JC / Railbird

Santa Anita

#BC16 Links, Etc.

Beholder for the Distaff!

Breeders’ Cup 2016 is here! And I have links: First, to the big HANA Monthly Breeders’ Cup issue (PDF). Stats, Q&As, and my Distaff pick (clue in the photo above). Then, to the Hello Race Fans BC Friday picks grid. Look for HD replays of every BC race on the 2016 Breeders’ Cup YouTube playlist. Replays should be up within minutes after each race.

I’m hanging out on Twitter and Instagram this weekend, live from Santa Anita.

11/5/16 Update: And Breeders’ Cup Saturday picks are up.

Two Champions

Beholder turns into the stretch in the 2016 Vanity Stakes at Santa Anita

The Vanity Mile Stakes was never really a contest. Mike Watchmaker on how Beholder handled 3-year-old filly champion Stellar Wind on Saturday:

Stellar Wind ran extremely well. She was dead game, and she is very, very good. But Beholder absolutely toyed with her. Toyed with her. Anyone who watched the Vanity knows the difference between Beholder and Stellar Wind on Saturday was far greater than what the result chart suggests.

Beholder earned a Beyer speed figure of 100 for her 17th career win, her 10th Grade 1 victory. After the first three quarters in 1:12.53, she ran the last two furlongs in :11.46 and :11.98. “I thought we would go in sub 23, 45 and change for the second quarter and I thought the final time would be under 1:34,” said jockey Gary Stevens. “Twenty five is legit, 49 is legit, but I think that’s the fastest last three eighths I’ve ever run in my life.”

Behold the Sure Thing

Beholder circles on the Santa Anita track as she waits to enter the winner's circle after the Zenyatta Stakes

The easiest 10 cents you could make in racing on Saturday:

It was such a certainty that Beholder would win the $300,000 Grade I Zenyatta Stakes that by the time she had cruised to a 3 1/4-length triumph over second-place My Sweet Addiction at odds of 1-9, Santa Anita was figuring out how much money it had lost. There was a $75,708.52 minus show pool and $4,750.12 minus place pool. Beholder returned $2.10 to win, place and show after finishing the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:42.83.

I cannot wait for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Whipping the Issue

Pull the Pocket on Victor Espinoza’s heavy hand in the Kentucky Derby:

I don’t know why we make things so difficult in horse racing: 32 is excessive by any measure. That’s against a rule, thus you penalize him. Next year, if you don’t want to see the same thing on national TV, you pass, or alter the rule beforehand and let the jocks know in the room that excessive use will result in a 14 day suspension. That would not allow the jock to ride in the Preakness. The jocks — who are professionals — will fall in line and your problem will be solved.

Except the people charged with keeping the rules don’t seem to see an issue with what happened. Although there are plans to review Espinoza’s whip use on American Pharoah, “clearly this is a discretionary issue,” chief steward Barbara Borden told Marty McGee (DRF paywalled, sorry). If there’s a point to press, it’s in the rule that a horse be given time to respond after being struck. As I said elsewhere, it didn’t look as though Pharoah got that.

Trainer Bob Baffert also downplayed how Espinoza used his riding crop on American Pharaoh, saying during the NTRA teleconference on Tuesday:

“I never noticed it during the race, and then … I read something yesterday. I went back and looked at it. The horse — first of all, the whips they use now, they’re so light … and he was just keeping him busy, because … the horse was not responding when he turned for home … he just was keeping him busy, and he was flogging him and hitting him, but he hits him on the saddle towel. He doesn’t really hit that hard, so he was just keeping him busy.”

It’s “flogging,” but it’s not a problem. And for the most part, watching most races, I agree, especially about allowing riders discretion — jockeys say the crop is required for safety and control, and because they’re the people putting their mobility and lives on the line in each race, theirs is the perspective that most matters. The crop also has a place in encouraging a horse. But neither control nor encouragement get in the way of articulating and enforcing limits.

Related to whipping not being a problem (in a slightly different way), here’s a quick post Dana Byerly put together last fall when Santa Anita was considering a change to its whip use rule (the new rule, which restricts riders to three consecutive strikes before they must pause, passed statewide in November).

6:45 PM Addendum: Santa Anita stewards have fined Espinoza $300 for a whip violation. He broke the skin of Stellar Wind in the Santa Anita Oaks on April 4, as reported by the state veterinarian in the test barn post-race. Trainer John Sadler tells the Blood-Horse, though, “This is the first I’ve heard of it and I don’t remember noticing any marks on the horse then.”

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