Welcome back to Breeders' Cup Chat, 2011 edition.
Most years, I watch the Hollywood Gold Cup with minor interest. With a couple of rare exceptions, it's a race that doesn't have much major impact on the Breeders' Cup Classic, and so for me, it's a just another California grade I with a small field that helps pass the time before Saratoga begins.
This year, however, I will be watching the Gold Cup with keen interest. Why? Because for the sake of racing, I am hoping that Twirling Candy puts together a lights-out performance and finally gives the handicap division a clear-cut leader.
More than six months into the racing season we are still sitting here waiting for a star to emerge. It doesn't look like we are going to get it from the 3-year-old class and it seems that every passing weekend produces one longshot after another in the handicap division. (Don't get me started on the turf handicap division).
By far the most exciting thing that racing has going for it in 2011 is the rivalry between Havre de Grace and Blind Luck, who will meet once again in the Delaware Handicap next weekend. Many are saying that these two fillies are the best horses in the country--male or female--and that remains to be seen. But in the meantime, we desperately need a male star. Is it Twirling Candy?
Over the last 10 months Twirling Candy has won four graded stakes on dirt and synthetics and certainly gives the impression that he is a blossoming star. When he is on his game, the son of Candy Ride is scary good, as he showed in the Strub. But until he proves he can handle1 1/4 miles, he cannot be considered the Breeders' Cup Classic favorite.
In the Santa Anita Handicap, Twirling Candy was clearly affected by the three-way bumper car bonanza that occurred at the top of the stretch. His trainer, John Sadler, thinks he could have won the race instead of fading to fifth had it not been for the alleged interference. Other trainers thought he was finished by the time he turned for home, regardless of the bumping that took place. For the record, I don't think Twirling Candy would have won the Big ‘Cap even if he had a clean trip, but I do think he can handle 10 furlongs.
On Saturday, he will have a chance to prove it. If he does, we finally have a legitimate division leader. And, boy, do we ever need it.
And if he loses? Well, not to take anything away from the other top contenders, but First Dude and Setsuko are a combined 4-for-29 in their careers, and Game On Dude was just soundly beaten in a pair of grade IIIs after his narrow win in the Big ‘Cap. If they, or any of the other four entrants win the Gold Cup win, we will go yet another week without any idea of who the best male horse in the country might be.
And if that's the case, wake me up when the Delaware Handicap starts.