JC / Railbird

Euros

The Bright Side

Greg Wood finds something positive in the retirement of dual champion and defending Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Main Sequence:

… the loss of Main Sequence from this year’s Breeders’ Cup, which will be staged at Keeneland for the first time, is a definite setback for the event. From a European point of view, however, it does leave the Turf looking very open indeed. Fabre may feel he has some unfinished business where Flintshire is concerned, and if it looks as though his five-year-old is likely to find at least one opponent too good at Longchamp in early October, it is at least possible that the race in Kentucky will assume greater significance.

BC Pre-Entry Day

And on the NY Times’ Rail Blog, back for the Breeders’ Cup, I take a look at the 10 Euro juveniles pre-entered in this year’s races, including the two very interesting Bernardini buzz babies Biondetti and Theyskens’ Theory. Although I mentioned both were cross-entered in their divisions, I left out that that both have first preference for the dirt races. Trainer Brian Meehan seems quite set on the Juvenile Fillies for ‘Theory,’ but what Godolphin will choose for Biondetti is a little less clear. They’re giving nothing away. Mark Simon, writing in the Thoroughbred Times, speculates that the Juvenile purse and prestige (and a possible championship) will be a factor in their decision. If the two start on dirt, they’ll make four, with Marathon prospects Bright Horizon and Precision Break, the number of Euro contenders running in main track races.

Swept

In 2005, the Euros swept the Breeders’ Cup Turf superfecta. Is there any doubt we could see the same this year? At Woodbine on Saturday, Group 2 winner Joshua Tree won the Grade 1 Canadian International by a head over Swedish staker winner Mores Wells. And that wasn’t all: “European-based horses swept the three Grade 1 races at Woodbine on Saturday.” Given how strong European turf form has been in 2010, I suppose it’s a good thing the Breeders’ Cup returns to dirt at Churchill Downs — otherwise the Americans might have been in for serious competition in main track races run over a synthetic surface, as well as the usual beating over grass. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic third-place finisher and two-time Champion Stakes winner Twice Over is one who won’t be challenging Zenyatta again because of the surface: “He won’t go to the Breeders’ Cup as the Prince [Khalid Abdullah] does not want to run him on dirt in America,” said trainer Henry Cecil on Saturday.

Fabulous Frankel

Well, that was impressive. With seeming ease, Frankel drew off to win the seven-furlong Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths over ground rated good to soft. His final time of 1:25.73 was three-tenths of a second faster than older horses going the same distance in the Group 2 Challenge Stakes.

What’s more, he did it without Tom Queally going to the whip. “I didn’t have to resort to the stick,” said the jockey, “and if you don’t punish young horses like this at this stage of their career then it is a bonus.”

Post-race reaction quotes on the Sporting Life liveblog give a sense of how pleased trainer Henry Cecil was with Frankel’s performance:

1452: More from Cecil — and this is the headline-stuff. He says: “It’s lovely to have a horse like this. At home he works unbelievably well, I’ve never had a horse work like him as a two-year-old. He’s in second gear and doesn’t run away with you but goes into a sixth gear. If he was a formula one car he’d win everything, as long as I didn’t drive him” …

1448: As Frankel returned, Cecil lent over to Lord Grimthorpe and said: “We need to find him a pacemaker” …

William Hill responded to the win by making the 2-year-old Galileo colt, now 4-for-4, the 4-5 favorite for the 2000 Guineas, “although whether he will remain odds-on through the winter is open to some doubt as other firms were not quite so impressed.” Bookmakers also cut their prices on runner-up Roderic O’Connor, while raising odds on the previously undefeated Dream Ahead and Saamidd, who finished fifth and sixth. Of the two, Saamidd’s effort was considerably more disappointing. The colt balked at entering the starting gate (ultimately requiring a blindfold), and never looked comfortable racing. Dream Ahead, at least, briefly gave chase to Frankel before fading.

ZenyattaYou know who else is fabulous? Zenyatta. The big mare graces a full page in the November issue of W magazine, flattering text by Steve Haskin (“She … transcends the Thoroughbred as we know it”) accompanying a stylish head shot (love the forelock tousled just so — she’s a fashion magazine natural). A W photo shoot, a billboard, a country song — I can’t think of any living racehorse in recent years who has crossed over into mainstream culture as much as she has (except, perhaps, for poor Barbaro). Trainer John Shirreffs, talking to media at Keeneland on Friday, was absolutely right about one thing — Zenyatta has done a lot for the game, generating good will and positive coverage with her accomplishments.

Added to the watch list today, Brethren, a debut winner at Belmont Park and half-brother to Super Saver, just in case he turns out to be fabulous someday.

Thursday Notes

Dewhurst dozen halved, but the big three remain. Trainer David Simcock is certain “lazy” Dream Ahead won’t hang this time, not with regular rider William Buick up, and not with competition from Frankel and Saamidd. “These are good enough horses that he’s not going to be streaking five lengths clear.”

Aidan O’Brien trainee Bright Horizon, possible for the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, looks a lot like recent winners, writes Brad Free: “… his form in Europe is comparable to Marathon winners Man of Iron and Muhannak.” But both those horses won over Pro-Ride; the Marathon this year will be run over dirt. The Churchill Downs surface could be advantage Americans.

Why are sportswriters so invested in sports stars retiring while still on the top or, as Rhoden puts it, with their ‘legacy intact’?” So, it’s not just racing …

Buy a Belmont Stakes winner: Da’ Tara is available as a racing or stallion prospect as hip #3308 (PDF) in the Keeneland November sale.

The Big Three

Saturday’s Dewhurst Stakes drew a dozen possibles, including undefeated Frankel, Dream Ahead, and Saamidd, whetting interest in “the most eagerly-awaited two-year-old race of the modern era,” or, if you prefer, “the best race for two-year-olds in living memory.” Oh, my, that is hype. It makes all the post-Champagne Stakes twittering about the anticipated Uncle Mo and Boys at Tosconova match-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile look staid by comparison (for example, see Dick Jerardi, John Pricci). Some hype is certainly justified — it’s undeniably an intriguing scenario shaping up at Newmarket, with the flawless reputations of the Dewhurst Big 3 on the line.

Aside: Don’t worry about Frankel’s jockey, Tom Queally, who fell from a horse at Goodwood on Sunday. “He’s not concussed,” said the rider’s agent.

A few other buzz baby items to note: Wickedly Perfect, winner of the Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland on Friday, and AZ Warrior, winner of the Frizette Stakes at Belmont on Saturday, were the second and third fillies to come back from the Debutante Stakes at Del Mar last month to score a stakes win. Rigoletta, third in that race to Wickedly Perfect and Tell a Kelly, won the Oak Leaf Stakes at Hollywood last week. The Debutante has also yielded a next-out allowance winner, with sixth-place finisher Sugarinthemorning winning at Hollywood on Sunday … Wickedly Perfect won’t make the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. A bone chip was discovered in her knee after the Alcibiades … AZ Warrior was one of two G1 winners for freshman sire Bernardini over the weekend. His other was Biondetti, taking the Gran Criterium in Milan for Godolphin. The colt is possible for the Breeders’ Cup, said trainer Mahmood al Zarooni … Aidan O’Brien trainee Together, second to undefeated White Moonstone in the Fillies’ Mile, could start in the Turf Fillies.

Housekeeping: Taking advantage of Equibase’s improved features, including the new horse profile pages with charts and workouts info, the spreadsheet’s been cleaned up (and should be much easier to use).

Not on Track

Commenter o_crunk, reacting to Champions’ Day:

The season is getting more incoherent with these added changes and this is coming from a fan who follows racing on an everyday basis. If the top horses are going to continue a trend of running less and less and there’s lots of choices on the menu for them, then we can expect to see unfulfilled matchups, disillusioned hardcore fans, confused newbies and guessing games when it’s time to decide who was really best since it’s clear that it will not be decided on the track.

Read his whole comment, it’s nothing but good points.

The one effect of Champions’ Day on the Breeders’ Cup seems likely to be a reduction in the number of Euros shipping; 2011 could well be a low point with the debut of the new event at Ascot and the BC again at Churchill. Such would undermine the growing internationalism of the game, or at least, the aspect that has proved so enticing to fans and bettors, the match-up of top-class Euros against the best of the American runners.

As for running less and less, Ed DeRosa suggested on Big Event Blog that the coming smaller foal crops offer an opportunity to go drug free and reduce race dates. I’d add it’s a chance to trim the burgeoning graded stakes calendar.

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