11/06/2013 12:38PM

Dick Jerardi: Another tough-beat Breeders' Cup

Email
Tom Keyser
Despite a 4 1/2-month layoff, Magician (left) edged The Fugue to win the Breeders' Cup Turf.

I got disqualified out of the pick five. I had five of six in the pick six. Other than that, Breeders’ Cup Saturday went quite well.

No doubt, I was not alone in that sad exacta. But I am not sure how many people multi-race leveraged 5-1 Zeewat instead of 1-5 Flashback in the Damascus Stakes. Having been at Parx Racing on Sept. 21, I knew Zeewat had run against a strong rail bias.

Like many, I singled Dank in the Filly and Mare Turf and was thrilled to be alive to the Beverly D. winner after She’s a Tiger crossed the finish line first in the Juvenile Fillies.

The thrill did not last long, because She’s a Tiger was disqualified for interfering with runner-up Ria Antonia.

As any longtime readers of this space know, I advocate getting rid of stewards because judging fouls is so subjective. Thus, there can be no consistency because nobody really knows how to define a foul. Since I despise the whole system, I had no particular opinion on the decision.

Half the people who did have an opinion seemed to agree with the decision to take She’s a Tiger down which, of course, meant the other half did not.

If, in fact, you accept that this is a good system, I would suggest that unless there is absolutely no doubt that a foul was committed there should never be a change. But that is not the system.

I like my system better. First horse to the wire wins.

What I do know is this group of 2-year-olds was really slow Saturday. Neither the fillies nor the colts hit 90 on the Beyer Speed Figure scale. Was that because of no Lasix or are they just not very good?

I did not actually spend a giant amount money on the pick six. None of the races seemed all that complicated. Wise Dan looked like and ran like a single. The pattern was familiar, with three winning favorites. Two of the favorites, however, were in the Turf Sprint and Sprint, races I thought were a bit more complicated.

Mucho Macho Man was an obvious contender in the Classic. If Magician had been trained by anybody other than Aidan O’Brien, I probably would have tossed him in the Turf because of the distance and his 4 1/2-month layoff. But it was O’Brien, so I had to use the son of the amazing Galileo.

I missed on the same horse most people likely missed on – New Year’s Day in the Juvenile. I was not overly confident in that race because there were so many unknowns, the lack of Lasix being one of the more prominent.

But New Year’s Day looked like a lot of other horses – Beyers in the 70s and minimal or no dirt experience. If I had used him, he would have been grouped with several others with similar histories, making the bet a bit too expensive for my taste.

There is always 2014.

Beyond my empty pockets, it was a sensational two days of racing, with all those defending champions and so many of them performing so well again.

If you weren’t certain that horses often develop on their own schedules, the Classic result is a case study. Classic winner Mucho Macho Man (2011) and runner-up Will Take Charge (2013) each ran in all three Triple Crown races. They were beaten by a combined 80 lengths.

I especially loved Gary Stevens’s ride on Mucho Macho Man. In a way, it reminded me of why Gary has always been one of my favorite riders to bet on. He rides like an unafraid bettor. He goes for it and he does not want to give up what he already has.

He probably could have waited a bit longer to ask Mucho Macho Man for his very best, but why wait around to let your competition catch up.

If I closed my eyes and went back 25 years, I could see 25-year-old Gary Stevens open on the 1988 Kentucky Derby field at exactly the right moment with Winning Colors and have just enough to hold off Forty Niner. That was Gary’s first Derby win. He never forgot how he did it. And he got rewarded with his first Classic win.

I was pretty certain Will Take Charge was still getting better because of that sudden burst he made to win the Pennsylvania Derby. I was not sure he was ready to do the figure it was going to take to win the Classic. Turned out the big colt was ready. He just did not win.

Mucho Macho Man got the weekend’s best Beyer (112) in the weekend’s biggest race. All credit to Kathy Ritvo and her team. The horse was ready when the big money was down. And they made exactly the right call when they hired Stevens for a fall campaign at Santa Anita.

It was interesting that Richard Mandella called on Stevens this summer when he needed a rider for Beholder. As I was watching the Classic stretch run, I felt like I was watching Stevens’s ride on Beholder in the Distaff. Only no horses were chasing him Friday. They were chasing him Saturday. They just could not catch him.