**Brief recap of yesterday – selections for Breeders’ Cup today and Woodbine are on separate posts
GARY STEVENS – “It’s probably the most emotional race of my career because she’s so special to me and it’s her last race. I just asked Mr. (owner B. Wayne) Hughes if he has an extra paddock for me next to her because I probably should be getting on the plane with her and walking out right now, but I’m not ready. She gave me absolutely everything. I have a new respect for Songbird even in defeat. Beholder, even in the past, has never given me everything like she gave me today.
A truly remarkable 33rd BREEDERS’ CUP DISTAFF highlighted the 4 Breeders’ Cup races on Friday – are we ready for 9 more of these things and all the emotion and joy that go with them?
BEHOLDER, a champion at 2 and 3 and as an older mare, and now likely at 6 is off to be a momma after her incredible stretch battle and narrow win over the great Songbbird. It was tough to imagine one of them had lost.
BEHOLDER, of course, is Spendthrift Farms’ purchase 5 years ago and her Canadian lineage has been well documented.
LONGINES BREEDERS’ CUP DISTAFF-GI, $1,840,000, SA, 11-4, 3yo/up, f/m, 1 1/8m, 1:49.20, ft. – 105 Beyer Figure.
1–BEHOLDER, 124, m, 6, by Henny Hughes
1st Dam: Leslie’s Lady (SW, $187,014), by Tricky Creek
2nd Dam: Crystal Lady, by Stop the Music CANADIAN-BRED – bred by Reade Baker and Rick Kennedy
3rd Dam: One Last Bird, by One for All ”
Other stuff from day 1 of Breeders’ Cup – BRIAN LYNCH, the Lynch Mob, won his first Breeders’ Cup race as OSCAR PERFORMANCE pressed and chargedhome on the very fast grass in the Juvenile Turf. Kitten’s Joy is the sire of that 2yo colt.
KIARAN MCLAUGHLIN also won his first Breeders’ Cup as TAMARKUZ rallied to win the Dirt Mile.
Canadian-bred CHANNEL MAKER was not too bad actually – he chased the pace in the Juvenile Turf (wearing the colours of Gary Barber for the first time) and raced evenly, finishing 7th, 5 1/4 lengths behind the winner.
Earlier on the card. MELMICH was en even 4th in the Marathon for Stephen Chesney and Cory Hoffman, trained Kevin Attard and jockey Eurico da Silva.
The biggest story on the home front, however, was the TSN2 broadcast of the NBC Breeders’ Cup show.
At four minutes to post for the Distaff, the coverage was stopped and TSN2 switched to an under 17 hockey game. Twitter exploded, Facebook too. TSN alerted people on Twitter at that moment on Twitter, saying it was now on TSN-Go (mobile/computer channel).
There are too many letters and notes that were sent to @TSNSports to re-print here but racing fan Colin Nolte said it best in a letter penned to TSN
” I was watching the Breeders Cup when you cut away to a non essential hockey game minutes before the feature race of the day. You have five channels to use but decide to preempt a world class sports event for a run of the mill game. You could have joined the game in progress, which would have been halfway through the first period at the latest. This is a complete disregard to sports fans who enjoy big horse racing events. The Breeders Cup IS a big event. You just lost a long time viewer. ”
Nolte also adds – I urge all race fans to send their thoughts to TSN for this outrage. Be thoughtful and classy, but let the network know what they have done to denigrate our sport. They will tell you that they completed the broadcast on TSNGO, a streaming channel that quite simply is useless. …Furthermore, NBCSN carry the entire BC card for both days as well as many of the key races throughout the year. We in Canada can not get NBCSN on any of our service providers. I ended up watching the Distaff on my computer via a live stream from breederscup.com , just making it in time to see the horses loading into the gate. If we are to promote our sport, we need the services of television in Canada to get the big events on main stream TV. Am I pissed off? You bet I am. This is a disgrace to race fans and the industry. We have a proud and loyal following of horse racing in Canada, with a wonderful history. Canadian TV execs need to be made aware of this.
BUSINESS NOTES –
A crowd of 45,673, the largest for a Breeders Cup Friday,
attended the opening day of the 33rd World Thoroughbred
Championships at Santa Anita. The Friday attendance was a 23%
increase over Friday at Santa Anita in 2014 and a 1% increase
over Friday at Keeneland last year. Total handle for Friday’s 10-
race card was $50,935,934–a 13% increase over the 2015
non-separate pool handle figure of $44,949,165. Total handle
for the four Breeders= Cup races was $30,267,692.
RYAN MOORE SUMS UP HIS BREEDERS’ CUP CHANCES FOR SATURDAY
Moore is not sure about Seventh Heaven, likes Alice Springs…
BREEDERS’ CUP SATURDAY – FRIDAY NOTES
by Peter Mallett – co author CRUSHING THE CUP
There were surprises Friday but fortunately not big ones for those of us who look for overlays. Tamarkuz got a sensible ride from Smitty and he was the only one entering that hadn’t tried to set up close to Runhappy. Dortmund tried to get first run and it cost him. As result, I have to report that a generation of bridge jumpers in the Dirty Mile were washed out to sea when Dortmund struggle in the stretch and failed to hold third. The last time I checked the show pool, better than $250,000 had been sent in by bettors looking for the ‘sure’ 5% return on their investment. How many of them were looking for show parlay Dortmund onto Songbird? We’ll never know. I have more respect for the whales in the win pool; they also went belly up, in the Dirt Mile; at least they we looking to feed only if their choice won.
SPEED CAUGHT IN SPRINTS – My opinion going into Friday’s card was that while a front runner on the main track was possible in route races, a horse that tried to open a clear lead early in a sprint was almost certain to be run down nearing or entering the stretch. This seemed to be borne out but all 4 sprints Friday all were at 7 furlongs. No surprises there the early leaders faded away. I don’t think it will be much different Saturday even at six furlongs no matter how speedy the track is.
FAST TURF – Having walked the turf course and replayed many of the turf races I was struck by how fair the course has been playing, in spite of the searing fractions that had worried us all. A horse that has to lead can win but only if not challenged, first run closers got their shot in most races and a number of stretch running closers were able to win in spite of the brisk times being put up and being far back early. No easy bias to play on the turf.. Although the sample of races running with no temp rail up is small (6 two turn races going into Friday’s racing), I’ll play the horses that will likely spend much of the race on the best ground, no matter its running style, on the inside 3 or 4 paths and take my chances. That got me the winners of both the juvenile turf races Friday but not a super in either. I expect the same built in inside benefit from the older runners in Saturday’s three turf routes.
As usual the down hill Turf Sprint is a nightmare to handicap. In this fourteen horse field I’ll go with horse and riders who have experience on the course and let a stranger beat me if it can. It is not just the down hill portion or the veering to the left then right in the first furlong, but it is the 85’ of the main track that has to be crossed that makes the race a mystery. Then there is the desperate 3/16th run to the wire. In this race everybody gets a trouble note even the winner.
DIRT ON DIRT I expect the main track to be at its very fastest Saturday. We get little warning of what’s to come in the early races. The first and third are down the hill turf sprints; the second a seven furlong stake for two year old Cal-breds. And then in race four, the nine race Breeders’ Cup dance begins with the Juvenile Fillies.
Over in the UK the bookmaker Corals are offering 5-1 that Aiden O”Brien will have three or more winners over the two days. He has twelve starters; it is 13-8 that he saddles one winner; 4-1 that he is shutout. William Hill offers betting on all Euro-trained winners: 16-1 five or more Euro trained winners; 9-4 two winners; 14-1 none.
Limato in the Mile is a 7-2 chance to ‘upset’ Tepin (3-1); April Springs is at 4-1. No euros were in the winner’s circle Friday; there will be anxiety in the UK overnight.
I have a seat in the auxiliary press area opposite the 1/16th pole past the finish line. So armed with my trusty stop watch I have been timing the finish of horses that appear to be going well after the finish. It’s a great way to spot horses that either didn’t get to run their race and others who were just out preparing for the next start. I use the Trakus finish time for each horse’s race and subtract the horse’s finish time from what I caught a sixteenth of a mile later ( just grade 9 math, eh). I put a two year old filly My Pi Romancer in Friday’s 5th race on my watch list for coming through the finish and out so quickly. She was fourth, just a maiden running against winners in a stake but there is a race horse in there, waiting to come out! She is sure to be bet down breaking her maiden but later on; who knows!
FRIDAY – The Euros travel in numbers, not just their horses who parade to the track to work in the morning, nose to butt but their connections as well. Their press, media and stable camp followers trail the horses to the track as a platoon in a long winding column heading for a perch in the grandstand. If there was a Euro shipper that didn’t come out to play Thursday morning I don’t know who it would be.
Among the interesting moments was the Stoute filly Queen’s Trust entered in the Filly and Mare Turf. She was walked into and then backed out of the gate at the head of the stretch, probably just to get her used to having an assistant starter at her shoulder. They don’t do that over there; just push them in and let them flail away if they must. She adds Lasix, and is held at 7-1 or less with the UK bookmakers to be Stoute’s third Santa Anita FM Turf winner.
Also spotted going into the gate was the Pletcher two year old Theory. He seemed a bit nervous about the process but he stood in the gate for a few moments and was then backed out. The Juvenile will be just his third lifetime start so he is still learning the game. But the Juvenile could be a tough learning experience.
A friend once described a Breeders’ Cup morning at Santa Anita as Equine Eye-candy. It was all of that Thursday morning. There seemed to be ten or twelve BC runners on the track every moment for over an hour. They love their entertainment in Los Angeles and this one had no cover charge for the best show on a LA morning.
The Daily Racing Form is using Timeform Rating figures for Euro runners for the first time. In previous years Racing Post Ratings had been used. I liked the RPR ratings because they combined an estimate of the class of a field and the runners competing, to come up with their figure. The time of a race was only one of several subjective interpretations. The Timeform figures emphasize time of a race against a par. That’s not an easy thing to do when so many races in Europe have very slow beginnings and very speedy finishes. The final time for a race doesn’t mean much if the first half was 54 and the final three furlongs 34.
While either RPR or Timeform ratings can be helpful in ranking horses shipping to North America, you don’t want to use them as more than a guideline. In fact, it is often a shipper with a relatively low number that springs a surprise. The impact of the long journey, the possible benefits of North American race-day meds, the very different racing dynamics on our tighter turning and mostly harder surfaces makes simply relying the Euro numbers dangerous. The attempt to bring them in line with DRF Beyer figures does require some tinkering. DRF is recommending a deduction of 13 points from a Timeform figure to get a rough Beyer equivalent. Mazur and I have been tinkering with RPR figures for many years making similar but slightly larger deductions.
In Crushing the Cup we always remind readers that it is often the ‘wrong Euro” that makes the adjustment to our racing rather than the “right Euro.” Following any Euro numbers may be simple but it doesn’t always get you to a winner.
Those that followed the RPR figures in the Turf at Keeneland in 2015 may have been shocked when Golden Horn with his huge RPR lost to the three year old filly Found with a modest 119 RPR and she was making her third start in less than a month. Those who knew the colt Golden Horn best would conclude that the condition of the turf course did him in: that the course turf was not really ‘good’, but soft. The winner of the race , Found, was awarded a Racing Post Rating of 117 for winning the Turf, not even her career best number but she had defeated Golden Horn that had carried a top 127 rating into the race. Go figure!
There was good news and bad news for fans of Lady Shipman. The good news: she has drawn into the field of the Turf Sprint! The bad news, she starts from post fourteen.
Crush note: The Classic
The West Coast ‘experts’ are beating the drum for an all West-Coast Classic tri or even a super. While they admit that it is not a cinch, at least it is a possibility. Homers have won four of the eight Classics run at Santa Anita, and that includes the 2014 body-check winner Bayern who hadn’t raced on the Santa Anita sand since the previous February. He was more Road Warrior than homer; we’ll call him a Baffert homer.
For the older runners four years and up, we know how good they can be when they are good and we don’t expect them to jump forward and produce a new career top at four or five as we do with the threes. That means there will be fewer break outs among the old guys.
I’ve always been on the watch for an improving three year old in the Classic. With them there is an unexplored ups side. Unfortunately the only three year old in the field Arrogate will likely be second choice in the betting and he has already exposed a major break-out race winning the Travers and setting not just a stakes record but the track record for the distance. If he can top or even duplicate that race and the 122 Beyer we will be looking at a new racing hero.
For a few moments Thursday morning Arrogate stood stock still in the gap looking at the proceedings. While he is not the imposing horse I had been hoping to see, he is clearly a cool customer and one that will have benefited from the fine-tuning that Baffert/Smith et al have put in. In all ten Classics have been won by a three year old; so don’t make his age a negative; nor can you make a Baffert layoff a reason to go against him.
It may turn out to be the match race between the Chrome and Arrogate that is expected but Melatonin too may have a shot but only if his long layoff has prepared him for a career break out race to do the job.
SLEEPER? For Melatonin’s trainer David Hoffmans, it will be twenty years since he stood in the winner’s circle at Woodbine greeting his Classic winner, Alphabet Soup:
“Three days before the Classic at Woodbine Alphabet Soup changed. I don’t know what it was; he just wanted to focus on what he had to do” Hoffman’s told a member of the Notes Team Thursday morning. “This horse (Melatonin) is just the same. The other day I took him to the gate and it was just like Alphabet Soup, he changed and got the focus going. I think he knows he’s got something coming up!” Bettors should beware, there seems to be a karma thing going on here….it’s been a spooky week!
Is this a trick; or is it a treat?