There was some grumbling on Twitter about 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year Invasor, with his career record of 11 wins from 12 starts, being among this year’s inductees into the Racing Hall of Fame — “No offense to Invasor, who was very good in several races,” tweeted Marcus Hersh, “but if he’s a Hall of Famer, I kind of fail to see the point of the HOF” — but this Invasor fan heartily approves that the world-traveling, world-beating Argentine-bred will be enshrined in Saratoga. Nine of his wins were in Group 1/Grade 1 races, spread across three continents. That’s exceptional.
Back in 2007, Hall of Fame voter Bill Finley wrote, “When the time comes, I will have a hard time voting for horses like Invasor …” Earlier this year, writing of his ballot, his position seemed less conflicted: “Invasor’s career was a brief one but he was the dominant horse of the middle half of the last decade.” Finley was obviously not alone in his evolution — that Invasor was a first-ballot Hall of Fame pick suggests that as careers have grown shorter, more guardians of the game’s history have begun to rethink what makes a horse plaque worthy.
After dashing through the second half of an 800 meter work in less than :22, trainer Peter Moody couldn’t help gushing about 6-year-old Black Caviar:
“She’s the complete package now, stupid as it sounds. She could work like that when she was a three-year-old, but it was rushed, not like today.”
Black Caviar starts next (depending on the ground at Randwick) on Saturday in the T.J. Smith Stakes, which is the second 2013 Breeders’ Cup Challenge race on this year’s schedule, released on Monday. Not getting a lot of attention is that this year’s Win and You’re In series is slightly reduced from 2012, going from 73 races to 67, and that among the 15 races dropped are the Met Mile (Belmont, Dirt Mile division), Delaware Handicap (Delaware Park,
Distaff Ladies’ Classic), and the Canadian International (Woodbine, Turf).
A few of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup contenders I’ve spotted around Santa Anita …
Animal Kingdom (Mile)
Groupie Doll (Filly and Mare Sprint)
Sky Lantern (Juvenile Fillies Turf)
Game on Dude (Classic)
Richard’s Kid (Classic)
Ron the Greek (Classic)
Pool Play (Classic)
Point of Entry (Turf)
Furthermore, there are bad memories from the last two occasions the Breeders’ Cup was held at Santa Anita. In 2008 and 2009, the main track was a synthetic surface, and European horses won a disproportionate amount of races. It’s been switched back to conventional dirt since then, but East Coast horses routinely have trouble with the surface.
Re: East Coast horses, sure, the stats are bad — particularly for New Yorkers.
But bad memories? Coming after the horror of the 2007 Breeders’ Cup — watching George Washington slump into death on the sloppy Monmouth stretch and listening to the unknowing crowd clap as his lifeless body was driven away in the horse ambulance in the gathering gloom of a chilly twilight remains one of my worst racing memories — the light, warmth, and lack of dying horses at Santa Anita* in 2008 and 2009 was wonderful. There, at least, people were cheering for the living. I’m so glad the BC is back in Arcadia.
*I admit to being a little worried about what might happen this year. The publicly available Equine Injury Database stats for Santa Anita haven’t been updated since April 2012, but the fatality rate is up post-synth (PDF).
Dick Jerardi doesn’t care where a single comes in a bet sequence: “The way I look at it, there are two possibilities: I am going to be right or I am going to be wrong. When that is determined is irrelevant.”
Breeders’ Cup Turf Trends: It’s all about the finish.
As much as I’d like to think Excelebration will be the second-favorite to Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (and available at 3-1 or better), raceday betting will probably look more like the current ante-post odds.
Appreciating Frankie Dettori, “global proponent of la dolce vita.”
10/31/12: Official programs with full PPs for Friday (PDF) and Saturday (PDF) / Hello Race Fans cheat sheets for the Ladies’ Classic and Classic / Mike Welsch’s Breeders’ Cup Clocker Friday report card
I remember being so overcome with the experience of that 1988 Breeders’ Cup, so moved and dazzled by the proximity of greatness that I collapsed into a chair when it was all over and sat there for several moments before I could even begin to think of writing.
Less great: “… about 38 percent fewer horses are on the track than 24 years ago, but they have 114 percent more Breeders’ Cup races to run in.” (See also.)
At Saratoga, the biggest East Coast summer meeting for 2-year-olds, 137 of 694 starters (19.7 percent) in 90 juvenile races raced without Lasix. The Lasix-free horses won only half as frequently as Lasix users … but other factors drove the disparity in win rate. Principally, trainer Todd Pletcher, the strongest 2-year-old trainer in New York, sent all his winners out with Lasix.
“We can talk about it the day after the race, but I can guarantee you right now,” [trainer Christophe Clement] said. “The better horse will win …”
Re: the first, Pletcher’s all-Lasix Spa baby squad is definitely one of the factors that must be taken into account looking at this summer’s Lasix-free winner stats. And for the second, that there’s no Lasix in the juvenile races tilted trainer Richard Hannon toward sending Moyglare Stud Stakes winner Sky Lantern to the Breeders’ Cup because, “[it's] a level playing field for all of us.” It can only be for the good if trainers here and abroad perceive the Breeders’ Cup as letting the best horses shine through drug-free.
12:30 PM: Hello from Woodbine!
Because I’m here, and because I’ll be running around today to catch the Win and You’re In action for the Breeders’ Cup (follow @breederscup or like the Breeders’ Cup), I thought I’d try something I haven’t done in a while — live blogging. I might be rusty — we’ll see how it goes this afternoon.
Anyway, the post times for today’s Challenge stakes are 3:04 PM ET (Nearctic, Win and You’re In the Turf Sprint), 4:38 PM ET (E.P. Taylor, Win and You’re In the Filly and Mare Turf), and 5:44 PM ET (the main attraction, the Canadian International, Win and You’re In the Turf). For even more on-track International coverage, follow @woodbineracing or @tripledeadheat.
12:45 PM: Despite rain that fell until about 11:00 this morning, only Al Khali has scratched from the International. Trainer Bill Mott cited the altered turf condition — it’s currently listed as GOOD — as the reason. There are no scratches in the Nearctic or the Taylor.
1:18 PM: About the turf … Ernie Munick talked to track superintendent Irwin Driedger on Friday about the grass. One part of the conversation that didn’t make it into Munick’s very informative video was about the backstretch rise, which apparently sounds more daunting than it actually is. According to Driedger, a retired Sovereign Award-winning jockey who knows the Woodbine grass on and off a horse, the ground slopes up about 3 1/2-4 feet over five eighths starting in the chute, but the rise is so gentle neither horse nor rider notice. Also of interest — the backstretch is always a little softer than the stretch. Something to keep in mind today.
1:30 PM: There are two things I always enjoy about visiting new tracks: Checking out the food (Woodbine’s is super), and the photos, posters, and ephemera that decorate the place (especially in the out-of-the way corners), like this old DRF poster hanging in the press box:
Or this one, honoring Deputy Minister, 1981 Horse of the Year:
2:06 PM: A horseplayer’s lament, overheard in the press box: “When you hit the ALL button, the chalk always wins.” The G3 Durham Cup, coming up at 2:31 PM, is the start of the guaranteed $100K Pick 4. I’m looking at a fresh Vertiformer for a little upset.
2:33 PM: Slow fractions, lone speed. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to stand against the favorite. Delegation, 6-5, wins the Durham … and I decide now is a good time to head toward the paddock for the Nearctic Stakes.
3:50 PM: John Velazquez comes to Canada to get beat by Ramon Dominguez. Next Question was 16-1, not the longest shot in the Nearctic field (that was Super Chunky at 33-1), but not well regarded coming off a win in a turf AOC, in which he was not claimed, at Belmont. The Nearctic horses were running in lane two of the turf course; the temporary rail has already been taken down for the E.P. Taylor and International, which will be run over pristine lane one.
4:10 PM: Back down to the paddock. Because one of her French connections ran a circuit around the International eve cocktail party, French flag streaming behind, I may take a flyer on Pagera. She’s 12-1, 26 minutes to post.
5:00 PM: Hey, second! That wild stab did better than most of my handicapped picks lately. (Oh, Fantasy ‘Capping! My $0 standing haunts me.) It doesn’t sound as if E.P. Taylor winner Siyouma will be taking her guaranteed spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Trainer Francois Doumen said after the race that she would be shipped home, and then might start next in Japan.
Siyouma in the Woodbine winner’s circle.
5:22 PM: And back to the paddock for the Canadian International …
They’re off in the Canadian International!
7:15 PM: Joshua Tree is the third horse to win the Canadian International twice. Frankie Dettori is the second jockey to win the Canadian International three times. History was satisfied. The 5-year-old horse led from the start and quickened when asked — more than Dettori expected, which made the rider a little nervous, he said in the press box scrum after the race. “He gave me too much too quick.” And when the other horses mounted their challenges in the final furlongs? “I could hear the wind … I know what it’s like. I was the hare and the hounds were coming.” But wire-to-wire was the plan, and as they came down the stretch, “I knew I had plenty of horse left.”
(I would really like to quote what Dettori said in the elevator, as he made his way from the track to the press box, and his adrenaline was still running, and he felt free to be a little giddy and profane as he described the race to Sandy Hawley. But I didn’t capture his exact words, and I don’t want to paraphrase. There’s truly nothing like the excitement of a top-class race, and to see someone else feeling that much joy after winning one is wonderful.)
Joshua Tree parading in his International garland.
The Breeders’ Cup Turf is a day less than three weeks from the International, and the connections aren’t sure whether Joshua Tree will start at Santa Anita. It’s one of three races being considered for the horse. (
The other two are the Japan Cup and the Hong Kong Cup, and the Japan Cup seems the likeliest. 10/15/12 Update: He’ll go to the Japan Cup next, it was announced.)
7:35 PM: Faces of the day:
The lad who led Dandino to the Woodbine paddock watches as the 25-1 shot finishes second. He’d been shouting, “C’mon, Jim.” And then he went silent.
Dettori is mobbed by autograph-seeking fans as he makes his way from the track. “Help, help,” he jokingly called as he shook hands and signed programs.
There is something absurd about the plethora of top class turf events in the month that begins with the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and ends with the Breeders’ Cup, now that Champions Day is part of the international calendar. But is a meta championship really the answer?