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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Curlin! BC Wrapup and Comments

The past two days have been a blur, a virtual all-out sensory orgy for the horse racing fan—past performances to pore over, how to deal with the sloppy track, will speed hold?, can closers get the right amount of footing?, who’s wearing mud caulks?,…give me more information, more, more…Ah, my brain is about fried. Enough has been written summarizing the races so let me just conclude my coverage with some observations and final thoughts.

While I didn’t pick outright a single winner either day, I did have some successfully runners:

Miss Macy Sue ($4.60 show) F&M Sprint
Corinthian ($9.40 win) and Gottcha Gold ($6.20 place) Dirt Mile
War Pass ($6.40 win) and Pyro ($4.60 place) Juvenile
Honey Ryder ($6.60 place) and Passage of Time ($3.40 show) F&M Turf
Idiot Proof ($6.60 place) and Talent Search ($8.60 show) Sprint
Excellent Art ($4.20 place) and Cosmonaut ($6.60 show) Turf Mile
Octave ($5.00 show) Distaff
English Channel ($8.00 win) Turf
Curlin ($10.80 win) and Hard Spun ($7.60 place)

Goes to show the power of a three-horse exacta box, as Corinthian and Gottcha Gold paid $60.20; War Pass and Pyro paid a paltry $25.20; and Curlin and Hard Spun paid a sweet $70.80. Of all the BC races, who would have figured that the best $1 trifecta payout would be the Classic ($645.30)?!?!?

Unfortunately (or was it?) I had to enjoy the coverage from the comfort of my own home, via ESPN and my trusty laptop. All in all, the time flew by, as the televised coverage was, by in large, well done. The only part I thoroughly did not enjoy was Trevor Denman—honestly, is he the BC race announcer just because of his British (South African) accent? If that’s the case, then may I suggest Mountaineer’s Peter Berry as an alternative? Okay, he’s Australian, but Berry does a superior job at calling races, in my opinion. It probably didn’t help that in the BC all the horses wear those damn purple saddle cloths, and the mud splattering everywhere didn’t make it easy to tell one horse from another. Still, Denman’s calls were weak and definitely distracted from my pleasure of the races.

Juveniles Indian Blessing and War Pass looked impressive, and rightly earned champion two-year-old honors. Midnight Lute also astonished me; I liked him, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t think anyone (okay, except Corinthian) could run through slop like THAT! In the Sprint, I was very pleased to see Idiot Proof stay on for second; since he set his Monmouth track record versus my beloved Southwestern Heat (who battled him, head to head, through most of that race, and undoubtedly contributed to his record). That makes Southwestern Heat look better as well. Maybe next year Southwestern Heat will repeat his mother’s achievements and make it to the BC Sprint at Santa Anita.

Nobiz Like Shobiz didn’t embarrass himself by finishing fourth in the Turf Mile against older horses, and may, in fact, turn out to be an extraordinary turf horse if he stays racing next year. My Typhoon, frankly, had no business being in that race, particularly after her two recent poor performances. Knowing that she was going to be retired, they should have just done so rather than risk her on the soft turf.

I knew Tough Tiz’s Sis couldn’t handle the off-track, damn! Especially when she nosed out Hystericalady last out, and that one finished just a neck back of winner Ginger Punch here, I was looking forward to TTS putting on a defining effort. Didn’t happen. Hopefully she’ll be back as a four-year-old next year.

TBA leading jockey Garrett Gomez had the best BC, with 2 winners (Juvenile Filly Indian Blessing and Sprint Midnight Lute) and two third place finishers (Dirt Mile Discreet Cat and Distaff Octave). Cornelio Velasquez had two winners (Turf Mile Kip Deville and Juvenile War Pass), while both John Velazquez and Julien Leparoux had racing “trifectas.” Johnny V had one winner (Turf English Channel), one second place horse (F&M Turf Honey Ryder) and one third place finisher (Juvenile Kodiak Kowboy), while Leparoux did the same, win (Juvenile Turf Nownownow), place (Turf Shamdinan) and show (Turf Mile Cosmonaut).

I’m scratching my head about Tiago—have yet to hear any excuses (I mean, explanations) about what happened to him…he was awful far back, maybe he didn’t like the track? Still, Hard Spun proved he is a gutsy, gutsy horse in finishing second. Oh, I wish we would be seeing him next year, but alas, the $$$ of stud duty for Darley harkens him away!

Maybe the most impressive part of Curlin’s victory in the BC Classic was that, even on a sloppy track, he was only .19 of a second off the track record (set in 1962 by Carry Back!) for the 1-1/4 mile. I have no doubt now that he is a deserving Horse of the Year…BUT…he lost to Rags to Riches in the Belmont. What if she had not been injured? Could she have taken him on in the Classic and won? It’s definitely a question of “what ifs.” Still, the reality is, Curlin stayed healthy and in the game, and thus deserves full accolades (even if all his connections—save Robby Albarado—are the most unlikable bunch). At least Shirl Cunningham’s wife had the class (as did Asmussen) to recognize Helen Pitts’ key role in developing this chestnut beast. Boy, it must be bitter, bittersweet for her (Pitts) this day…

And the same for Merv Griffin who passed away in August. He didn’t make it to the Kentucky Derby or the Breeders’ Cup this year, but his Cobalt Blue did win the Select Stakes on the BC undercard, paying $26.00 to win over EZ Warrior.

Very difficult to hear about George Washington breaking down in the BC Classic, especially when he should have been enjoying the stud life. Apparently, he was “sub-fertile” but did succeed in impregnating some mares before being forced back onto the track. Thankfully, ESPN did not show any pictures of him on-air, but Sports Illustrated posted this photo on their website (WARNING: it’s gruesome).

Reuters’ two pictures are even worse. And before I hear complaints about “reveling” in GW’s breakdown, let me say that while I abhor the death of these magnificent creatures on the racetrack, I’m also not so naïve as to think that just ignoring the tragedy somehow makes it less real. Horses die on the racetrack.

Finally, in non-Breeders’ Cup-related racing, this year’s MassCap was not flattered when winner Brass Hat finished eighth today in the G3 Fayette Stakes at Keeneland, beating only Dr. Pleasure, who finished third in the MassCap. I wouldn’t bank on the MassCap returning to graded status anytime soon. Bill Mott’s Go Between won the Fayette in new track record time (1:47.97) over the 1-1/8 mile all-weather track, just a neck ahead of The Cobra’s Stream Cat (last seen finishing third behind Hard Spun and Street Sense in the G2 KY Cup) and less than a length in front of Graham Motion’s Kona Blend (last seen winning an allowance race at Presque Isle).


Teresa said...

Congrats on your picks, Valerie--the three-horse exacta box is my favorite wager.

And in a random bit of news: I was one of Helen Pitts's high school English teachers. I haven't finished watching the TV coverage yet, so I'm glad to hear that she was given some credit.

QQ said...

I too simply love Peter Berry's call, and would love to hear him do the Breeder's Cup. Of course, what would we Mountaineer fans do if he didn't want to come back to the Mountain?

Laurie said...

Good handicapping, Valerie! I also was glad to see Idiot Proof's good finish in the sprint; it makes our Southwestern Heat look that much better. I also was so impressed with the winners of the 2-year-old races, because it gives us much to look forward to next year.

I was rooting for Street Sense to win the Classic, but Curlin's win wasn't a surprise. Having seen him up close in his morning jog during Preakness week, he is a very impressive horse. What a powerful hindquarters!