10/26/2008 11:00PM

Zenyatta steals the show this Breeders' Cup


NEW YORK - Thoughts on Friday and Saturday's Breeders' Cup races:

Filly and Mare Sprint: Ventura was the only one in the field to make a truly serious move from off the pace. Combine that with Indian Blessing finishing well clear of the rest for the place, and it suggests that Indian Blessing ran her race. If she did, then Ventura's performance had to be monstrous, even if the Beyer Speed Figures say otherwise.

Juvenile Fillies Turf: It was hard to find anyone who liked the form of the Miss Grillo going into this race. But it's funny how Maram, who won the Miss Grillo and won this race at 11-1, was, on Friday, three times the price of the fourth-place finisher in the Miss Grillo, Consequence.

Juvenile Fillies: As impressive as Stardom Bound was in victory, do not forget that she also lost a substantial amount of ground on the far turn making her wide rally. That ground loss renders her win margin (1 1/2 lengths) a useless measure of how superior she really was.

Filly and Mare Turf: Forever Together, who hadn't even raced on turf until last May, has a freakish late kick. I didn't like the indecisive ride on Wait a While. She was caught wide rating off a very slow pace, which brings up the question, Why was she rated this way? She has no chance ever of outkicking the likes of Forever Together.

Ladies' Classic: Again, words don't do Zenyatta justice. She was awesome with her wide move (a familiar and successful approach both Friday and Saturday, for sure), running by the best females around like they were nothing. Zenyatta might be the best mare since Personal Ensign. She might even be better.

Marathon: His Euro past-performance lines seemed lacking, and Muhannak was something of an unknown in this race. But Church Service is a thoroughly known commodity to American horseplayers, and for him to come within a head of winning tells you this race couldn't have been very good.

Turf Sprint: With all due respect to Desert Code and his connections, I couldn't have bet on him if I had a suitcase full of Benjamins to play with, and, apparently, I had a lot of company in that regard. And I'm not saying that because Desert Code cost me money by running down Diabolical.

Dirt Mile: I heard something about trouble on the first turn in this race, but ridiculous camera angles and camera cuts that plague all nationally televised racing broadcasts kept any trouble a well-hidden secret. The vastly improved Albertus Maximus made it 5 for 5 for closers in Breeders' Cup Pro Ride races at this point in the day. Maybe next year the Breeders' Cup will schedule an established Breeders' Cup race earlier on the card, because at this point, it sure didn't feel like a Breeders' Cup Saturday.

Mile: Here is where it finally felt like a Breeders' Cup Saturday, thanks to Goldikova. Her sudden and brilliant acceleration is seen in only truly special horses. And outstanding horses like Goldikova making memories with special performances are what the Breeders' Cup was built on, not marginal horses competing in fringe races.

Juvenile: Given the way closers were winning everything, Midshipman's switch to a speed approach seemed ill-timed. But he became the only speed winner in any of this year's Breeders' Cup races when he, Square Eddie, and Street Hero went around the track pretty much one-two-three. Still, I can't shake my skepticism of this bunch.

Juvenile Turf: It didn't work out last year, or in Friday's female counterpart to this race, but these 2-year-old turf events really should be the private property of European horses, as it was here with Donativum edging Westphalia. And while much was made on the national telecast of Westphalia's trouble, the best horse won.

Sprint: Sure, this was a light field and the race setup and track played to the winner's closing style, but trainer Bob Baffert deserves massive credit for getting Midnight Lute to repeat in this race after this horse had but one virtual non-outing in the previous 11 months. Baffert's work here was right up there with the job Michael Dickinson did with Da Hoss in 1998.

Turf: Confirmation of how weak our turf horses were this year was received as Europeans Conduit and Eagle Mountain dominated, running one-two. And European Soldier of Fortune should have finished third instead of fourth. For some reason, Soldier of Fortune's rider had him right on the heels of his rabbit Red Rock Canyon in the early stages.

Classic:When Tiago finishes in front of Curlin, as he did here for third money behind Raven's Pass, it's obvious that Curlin did not run his race. The neat and easy thing to do is to blame the synthetic track for that, which may indeed be all or part of the cause. But I don't think so. The way I see it, if Curlin didn't like the track, then he wouldn't have made the strong move to the lead in upper stretch. Instead, Curlin is simply not the same horse who won the Classic last year, or the Dubai Cup early this year. We had indications of that in his recent performances, but it turned out that Curlin didn't have enough margin for error.

Nevertheless, as much as I'm awed by Zenyatta, Curlin's Grade 1 wins this year in the Dubai Cup, the Foster, the Woodward, and Jockey Club Gold Cup still outweigh hers in the Apple Blossom, Vanity, Lady's Secret, and Ladies' Classic for Horse of the Year honors. And speaking of Eclipse Awards, Big Brown will be champion 3-year-old male, but he's lucky. Raven's Pass, who is also a 3-year-old, ran a race Saturday better than anything Big Brown ever ran.