Two weeks ago, the Breeders’ Cup Classic looked as though it would be a showdown between two California 3-year-olds. Now it’s setting up as an East Coast vs. West Coast sophomore clash, after Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist exited a troubled Jockey Club Gold Cup with his second Grade 1 win and an improved, blinkers-off running style, and undefeated Shared Belief was tested, but not bested, by trainer Bob Baffert’s duo of Fed Biz and Sky Kingdom in the Awesome Again. Both winners reportedly came out their races in fine shape.
That’s the good news. The bad is that jockey Rajiv Maragh is out indefinitely with a broken arm after falling from Wicked Strong during the first half of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Junior Alvarado, aboard Moreno when he veered into Wicked Strong’s path, causing the two to clip heels, is due before the stewards at Belmont Park this Wednesday to discuss the incident. [10/1/14 Update: Alvarado has been suspended for 15 days (DRF+ link).]
At Santa Anita, the stewards have already handed Victor Espinoza a seven-day suspension for the Awesome Again, in which his mount, Sky Kingdom, the longest shot in the field, steered Mike Smith and Shared Belief toward the center of the track on the first turn and then kept them running wide until he tired on the far turn and fell back to finish last. Trakus shows Shared Belief running 66 feet more than runner-up Fed Biz, who had a rail trip.
“It’s ridiculous,” Espinoza told Art Wilson on Saturday, responding to the allegation that Sky Kingdom was acting as a foil for his stablemate’s competition. “I would never try to hurt anybody or bump somebody, especially a horse like that. He’s an amazing horse. My horse, he always runs on the outside. He doesn’t like having dirt kicked in his face.”
Whether intentional or not, writes Mike Watchmaker, “what Espinoza did in the Awesome Again looks bad. Really bad. It appeared unprofessional.” You can judge for yourself: Watch Santa Anita’s HD replay.
While Smith was hotly deriding his rival’s post-race explanation, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was playing it cool. “We’re all big boys,” he said. “It’s no big deal for me. Mike [Smith] will have to settle up with Victor [Espinoza]. It’s not the worst thing in the world to have a tough race and be double fit for the Breeders’ Cup. That race will be tougher, so we’ll need to be tougher too.”
Beyer speed figures and TimeformUS ratings for Super Saturday’s Belmont Park and Santa Anita graded stakes winners:
Re: Shared Belief’s 114 for the Awesome Again, Craig Milkowski tweeted, “If our figures included ground loss, particularly ground loss in relation to pace, Shared Belief would easily be 125+ …”
Today’s group and graded stakes with potential Breeders’ Cup implications from Newmarket to Santa Anita, listed in order of approximate post time:
Charts, replays, and occasional updates to be added through the day.
4:25 PM: Stephanie’s Kitten, the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies winner, just earned her way into this year’s Filly and Mare Turf with a win in the Flower Bowl at Belmont Park as the 6-5 favorite (following second-place finishes in the Beverly D. and Diana this summer). You know Stephanie’s Kitten will be at Santa Anita so long as she’s sound, but the same can’t be said for Kelso Handicap winner Vyjack — according to the post-race quote sent out by NYRA, trainer Rudy Rodriguez had been targeting the Cigar Mile. “I have to talk to the owner and see what his plans are now,” said Rodriquez. Woodward winner Itsmyluckyday, not Breeders’ Cup nominated, finished third in the Kelso. Said Jockey Paco Lopez after, “He tried really hard, but I don’t think he liked the track.” Woodward runner-up Moreno is pegged as the 7-2 second favorite on the Jockey Club Gold Cup morning line.
4:55 PM: Private Zone must like Belmont. Winless in three starts since last year’s Vosburgh Stakes, he became the first horse in 24 years to win the Vosburgh for two consecutive years (the last was New Jersey-bred Sewickley in 1989-1990, whose broodmare sire was Dr. Fager, a back-to-back Vosburgh winner in 1967-68). Too bad for Private Zone that the Breeders’ Cup is at Santa Anita again. He finished 10th in the 2013 Sprint.
5:47 PM: Wow — 10 minutes to post in the Zenyatta Stakes and 95% of the show pool is on two-time champion Beholder, making her first start since sustaining an injury while finishing fourth in the June 7 Phipps at Belmont:
6:10 PM: You have to admire a filly as game and classy as Beholder:
It's been a privilege to watch Beholder in last two years. Greatly looking forward to her appearance in BC Distaff here Oct. 31. #santaanita
— Steve Andersen (@DRFAndersen) September 27, 2014
10:00 PM: Here’s how much further Trakus says Shared Belief had to run than runner-up Fed Biz to win the Awesome Again after Sky Kingdom (the other Baffert and the longest shot in the field) forced him wide on the first turn:
The Prince of Wales’s Stakes ended in a new course record time of 2:01.90 and a reversal of the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Turf finish when The Fugue kicked clear to win by two lengths over Magician. “She’s proved what she can do to everybody,” said rider William Buick of the 5-year-old mare. “When she gets an uncomplicated run, she’s lethal.” She certainly was: Watch the replay.
Heavily favored Arc winner Trêve finished third. Jockey Frankie Dettori said the filly didn’t feel right from the start: “I was never in a comfort zone.” Trainer Criquette Head-Maarek, observing that today is the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, called the beat “a French defeat,” and said, “Maybe we’ll find something wrong. We have lost the battle, not the war.”
Shortest odds in a Breeders’ Cup race: Wise Dan, 0.80, Mile.
The longest odds: Teaks North, 95.90, Turf.
Highest win payout: Ria Antonia, $66.60, Juvenile Fillies.
Longest odds on a returning Breeders’ Cup winner: Trinniberg, 17.00, Sprint.
Worst performance by a favorite: Ever Rider, 4.80, Marathon, pulled up tired.
Largest winning margin: Beholder, 4 1/4 lengths, Distaff.
Number of winning favorites: Five, all in Saturday races. (Wise Dan, Mile; Secret Circle, Sprint; Mizdirection, Turf Sprint; Groupie Doll, Filly and Mare Sprint; Dank, Filly and Mare Turf).
Number of winners who won last out: Six (Chriselliam, Juvenile Fillies Turf; Beholder, Distaff; Dank, Filly and Mare Turf; New Year’s Day, Juvenile; Secret Circle, Sprint; Mucho Macho Man, Classic).
Worst last-out performance by a Breeders’ Cup winner: Magician, ninth by 12 1/4 lengths in the St. James Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Number of starters in the non-juvenile races running without Lasix: Four, out of 106 (Olympic Glory, Mile, 9th; Romantica, Filly and Mare Turf, 2nd; Royal Delta, Distaff, 4th; Ever Rider, Marathon, DNF).
Favorites won 32 percent (38-120) of races in the sample, a figure comparable to the record of racing favorites in general. The fact that BC fields are considerably larger than average may make the 32 percent strike rate higher than expected.
Favorites have had mixed success finishing in the money in the recent years. In 2012, favorites finished in the top three in five of six races on Friday, six of nine on Saturday. In 2011, three of six on Friday, four of nine on Saturday. In 2010, four of six on Friday, four of eight on Saturday.
10/26/13 Addendum: Breeders’ Cup contenders, by the numbers. “There are 121 group or graded stakes winners in the entries, including 71 winners of Group 1 or Grade 1 races.” And 74 of the 172 pre-entries won their last starts.
Winners win: 48% of Breeders’ Cup winners in the past 10 years won their final prep race, according to Jon White’s research, and 86% finished in the money. Of course, most Breeders’ Cup starters are coming off strong performances — in 2012, 28 of 59 runners on BC Friday won their last race (43 were in the money), and 41 of 103 on Saturday did (75 were ITM). In 2011, 29 of 69 runners on BC Friday won their previous starts (55 were ITM), and 40 of 104 on Saturday were winners (80 were ITM).
New York wins? Heading into last year’s Breeders’ Cup, starters coming off a prep race in New York didn’t have a great record in Arcadia. In the five previous Breeders’ Cup runnings at Santa Anita, 17 New York-prepped horses finished in the money, and only one won. In 2012, though, horses who prepped in New York won two races on BC Friday, and four races on Saturday. Another four finished second or third on Friday, while five did the same on Saturday, out of a total of 11 New York starters on Friday and 25 on Saturday. The Classic was a particularly New York affair — the top four finishers all last raced in the Jockey Club Gold Cup or the Woodward.
Stats and charts for every Breeders’ Cup are available here.
Today’s group and graded stakes with potential Breeders’ Cup implications from Newmarket to Churchill Downs, listed in order of approximate post time:
Race names link to summary results, winner names to replays.
There’s also the ungraded Unzip Me Stakes at Santa Anita (post time 9:14 PM ET), and almost a full card’s worth of maiden special weights for juveniles: Race two (1:36 PM ET) and race three (2:07 PM ET) at Belmont; race one (4:00 PM ET), race three (5:04 PM ET), and race four (5:37 PM ET) at Santa Anita; and race three (6:56 PM ET) and race six (8:30 PM ET) at Churchill Downs.
Among the many notable runners today are Pachelbel, the first foal of Music Note, winner of several stakes, including the 2008 Mother Goose and 2009 Beldame, making his first career start in race two at Belmont for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, and Take Control, the now 6-year-old son of Azeri and A.P. Indy making his first start in more than a year and just his fourth career start overall. What’s he been up to? That’s a good question.
The Breeders’ Cup announced today that it’s bringing back the Distaff, which was cast aside for the Ladies’ Classic in 2008. Alicia Wincze called the news “the most popular name restoration since Prince,” and for at least an hour on Twitter, that seemed true. It may be minor, but restoring the Distaff for the 30th running of the BC is a feel-good, fan-friendly bit of change, a return to a classic word with resonance in the game, evoking greats such as Personal Ensign and Azeri. “I couldn’t help doing handsprings,” cheered Bill Finley. Thanks to the Breeders’ Cup, or, as Exacta-Mundo says much better,
… hats off to the Breeders’ Cup for proving themselves yet again to be an organization that takes fan feedback seriously and WELCOME BACK DISTAFF, WE MISSED YOU!
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).
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