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Breeders’ Cup 2012: The Aftermath

Every year I have mixed thoughts on the Breeders’ Cup. This year it was another up-and-down affair, but overall Saturday went this handicapper’s way more than Friday. Race by race, let’s review:

Juvenile Sprint: Anti-climactic at best. Merit Man and Hightail put on a decent stretch duel for us, but the rail was obviously playing very well and Rajiv Maragh capitalized. Patrick Valenzuela doesn’t get many mounts in California anymore, and I can’t imagine he’ll keep the mount on Merit Man after letting a maiden slip up the rail and defeat him knowing how it was playing. The horse is still figuring things out and definitely gave away experience to Hightail – don’t get me wrong. It was just a hefty-pursed allowance race.

Marathon: I know, the race I hated and won. I still don’t love this race and I think a nine-year-old from Argentina coming up and winning it doesn’t really improve it. We didn’t see the winner all year and we may never see him again. He ran a heck of a race after being out of touch with the field for around a mile, but probably would have been the best at the distance no matter where he came from. He is just a specialist at races like this one and Americans never really are tested at it throughout the year. The runner-up is a classy horse, but does the bulk of his work on turf and may never try the dirt again. Atigun has a future in front of him but ran a pretty usual race for him. Couple of yawners, but that’s why they were the first two BC races carded.

Juvenile Fillies Turf: This was a fun one to watch. Apparently everyone and their mother loved Flotilla, but I was uninformed on the quality of her races in Europe. She received a masterful ride from Lemaire and very much deserved the win. The top five all appeared to get fair runs at it and came home strongly. There was a touch of trouble behind them, but the horses most likely wouldn’t have made much more impact with clean trips. Waterway Run was on the inside the entirety of the trip with Frankie Dettori, but when given any light of day really didn’t kick. The major disappointment was Spring Venture, who took a Woobine-ish (WIDE) trip from start to finish, and as a result was all but done at the quarter pole. Not sure why Husbands felt the need to travel 3-4 wide throughout AND swing out at least 7 wide on the turn, but they paid for it. She is a better filly than she showed but will probably appreciate a trip back to Canada.

Juvenile Fillies: The favorites performed as expected. Beholder used the speedy rail to her advantage and got the jump out of the gate….game over. Mandella put her in this race for a reason, and with speed holding the way it was he was right. Executiveprivilege ran her race but passing was difficult all weekend. She had been a little off in her last work and got weary down the lane (drifting) but simply appeared second best on the day. Going forward, neither of the top two have an overwhelming pedigree for long distance but as long as they stay on the West Coast they should be fine. The most formful race of them all was indeed formful.

Filly & Mare Turf: I’d compare this one to a game of bumper cars. The favorites encountered plenty of trouble, especially The Fugue. I should not have taken the bait with a horse ridden by a European jockey but considering he won the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf I was very disappointed with the ride on Ridasinya. Neither got a fair shot at the winner, with The Fugue taking all the worst of it on the outside. Ridasinya stayed in last until the head of the stretch, and then flew on to get fourth. Zagora was the filly who came out smelling like a rose, and with a powerful ride home she and Javier Castellano sprung the mild upset at 9-1. I cannot discredit the winner, as she came home in quick time and out gamed another nice one in Marketing Mix, but the exacta should have been filled by a European in some sense. Hats off to Chad Brown for having her ready to take on that tough field.

Ladies’ Classic: Santa Anita’s final BC race on Friday was everything it was supposed to be – the crowning of a champion and an exciting race throughout. Royal Delta is simply a machine and her race on Friday was by far the most impressive of the day. How do you beat her?! She can beat you in front, she can beat you from behind, and at whatever racetrack you turn her loose on. She’s in the right hands to carry this talent on as an older filly, and it was nice to see Mike Smith return to the winner’s circle in this race. The best part? No one really endured trouble in the running, although Questing supposedly hurt her eye. While she didn’t go to the lead, I don’t think I’m alone in being surprised at Royal Delta’s wire to wire effort. What appeared to be a speedy field was simply overpowered by Bill Mott’s filly, but give credit to both My Miss Aurelia and Include Me Out. They both put in their races and simply fell short. If we’d only put together an entire Breeders’ Cup with these types of races.

Juvenile Turf: Why was ANY European let off at this price? George Vancouver has a rich American pedigree and somehow went off at 9-1. Chad Brown’s colts both performed well, but this was another fairly chalky event. The single digit prospects all ran in the top spots, the longshots all trailed. The chart reads “Steadied” for a lot of runners, but most of the bumping was light and didn’t cost anyone the race. Dundonnell jockey (Doyle) rode the horse like he stole him around the turn, but ended up just a bit short around the sixteenth pole. Give the fourth-place finisher another chance if he returns to America.

Filly & Mare Sprint: Groupie Doll. What else do you say? Groupie Doll. Dust and Diamonds ran a nice race for second, but she ran into a sprinting buzz saw. Chalk, chalk.

Dirt Mile: Where have all the speed horses gone? On paper, this looked like a closer’s race. When Shackleford stumbled, Fed Biz took back and Emcee became Tapizar’s companion on the front end, the race changed completely. I still do not like Tapizar and he got the exact trip he needed to win. Take a look – This horse does not win any other way and got one to go his way. He got the trip at the right time on the right day and we’re happy for him. Rail Trip’s much improved performance on dirt surprised me a little, but not as much as the winner. Heck, even Delegation got up for a piece and THAT is a surprise. Good for the winning connections, not good for my wallet. Congrats to all that hit!

Turf Sprint: Ah yes, the one race that a horse for the course came in. Mizdirection and Unbridled’s Note showed some of the best recent form and filled a pretty decent exacta ($40). Their posts and their style suited this race better than most, and the local filly Reneesgotzip held bravely for third. Keep in mind that Santa Anita will host the Breeders’ Cup next year and these types will probably do well in 2013. The figures don’t show up as impressive, but the extra furlong and a half that most of these aren’t used to running catches up with them. A lot of contenders for this race spend a majority of their year running five and six furlongs, so expect plenty of early speed in next year’s renewal as well.

Juvenile: Wow. Shanghai Bobby isn’t bred to be a classic sort of horse but what heart he showed! While he only prevailed by a head, Pletcher’s colt looked all but done at the top of the stretch and bravely held off He’s Had Enough. Plenty is being made of the runner-up’s future prospects, but let’s see how the rest come out of this. The two West horses (Power Broker and Title Contender) appeared best on paper (the former defeated third place Capo Bastone handily prior), but didn’t show much after the first half of the race. Interesting to see who will show up on the Derby trail.

Turf: Little Mike? LITTLE MIKE? The speed duel expected up front didn’t materialize… and Little Mike got the jump on them all. The Europeans really seemed to show up but just weren’t good enough. I will gripe once more about jockeys that leave their horses with too much to do, but it won’t win me any more money. Tip of the cap and move along, as this race really made no sense to me before, during or after.

Sprint: Speed kills at Santa Anita. Trinniberg found the dirt to his liking and not surprisingly, nearly wired the field. Smiling Tiger was the only horse to crack the superfecta from further back than fourth early. Sum of the Parts, Trinniberg and The Lumber Guy all stayed in close attendance to FAST fractions, but the track has been playing to speed all meet long and the surface did not tire anyone out. I can’t say this was unexpected, but Smiling Tiger getting up for a piece was a little odd. The vet hadn’t shown much lately but brave race on his part. Despite the prices, the sprint went the way of a lot of short races at the fall meet – all but wire-to-wire.

Mile: I expected a big race from Wise Dan (pictured at top), but I didn’t think it’d beat Excelebration like that! Wise Dan pulls on those boots and punches the clock every time doesn’t he? All the projections for horse of the year are now heading his way, and deservedly so. Obviously is a fast horse, but was without closing competition in his previous races. Wise Dan ran his race and more often than not it’s a winning race. Animal Kingdom surprised a few but not all (10-1 at post time) in running down Obviously as well, but Motion is about as conservative as they get. His race off that kind of layoff was outstanding. If these two stay at the level they were at on Saturday, we may be in for quite a rivalry next year in Grade One grass races. Excelebration showed his fatigue from his recent race & travel. Moonlight Cloud… nowhere to be found.

Classic: Happy Birthday to Brian Hernandez. The two Classics didn’t disappoint this year and at least the masculine version yielded a price. Fort Larned and his connections caught right on to the track bias, and when Game On Dude didn’t gun for the front there they went. The rail was also playing kind to speed, and when a path opened up to his inside Hernandez shut the door quickly. Game On Dude is awfully good at Santa Anita, but take him out of his game and the wheels come off. Mucho Macho Man ran his typical race but seems just as willing to settle for pieces as wins. Flat Out’s not so tough without his Belmont main track but at least filled out the tri at six to one instead of seven to two. The Dude will come back to fight another day, and congratulations to the victors and runner-up. Their stories are hard to make up and the races their charges put in were commendable.

Congratulations to all who cashed as well, and best of luck on the upcoming Derby Trail!

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann just completed her second year as Canterbury’s Paddock Analyst after previously serving in a similar role at Lincoln Racecourse and Columbus Ag Park. She blogs about both local and National racing.