I didn't get a chance to catch the last three stakes races at Santa Anita on Saturday as I had to go downtown to watch an awful football game played in monsoon conditions (at least I was warm and dry in a suite), so I caught up with everything early Sunday morning. Needless to say, the day lived up to its billing with some excellent performances from coast-to-coast. With the Keeneland Fall Stars showcase slated for next weekend, the Breeders' Cup is starting to come into focus.
Before I get into my Super Saturday thoughts I'll start with something that I don't even want to give the attention it doesn't deserve: you may have viewed the "humor" video called "It's time to ban horses from sports" produced by SB Nation the other day. If you didn't, well, don't waste your time. My first and last thoughts on this: how about we don't ban horses from sports but instead we ban snarky, sophomoric satire/humor attempting to emulate Deadspin? Or maybe we don't have to ban but merely cut back by 75% (which would still leave us with too much crap).
It's a sad situation when taking an over-the-top position just to get a reaction and "to be cool" is considered the baseline starting point for sports commentary.
"Hey, let's make fun of every little thing in order to troll people. Look at their stupid, overly sensitive comments - they don't get the joke! We're so cool! Can we .gif this?" Lather, rinse, repeat.
Snark isn't satire.
So, enough with garbage that I didn't want to waste five minutes of my Sunday writing about, let's talk Super Saturday results.
- I thought I would start with the Beldame today but after watching the Zenyatta I have to begin by talking about Beholder because she was fantastic on Saturday. While her prior race at Del Mar was devoid of any meaningful competition she faced some decent rivals on Saturday. Joyful Victory is a very good mare that Beholder simply toyed with at Santa Anita. Throw in the fact that Beholder did pretty much everything in the Zenyatta all on her own with little to no encouragement from Gary Stevens and you have the makings of a excellent display by the juvenile filly champion.
With all that being said, the Distaff is shaping up to be a whole 'nother ballgame because...
- Princess of Sylmar's defeat of Royal Delta in the Beldame could potentially set up a wonderful showdown at Santa Anita. I write "could" and "potentially" because Princess of Sylmar is no sure thing to run at Santa Anita because she is not Breeders' Cup nominated. (This is another one of those "Win and You're Sort of In" situations since all Breeders' Cup runners, regardless of which races they win, have be be Breeders' Cup eligible. If her connections decide to pay the $100,000 supplement and she runs at Santa Anita... goodness, that could be a great rematch with two-time winner Royal Delta, along with Beholder and Close Hatches.
- I was happy to see the connections of Graydar suggest they are open to running in the Classic instead of the Dirt Mile after his victory in the Kelso. If you look at his Trakus fractions from that race, you don't see the typical need-to-lead type of numbers of quick early and moderate to slow late like a lot of frontrunners. Instead, he just grinds away at a very nice cruising speed all the way around the track. While the Classic would be very tough for him given the other rivals scheduled to run, I think he'd be compromised early in a race like the Dirt Mile where the speed is likely to be more intense and could burn him out by the time the field hits the stretch. If it were up to me, Graydar would be headed to the Classic.
- How about that Jockey Club Gold Cup? Depending on how you look at it, that race was either a rail biased fluke, a major reversal of form, a disaster, or something in between
While I think Ron the Greek was clearly the best yesterday I'm not sure he didn't get a lot of help from the rail that last half mile or so. That being said, this is a horse that's won a big race at Santa Anita before and he's obviously heading in the right direction for the Classic.
HRTV's Kurt Hoover suggested after the Gold Cup that it's starting to look like the Kentucky Derby was simply the perfect alignment of circumstances for Orb because he's yet to come even close to that level in the months following his triumph at Churchill Downs. I don't know where he goes from here but I seriously doubt it's Santa Anita, as does Shug.
Shug said Orb did not display any physical problems coming out of Jockey Club. Called Breeders' Cup "a longshot" but wants to talk w/ owners— David Grening (@DRFGrening) September 29, 2013
We can't really evaluate Cross Traffic since his race was over the second the gates opened and he failed to exit the gate in good order. But at least we can draw a line through the race on the form.
- If there's one thing we know about Fort Larned, it's this: you give him an easy lead where he can gallop along under his own control, he'll just cruise around the track. But while I was a big fan of his in last year's Classic, and I liked his performance in the Homecoming Classic at Churchill last night, I think he'll find things much tougher this year at Santa Anita if he has to deal with a horse like Cross Traffic or Moreno or anybody that could potentially squeeze him back off the lead.
- Private Zone is fast. That is all.
- What happened to The Lumber Guy? A horse that was the runner-up in last year's Sprint has been blanked in 2013 and was absolutely smoked in the Vosburgh. He's only run four times this year, including yesterday's debacle, and looks like he could use some class relief.
- Little Mike. Seriously, this horse is turning into my new English Channel - I just can't beat this guy.
- How fast was the turf course at Santa Anita yesterday? So fast that Tiz Flirtatious stopped the timer in a three-way filly and mare dash to the wire the 10 furlong Rodeo Drive in a mind-boggling 1:58.98. How short do they cut the grass at Santa Anita? Is it a putting green?
- I think it's safe to say that Mucho Macho Man really likes running at Santa Anita. If he duplicates his Awesome Again win in the Classic (a big task), I think he avenges last year's defeat.
- I didn't rate Paynter prior to the Awesome Again but he ran a really good race to be second to the winner and lost a good deal of ground on the far turn when he went about six-wide. (Although, as Trakus illustrates, Paynter actually covered less ground than Mucho Macho Man; 6,025 ft. vs. 6,045 ft.) I'm not convinced the Classic is really the ideal spot for him at this point but yesterday was clearly his best race since returning to the track and a very solid performance.