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Reviewing the 2009 Breeders’ Cup (Saturday Card)

Juvenile Turf

Horse

Odds

Trainer

Jockey

Winner

Pounced

5/2

Gosden

Dettori

Post Favorite

Pounced

5/2

Gosden

Dettori

ML Favorite

Interactif

4/1

Pletcher

Desormeaux

Lessons Learned: When looking at European horses in the Breeders' Cup I think it is always important to look at how much running the horse has done during the season. If you see a horse that has had a long, grueling campaign, and then ships over the US, you might be looking at a horse that is over-the-top regardless of how accomplished that horse may be. On the other hand, when you see something like Pounced, a lightly-race, group-placed horse, you go running to the windows and bet with both hands. In that same light, I think Viscount Nelson was also a good play in this spot, although he broke very slowly and then failed to fire coming off the turn. The beaten Morning Line favorite, Interactif, ran a solid race but just didn't have enough to get to the winner.


Turf Sprint

Horse

Odds

Trainer

Jockey

Winner

California Flag

7/2

Koriner

Talamo

Post Favorite

California Flag

7/2

Koriner

Talamo

ML Favorite

California Flag

7/2

Koriner

Talamo

Lessons Learned: Nothing too earth shattering to learn from this race; California Flag is a horse that has dominated over the Santa Anita downhill turf course and once he and Joe Talamo broke free and clear in the first quarter the race was efffectively over. The winner went :21 and 2 for the opening quarter and had plenty left in the tank to hold off the closing duo of Gotta Have Her and Cannonball. The second, third, and fourth place finishers all came home faster than California Flag, but just like the F&M Sprint, the early speed was impossible to catch.


Sprint

Horse

Odds

Trainer

Jockey

Winner

Dancing in Silks

25/1

Gaines

Rosario

Post Favorite

Zensational

2/1

Baffert

Espinoza

ML Favorite

Zensational

9/5

Baffert

Espinoza

Lessons Learned: The sprint races at this Breeders' Cup were just stacked with California horses that had been running over the Santa Anita track during the whole season and, as a result, race after race they dominated the competition. There were nine horses drawn in the Sprint, four of which made their final prep race at Santa Anita – those four horses ran 1-2-3-4. All one had to do was a four-horse Superfecta box of all horses making their final prep in California and you would have walked away from this race with $7,651.00. Seems so easy in hindsight, doesn't it? A four-horse Superfecta box would have cost $24 and paid out at odds of 319/1. Not bad…not bad at all.


Juvenile

Horse

Odds

Trainer

Jockey

Winner

Vale of York (IRE)

30/1

bin Suroor

Ajtebi

Post Favorite

Lookin at Lucky

2/1

Baffert

Gomez

ML Favorite

Lookin at Lucky

8/5

Baffert

Gomez

Lessons Learned: I was watching the odds boards prior to the running of the Juvenile and noticed the ridiculously large numbers next to the name Vale of York (IRE). Now, Vale of York wasn't a standout on paper, but he was a legitimate contender. His last race prior to the Breeders' Cup was the G1-Gran Criterium at San Siro in Italy. He finished second by a neck with a Racing Post Rating of 111. The race previous to that he finished 3rd at the G2- Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot and earned a 110 RPR. Those are two very solid races even if they weren't victories. How does Radiohead (GB) go off at 10/1 while Vale of York is left at 30/1? This is a perfect example of the American betting public not knowing what to do with many of the European entries when we should respect any runner that is fresh and has run well in Group company.

Looking at another Eruo, Beethoven (IRE), I go back to my comment above on the first race: Euros that have gone through a long, hard campaign are a dangerous bet. For Beethoven, the Breeders' Cup was his eleventh start of the year. Eleven! It wasn't surprising this horse had nothing left in the tank, yet he went off at odds of 14/1, almost half that of the winner.


Turf Mile

Horse

Odds

Trainer

Jockey

Winner

Goldikova (IRE)

7/5

Head

Peslier

Post Favorite

Goldikova (IRE)

7/5

Head

Peslier

ML Favorite

Goldikova (IRE)

8/5

Head

Peslier

Lessons Learned: Goldikova (IRE) is just a phenomenal filly with push-button acceleration that only the truly great horses have. But beyond her physical strengths she's a mentally tough runner, as well. The great horses know how to win and they understand what the job is all about. Watching Goldikova's victory in the Mile I was reminded of Ouija Board's victory in the 2006 Filly and Mare Turf. Like Ouija Board, Goldikova tucks in along the rail, waits paitently for a signal from her rider, and then explodes when she sees daylight. In this year's Mile, as she was making her run down the lane, she had to slightly switch out and regain momentum after Courageous Cat bore out slightly. Not a lot of horses can make that move: make a runm break momentum, switch out, and then come again.

How good was Goldikova's closing kick? She ran the final half mile of the race in a little over :43 seconds. Only one other horse in the field was able to duplicate that effort, Justenuffhumur, the show horse. Needless to say, I'll be waiting patiently to see where that colt turns up next. And about that last half mile...watch in the video as she loses momemtum in the stretch and then ramps it up again. If she had a clean trip down the stretch she would have probably run the final half mile in under :43 seconds. Truly brilliant.



Dirt Mile

Horse

Odds

Trainer

Jockey

Winner

Furthest Land

21/1

Maker

Leparoux

Post Favorite

Mastercraftsman (IRE)

7/5

O'Brien

Murtagh

ML Favorite

Mastercraftsman (IRE)

6/5

O'Brien

Murtagh

Lessons Learned: If you were looking to learn something from the Dirt Mile it really should have been this: Rip Van Winkle (IRE) was going to be a bad play in the Classic. After what happened in 2008, players were going to be scrutinizing any Euro entered on the "main" track in order not to let another Raven's Pass slip by. Rip Van Winkle appeared on paper to be the most likely winner from across the pond, and why? Because he had been running close to Arc winner Sea the Stars on multiple occasions. Mastercraftsman (IRE) had a similar profile to that of Rip Van Winkle, finishing 3rd and 2nd to the Arc winner earlier in the fall. Those performances made a lot of people, including me, believe he was an absolute standout in a field of so-so American milers. But once the Dirt Mile was over you had to start questioning the strength of the Euros in the Classic – perhaps this group of contenders wasn't as strong as last year's? Mastercraftsman hadn't had a particularly long campaign (only six races going in) so fitness shouldn't have been an issue. But while he looked great on paper he was, at best, flat on the track and never seriously threatened the winners.

As for the winner, Furthest Land, well, here's a race I could have handicapped for a year and probably never have come up with that horse. Furthest Land ran in the Claiming Crown at Canterbury two races back…I'm shocked he wasn't 30/1 or higher on the board. Sometimes you just don't have a clue and all you can do is move on to the next race.


Turf

Horse

Odds

Trainer

Jockey

Winner

Conduit (IRE)

4/5

Stoute

Moore

Post Favorite

Conduit (IRE)

4/5

Stoute

Moore

ML Favorite

Conduit (IRE)

6/5

Stoute

Moore

Lessons Learned: This is generally my favorite race of the Breeders' Cup but the last two years it's lost something due to many of the top Euros taking a shot at the Classic and the synthetic surface. Presious Passion was clearly the lone speed heading into a race full of closers and if it wasn't for the :21 flat second quarter (after a :23 flat first quarter) he might have had enough in the tank to hold off Conduit (IRE) for a big upset. Ultimately, the jockey just couldn't 'get Presious Passion to conserve enough energy to wire the field but it was an terrific effort by this six year-old gelding in his 42nd career start.


Classic

Horse

Odds

Trainer

Jockey

Winner

Zenyatta

5/2

Shirreffs

Smith

Post Favorite

Zenyatta

5/2

Shirreffs

Smith

ML Favorite

Zenyatta

5/2

Shirreffs

Smith

Lessons Learned: After witnessing the lackluster performance of Mastercraftsmanin the Dirt Mile, it appeared to me that Twice Over (GB) was the top European horse in this field, even thought I thought Rip Van Winkle was the fresher of the two horses. I figured that Twice Over's tactical speed would be an asset in a race that looked like it was going to set up well for those near the lead. However, when the race finally went off it set up much better for closers than I had originally thought it would. The horses that were 1-2-3-4 at the ¾ pole ended up finishing 8-10-5-11, with Einstein (BRZ), one of my top picks, beating only one horse in the twelve horse field. In the end it really didn't matter how any of the rest of the field ran because the winner, Zenyatta, was truly the best of the lot. Encountering a deep field and some moderate traffic problems in the stretch, Zenyatta overcame it all to power past the entire field and capture the Classic. Her final two quarter mile splits were :23.89 and :23.30, which means she ran the final ½ mile faster than the front runners ran the first ½ mile. That's an impressive feat in a deep, competitive, Grade 1 race at a mile and a quarter.


I'll leave the Rachel Alexandra/Zenyatta debate for another post, for right now I'll just say that Zenyatta proved her worth as a champion in the Classic.