11/07/2012 1:53PM

Jerardi: No superstars going into Breeders' Cup, but races produce some super performances

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Tom Keyser
Animal Kingdom looked good in defeat in the Breeders' Cup Mile and could be set for a big 2013 season.

Absent any superstar horses or compelling stories, the 2012 Breeders’ Cup was just about the racing. And it was terrific, if a bit hard to evaluate because of the speed-favoring nature of the main track.

When you have a Classic that gets a 117 Beyer Speed Figure and two major grass races that yield course records, you know it’s serious.

Some of the results made perfect sense. How good were Wise Dan and Groupie Doll?

Some of the results made no sense. Wayne Lukas had not won a Breeders’ Cup race in seven years. Hightail had never won a race or gotten a Beyer dirt figure better than 72. Naturally, Lukas’s colt ran down 1-2 Merit Man and got a 90 Beyer to win the Juvenile Sprint. Tough way to start a Friday pick six that – beyond that – was manageable.

Loved the end of the Marathon when every horse but one, the 9-year-old Argentinean-bred Calidoscopio, had strides as long as mine.

Was not happy that three of the 2-year-olds bled without Lasix and had their form compromised, something clearly unfair to bettors that have supported the Breeders’ Cup for years.

Loved watching Zagora dig into that firm turf in the Filly and Mare Turf. Wonder what might have gone down if The Fugue had gotten through the traffic sooner.

Is Bill Mott the best since Charlie Whittingham at targeting a specific race and winning it? Got to think so.

Never imagined Royal Delta in front of the Ladies’ Classic at the start, but, once she got there, I certainly never thought anything would pass her. Look forward to seeing her in the Classic next year to see if she can do a Zenyatta. Super impressed with My Miss Aurelia’s effort in Ladies’ Classic.

I thought Questing was going to love Santa Anita. Then, the track came up speed-favoring. The pick four I got with Royal Delta would have looked a lot better with Questing. Just wish she had the chance to clear the field, so we could have seen. Alas, the eye issue changed everything.

Nice to own a top-class racing filly these days – $10 million for Havre de Grace, $3.2 million for Grace Hall, and $8.5 million for Royal Delta last year.

Groupie Doll ran right through the bias in the Filly and Mare Sprint, earning the same Beyer (108) as Trinniberg in the Sprint.

Not quite sure what to think of Shanghai Bobby in the Juvenile. Just when it looked like he was going to win by 10, he stopped running and looked like he was going to finish last. Then, he re-broke and ran through the wire.

The time was so slow it translated to an 82 Beyer, far lower than in any of his three stakes wins. Need to see what goes down in 2013 before making any pronouncements, but, as Todd Pletcher said, staying unbeaten from February to November is impressive under any circumstance.

The best performances in defeat had to be Point of Entry (Turf), Animal Kingdom (Mile), and Mucho Macho Man (Classic).

You could tell from the start that John Velazquez was not happy to be so far back with Point of Entry, but traffic dictated that he really had no choice but to wait. When he finally got clear, the horse absolutely exploded. I got his final quarter-mile in a very unofficial 22.5 seconds.

The only reason Point of Entry did not win is because the amazing Little Mike ran 1 1/2 miles in 2:22.83. I thought all along Little Mike would have a much better chance in the Turf than the Mile because of the pace. Dale Romans obviously thought the same thing, but I still did not think Little Mike could win without the lead. Really like seeing that horse run, so I was hardly upset to be wrong.

If you go back to last November, Wise Dan has a Grade 1 win on dirt, the fastest Beyer in history on artificial (117), and three straight Grade 1 wins at a mile on the grass. He also was a photo in the Stephen Foster shy of a perfect season. We all know Wise Dan is the most versatile horse in training. Now, we also can say he is the best.

How good was Animal Kingdom in defeat? Graham Motion had the Kentucky Derby winner ready to run a big one, and he did. Who knows what happens without the traffic issues? Catching Wise Dan and running faster than 1:31.78 would not have been easy, but it would have been interesting to see if it was possible.

Got to think Animal Kingdom, health permitting, is sitting on a big 2013.

This time last year, Fort Larned was 2 for 10 and had just finished last in a Churchill Downs allowance race, beaten by 21 lengths. Outfitted with a set of blinkers, Fort Larned proceeded to win five stakes and run five Beyers of 108 or better in 2012, culminating with that amazing 117. By Pennsylvania sire E Dubai, who stands next to Smarty Jones, Fort Larned is no fluke. You can’t run that fast that often and be anything but a star.

If you had told the Mucho Macho Man people that their colt would get a 116 Beyer, they would have started celebrating. You can’t run much better and lose.

Sounds like many of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup winners and others who ran well will be back in 2013. By then, some of them may have morphed into superstars and perhaps all the big names will want to run in the Classic. That is a race I want to see.