08/28/2013 12:21PM

Dick Jerardi: Breeders' Cup Classic has potential to determine Horse of the Year

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Barbara D. Livingston
Royal Delta could add some intrigue to the race for Horse of the Year if her connections elect to allow her to challenge males in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

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Last weekend felt like a mini-Breeders’ Cup, with all those Grade 1 races on both coasts and two performances so dominant that it was like the winners were the only horses in their races.

Wayne Lukas obviously is one of the most fascinating people in the history of the sport. He simply does not discourage easily. Will Take Charge was beaten by a combined 45 lengths in the three Triple Crown races. A normal trainer maybe tries a small stakes after those beatdowns. Lukas went for the Jim Dandy and Travers and nearly won them both.

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Prior to the Jim Dandy, Will Take Charge had earned one Beyer Speed Figure better than an 87 in 10 career starts. That was the 95 he got when winning the Rebel, barely getting up to beat stablemate and eventual Preakness winner Oxbow.

So, Lukas takes the blinkers off for the Jim Dandy, and the colt gets a 105 when a strong second to Palace Malice. Does the horse bounce for the Travers? Not exactly. He got a 107 for running down Moreno just before the wire.

Where did those figures come from? I have no clue. But they are now there. This is suddenly a serious horse.

Having said that, I agree with Shug McGaughey that Orb is still the leader for the 3-year-old championship. Orb’s Fountain of Youth, Florida Derby, and Kentucky Derby wins stand out. And guess what? Orb just got a career-best 106 Beyer for his close third in the Travers. If he wins one more race, be it the Pennsylvania Derby or Jockey Club Gold Cup, he is going to be difficult to catch.

Obviously, Palace Malice is still alive with his Belmont Stakes-Jim Dandy double, as well as close losses in the Risen Star, Blue Grass, and Travers.

I have no idea what went down with Verrazano in the Travers. I knew he was done on the backstretch when he was running next to Orb. The pace was slow and Verrazano was slower. Forget the distance. The horse, with all those big Beyers, would not have won at any distance. Todd Pletcher figures he bounced off the 116 in the Haskell. Perhaps, but why did he not run at all?

I saw Royal Delta live when she won the Delaware Handicap. Now, that was impressive, but there was no other speed and she really had to look good.

There was other speed in the Personal Ensign, and the great mare just tore around the Saratoga track, earning a 105 Beyer with complete ease. If a normal horse blows by a good horse like On Fire Baby the way Royal Delta did on the backstretch, that horse pays for it late. Royal Delta is not normal. She now looks like she is running for the sheer joy of running.

She really wasn’t a speed horse until she won her second straight Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic last fall. Now, she is a speed horse, and it does not look like any females can possibly keep up with her. It will be an interesting call to go for the Distaff again or try the Classic. She has already won two divisional championships. Win the Classic, and she will have a huge chance at Horse of the Year.

Speaking of Horse of the Year and speed, how good was Game On Dude in the Pacific Classic? The Del Mar Polytrack is obviously much tighter than in previous years, and the Dude dominated, getting a 113 Beyer while looking like the winner all the way.

Put this horse on a clear lead in reasonable fractions, and no horse in America has a chance. If the Dude wins the Classic, he is Horse of the Year, regardless of what 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan does the rest of the year.

The Dude would have four 1 1/4-mile main-track Grade 1 wins in an unbeaten 2013. As cool as Wise Dan is, all those wins in one-mile grass races simply won’t compare in voters’ minds.

Of course, Game On Dude still has to do it. In last year’s Classic, he missed the break and was done quickly. That obviously was an aberration. Game On Dude does not need to prove anything to me. This is a high-quality animal who keeps getting better with age. But he will have to contend with faster fractions, other quality speed, much better competition than he has faced all year, and keep going to win the Classic.

Who wouldn’t want to see Game On Dude, Royal Delta, and Fort Larned in the Classic starting gate? The race to the first turn at Santa Anita might as intriguing as the race to the finish line. Can’t wait.

Jordan More than 1 year ago
The Woodward just eliminated Flat Out for any Eclipse. Same with Successful Dan, Paynter, Ron. Mucho Macho Man hasn't won a race in over a year. Fort Larned is 1 for 3 even in those races when he didn't drop a jockey. Cross Traffic has won one graded stakes. The older male Eclipse is basically over. The threats to Game on Dude for Horse of the Year, and they are threats only if Dude losses the Classic or misses the race, are Wise Dan, Royal Delta, and Orb. That's it. And Royal Delta would, at the least, have to win the Beldame and Distaff. Wise Dan would also need to win out. Orb may seem curious to some given he doesn't even have the 3 year old title wrapped up, but if he were to beat older in the JCGC and BC Classic, those grade 1s along with 2 other grade 1s in the Derby, and Florida Derby and the gr.2 Fountain of Youth would be an impressive line and probably offset these last 3 losses. But it isn't going to be easy for Orb to win those two races.
steve szymanski More than 1 year ago
Hey Dick.... Since when is Wise Dan running in the Classic?? That is horse of the year. You put Game on Dude in with all the big boys and the pace kills him every time at this distance.
Ryan Cale More than 1 year ago
Master of the Obvious.
Nicholas Briglia More than 1 year ago
The Breeders Cup Cassic always has the "potential" to determine Horse of the Year. I would not run Royal Delta in the Classic. She has a tendency to lay an egg at any time. Just let her go in the Ladies and hope she feels like running. A Game On Dude win in the Classic would make him tough to deny. Unfortunately, he also has a tendency to stink up the joint at the wrong time. Wise Dan is going to have to do something spectacular because there is growing displeasure with his campaign. Don't see how Orb can be a leader of anything right now. The 3 year old picture will be decided from this point forward. Right now it is just a big mess.
sharjil More than 1 year ago
If she has to lay an egg, she can do that in Distaff as well. But if she feels like running, she can be very tough. So why not that feel like running chance be taken in a much more important race ? Think about your own analysis.
Perl More than 1 year ago
It depends on who is still alive and kicking come November 2nd. I'm sure Mott and company will appraise the field before making their decision.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
In the last 3 years, a span of 21 races, Game on Dude has stunk up the joint twice, in the 2012 Dubai World Cup, a bad choice from the beginning, and the 2012 BC Classic under Bejarano. That's it. The only other out of the money effort was a 4th in the 2011 Pacific Classic which he avenged this year. He's also avenged his 2011 2nd in the Charles Town Classic and avenged his 2011 2nd in the Holywood Gold Cup twice over. And I wouldn't label running 2nd in the 2011 BC Classic stinking up the joint. Stinking up the joint would be Fort Larned in last year's Stephen Foster, this year's Oaklwn Cap, and this year's Whitney. Stinking up the joint would be everyone but Alpha and Flat Out in the Woodward. Mucho Macho Man hasn't won a race in over a year.
Steven Rolf More than 1 year ago
Does anybody think its odd that Verrazano runs his 2 worst races when the horses were drug tested and put on 24 hour security?
Jd Staton More than 1 year ago
i know one thing in his 2 bad races i dont think it was the distance or the comp he just didnt look the the same horse that he was in the races he won. maybe the distance is to much im not arguing that but he just wasnt the same animal. i thought maybe he just didnt like church hill but now another track
sharjil More than 1 year ago
I understand your theory, but you have to remember, Todd isnt just any other guy. With the magnitude of his business, he wouldnt risk that big. He didnt have to run Verrazano in Travers. I remember his interview before Travers where he said, everything is going pretty good, both horses look amazing, but the only concern is, they are both coming off of their best races of their careers. PM after two of the best races. And Verrazano after his two best races. And Verrazano also ran the best race of the whole 3yr old crop. So the only thing that concerns is that it is a lot to expect from them to run another top best race. I could sense the concern in him. I think Verrazano was a victim of just that. But PM in my opinion was the best animal that day. NO disrespect to WTC, but PM was probably the best anima. But now, im concerned about him. How much can he improve more, thats a question
steve szymanski More than 1 year ago
You can't count the Monmouth race...Verrazanno ran on the wierdest track I have seen in years. Blazing down the backstretch and dead a a corpse from the head of the stretch on. Go and look at the fraction that day.......... The track super should be fired. No wonder two horses broke down. Ran down the slow stretch in the routes and then caught the fast portion and went down.
steve szymanski More than 1 year ago
Well, when he doesn't get a clear lead with slow fractions, he has quit both times. He is a real nice GIII horse...That's all. Come 4yo season when he has to race the "good ones" he will be nothing more than anafterthought.
sharjil More than 1 year ago
Are you kidding me ? The horse won two prestigious grade 1s already, and you call him a gr 3 horse ? Whats wrong with you ?
Mark More than 1 year ago
Tell him sharjil !
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
Mark More than 1 year ago
We all know Jeff that you did not have WTC in Travers . Yet you knock my selection. Fool. Also as I posted BEFORE the actual race I that WTC would beat orb . AGAIN I post another winner. You AGAIN Monday morning qb. That is absolutely the hilarious part of this. Fraud.
Mark More than 1 year ago
And Thomas now saying orb needed one as an excuse and second guessing his beloved shug who could do no wrong prior to the running is comical. Yet another excuse for his 3rd straight defeat. Yet v gets no excuse for his poor performace. You two are funny.
Mark More than 1 year ago
When you post one winner over 3-1 I will beat you in any handicapping contest you want. Until then you can run your mouth all you like. Fraud.
Mark More than 1 year ago
For the record I gave WTC at 29-1rebel and Moreno Belmont day @ 15-1 ml before a majority on here knew who either were or gave them any respect.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
'Run against the boys' - 'Run against the boys'. That might be a choice for a Mare with something to prove but Royal Delta is way beyond that.
Perl More than 1 year ago
huh? She is 0 for 2 against boys.
John Howland More than 1 year ago
They proved she didn't belong in Dubai.Not once,but twice.For a horse that's laid many an egg along the way,she has plenty to prove.
Mark More than 1 year ago
She proved AGAIN last BC she us tops by far in her division .
John Howland More than 1 year ago
She has her division sewed up already this year,I'd just love to see her go in the Classic and I'd love to see her win.
sharjil More than 1 year ago
Its easy to point at her eggs. But what she does best, you dont like to point that out. How many other horses do such things commonly ? Try to be positive. She doesnt belong in Dubai thats all..... Even in her losses here, she still fights
Patricia Doyle More than 1 year ago
Please, DRF, do something about these annoying, my uncle Hunter made $16,000 a week, type of ads. There are more of them. Please delete these annoying ads.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Flag the comments Patricia...
Wesley Wright More than 1 year ago
I agree, please give me the permissions to delete these misplaced and annoying ads. This is a forum to discuss horse racing!
Willie R. More than 1 year ago
You won't have to worry about these spammers in the future since this is a DRF Plus article. Soon only people with monthly subscriptions will be able to read and post comments. $$$$$$$$
sharjil More than 1 year ago
And thats crazy...... You are going to lose a lot of fans. Count me out too........
Elad Aki More than 1 year ago
nice article
Michael Carrelli More than 1 year ago
What if Wise Dan runs in the classic like I think he should and wins then who is H.O.Y. ? WISE DAN ALL THE WAY ! ! ! !
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
Even if he doesn't place? There is a distinct possibility of that happening you know? It;s well, horse racing after all.