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2010 Breeders' Cup: Pace and Zenyatta's Obstacle

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LOUISVILLE KY - NOVEMBER 06:  Joel Rosario aboard Dakota Phone (left  in red)  wins the Dirt Mile during the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs on November 6 2010 in Louisville Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE KY - NOVEMBER 06: Joel Rosario aboard Dakota Phone (left in red) wins the Dirt Mile during the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs on November 6 2010 in Louisville Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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I've got two different tables in this post the first of which summarizes the winner of each Breeders' Cup race along with the overall pace for that event.  The second table lists each winner along with their internal splits and final Beyer figures (via DRF.com).

One thing to take note of from the first table is the increase in the early pace on the main track from day 1 to day 2.  The dirt route races on the first day (excluding the Marathon) produced six furlong splits of 1:13.11 (Juvenile Fillies) and 1:13.75 (Ladies' Classic).  On Saturday, those numbers picked up quite a bit: 1:11.92 (Juvenile), 1:09.44 (Dirt Mile) and 1:11.01 (Classic).  I don't know if the track was fundamentally playing different on the second day or if the difference was purely a function of the makeup of the fields, but pace at two-turns certainly appeared to be quicker on Saturday.


Table 1. Fractions and Final Times for 2010 Breeders' Cup Races

Race

Winner

Odds

1/4

1/2

3/4

Mile

Final

Marathon

Eldaafer

10.60

51.42

1:17.44

1:43.60

2:59.62

Juv. Filly Turf

More Than Real

13.60

23.57

47.58

1:12.38

1:36.61

F&M Sprint

Dubai Majesty

8.60

22.56

45.44

1:09.61

1:22.31

Juv. Fillies

Awesome Feather

4.20

23.9

48.14

1:13.11

1:38.46

1:45.17

F&M Turf

Shared Account

46.00

25.64

50.32

1:15.94

1:40.95

2:17.74

Ladies' Classic

Unrivaled Belle

7.50

24.66

49.09

1:13.75

1:37.98

1:50.04

Juv. Turf

Pluck

6.40

24.01

47.97

1:13.05

1:36.98

Sprint

Big Drama

5.20

21.34

44.55

1:09.05

Turf Sprint

Chamberlain Bridge

6.90

21.59

44.60

56.53

Juvenile

Uncle Mo

1.40

23.57

47.27

1:11.92

1:36.33

1:42.60

Mile

Goldikova (IRE)

1.30

24.02

47.49

1:11.33

1:35.16

Dirt Mile

Dakota Phone

37.70

22.41

44.94

1:09.44

1:35.29

Turf

Dangerous Midge

8.50

24.70

50.17

1:15.91

1:40.88

2:29.40

Classic

Blame

5.20

23.24

47.14

1:11.01

1:37.12

2:02.28

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 2. Internal Fractions for 2010 Breeders' Cup Winners

Winner

Dist

1/4

1/2

3/4

Mile

1 1/4

Final

Beyer

Eldaafer

14.0

52.27

52.25

24.83

95

More Than Real

8.0

24.34

23.94

24.36

23.98

89

Dubai Majesty

7.0

22.83

22.88

23.90

12.70

103

Awesome Feather

8.5

24.33

24.07

24.80

31.98

86

Shared Account

11.0

26.07

24.60

25.71

24.86

24.62

11.90

96

Unrivaled Belle

9.0

25.37

24.60

23.81

24.23

12.06

104

Pluck

8.0

26.41

23.45

24.59

22.54

86

Big Drama

6.0

21.34

23.21

24.50

108

Chamberlain Bridge

5.0

45.21

11.32

100

Uncle Mo

8.5

23.91

23.62

24.41

30.66

108

Goldikova (IRE)

8.0

24.96

23.33

23.72

23.15

106

Dakota Phone

8.0

24.60

22.43

23.65

24.61

104

Dangerous Midge

12.0

24.87

25.64

50.46

24.65

23.79

104

 

 

Blame

10.0

24.45

24.48

23.73

24.67

24.96

111

Zenyatta

10.0

26.01

23.70

23.80

24.61

24.17

111

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I included the internal fractions for both Blame and Zenyatta in the Classic because there is one particular number that I think sheds the most light on why Zenyatta couldn't quite run down the winner in deep stretch, and it's not the first quarter mile of 26.01, but instead the fourth quarter of 24.61.

If you look at all of Zenyatta's splits after the first quarter the one that stands out as "not fitting in" is the 24.61 she ran from the six furlong mark to the mile mark.  That stretch of ground coincides exactly with when Mike Smith was attempting to guide her through traffic on the far turn.  Had she been able to navigate that move cleanly I think that fraction would be something like 24 flat or better.  But she wasn't able to do that and that, in my opinion, is almost the entire reason she was nosed out in the end.

The majority of races on dirt are won on the turn, even for stone cold closers like Zenyatta.  The turn is where most winners gain the ground necessary to put them in position to finish on top but when Zenyatta wasn't able to make he normal kind of move she was left with too much to accomplish in the lane.

As a comparison, here are Zenyatta's internal splits from the 2009 and 2010 Classics.  While the surface is obviously different notice how she was able to maintain a more even distribution of speed through the 09 race as opposed to this year, with the exception of the turn where she once again had to slow up a bit for traffic.  This year's traffic, however, was enough to cause her to not be able to make up any ground on Blame during that fourth quarter and, ultimately, that cost her the race.

Race

1/4

1/2

3/4

Mile

1 1/4

2009 Classic

26.74

23.36

23.32

23.89

23.30

2010 Classic

26.01

23.70

23.80

24.61

24.17