10/29/2008 11:00PM

Trainer turns small bet into major profit

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The notebook needs cleaning out again. So here goes . . .

* Trainer Gary Stute did not have a Breeders' Cup starter, but still had his best day of 2008. His $288 pick six ticket (2x2x1x3x3x4) paid $55,920.80 plus consolations; the key was BC Mile winner Goldikova. "She was my only single; I thought the European horses were better than ours on turf," he said. Stute was live to four horses in the Classic - Curlin and the Europeans, including one-two finishers Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator. It proves that good guys can win. And for $288, small guys sometimes win, too.

* John Murtagh is a better jockey than he showed in the Breeders' Cup. He has won at least 19 Group 1 races this year in Europe, but his mistakes contributed to three BC defeats. He broke slowly and finished fourth on Turf Sprint favorite Fleeting Spirit; was away poorly, in trouble, and ran second with Juvenile Turf favorite Westphalia; and he curiously forced the pace and finished fourth on Turf favorite Soldier of Fortune. A top rider overseas, Murtagh is 0 for 26 in the U.S. since he won the 2000 BC Turf on Kalanisi.

* If Zenyatta runs on dirt again, she may be a prime bet-against. Though she won on dirt at Oaklawn Park, her closing style is far more suitable for synthetic. On dirt, early speed still rules. On synthetic, late speed rules. Daily Racing Form's Mike Watchmaker wrote Zenyatta is "one for the ages." The coronation is premature; the letter "s" probably should be dropped. Zenyatta currently is one for the "age" - the age of synthetic.

* For the record: Zenyatta gets my vote as Horse of the Year.

* Curlin's loss was reminiscent of early days of synthetic, when the new surfaces exacerbated form decline. Another possible explanation - jockey Robby Albarado pulling the trigger too soon. Rally-wide strategy works with superior horses such as Zenyatta, Midnight Lute, and Stardom Bound. However, Curlin may have moved a furlong too soon, which is why he emptied out at the furlong pole against a good Classic field.

* My next-door neighbor, from England, thinks he knows horse racing, even though he goes to the races only once a year. He sent a text on Breeders' Cup Day slugged "Brit tip." Just what I need - a "tip" sent by a novice. I ignored the text until after the Classic had been run. You guessed it. He suggested a wager on U.K. shipper Raven's Pass ($29).

* If the 3-year-old Two Step Salsa did not stamp himself as the top 4-year-old for the 2009 winter meet by setting a wicked pace and holding third in the BC Dirt Mile, can anyone offer an alternative? Two Step Salsa smoked six furlongs in 1:08.57 - fastest of the meet by almost two seconds - and hung tough to deep stretch. He loves synthetic.

* Breeders' Cup president Greg Avioli said Europeans are asking for two changes to the BC Marathon. The first is a name change; the other is a distance longer than 1 1/2 miles. But there may be a better way to make everyone happy - boost the purse from $500,000 status and make it $1 million like every other BC race.

* The biggest BC flop by an East Coast runner was Munnings in the Juvenile. He ran 10th after finishing in the money twice behind Vineyard Haven in New York. Maybe the Juvenile result flattered Vineyard Haven. Munnings lost by 5 3/4 lengths to Vineyard Haven; he lost by 4 3/4 to Midshipman. Do the math, and it suggests Vineyard Haven is one length better than Midshipman. Okay, it's a reach.

* Looked through back copies of Daily Racing Form the other day and stumbled across a headline written more than seven months ago after an unknown European filly made her U.S. debut in an allowance race. The March 9 headline read: "Ventura flashes major talent."

* Hypothetical question: If Point Given, Silver Charm, and Midnight Lute all retired at the same time, would trainer Bob Baffert still call Midnight Lute the "best horse he has trained?"

* Can you knock a horse for finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Mile? It seems harsh. But the consistently top-class Precious Kitten has won only 1 of 5 this year, and it seems clear she is not the horse she was in 2007. Precious Kitten runs for the last time Nov. 30 in the Grade 1 Matriarch. She is vulnerable no matter how soft the field.

* Just asking: Is the synthetic-surface revolution horse racing's version of "wealth redistribution"?

* A trio of second-year Breeders' Cup races will receive graded status next year. Here's a stab at how they should shake out: Filly and Mare Sprint, Grade 1; Dirt Mile, Grade 2; Juvenile Turf, Grade 3.

* IEAH Stables does not get everything it wants. This past spring while Big Brown grabbed headlines, IEAH quietly pursued the 2-year-old colt Dream of Kaylee. But, no deal was struck. Dream of Kaylee ran third May 1 in a Grade 3 at Churchill Downs, and Sunday at Santa Anita he returned with a devastating three-length maiden win. The Beyer was 91, Dream of Kaylee won geared down by Victor Espinoza, and looks like a top 3-year-old sprinter for Santa Anita winter.

* On opening day at Hollywood Park a between-races synthetic-surface phenomenon returned for the first time since Del Mar - a water truck that made four passes.