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Breeders’ Cup Day 2: Live Blogging

Posted by Brian Appleton on November 2, 2013

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1) Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Grade 1 – 1 1/16 Miles
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies will start with a field of 10 youngsters in less than 20 minutes at Santa Anita this year. This is a pretty nice field of fillies and favoritism should be bouncing around between Artemis Agrotera and Sweet Reason. They finished 1-2 respectively in their last start in the Frizette Stakes (Gr.1) and have been dominating in their 5 combined starts. Untapable, Rosalind, Secret Compass and She’s a Tiger are four fillies in with a really good shot as well. It’s 10 minutes to post time.

Results: She’s a Tiger and jockey Gary Stevens ran a strong gate-to-wire performance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, holding off a determined Rio Antonia with Rosalind closing on the inside for third to finish ahead in the event, but after a review by stewards determined that she came out and bumped Rio Antonia her number was taken down and 32-1 Rio Antonio was declared the winner. Race favorite Artemis Agrotera was away well and had a perfect stalking trip just behind She’s a Tiger, but was unable to capitalize on her strong position, fading back as the field moved around the far turn. Meanwhile Sweet Reason appeared to be on her way to winning after launching a move from far back in the field to reach third in stretch before flattening out. Ria Antonia entered off a 5th place finish in the Frizette Stakes and this marks her first graded stakes win.

2) Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf Grade 1 – 1 ¼ Miles
Laughing is my pick here, she’s been on a roll lately, winning four graded stakes in-a-row, including two grade 1’s. She’ll have some really strong competition this time around so it won’t be a cakewalk or a “sure thing” by any means. I’m curious to see how Emollient fares in this spot and will be rooting for Marketing Mix to made a good run as well.

Results: Dank proved her 8/5 favoritism in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf today was well deserved. Running much closer to the lead than she typically does, Dank sat a very close second, just off the lead of Emollient with Laughing surprising far back running in 7th as the field moved by the stands for the first time. The field maintained positions down the backstretch with Marketing Mix moving up a bit closer into 4th as the field approached the far turn. Emollient still held a slight advantage as they began to travel into the turn but Dank moved up strongly on her outside to seize command as Marketing Mix, Romantica and Alterite all moved forward as one. Emollient hung on stubbornly in the stretch, never throwing in the towel, but Dank extended her lead under the line, winning by just over a length with a fast closing Romantica right in behind. Alterite and Emollient finished half a length in front of Marketing Mix to complete the top 5. Jockey Ryan Moore won his fifth Breeders’ Cup race with Dank and once again it looks like the Europeans are going to love the turf today.

3) The Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Grade 1 – 7 Furlongs
Last year Groupie Doll was the undisputed queen of sprinting here in the U.S. and this year she returns to defend that title with a lot to prove and many contenders looking to take her title. After a long rest this year Groupie Doll has not quite lived up to her spectacular form of last year, but has still managed to win two of four starts and set a track record in the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (Gr.2). She enters off a third to Judy the Beauty in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (Gr.2). Judy the Beauty could wind up being my pick come post time, she seems to be improving at the right time and could get a really good pace to close into. Sweet Lulu, Book Review, Teddy’s Promise and Dance to Bristol are just a few of the other top class fillies looking to stake their claim to title of best female sprinter in the country. I’ll be rooting for Groupie Doll to win this again, but I’m not sure she’s as sharp as she was last year and can replicate her devastating victory.

Results: Checkout my recap on DistaffRunner at Horse Racing Nation to read all about Groupie Doll’s incredible victory!

4) The Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint Grade 1 – 6 ½ furlongs
The 14 horse field for the Turf Sprint has two fillies I’m extremely high on this year, as I was last year. Mizdirection and Reneesgotzip. Mizdirection is the defending Turf Spring winner and I fully expect she’ll be just as tough to beat this year as she was last. However I’m choosing Reneesgotzip to win this one, she’s probably the fastest filly in the nation, maybe even the fastest horse in the nation, and if she gets out to a solid lead and holds in the stretch I don’t think anyone’s going to pass her.

Results: Mizdirection went into the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint a very solid favorite to defend her title from last year and she did just that in a thrilling finish on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita. Breaking like a bolt, Reneesgotzip shot to the lead and blazed an opening quarter in :21.47 before rushing through a half in an incredible :43.36. Mizdirection broke well and rated in 4th position for jockey Mike Smith, just a few lengths off the flying pace set by Reneesgotzip. Moving into the turn the defending champion edged up to sit in third on the outside. As the field thundered into the homestretch Reneesgotzip had powered clear by two lengths, but it was clear that Mizdirection was getting ready to roll. Halfway to the wire and Reneesgotzip was still holding the lead, desperately urged on by jockey Maldonado, but Mizdirection was flying now, eating up the ground with giant strides to win by a long neck over Reneesgotzip, just a nose in front of Tightened Touchdown. Two very classy fillies brought it to the boys once again this year, after finishing 1st and 3rd last year, Mizdirection and Reneesgotzip now finished 1st and 2nd.

5) The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Grade 1 – 1 1/16 Miles
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile looks less competitive this year than is has the last few years, mainly because Honor Code and Ride On Curlin opted not to run this year, but with Havana and Strong Mandate still in the race it’s sure to be a thriller. Strong Mandate ran a clunker in the Champagne Stakes (Gr.1) last out finishing 7th, but was the clear division leader prior to that with a dominating win in the Hopeful Stakes (Gr.1). I still like Strong Mandate and I’m going to give him another chance here in the Juvenile. It might not work out to his advantage with speed playing so well today, but Havana will surely like it. Undefeated in two starts, Havana last out captured the Champagne Stakes by a nose over Honor Code and looks to cinch up the Championship title here with a win.

Results: New Year’s Day didn’t steal any of the pre-race hype moving into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Gr.1), but when the dust settled this Bob Baffert trained colt was the last colt standing. He entered the Juvenile off a 1 ¾ win over Bond Holder to break his maiden and went off at odds of 10-1, but none of that mattered in the end. With jockey Martin Garcia aboard, New Year’s Day broke towards the back of the pack and settled into 9th position down the backside as Conquesttitan and Strong Mandate drove through brutal opening fractions of :22.66 for the quarter and :45.38 for the half. Approaching the far turn Strong Mandate took over and opened up by two lengths as the field began to navigate the turn, but Havana quickly closed up on the outside and stole the lead, rushing off to a two length lead into the stretch. New Year’s Day meanwhile was weaving his way through traffic to launch his bid at the rail, finally hitting his best stride halfway down the stretch to win going away by about 1 ½ lengths. It was a wonderful win for Bob Baffert who earlier on the card saw his filly Secret Compass euthanized after a terrible injury. Now the question is this; is New Year’s Day done for the year or will he try to pad up his resume for a chance to win an Eclipse as the nation’s leading 2-year-old colt.

6) The Breeders’ Cup Turf Grade 1 – 1 ½ Miles on Turf
Point of Entry has not run since winning the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park on June 6th, but that wasn’t his fault. He suffered a condylar fracture in the Manhattan and trainer Shug McGaughey gave his champion plenty of time to rest up and heal. Incredibly he has made a 100% recovery and is back to try and win the Breeders’ Cup Turf after his gallant ½ length defeat by Little Mike last year. It’s always difficult for a horse to comeback from an injury and run competitively at a high level, but this presents an especially tough challenge for Point of Entry since he’ll be facing horses like European sensation The Fugue, last year’s winner Little Mike and a very strong contender in Big Blue Kitten. The consensus seems to be that The Fugue will prevail, but I’m hoping for the “fairy-tale” run by Point of Entry. This horse is all heart and always gives his very best. Big Blue Kitten could prove to be his biggest challenge today.

Results: Most of the attention was on The Fugue and Point of Entry in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but Magician came from out of the clouds to give jockey Ryan Moore his second win at the Breeders’ Cup this year. Point of Entry coming off a long layoff was placed 3rd last by jockey Joel Rosario with The Fugue running in 7th four lengths ahead as the field left the gate and came by the stands for the first time. Teaks North led the field through a reasonable opening quarter before running the opening half in :46 4/5 to speed things up just a bit. Down the backstretch the field positions remained relatively unchanged but the minute the field hit the turn Little Mike made a swift move to seize the lead with The Fugue right in behind and Point of Entry beginning to rally back in 6th. Into the homestretch Little Mike held the lead briefly until The Fugue and Vagabond Shoes edged ahead, but from the back of the pack Magician was moving best of all, rushing past Point of Entry and nailing the win by half a length over The Fugue. Point of Entry finished well but wasn’t good enough on the day.

7) The Breeders’ Cup Sprint Grade 1 – 6 Furlongs
Little Mike was the first returning Breeders’ Cup winner not to successfully defend his title just minutes ago and in about 20 minutes it will be up to Trinniberg to prove he’s still got his moves. Last year Trinniberg turned in a thrilling and determined ¾ length win in the Breeders’ Cup, but since then he has lost all four of his concurrent starts, most recently finishing 7th in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes (Gr.1). He’ll have a lot to prove today. This one is all about Secret Circle for me. I love Bob Baffert training sprinters and this horse is just freakishly fast and talented. Justin Phillip could also be in for a good run, he seldom runs a poor race.

Results: Secret Circle might have had just one prep race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, but he proved that favoritism was well deserved as he launched a strong move coming off the turn to hit the lead and stick it to his competition. The opening quarter went in a blistering :21.34 as a three horse battle ensued up front between Sum of the parts, Gentlemen’s Bet and Fast Bullet. Entering the homestretch Gentlemen’s Bet was just a half-length in front of Sum of the Parts as Secret Circle fanned seven wide and drove for the wire. Gentlemen’s Bet held on gallantly, but Secret Circle rolled by nearing the wire as a fast closing Laugh Track took second. That’s win number two for trainer Bob Baffert and Jockey Martin Garcia today. Many were saying it before the Sprint and they’ll continue saying it now; Secret Circle is the best sprinter in the country.

8) The Breeders’ Cup Mile Grade 1 – 1 Mile on Turf
What can you say about this race, other than that Wise Dan is just so intimidating that it’s really tough to pick against him? The reigning Horse of the Year was sensational all last year and won the Breeders’ Cup Mile in record setting style. This year he has been equally as impressive while racking up 5 consecutive wins, including three Grade 1’s and two Grade 2’s. This is his race to lose and I’m not going to try to beat him.

Results: Wise Dan has not lost a step. After finishing second in the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (Gr.1) in his last start, the 2012 Horse of the Year had some detractors saying that he was slowing down and his age was showing, but the only thing that showed today was how good Wise Dan is. Breaking with a small stumble out of the gate, Wise Dan picked himself up without so much as a hiccup and settled in nicely behind the leaders with Obviously blowing through an opening quarter in :21.94 and a half in :44.47 with Silver Max in second. Into the turn Obviously continued to lead as Wise Dan came under a full head of speed and set his sights towards the finish line. Charging down the middle of the stretch the champion overtook a very game Za Approval as Silentio darted to the inside. The margin of victory was just Âľ of a length, with Za Approval and Silentio finishing second and third, but this was a no-doubt-about-it winner.

8) The Breeders’ Cup Classic Grade 1 – 1 ¼ Miles
It’s the biggest racing event of the year aside from the Kentucky Derby and this year boasts a stellar field of 11 colts and geldings all vying to be called the best in America. Game On Dude has run in this race twice, finishing a game second in 2011 and a dull 7th in 2012 behind Fort Larned who returns this year to defend his title. Since finishing 7th last year Game On Dude has won 6 straight races, including three Grade 1’s and is coming into this year’s Classic fit, fresh and better than ever. The way Santa Anita’s Track has been playing both days of the Championships so far you have to believe he’s got an excellent chance to get the lead and carry it all the way to the end. Personally though, I’m going with Belmont and Jim Dandy Stakes winner, Palace Malice. He finished a very solid 2nd to Ron the Greek who absolutely freaked in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont in his last start after running 4th in the Travers, running what many consider the best performance of the race. He’s been going strong all year long and doesn’t look to be slowing up now. It’s a huge challenge for any 3-year-old to take on experienced elders such as Game One Dude and Mucho Macho Man, but if anyone can get it done I think it’s Palace Malice. It should be interesting to see how his fellow sophomore runners Will Take Charge and Moreno perform as well. Mucho Macho Man is a big favorite of mine and his last win was terrific, but my heart belongs with Palace Malice on this one.

Results: He’s got one of the most solid fan bases in the sport and has one of the most lovable and talented trainers on the planet and Saturday night at Santa Anita Park, Mucho Macho Man raced his way into Breeders’ Cup history. Breaking fastest of all Mucho Macho man was quickly flanked by Moreno on the inside and Game on Dude to his outside before dropping back to fourth as they navigated the first turn with Fort Larned moving up to lead. The opening quarter went in :23.39 as Moreno and Fort Larned battled it out on the front end. Declaration of War raced to the inside of Mucho Macho Man behind the leaders with Will Take Charge and Palace Malice running side by side three spots back. As the field approached the far turn Mucho Macho Man and jockey Gary Stevens swung to the outside of Game On Dude and took command with Palace Malice and Will Take Charge just in behind. Charging off the turn and into the stretch Mucho Macho Man began to pull away, leading by just over a length as Declaration of War came shooting to the outside, pushing Palace Malice and Will Take Charge out wide into the track. Halfway down the stretch and Mucho Macho Man was still in the lead but Declaration of War was all out to catch him. Will Take Charge began to pick up speed and unravel his customary late charge as Palace Malice faded. Those three flashed under the line to the thunderous roars of the crowd. Mucho Macho Man won, defeating Will Take Charge by a thread with Declaration of War in between, just a head back in third. Trainer Kathy Ritvo provided the most touching scene of the 2013 Breeders’ Cup when she ran out onto the track to greet her returning champion and Gary Stevens who gratefully shouted out, “You made an old man very happy”.

Posted in Breeders Cup Classic, Breeders Cup Juvenile, Breeders Cup Sprint, Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Breeders' Cup Mile, Breeders' Cup Turf, Dank, Groupie Doll, Magician, Mizdirection, Mucho Macho Man, New Year's Day, Reneesgotzip, Ria Antonia, Secret Circle, She's a Tiger, Wise Dan | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

2010 Breeders’ Cup: Part 2

Posted by Brian Appleton on November 9, 2010

Here we are for part two of the Breeders’ Cup results, but before I get into the races themselves I would like to cover some of the post Breeders’ Cup news.

Goldikova, three time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner and the greatest filly in Breeders’ Cup history, will remain in training in 2011 with her goal being a 4th consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile victory. The word “unprecedented” doesn’t even come close to doing this feat justice. This is just plain brilliant and one of the greatest gestures of modern thoroughbred horse racing sportsmanship ever displayed. Brothers Alain and Gerard Wetheimer, who bred Goldikova as well as race her, made the announcement two days after the 5-year-old mare’s dazzling Mile win.

“We decided to keep her in training because she’s in great shape,” Alain said. “The other reason is that if more older horses are kept in training, it’s good for the public because they get used to seeing them and there’s a good chance of it bringing people to the racetrack. If you only keep them one year, people don’t see them enough; they don’t get attached. I think it would be good if more people were able to do that.” He continued, “When you have a big stable and have a good mare, there’s no reason not to try to keep her in training.”

Let the praises roll, I for one am beyond just excited and thrilled that Goldikova will attempt to enhance her already sparkling reputation more by winning a 4th consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic:

 

Blind Luck was the filly to beat entering the Ladies Classic but it was Unrivaled Belle that stole the show. After a banner year for Unrivaled Belle in which she defeated Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra by a head in the La Troienne (gr.2) in late April, Unrivaled Belle put the icing on the cake with a powerful victory in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic over a stellar field of fillies and mares.

Breaking from the gate like a shot Unrivaled Belle sat just behind the three leaders, head bobbing with Milwaukee Appeal down the backstretch for 4th and 5th position. Havre de Grace sat just behind those two while Blind Luck trailed the field with a seriously compromised Life At Ten well back in last. Entering the far turn Unrivaled Belle moved to the lead with effortless strides as Havre de Grace surged forward on the outside and Blind Luck began to come alive from the back of the pack. Into the stretch Unrivaled Belle quickly began to distance herself from Havre de Grace with little urging from jockey Kent Desormeaux as Blind Luck came widest of all under a full head of steam. In the end it was Unrivaled Belle an easy winner by 1 Âľ lengths over a gallant, but late, Blind Luck with Havre de Grace third.

The winner was great in victory but I have to admit that my heart was with Blind Luck on this one and it was a shame to see her come so close and lose. She easily sewed up three-year-old filly honors with yet another gutsy performance here. Life At Ten was the real shame in the Ladies Classic this year. After being “unusually quite” according to trainer Todd Pletcher in the saddling ring and failing to warm up according to jockey John Velasquez, Life At Ten broke sluggishly from the gate and trailed the field all the way around. It has been speculated by Todd Pletcher that she may have had an allergic reaction to Lasix and began to tie up. It’s easy to criticize when you aren’t the one in the position to make decisions but in this case Life At Ten should have been scratched as soon as they realized something was wrong with her. It was just sheer dumb luck that she came out of the race unscathed.

 

Breeders’ Cup Sprint:

 

The Breeders’ Cup Sprint is always one of the most exciting races of the year, simply because of the fantastic energy the contestants explode from the gate with that continues all the way to the finish line.

In a year where both leading sprint candidates, Majesticperfection and Discreetly Mine, were sidelined by injury, Big Drama turned what was supposed to be an evenly matched contest into an absolute rout.

Bursting from the gate in the field of 12, Big Drama aggressively rushed to the lead and the race was over from there. Cruising through rapid fractions of :21.34 for the opening quarter and :44.58 for the half with Atta Boy Roy and Cash Refund in close pursuit, Big Drama continued into the turn looking strong under jockey Eibar Coa. Flying into the stretch three-wide, Big Drama gradually eased away for a 1 ½ length victory. Finishing second by a head over Smiling Tiger was Hamazing Destiny.

Big Drama’s record for the year now stands at 4 wins in 6 tries which should be enough to win him an Eclipse Award as top sprinter.

Posted in Big Drama, Blind Luck, Breeders Cup Sprint, Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic, Breeders' Cup Mile, Eibar Coa, Goldikova, Hamazing Destiny, Havre de Grace, John Velazquez, Life At Ten, Smiling Tiger, Todd Pletcher, Unrivaled Belle | 4 Comments »

2010 Breeders’ Cup Results: Part 1

Posted by Brian Appleton on November 7, 2010

Breeders’ Cup Mile:

Two mares came into the 2010 Breeders’ Cup world championships each with the opportunity to make history by becoming the first two horses ever to win three consecutive Breeders’ Cup races. One succeeded. On Saturday November 6th, Goldikova climbed the insurmountable pinnacle of greatness and rightfully declared herself the greatest thoroughbred on the planet by right of proof, after performing flawlessly on the world’s biggest stage.

All eyes were fixed securely to the great European champion as Goldikova lined up against one of the deepest fields in history to contest the Breeders’ Cup Mile for an unprecedented third year in a row. After explosive victories in the 2008 and 2009 editions where she proved herself the worlds’ best miler, Goldikova went to a whole new level in 2010.

Breaking from the outside in post position 10, Goldikova was slow to start but quickly placed herself mid-pack with guidance from jockey Olivier Peslier. Floated about 5 wide into the first turn, Goldikova moved to sixth position down the backstretch while up front Sidneys’ Candy flew through fractions of :24.02 for the opening quarter, :47.49 for the half and 1:11.33 for the three quarters. Entering the final turn Goldikova began to slowly move forward while from the rear of the field Gio Ponti and Paco Boy both came to life with a vengeance. Sidney’s Candy roared into the stretch, lengthening his lead to two lengths as the Usual Q. T. moved to his outside from second and began to make up ground quickly. For a few seconds it appeared as if Goldikova would not make it this time and that her Breeders’ Cup 3-peat would crumble to the ground, but with a vigorous shake of the reins from jockey Peslier the titan was unleashed and Goldikova burst forward like a wall of water battering through a dam. Surging past The Usual Q. T. Goldikova kept coming faster with every stride, sweeping past Sidneys’ Candy and powering to a 1 ½ length lead as Gio Ponti and Paco Boy rushed to the fore. It was a no-doubt-about-it win, Goldikova, in a vigorous hand ride, made some of the worlds’ best milers look like children chasing an Olympic runner down the stretch and under the wire.

With the win Goldikova not only becomes the best horse in the world, but undoubtedly one of the greatest of all time, and perhaps the greatest miler of all time bar none. She has become the ruler by which all following generations must be measured.

Breeders’ Cup Classic:

“Things happen for a reason.” That has got to be one of my least favorite sayings, and to the more than 114,000 fans in attendance at Churchill Downs on Saturday night it offered little consolation as they watched their hero and undefeated idol, Zenyatta, go down in defeat after a heartbreaking stretch drive that came up a mere head short.

The 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic will go down as the most anticipated Classic to ever be run in history and all because of one great mare and the field of talented males that helped cement her legacy.

In the weeks leading up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic I was a firm and enthusiastic supporter of Lookin At Lucky. The 2009 Champion Juvenile Male, Preakness, Haskell and Indiana Derby winner and half brother to Curlin was a favorite of mine since his second race in California as a two-year-old. Anyone who would listen got an earful from me about why I liked Lookin At Lucky better than Zenyatta, and while I readily admitted that I loved Zenyatta and knew she had the best chance to win the Classic, I was very confident that Lookin At Lucky could give her a race for her money.

For some inexplicable reason I found myself unable to cheer against Zenyatta as the Classic drew near. The moment I saw her prancing and dancing her way to the paddock amidst the cheers of thousands of fans my heart melted and I began to root for her with all my strength. She seems to have that effect on many people, it is literally almost impossible not to love her and hope that she wins.

As the field broke from the gates, Zenyatta dropped back more than a dozen lengths behind the field the first time past the wire. From there things just got worse for the undefeated super-star as she eventually dropped 15 lengths off the field before moving up on the backstretch. On the front end First Dude led a tightly bunched pack of 4 that included Quality Road, Espoir City and Haynesfield. Entering the backstretch it was more than 5 lengths back to Etched and Lookin At Lucky who led the second half of the field with Zenyatta trailing badly.

Entering the far turn Zenyatta began to move up with Mike Smith angling her to the inside as Blame surged to within 4 lengths of the lead. Into the stretch Blame split horses and seized the lead with Lookin At Lucky right behind, far back Zenyatta found her every move blocked by a wall of horses as she threaded her way through to the outside. Once in the clear the crowd went wild as Zenyatta furiously turned on her patented late run, desperately gunning for Blame who was now 1 ½ lengths clear of Lookin At Lucky. Blowing past Lookin At Lucky Zenyatta continued to close the gap with gigantic strides, Blame running strongly to the wire. Zenyatta frantically closed to within a neck of Blame the 4-year-old colt visibly began to fight back and for about five strides the two powerful athletes were neck and neck, but Blame refused to budge, handing Zenyatta the first, heartbreaking defeat of her career by a head.

There were a million “what if’s” that immediately popped into my head as the gallant daughter of Street Cry galloped out past the wire behind Blame. What if Mike Smith hadn’t had her so far back? What if he hadn’t put her on the inside and blocked by traffic on the final turn? Unfortunately Zenyatta did receive a poor ride from Mike Smith, but in defeat Zenyatta seems to have lost none of her illustrious reputation that preceded her historic journey. In fact, her defeat seems to have done just the opposite and endeared her to the hearts of millions of fans around the world even more. She is still the same great mare she was before and has proved once and for all that she ranks up there with the greats of all time.

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile:

Every once in a blue moon things in horse racing happen exactly as they are supposed to, or at least exactly we think they are supposed to, and few things offer a better illustration of those race scenarios as this years’ Breeders’ Cup Juvenile did.

It was billed as a two horse race between the speedy undefeated Uncle Mo and talented Hopeful Stakes winner Boys At Tosconova and that is exactly what it turned into, though only one of the youngsters really looked like he had to make a race of it.

Breaking from the gate with speed to spare, Unlce Mo raced in second behind Riveting Reason through the first turn, down the backstretch and into the final turn. Racing a couple lengths back, Boys At Tosconova secured a good spot for himself, relaxing nicely while off the pace in his first two-turn race.

As the field entered the final turn Boys At Tosconova moved up quickly into contention, right off the flank of Uncle Mo. It looked like a two horse race as they sped into the stretch but the scene changed in an instant.

Jockey John Velasquez on Uncle Mo came to life as they hit the stretch with a narrow lead, energetically pushing Uncle Mo to take control of the race. And take control he did, effortlessly putting Boys At Tosconova away within a few strides, the handsome bay colt came striding down the homestretch, opening up by more than four lengths as Boys At Tosconova chased him futilely, 6 lengths ahead of the rest of the field. Under the wire in a hand ride, Uncle Mo won by 4 ÂĽ lengths and instantly became the early favorite for the 2011 Kentucky Derby.

While his talent is absolutely undeniable, there are some questions as to whether or not Uncle Mo will be able to get a classic distance race as a son of Indian Charlie. Indian Charlie offspring tend to run their best races at shorter distances where their natural speed is most effective. I am a huge Uncle Mo fan since his first race and aside from hoping with all my heart that he will handle longer distances I truly believe that he will. He obviously loved running the two turns at Churchill Downs and won by more than 4 lengths in a hand ride, indicating that the margin could have been much more and that he could have kept going had he been required to. He didn’t even look tired after the race, bouncing and prancing his way down the back stretch to the winners circle.

This years’ Breeders’ Cup was pretty good to me. Friday was a complete toss as my picks finished second three times but none won. Saturday was much better, with five of my eight choices winning and two finishing second, one by a nose and the other by a head. The overall economy of the Breeders’ Cup was also encouraging this year as we saw a significant increase in both handle, on track and off, as well as a significant increase in on track attendance.

I will cover more of the Breeders’ Cup results in the next few days so stay tuned and let me know how your Breeders’ Cup experience turned out this year.

Posted in Blame, Boys At Tosconova, Breeders Cup Classic, Breeders Cup Juvenile, Breeders' Cup Mile, Curlin, Gio Ponti, Goldikova, Lookin at Lucky, Olivier Peslier, Paco Boy, Uncle Mo, Zenyatta | 2 Comments »

Counting Down to the Cup

Posted by Brian Appleton on November 5, 2010

It seems like just yesterday the Breeders’ Cup was months away and the spring classics had just gotten under way. Now here we are and it’s Breeders’ Cup day one. Enter the champions and challengers, it’s time to race!

For the sake of time I will go over only a few of the Breeders’ Cup races as I can covering my top three or four contenders in each race.

The Breeders’ Cup Marathon may be the first race of the championships to be run Friday but I’m going to start with

Saturday’s TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr.1) and the incredible, international cast lining up to face two-time defending champion Goldikova.

Goldikova has to be one of the most aptly named horses in the world as she has proven over and over again that she is pure gold when it comes to the racing game. Over the course of three years Goldikova has laid claim to both European and American championship titles as well as being only the second horse in history to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile in consecutive years. In 2010 Goldikova has scaled new heights of greatness while winning 4 of her 5 starts, her only loss coming when finishing second over a soft turf course to the best three-year-old miler in Europe.

Goldikova’s biggest threats in the Mile will come from her European nemesis Paco Boy, who has pushed the great mare to some of the slimmest margins of victory in her career, American champion Gio Ponti and talented speed-ball Sidney’s Candy. Paco Boy has thrown his best shot as Goldikova time after time this year, and every time the gifted colt has crossed the finish line second, always behind the great champion. There is no doubt he has the ability and the talent to win the big ones but when you run into a giant like Goldikova it really doesn’t seem to matter how good you are. Gio Ponti turned in one of the most visually impressive turf performances of the season in his last start when he won the Shadwell Turf Mile with laughable ease. He is beyond a doubt the best hope America has of defeating the power-house duo of Goldikova and Paco Boy. Sidneys’ Candy has only raced once on the turf but once was enough, in the La Jolla Handicap (gr.2) Sidney’s Candy set a course record while winning easily by more than 5 lengths. A duck should take to water as well as Sidney’s Candy takes to turf. He looks like the kind of colt that could be brilliant enough to pull off a huge upset in the Mile if all the cards fall into place.

Bottom line in the Mile is that this race is all about Goldikova, it’s her show and her crown on the line. From all appearances it would seem the queen is ready to defend her title.

The Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr.1) is yet another race in the championship series that seems chock-full of talent. Blind Luck leads the cavalry charge in Ladies Classic as the deserving favorite after wins in the Kentucky Oaks, Delaware Oaks and Fantasy Stakes this year to mention just a few. A small package with a huge late kick, Blind Luck embodies the greatest traits of courage, determination, toughness and will-to-win in thoroughbred racehorses that make these athletes so special. If nothing else Blind Luck is certainly the most competitive and well traveled filly in the field.

Her greatest threats come from older female Life At Ten, whose only 2010 blemish came in a third place finish behind Persistently and Rachel Alexandra in the Personal Ensign Stakes (gr.1), and 3-year-old nemesis Havre de Grace who turned the tables on Blind Luck in their last meeting after finishing runner up to Blind Luck two consecutive times. Life At Ten has been training lights-out since winning the Beldame Stakes and looks as ready as she has ever been to run a big race. Havre de Grace looked fantastic when testing the Churchill Downs surface for the first time after arriving for the Ladies Classic and should come into the race strong and fit. This could easily turn into another Blind Luck-Havre de Grace showdown at the wire but there a many classy fillies running who could easily step up and steal the prize if Blind Luck fails to fire her best shot. I don’t think that will happen.

The Breeders’ Cup post time is just hours away now and questions we have been asking all year long will finally be answered. Choose your runners and cheer for all your worth, it’s the Breeders’ Cup Championships, a golden day in the life of horse racing fans and one well worth celebrating. Best of luck to everyone and may the best horses win.

Posted in Blind Luck, Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic, Breeders' Cup Mile, Gio Ponti, Goldikova, Havre de Grace, Life At Ten, Paco Boy, Sidney's Candy | 2 Comments »

Lookin At Perfection and Greatness

Posted by Brian Appleton on October 3, 2010

Zenyatta has literally left me at a complete loss for words. As soon as the great mare streaked to a record 19th straight victory in Saturday’s Lady’s Secret Stakes I was itching to get out my laptop and pour all the joy, excitement and enthrallment I was experiencing, watching Zenyatta, into my writing. Hours later I sat in front of a blank word document, grasping for the words with which to depict what I had witnessed yet again. The task of describing just how great the thing Zenyatta has accomplished in her career in mere words is staggering and very near impossible, but describing the reactions and emotions her amazing journey creates in the hearts of fans around the world is even harder.

There is something spectacular about not being able to find the words to describe greatness. True greatness steals the words right from your lips and stamps them into your heart and mind with such a fervor and passion that you can never fully do those feelings justice in writing or speech. Zenyatta is the kind of horse that will have parents and grandparents saying decades down the road to their children and grandchildren “I was alive when the great Zenyatta ran.”

With her 19 consecutive wins Zenyatta is now headed to the Breeders’ Cup as perfection-in-motion for an attempt at conquering history yet again. She became the first filly or mare to ever win the prestigious Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2009 and will return to defend her title against what is stacking up to be a very strong field of international male athletes. Victory in the Classic will virtually assure the grand mare Horse of the Year honors as well as a lofty place in history as one of the greatest mares to ever grace the American racing scene.

Not to be outdone by Zenyatta, Goldikova, perhaps the greatest race-mare in modern European history and best mare

in the world, turned in a rousing performance to capture the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp over a fast closing Paco Boy in what was the 11th grade/group 1 win of her stellar career.

After breaking quickly from the inside post, Goldikova and jockey Olivier Peslier went straight to the front while under a tight hold. Still on the lead nearing the halfway point in the 7 furlong race, Regal Parade rushed forward to take command from Goldikova as the classy Dick Turpin raced well back in mid-pack and Paco Boy took up the rear.

As the field flew into the homestretch Dick Turpin and Paco Boy began to charge for the lead, eating up the ground with every stride. Goldikova at the same time began to slowly gear up for her final run, angling away from the rail to swing around Regal Parade and snatch the lead again. Dick Turpin was flying up on the outside, Paco Boy hot on his heels, moving much faster than the brilliant filly and it appeared for a moment that both colts might pass the champion mare. The colts continued to close relentlessly but the moment Goldikova spotted Dick Turpin approaching the game was over. She accelerated with supreme ease and comfortably held off the furious rally of Paco Boy to get the better of that one for the third time this year, winning by half a length.

While she may not be undefeated like Zenyatta, Goldikova’s accomplishments are stunning none the less and in my humble opinion far greater. She has won races in Europe and the United States, defeating the world’s best male runners on a regular basis while making it look easy, as well as destroying fillies and mares when the occasion calls for it. The great Goldikova, back-to-back winner of the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr.1) from 2008-2009, will return to the United States for her next start. An unprecedented third Breeders’ Cup Mile attempt. A win in the Breeders’ Cup Mile a third consecutive year will place Goldikova in an untouchable league all her own.

Lookin At Lucky was just about the only male horse that successfully pulled off the role of race favorite this weekend as the impressive 3-year-old colt splashed to a extraordinary victory in the Indian Derby (gr.2) on Saturday after being obscured behind the field for most of the race.

Sitting dead-last going into the first turn in the field of 8, Lookin At Lucky and jockey Martin Garcia sat patiently behind the pack as Indy Bull, Litigation Risk and Worldly set a hot pace up front. Rounding the far turn Theskyhasnolimit pushed his way through to the lead as Lookin At Lucky came flying from the back. Shooting off the turn 5  wide, the powerful son of Smart Strike literally dashed his opponents off their feet, bolting to the front in a matter of moments to coast under the line, ears pricked in sublime comfort, the winner by 1 ¼ lengths.

In winning the Indiana Derby Lookin At Lucky proved emphatically that he is ready for his planned trip to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The talented colt will no doubt be one of the favorites in a highly contentions and competitive field. He is also very much in the running for Horse of the Year with his latest win. If he conquers the Classic field he should easily get the nod for Horse of the Year and could become the third Preakness champion to win Horse of the Year since 2007, joining half-brother Curlin and Rachel Alexandra. Of course this is all just speculation and hopeful thinking but a good possibility nonetheless.

Havre de Grace has finally turned the tables on Blind Luck after finishing in her shadow twice in photo finishes at the

wire. It was billed as a two horse race and that’s exactly what it turned into in Saturday’s Fitz Dixon Cotillion (gr.2) as the nation’s leading 3-year-old filly, Blind Luck, carrying 10 pounds more than her challengers, and her toughest adversary squared off in an exhilarating stretch run.

Breaking from the gate ahead of only Blind Luck, Havre de Grace settled in nicely behind the two pace setters while Blind Luck fell far back of the field in last. Down the backstretch Havre de Grace moved up to take second while Blind Luck remained far back and running comfortably. Into the far turn Havre de Grace suddenly came alive and bounded to the lead, looking strong as she aimed for the wire. Blind Luck remained at the back of the field as they came off the turn, seeming to take longer than usual to find her stride but not too long. As soon as Havre de Grace hit the homestretch Blind Luck roused with a vengeance, bolting forward, splitting horses and charging hard, the courageous filly gunned for Havre de Grace, now three lengths in the lead. Blazing down the stretch the two fillies battled it out to the wire, Blind Luck tearing away at the lead with every stride, Havre de Grace hanging tough and digging down deep. They flashed under the line, Blind Luck missing by a neck after a gritty and exciting stretch run.

Amazingly both fillies still looked well within themselves galloping out past the finish line, not even the slightest signs of fatigue from the gallant duo.

The amount of ground Blind Luck is able to make up is simply astounding and win or lose, she shone once again in her final performance before a presumed start in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic. Havre de Grace has been banging on the door for months now just waiting for her chance to shine and now she has broken the door down and is a bona fide star. She will also be making her next start in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic where the dynamic duo will once again square off.

Posted in Blind Luck, Breeders Cup Classic, Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic, Breeders' Cup Mile, Dick Turpin, Fitz Dixon Cotillion, Goldikova, Havre de Grace, Indiana Derby, Lady's Secret Stakes, Lookin at Lucky, Martin Garcia, Olivier Peslier, Paco Boy, Prix de la Foret, Zenyatta | 3 Comments »

The Great Trinity: Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra and Goldikova

Posted by Brian Appleton on June 22, 2010

My internet server has decided to take the week off apparently so I was unable to research for this post. This is mostly going to be off the top of my head and from memory so please forgive any mistakes (and feel free to point out any) you might come across.

European racing at Royal Ascot seemed to garner as much attention from American racing fans over the last couple of weeks as our own American racing due in large part to the remarkable 5-year-old mare Goldikova and her continued conquest of the world’s most accomplished runners.

Just a few days before Europe’s queen of racing dominated a stellar field of males in the Queen Anne Stakes, two towering champions on American soil made sure and certain that they received their fair amount of the chatter with two powerhouse performances.

On June 12th in Kentucky reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra waltzed her way to the easiest of wins by

destroying a fairly weak field of fillies in the Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs, winning by 10 ½ lengths despite being geared down and ridden to the wire without a touch of the whip. Notwithstanding severe criticism from many fans and sports writers alike that owner Jess Jackson was taking the easy way out with the 2009 Horse of the Year in the Fleur de Lis instead of facing the males in the Stephen Foster or even the girls at Belmont in the Ogden Phipps Handicap there is no denying that is was great to see a brilliant performance like that from Rachel Alexandra. After two consecutive losses all coming by less than a length this year it was like a powerful shot of adrenalin in the Rachel ranks as somewhat subdued and disappointed fans exploded from out of the woodwork to celebrate the return of their hero to winning form.

With Rachel Alexandra’s victorious return the inevitable torch was passed to the ever capable Zenyatta to continue the streak of brilliance that she now has stretched out over an incredible 3 year campaign. On June 13th in one of the

most unprecedented and inconceivable feats in thoroughbred horse racing history Zenyatta not only took the torch and ran with it, she turned it into a flamethrower of sorts the effects of which will be talked about for centuries to come. In her 3rd consecutive Vanity Handicap the grand mare ran her undefeated record to a perfect 17-for-17, setting a North American record for the most consecutive wins in races not restricted to state breds. Her standard is nothing less than perfection and in each and every single one of her 17 starts it has proven to be too much for her overpowered competition. Four years ago if you had asked anyone if they thought the records of the Great Citation and Cigar would fall by 2010, taken down by a mare, would anyone have believed you? The significance of what Zenyatta has accomplished cannot be over estimated.

With all three of these amazing mares all pointing towards the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs this fall the 2 day championship meet takes on a whole new meaning. Zenyatta will almost certainly be going for a repeat win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic while Goldikova will shooting for a stunning 3rd consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile victory. Rachel Alexandra is a little behind the game at this point but is finally pointing in the right direction. Which Breeders’ Cup race she will enter is anybody’s guess but the two most logical choices are the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic the Classic itself. If she takes on males successfully before the Breeders’ Cup it will probably be the Breeders’ Cup Classic over the Ladies Classic which would bring about a monumental clash between two of the most highly esteemed fillies in history with both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra entered.

It pretty much just comes down to speculation and guesses at this point in time in the racing season because we all know that anything and everything can happen in racing, but it’s always fun to dream.

Comeback Trails: A Promising Outlook

Winslow Homer, winner of this year’s Holy Bull Stakes and prominent on the Kentucky Derby trail before being sidelined with a stress fracture is set to make his return to the races in the June 26th Iowa Derby after making incredibly rapid progress in his healing and training regimen. Trainer Tony Dutrow said the colt has come out of his recovery in fantastic shape.

Royally bred Take Control, a son of champions A. P. Indy and Azeri, who many though would be a good Kentucky Derby prospect early in the year is back to work after being sidelined from bucked shins. The Bob Baffert trainee has been closely followed since well before his impressive maiden win first out due in large part because of his famous and talented parents.

I Want Revenge has trainer Rick Dutrow feeling very confident and excited about the 4-year-old colts chances to return back to his spectacular form from early 2009 after making remarkable progress in his rehabilitation. If all goes well from this point on works the plan is to enter him in the July 3rd Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park. Last year I Want Revenge won a thrilling edition of the Wood Memorial before being scratched from the Kentucky Derby as the favorite the morning of the race.

2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine that Bird is looking like his Derby-winning-self these days after posting numerous workouts that have trainer D. Wayne Lukas glowing with anticipation of the gelding’s return to the races. His return could come as soon as July 3rd or 4th with his main goal being the Whitney Handicap (gr.1) on August 7th at Saratoga.

Who remembers The Pamplemousse? Impressive winner of both the 2009 Sham Stakes and San Rafael Stakes, the stunning colt who was sidelined by a serious tendon injury before the Santa Anita Derby is back to light training for trainer Julio Canani. Although it appears a return to the races will still be quite a ways in the future, Canani expressed his confidence that The Pamplemousse will return to his winning ways once he does return.

Posted in Bob Baffert, Breeders Cup Classic, Breeders' Cup Mile, Churchill Downs, Cigar, Citation, D Wayne Lukas, Fleur de Lis Handicap, Goldikova, Holy Bull Stakes, Horse of the Year, I Want Revenge, Jess Jackson, Mine That Bird, Rachel Alexandra, Rick Dutrow, Royal Ascot, Take Control, The Pamplemousse, Thorougbred Horse Racing, Vanity Handicap, Winslow Homer, Wood Memorial, Zenyatta | 3 Comments »

Goldikova: Victory Again

Posted by Brian Appleton on June 17, 2010

Royal Ascot was rocked to it’s very core June 15th as one of the greatest race mares in history turned one of England’s most prestigious races into a rout. In one of her most exciting races to date, multiple champion Goldikova further padded her impressive resume in the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-1) against an impressive field of older male runners. Included in the field was last year’s Queen Anne Stakes winner Paco Boy who entered off a very impressive group 1 win. Down to the wire it proved to be a two horse race with the favorites taking center stage.

As the field entered the long homestretch Goldikova launched from just off the pace to seize the lead and in the blink of an eye had opened up three lengths on the field. From mid pack Paco Boy had a tougher time getting into contention but when he finally got in the clear and kicked it into high gear he began to rapidly close the gap between separating him from the speeding mare. The noise from the crowd was deafening as the brilliant champion pounded down the turf course, Paco Boy charging hard behind, the wire just seconds away now. The lead was down to a mere length as Paco Boy continued his unrelenting drive. Closer and closer he came to Goldikova, at the wire the margin of win was so close it appeared that perhaps the mare had lost the advantage. In the end though she proved too great for her challenger, in fact she still looked full of fight galloping out afterwards making onethink she could have held on longer if the need had arisen.

Goldikova achieved horse racing immortality last year when she became only the second horse in history to ever win back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Mile’s (gr.1). With her year-end goal once again being an unprecedented attempt at winning her third consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile she would make a compelling case for being the greatest race mare of all time with a win there. She’s already in the running in this fan’s opinion so another Breeders’ Cup win would just be the icing on an already stunning cake.

The Queen Anne Stakes win marks the striking mare’s 9th lifetime grade or group 1 win. She is undefeated in two starts this year, both against males. In her last start she won her 2010 debut in the Prix d’Ispahan, defeating Byword emphatically. Byword went on to win the Prince of Wales Stakes (Eng-1) the day after her win in the Queen Anne also at Ascot, further flattering the mare’s form.

Posted in Breeders' Cup Mile, Byword, Paco Boy, Prince of Wales Stakes (Eng-1), Prix d'Ispahan (Fr-1), Queen Ann Stakes (Eng-1), Royal Ascot | 5 Comments »

 
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