The Great (Eclipse Award) Debates by Angela Hermann

CBY_AngelaHermann7Sept2013Gulfstream Park hosts the Eclipse Awards in a couple of weeks, and the best of the best (granted, like the Breeders’ Cup there’s a category for EVERYONE) assume their respective thrones as the champions of 2013. Some awards are obvious, some are going to cause eight day debates on Facebook, and others deserve multiple winners. Now I of course will infuse my own opinion, but in keeping up with blogs & other sites already fueling the fights between candidates I’ve plucked out a few of the contested battles while ignoring the “Will Wise Dan be grass male of the year?” material.

First up…

Three Year OId Male of the Year: Goldencents vs. Will Take Charge

They nearly both captured Breeders’ Cup events, but the main argument from the West Coast camp is “Who won?” The Dirt Mile is one of those races that was a recent addition to the Breeders’ Cup and doesn’t really have an established prep schedule among its contestants. They’re sprinters stretching out or tired route horses, etc. They’re a far more mixed bag than the Classic. However, Goldencents worked hard for his money that day and deserves credit for defeating his elders for the first time. Will Take Charge had a few things work against him in the Classic (most notably Gary Stevens) but still showed up with another awesome performance in line with the rest of his fall races. He also capped off his year with a tie-breaker of sorts, the Clark. Goldencents could not muster a response to that effort in the Cigar Mile, or anything close for that matter.

I’d be very surprised if Will Take Charge doesn’t take the honors with his late-season surge. “Coastal Bias” aside, his body of work this year trumps his competition. Conversely, I’d give the training nod to Doug O’Neill for keeping his charge in competitive form from day one. It’s so difficult to keep a horse good from two to three in the Graded ranks, bravo! However, this is not a lifetime resume award – and 2013 was a better year for Will Take Charge.

Three Year Old Female of the Year: Beholder vs. Princess of Sylmar

Let me reiterate before I start: This crop of fillies are GOOD. In this instance, I’d love for both to receive the award as I don’t think sportsmanship (shipping the likely champion at the time out to get THUMPED in the Distaff) should be punished. The thing about Princess of Sylmar is the bad position she was put in by the Breeders’ Cup being in Beholder’s sandbox; wasn’t she kind of damned if she did and damned if she didn’t? Either she chances losing to Beholder or she gets accused of ducking her? The fact still remains that these two are 1-1 against each other. As brilliant as miss Beholder was on the day that often decides these awards, on a bit more level playing field (Churchill Downs) she was not as good as ‘Princess. If the entire year is to be kept in mind, they really do both deserve it but I would actually go the way of the caboose in the Distaff. Let’s see if that “Bias” is in play…

Horse of the Year: Wise Dan vs. Will Take Charge vs. Mucho Macho Man

This is not one that I’d split but I do not envy voters on these three. Personally, I don’t find this to be much of a contest but surprisingly I’ve seen several quarrels online. I know that WTC’s name was thrown in after the Clark, but Game On Dude has become less & less of a yardstick to measure the best against with the fields he womps in CA getting smaller. Game On Dude is fun to watch, he’s dominant when he’s on, he’s California’s golden boy……he’s not invincible. MMM tugs on the heartstrings and certainly that will send a few votes his way, but looking at his entire year it leaves something to be desired. Of course there was nowhere to go but up after not finishing in the Sunshine Millions, but it wasn’t really the hardest year in retrospect. He’s coming back for more and hooray for that, but when you only finish four of your five races and only three of them are graded is that enough? I don’t really think so, but this blog has more than a little evidence that he stole some of my money on BC Day. If you’re going to go by graded stakes wins in California, then the Dude has to be put back into consideration.

The point? Wise Dan is Horse of the Year for the second year in a row. Hopefully the same debate surfaces next year, as all of the above are projected to race in 2014.

There are more categories to glance at next week… and remember the Eclipse Awards will be shown on both HRTV and NBC Sports on January 18th. Suggestions for any of the above categories? Post a reply!

The Breeders’ Cup Aftermath

breederscup_186657445_620x350There are plenty of opinions on the running of each Breeder’s Cup race this year, but however you fared this year at Santa Anita the question remains – where will they go from here and will 2014 be as fruitful for the victors as this year?

The Marathon – London Bridge – This son of Arch was the only three-year old in this year’s marathon, and proved his endurance and quality on another surface in his first race in America. He won in nearly identical (though not quite as impressive) fashion as Caliedoscopio, at about half the price. Not only will he leave this continent again, he’ll head to Australia to resume his career. While we simulcast plenty of Australian racing, seeing him again in this country may be a long shot.

The Juvenile Turf – Outstrip – As with most of the turf races this year, the Europeans proved their dominance by filling a short-priced exacta in the Juvenile turf. One has think that the Lasix issue helps the foreign animals that don’t use it regularly, besides the fact that their turf racing is simply a cut above most of our races in America. Outstrip wasn’t favored but took a fifth victory in this race in its seven runnings back across the Atlantic. While he seems well-adjusted to racing here, there is simply more for him in the three-year old ranks overseas on turf and if we see him at all next year it won’t be for a long time.

The Dirt Mile – Goldencents – He’s sort of had the look of a speedy miler his entire career, and after playing bridesmaid following his failed Triple Crown campaign all of the pieces came tomorrow. Things played pretty perfectly into his hands, from the tracking outside post position to the front-end favoring dirt. That’s not to take anything away from the grueling race he turned in, as he earned this victory from start to finish. However, he’s one that really thrives in his back yard and may be overbet should he ship East again. He seems to have found his niche and he will win races, but don’t accept too low of a number when he’s not in California. The connections intend to race their colt as a four-year old the Strub Series certainly looks like a good fit.

The Juvenile Fillies Turf – Surprisingly, a European winner scored again at a decent price. Yes, she was an upset in the group 1 she won overseas but she validated that in a big way on Friday. However, like the above colt and many other Euros we’ve seen score on Breeders’ Cup day there’s no certainty that we’ll ever see her again. Testa Rossi, one of four Chad Brown entrants, ran a bold second but she was nothing special in Europe. The only real conclusion to be drawn from this bunch is if that runner returns better as a three-year old she will be doubly tough.

The Distaff – Beholder – Wow. I have never been accused of being a Beholder believer despite liking her in her BC race last year, but she silenced me big time after Friday. Yes, she was holding home court advantage but all entrants proved they can bring their best on the road and she wiped the floor with them. Gary Stevens fits her like a glove, and right now both of them are in a zone. Royal Delta was a no-show, and the rest simply don’t have the race in them to beat Beholder when she’s on. Boy, was SHE ON. If she decides to carry forward in 2014, she will win races at short prices but she will be a blast to watch. In fact, her crop is one of the stronger generations of females we’ve seen in a while and they will win all over the place.

Saturday

The Juvenile Fillies – Ria Antonia – The heartbreaker that cost many a gambler the early pick five on Saturday is a puzzling preposition. She came in with a few accolades and really didn’t leave with many more, as her win via DQ was only the second of her career. She’s a Tiger ran the more demanding race of the two and will certainly be the more heavily touted filly going forward, but neither of the exacta pair really make you think “Oaks Winner” in the replay. She’s a Tiger’s brother too, has to make one think that distance may not be in her future. Talent at this point in her career may have carried her this far rather than actual desire to route. This appears to be a group with a lot of growing up to do, and no standout leader at this point. No one can say that either ran poorly or didn’t deserve the win, but it just wasn’t a race that caught the eye visually or final time-wise. Rosalind, the show filly, was picking up checks in similar fashion all year and wasn’t threatening those two. I’ll be searching for an Oaks filly elsewhere most likely.

The Filly & Mare Turf – Dank – What else can you say? This race went exactly according to plan & the odds board. They finished in a clump but the best mare won and the second best mare ran second. Neither one really has reason to stay here or return for a while, and even if they do the value will not be there. Hats off to a couple of fantastic fillies but they shouldn’t be padding wallets in the US anytime soon.

The Filly & Mare Sprint – Groupie Doll – With only one faint possibility at seeing the champ again (Cigar Mile), discussion of next year is off the table. She was just bought for $3.1 million and we’ll likely discover Atlantis before seeing her race again.

The Turf Sprint – Mizdirection – See Groupie Doll.

The Juvenile – New Year’s Day – The little boys finished up even slower than the girls, but the winner seems to have a little more promise/upside than his counterpart. This was only his third start, and each one seems to be a bigger step forward than even Bob Baffert expects. The difference between the two juvenile races seems to be that many more of the males showed up, whereas some of the fillies turned in complete duds. Havana ran a brave, wide race but was just out of horse when the challenge came on the inside. Tap it Rich just didn’t pick it up but is another with upside considering his inexperience. That one will probably need some time to fill out his big frame too, but will most likely not provide value considering his conditioner. It was sort of a stagger-fest down the stretch but I’ll be watching a few of these down the road, including the winner.

The Turf – Magician – It’s a pattern in this year’s cup, but the best two took the money across the ocean again. The Fugue ran a huge race but the winner got the smarter trip after the early fractions, and finished better than yours truly could imagine after that kind of layoff. Hindsight is 20/20 though, and won’t change the result. Oodles of credit go to all runners in a pretty cleanly run race, but as usual the local troops were overmatched.

The Sprint – Secret Circle – He’s a unique sort like Beholder, and joins a select list of winners of two different Breeders’ Cup events. The problem is his obvious delicacy, but the speed & natural ability are glaring. As with New Year’s Day though, the problem with this colt going forward is the sure lack of value. There are enough sprint stakes in California to keep him home all of 2014 and enough on the East Coast to prevent another challenge like the one put forth on Saturday. The good thing about the Sprint is that the most common distance in America produces the biggest pool of contenders at the beginning of each year and usually keeps things interesting right up to the wire in November. Trinniburg is a perfect example of how hard it is to stay competitive in these ranks and why this race only has one repeat winner.

The Mile – Wise Dan – What a guy. For as tough as he is to beat, beating him twice in a row is damn near impossible. He’s another… what do you say? Different jock? No problem. Different trip? No problem. Different course? You see where I’m going… His connections take the best of care with him and he takes care of himself. No price will ever be found until he loses twice in a row, but he’s not the sort of horse that you go to the track to get rich with. He’s the reason you pay admission. There’s no telling how long he can stay this good, but until he proves otherwise just keep enjoying the show.

The Classic – Mucho Macho Man (pictured above right) – Holy Gary Stevens. He had so much good karma in tow with those 126 pounds, how can you not feel good about his win? I know personally my tickets didn’t care for the result, but in retrospect leaving him out of anything was a mistake after his win in the Awesome Again. He doesn’t always get the job done (ahem, 2012) but his campaign led up to this spot perfectly and the ride he received could not be matched by anyone else’s in the field. Many will claim that Will Take Charge should have won, but that’s the difference the hot-riding Stevens made. He’s somehow conned MMM into a win streak, but the possibility of it continuing is iffy. His stud value will probably never exceed the present, and with the breeding industry being as lucrative as it is he may join a couple of others in this year’s classic in the breeding shed in 2014. Both he and the distaff winner shut me up, and kudos to the connections of both. It is not an easy thing to do.

In all, I will not be playing as many winners from this year’s cup as last year’s. I must give credit to the connections of many of the 2012 champions though, as this year saw a brave return by more of them than I ever expected. Hopefully many of you cashed in the cup and best of luck in the remaining weeks of 2013!

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela just completed her third year as Canterbury Park’s Analyst.

The Breeders’ Cup Aftermath

breederscup_186657445_620x350There are plenty of opinions on the running of each Breeder’s Cup race this year, but however you fared this year at Santa Anita the question remains – where will they go from here and will 2014 be as fruitful for the victors as this year?

The Marathon – London Bridge – This son of Arch was the only three-year old in this year’s marathon, and proved his endurance and quality on another surface in his first race in America. He won in nearly identical (though not quite as impressive) fashion as Caliedoscopio, at about half the price. Not only will he leave this continent again, he’ll head to Australia to resume his career. While we simulcast plenty of Australian racing, seeing him again in this country may be a long shot.

The Juvenile Turf – Outstrip – As with most of the turf races this year, the Europeans proved their dominance by filling a short-priced exacta in the Juvenile turf. One has think that the Lasix issue helps the foreign animals that don’t use it regularly, besides the fact that their turf racing is simply a cut above most of our races in America. Outstrip wasn’t favored but took a fifth victory in this race in its seven runnings back across the Atlantic. While he seems well-adjusted to racing here, there is simply more for him in the three-year old ranks overseas on turf and if we see him at all next year it won’t be for a long time.

The Dirt Mile – Goldencents – He’s sort of had the look of a speedy miler his entire career, and after playing bridesmaid following his failed Triple Crown campaign all of the pieces came tomorrow. Things played pretty perfectly into his hands, from the tracking outside post position to the front-end favoring dirt. That’s not to take anything away from the grueling race he turned in, as he earned this victory from start to finish. However, he’s one that really thrives in his back yard and may be overbet should he ship East again. He seems to have found his niche and he will win races, but don’t accept too low of a number when he’s not in California. The connections intend to race their colt as a four-year old the Strub Series certainly looks like a good fit.

The Juvenile Fillies Turf – Surprisingly, a European winner scored again at a decent price. Yes, she was an upset in the group 1 she won overseas but she validated that in a big way on Friday. However, like the above colt and many other Euros we’ve seen score on Breeders’ Cup day there’s no certainty that we’ll ever see her again. Testa Rossi, one of four Chad Brown entrants, ran a bold second but she was nothing special in Europe. The only real conclusion to be drawn from this bunch is if that runner returns better as a three-year old she will be doubly tough.

The Distaff – Beholder – Wow. I have never been accused of being a Beholder believer despite liking her in her BC race last year, but she silenced me big time after Friday. Yes, she was holding home court advantage but all entrants proved they can bring their best on the road and she wiped the floor with them. Gary Stevens fits her like a glove, and right now both of them are in a zone. Royal Delta was a no-show, and the rest simply don’t have the race in them to beat Beholder when she’s on. Boy, was SHE ON. If she decides to carry forward in 2014, she will win races at short prices but she will be a blast to watch. In fact, her crop is one of the stronger generations of females we’ve seen in a while and they will win all over the place.

Saturday

The Juvenile Fillies – Ria Antonia – The heartbreaker that cost many a gambler the early pick five on Saturday is a puzzling preposition. She came in with a few accolades and really didn’t leave with many more, as her win via DQ was only the second of her career. She’s a Tiger ran the more demanding race of the two and will certainly be the more heavily touted filly going forward, but neither of the exacta pair really make you think “Oaks Winner” in the replay. She’s a Tiger’s brother too, has to make one think that distance may not be in her future. Talent at this point in her career may have carried her this far rather than actual desire to route. This appears to be a group with a lot of growing up to do, and no standout leader at this point. No one can say that either ran poorly or didn’t deserve the win, but it just wasn’t a race that caught the eye visually or final time-wise. Rosalind, the show filly, was picking up checks in similar fashion all year and wasn’t threatening those two. I’ll be searching for an Oaks filly elsewhere most likely.

The Filly & Mare Turf – Dank – What else can you say? This race went exactly according to plan & the odds board. They finished in a clump but the best mare won and the second best mare ran second. Neither one really has reason to stay here or return for a while, and even if they do the value will not be there. Hats off to a couple of fantastic fillies but they shouldn’t be padding wallets in the US anytime soon.

The Filly & Mare Sprint – Groupie Doll – With only one faint possibility at seeing the champ again (Cigar Mile), discussion of next year is off the table. She was just bought for $3.1 million and we’ll likely discover Atlantis before seeing her race again.

The Turf Sprint – Mizdirection – See Groupie Doll.

The Juvenile – New Year’s Day – The little boys finished up even slower than the girls, but the winner seems to have a little more promise/upside than his counterpart. This was only his third start, and each one seems to be a bigger step forward than even Bob Baffert expects. The difference between the two juvenile races seems to be that many more of the males showed up, whereas some of the fillies turned in complete duds. Havana ran a brave, wide race but was just out of horse when the challenge came on the inside. Tap it Rich just didn’t pick it up but is another with upside considering his inexperience. That one will probably need some time to fill out his big frame too, but will most likely not provide value considering his conditioner. It was sort of a stagger-fest down the stretch but I’ll be watching a few of these down the road, including the winner.

The Turf – Magician – It’s a pattern in this year’s cup, but the best two took the money across the ocean again. The Fugue ran a huge race but the winner got the smarter trip after the early fractions, and finished better than yours truly could imagine after that kind of layoff. Hindsight is 20/20 though, and won’t change the result. Oodles of credit go to all runners in a pretty cleanly run race, but as usual the local troops were overmatched.

The Sprint – Secret Circle – He’s a unique sort like Beholder, and joins a select list of winners of two different Breeders’ Cup events. The problem is his obvious delicacy, but the speed & natural ability are glaring. As with New Year’s Day though, the problem with this colt going forward is the sure lack of value. There are enough sprint stakes in California to keep him home all of 2014 and enough on the East Coast to prevent another challenge like the one put forth on Saturday. The good thing about the Sprint is that the most common distance in America produces the biggest pool of contenders at the beginning of each year and usually keeps things interesting right up to the wire in November. Trinniburg is a perfect example of how hard it is to stay competitive in these ranks and why this race only has one repeat winner.

The Mile – Wise Dan – What a guy. For as tough as he is to beat, beating him twice in a row is damn near impossible. He’s another… what do you say? Different jock? No problem. Different trip? No problem. Different course? You see where I’m going… His connections take the best of care with him and he takes care of himself. No price will ever be found until he loses twice in a row, but he’s not the sort of horse that you go to the track to get rich with. He’s the reason you pay admission. There’s no telling how long he can stay this good, but until he proves otherwise just keep enjoying the show.

The Classic – Mucho Macho Man (pictured above right) – Holy Gary Stevens. He had so much good karma in tow with those 126 pounds, how can you not feel good about his win? I know personally my tickets didn’t care for the result, but in retrospect leaving him out of anything was a mistake after his win in the Awesome Again. He doesn’t always get the job done (ahem, 2012) but his campaign led up to this spot perfectly and the ride he received could not be matched by anyone else’s in the field. Many will claim that Will Take Charge should have won, but that’s the difference the hot-riding Stevens made. He’s somehow conned MMM into a win streak, but the possibility of it continuing is iffy. His stud value will probably never exceed the present, and with the breeding industry being as lucrative as it is he may join a couple of others in this year’s classic in the breeding shed in 2014. Both he and the distaff winner shut me up, and kudos to the connections of both. It is not an easy thing to do.

In all, I will not be playing as many winners from this year’s cup as last year’s. I must give credit to the connections of many of the 2012 champions though, as this year saw a brave return by more of them than I ever expected. Hopefully many of you cashed in the cup and best of luck in the remaining weeks of 2013!

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela just completed her third year as Canterbury Park’s Analyst.

Race of the Week: Awesome Again

DSC01825Santa Anita’s made its way back into the picture, as their fall meet begins this Friday. While the opening day feature, the Eddie D., is an intriguing race, we’ll focus on Breeders’ Cup Preview day on Saturday.

I mention the Eddie D. because of its significance as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Keep in mind that odd configuration in Arcadia and the distance that comes with it. Many of the stars that show up for the Turf Sprint are used to a bit less real estate than they’ll see at the Cup, and the jockeys/horses familiar with the hill showed last year what an advantage they hold. That’s not to say they’ll sweep the tri again, but the winner of the Eddie D. must be considered come November.

Now, back to the Awesome Again. The Classic prep formerly known as the Goodwood has a notable absentee, Game on Dude. He’ll opt to train up to the race but Baffert still has some bullets to fire while trying to capture his fifth edition. It’s hard not to root for Paynter but with that one likely to be a huge underlay there are some possibilities around the field for value. I won’t cover each slot in the gate but there are certainly a few that should be mentioned.

Liaison – The rail runner is the first of Baffert’s three in the Awesome Again, and he’s the least fancied by many. He’s not a bad horse but he’s basically in an equine version of senior slide. Those last two races at Del Mar were a far cry from the first three of his year at Hollywood and Santa Anita, and Liaison missed the board for the first time on a synthetic surface two back. He’s standing at Spendthrift in 2014 no matter what, so the main goals now are to keep him healthy and find reasons to raise his stud fee. I’d have to guess that the first is of greater importance and calls for greater caution in all aspects of his races. There’s already plenty on his resume: 12 of his 17 races have come against graded company, he won stakes at two and four, etc. Perhaps they’re looking to skyrocket the stud fee here, but it sure looks like Baffert is throwing a couple against the wall to see if they stick.

Take Control – Here’s the other one in that column. While the bills stacking up with him would probably bankrupt most of us, he’s obviously made progress and lands in DEEP water off the shelf. The morning drills are what you want to see out of a Baffert and Take Control’s won off a THREE year layoff in the past… but this is still not all that likely. I’d use him over Liaison, but this spot is still way ambitious for a fourth time starter. If Liaison’s on senior slide, Take Control is that sports car that’s always in the shop. Shah paid a pretty penny for the son of Azeri, and when that car’s out of the shop you want to drive it where everyone can see it.

Paynter – It’s so hard not to root for this horse. I am plenty guilty of making emotional bets at Canterbury, but with this horse I will pass. He’s got a chance, but he needs to step it up if he hopes to beat Mucho Macho Man. I shall try to explain this without being harsh… I apparently saw the Woodward a lot different than most. Yes, he hit the gate but he wasn’t out of the position he wanted to be most of the race. Paynter was hustled out of the gate, was mildly urged to keep up through modest fractions and just died down the stretch. Can a G1 horse suddenly run like a G3 animal simply because of a sloppy track? If he’s proven he hates it, yes. If his only other race in the slop was a hard trying third in a grade three coming from nearly the same place he traveled in the Woodward? No. Every brand of slop is different, but I hesitate to listen when Bejarano says he never felt comfortable right AFTER he was out of horse at the half mile pole. No connections of this courageous horse will want to come right out and say he got outrun by the four others. The trip home should cure his ills but that may not be enough.

Mucho Macho Man – He might just be the slightest cut below the best right now in his division but that very well could still trump this bunch. Typically I favor East Coast turf horses over their western counterparts, but it’s a little more even in the dirt ranks. However, this race does not feature much outside of Paynter as far as dirt stars in California. MMM obviously likes Santa Anita, but isn’t exactly in the same form that he was the last time he raced over it. He’s always full of questions because he always gets lots of rest between his races. They’ve still geared his campaign towards the BC Classic and this is a great place to prepare. The healthy ‘Macho works like he’s been working and the outside post works to his stalking style. He’s not a clever pick but he is the battle tested, classy vet that has found a nice spot to try and get his first W of 2013.

You Know I Know – After the standouts the rest of them are a very puzzling bunch of turf horses and synthetic specialists for the most part, and this guy is no exception. He only gave the dirt a try very early on in his career, and if Sadler’s going to take another swing at G1 company it bears notice. He was a heck of a claim out of his first start by Sadler, who’s tried a number of things with him and pocketed a lot of cash along the way. No one was close to The Dude in the Pacific Classic, but this horse outclosed now-retired Richard’s Kid on his favorite surface – a tall task. The longer the better it seems for You Know I Know and that isn’t a common theme in this field. There should be plenty of pace to propel his rally, but watch the early part of the card & Friday to gauge the dirt. It can be a very speed-favoring surface (even more so than most dirt), and if it appears to be a conveyor belt toss this one right out.

One More Thing…

If anyone listening to the musings between Mr. Gelfand and me, you know his favorite horse on the grounds. Mister Bernstein is going to race on closing day at Arlington Park in the 9th race, a starter/optional claimer on the grass. His last post-Canterbury venture was a complete FLOP in 2012, but he was favored that day in September at Delaware Park. MB has raced well on Arlington turf in the past and is in fine form after facing toughies in similar races up here. He’ll at least be a price. My Friday night partner in crime would absolutely bring it up on opening day 2014 if I didn’t mention his beloved Mister Bernstein.

May Super Saturday bring all of you nothing but winners!!

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela just completed her third year as Canterbury Park’s Analyst.