified Breeders' Cup races. And when it does, a two-day format will become a necessity, because running 14 or 15 Breeders' Cup races in one day would just be too unwieldy. So this year, with the three new Breeders' Cup races, was as good a time as any to institute the two-day deal.

And as for the matter of whether the two-day format should be Saturday and Sunday instead of Friday and Saturday, there really is no choice here. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Breeders' Cup has to end with the Classic. If you went to a Saturday and Sunday schedule, it would mean that the biggest Breeders' Cup race would be run on Sunday. Thoroughbred racing, even racing as important as the Breeders' Cup, has a tough enough time competing on fall Saturdays with college football. It would get absolutely obliterated going up against the NFL on a Sunday. Besides, I like the Friday and Saturday format. It makes for a nice long weekend.

Folks are also talking, even after this year's pre-entries, about how adding new Breeders' Cup races will dilute the event. I suppose that could happen in the future, but there is very little evidence of it this year. People are worried that creating the Filly and Mare Sprint could rob us of Very Subtle, Safely Kept, and Desert Stormer-type moments in the Sprint. Look, the Sprint is worth $2 million, twice as much as the Filly and Mare Sprint. And the Sprint is at six furlongs, while the set distance for the Filly and Mare Sprint, which will be run at six furlongs this year because of the configuration of Monmouth Park, is seven furlongs. In other words, there is still enough of a distinction between these two races.

Continuing on this subject, there isn't one horse whose presence in the Juvenile Turf robs the Juvenile of significant quality. There might be only one truly legitimate horse that the Dirt Mile took away from the Classic, and that horse, Diamond Stripes, was cross-entered in the Classic, but is going for the easier spot.

No, what could really dilute the Breeders' Cup in the future is if the current trend of the alarming lack of depth in racing's marquee divisions continues.

There have been calls for a long time for a Breeders' Cup race on dirt for milers, and at least for a few years for one for female sprinters. I might be wrong, but I don't recall any clamor in this country for a Breeders' Cup race for 2-year-olds on turf, which gives me the feeling that the Juvenile Turf was created to mainly be an additional lure for European participation. If you agree, then you, like me, must be surprised that only six of the 23 pre-entrants in the Juvenile Turf were from Europe.

Discreet Cat is going to be the favorite in the Dirt Mile. But with wise guys lining up the length of the Garden State Parkway to bet against him, Discreet Cat just might be a bigger-priced favorite than many anticipate. That's good for you if you're still a believer, however.

The same phenomenon might hold true for Indian Blessing in the Juvenile Fillies. She will be the favorite, but when people scrutinize her flashy past performances and note that she's stretching out to two turns and in distance after requiring more than 27 seconds to complete her final quarter-mile in the Frizette, it might result in her odds drifting upward.

There has been some recent discussion that being large horses, Midnight Lute, the solid favorite in the Sprint, and Curlin, a huge threat in the Classic, won't take to the tight turns at Monmouth, and point to Curlin's disappointing third in the Haskell over the track as evidence. Well, I believe Curlin was still feeling the effects of running in all three legs of the Triple Crown when he ran in the Haskell. As for the turns, the turns at Pimlico didn't stop Curlin in the Preakness, and the turn at Saratoga certainly didn't hinder Midnight Lute in the Forego. And the turns at Pimlico and Saratoga are by no means wide and sweeping.

It is probably something a line maker shouldn't admit, but I still don't have any idea who the favorite in the Distaff will be. Helpful advice is welcome.

It's easy to envision scenarios where either Lawyer Ron, Curlin, Any Given Saturday, or Street Sense wins the Classic. But for me, the most surprising of these four scenarios would be a victory by Street Sense. I know, Street Sense's trainer, Carl Nafzger, has reminded everyone repeatedly this year how good he is at pointing a horse to a specific goal. But call me stubborn - that's as much of a revelation as the sky being blue - I still don't believe Street Sense is as effective away from Churchill Downs.