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Breeders’ Cup Wrap-UP

I’ve been debating about putting up a Breeders’ Cup post today because there really isn’t too much left to say that hasn’t already been said in 1,000 other places by now.   Nevertheless I think I’d feel like something was missing if I didn’t say a few words at least:

  • Santa Anita – Wow!  For those of you who go there routinely I guess this goes without saying, but WOW (did I say that already?!)…what a view!  Those mountains make for a breathtaking backdrop.
Wow!

Wow!

  • Pro-Ride – Is there any doubt at this point that this is a completely separate surface that bears no resemblance to dirt, plays more like turf, and is extremely difficult to navigate for dirt horses with no past turf or synthetic experience?  When you see consistent horses with strong dirt form completely fail to fire time after time that’s telling you something.  You know the facts by now – not a single dirt horse won or even ran well.  Consistent dirt horses like Music Note, Sara Louise, Summer Bird, D’Funnybone, Devil May Care etc etc all failed to display anywhere near their established form over this track.  Bottom line – these races mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things when it comes to dirt horses.  For all intents and purposes you need to treat them the same way you’d treat a grass race for these horses.  America is built around dirt racing so it’s just sad to see us run prominent and championship races on an entirely different surface that holds no historical value or relative significance.  In addition, you can now view some of the performances from last year (ie – Curlin) through an even more colored lense and realize those races are dead throwouts.
What is this stuff?

What is this stuff?

This really isn't my living room carpet!

This really isn't my living room carpet!

  • Marathon – If not for the fact that some of these horses were coming from Europe you’d otherwise be hard-pressed to distinguish this race from the Gallant Fox Handicap in December at Aqueduct.  Just silly.
  • Juvenile Filllies Turf – Why?  Surprised no one closed into pretty fast fractions.  Nice effort by Rose Catherine stretching out off that sensational debut in a turf sprint at Belmont.
  • Juvenile Fillies – Zzzzzzz.  Lots of horses in the picture.  No one all that impressive.  Not sure this race means much in the grand scheme of things except to the winners.  Tough trip for Biofuel (who I bet of course) going 100 wide and getting sideswiped as she was making her move…and still closing well for 4th.
  • F&M Turf – Midday figured better than these if Forever Together didn’t return to peak form.  Forever Together didn’t and Midday was.
  • F&M Sprint – Some people must be looking at an $8.80 payoff for 7-for-7 on synthetics Informed Decision and thinking “Wow…what an easy game” but this race was as much about pace as anything else.  The race was essentially over after the first quarter as  Informed Decision sat just off a slow 23:1 quarter while probably-best Ventura attempted to close from the back of the pack.  Sara Louise had nothing on the pro-ride.
Informed Decision

Informed Decision

  • DISTAFF(!) – Not sure if Careless Jewel was just entirely rank or another with non Pro-Ride/Keeneland type synthetic experience (Woodbine is a bit of a different surface than those) who also didn’t handle the surface.  Either way, the Rachel Alexandra comparisons should stop for a while.  She should still make for a nice 4 yo if they stick to the dirt.  Obviously this was one that fell apart from the fast pace as Life Is Sweet came from the back to blow by the field.  Seeing a potent finisher like Music Note lack a strong closing punch again validates the stark  contrast in the surface.
  • Juvenile Turf – Whatever.  Congrats to the connections I guess.
  • Turf Sprint – Was hoping for chaos again but California Flag looked best if he could avoid an early duel.  Able to get away with a slow 21:2 quarter (well slow compared to last year’s 20:3 duel) he cruised home.
  • Sprint – Just bet the fastest last race Beyer.  Easy game, right?!  Zensational got off a bit slow and couldn’t make the lead and showed little thereafter so obviously they decided to rest on their laurels and retire him.  After all what’s left to prove after you decisively beat Talking to MomRoo?  Fatal Bullet threw in his first synthetic clunker after everything seemed to set up well for him.  Champion Sprinter for $100, Alex?
  • Juvenile – I’ll leave out the fact that I was alive with 7 of these in the Pick-4 (including Piscitelli for 90k who led through slow fractions and then re-rallied in midstretch) and missed it when I picked the wrong Euros to be my “A’s” (the Sprint eliminated my B’s in this race – which Vale of York was) and just say that obviously Lookin At Lucky lost nothing in defeat here.  I’m sure this race has some Santa Anita Derby or San Felipe  implications or something…but not much else.
  • Turf Mile – Another pretty impressive performance by Goldikova who was obviously back on her “A” game.  Clearly one of the all-time good turf fillies, however I still wouldn’t put her near Miesque who ran faster, had a better career overall, and beat significantly better fields in her back-to-back triumphs.    Check out the fact that Miesque ran exclusively against males in the final EIGHT starts of her career – compiling a record of 6 wins and 2 seconds against a very deep and talented group (both in Europe & the US).
  • Dirt Mile – Wide open race if Mastercraftsman didn’t fire.  Furthest Land obviously ran back to his last race.  Ridiculous to run this race in the heart of the Saturday card.  In other news, the “Dirt Mile” remains on target to actually be run at 1 Mile on the dirt for the first time next year.
  • Turf – Pretty uninteresting race.  Amazing they can only get 7 horses (and just 3 from the US) to run for 3 Million Dollars on the grass.  Conduit wasn’t nearly as good this year as he was last year but it was still enough to get the job done.  Precious Passion is definitely a cool horse who has obviously improved quite a bit and become way more consistent.  It’s rare to see a horse do what he does on the turf so he’s definitely fun to watch.
The Classic!

The Classic!

Zenyatta

Zenyatta

  • Classic – Well Zenyatta certainly surprised me.  I didn’t expect her to win going in and she certainly looked beaten throughout most of the race but she managed to blow by the field and make history.  The moment gave you goosebumps and the cheering from the crowd reminded me of a playoff game atmosphere after a game-typing basket or Home Run which is remarkable to see at a racetrack.  Nevertheless my analytical side can’t help but view this effort in a slightly different context.  At the end of the day Zenyatta beat a field of primarily turf horses on a surface that almost none of them had run their best efforts over (Gio Ponti’s best efforts are on grass, Twice Over’s also on grass, & Summer Bird’s on dirt).  If Summer Bird faced Gio Ponti and Twice Over going 10 furlongs on the dirt, would you still bet him to run last of the 3?  Clearly Zenyatta is the queen of synthetics but I just can’t treat that the same way that I’d treat a horse who accomplished the same thing on dirt.  It’s a niche surface and it’s less significant than dirt.  Zenyatta very well might be as good on dirt but unfortunately it doesn’t look like we’ll ever get the chance to find out.

I obviously have a lot more to say about Zenyatta and the Classic and I plan to cover Zenyatta and why Rachel Alexandra is still Horse of the Year in separate posts.  I’ll also give some thoughts on the 2009 Eclipse Award picture later in the week as well.

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  1. sbloomer says

    Hi Darrell. Just found your blog. Yours is the 1st blog I’ve found that seems to want to rain a bit on the parade of Zenyatta’s Classic win, but I found my response to it very similar to mine.
    My thoughts afterwards are there is no real way to gauge how good Zenyatta is (compared to other HOFers) , which is a shame . There are 3 ways to gauge quality – won/loss record, race times, quality of opposition. She certainly has the 1st nailed, the second is difficult to judge because she has done all that has been required and little more (but in an exciting come from behind fashion), and the third…made me go looking. You’ve made the point that this is probably the worst bunch of older male dirt horses in your memory, which I agree with. And this is not dependent on dirt vs. synthetic, not one has won even a couple of stakes on either surface that would make them a champion this year. But I had to go back to 1970 to find as bad a bunch of dirt males, including 3 y.o’s – a record of 3 stakes win in 9 starts for the consensus pro tem champ isn’t particularly great in my mind (Temperence Hill would be a good comparable for Summer Bird, though TH accomplished a little more).
    I’m afraid this criticism applies to RA as well, except she ran some faster races with wider victory margins.

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