In the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic, Mike Smith was devastated when he just got beat on Zenyatta, ending the great mare's 19-race unbeaten streak. Smith was in tears afterward, feeling he gave her a poor ride and let her down.
The following year, he was back in the Classic on a 14-1 pick-up mount named Drosselmeyer, a come-from-behind horse trained by Bill Mott and owned by WinStar Farm. Drosselmeyer, who had won only one graded stakes in his career (the Belmont), came storming down the stretch way out in the middle of the track to beat the Bob Baffert-trained Game On Dude.
Fast forward seven years and Mike Smith is riding in the Classic, feeling good about his chances aboard Baffert's highly regarded 7-2 shot McKinzie. Once again, however, Smith is devastated when McKinzie inexplicably stops to a walk, finishing 12th, beaten 31 lengths.
Now, the following year, the scene seems all too familiar, as Smith is back in the Classic on a double-digit odds pick-up mount named Yoshida, a come-from-behind horse, once again trained by Bill Mott and carrying the WinStar Farm colors, who, like Drosselmeyer, has one graded stakes win (on dirt) in his career. And how did he get this mount? Well, he got taken off McKinzie by Baffert following a defeat at 1-5 in the Awesome Again Stakes. That doesn't happen to Mike Smith and you can be sure that had to hurt.
As successful as Smith is in big-money races, imagine what he's like when he has extra motivation and is looking for revenge, retribution, payback--whatever you want to call it. It is certainly not a reach to imagine Smith and Yoshida barreling down the stretch, trying to run down McKinzie, just as Drosselmeyer did with the Baffert-trained Game On Dude.
So, will history repeat itself for Smith, as well as for Mott and WinStar Farm? Who said this Classic is boring?
Speaking of the Classic, Vino Rosso turned in one of the best works I've seen in a long time, with a monster finish, explosive acceleration, and a spectacular gallop-out. He seemingly is doing better now than he was before the JC Gold Cup.
I love Bill Mott's move of breezing Elate three furlongs to give her a bit more quickness and perhaps a bit more turn of foot, although she still is more of a one-paced horse who just keeps coming and building up momentum when she stretches out that far. The last thing she needs is a foundation work. Seeing her time of :34 3/5, out in :47 3/5, it was hard to believe she was going that fast. She looked like she was going in :38 3/5. The 10 furlongs will be right up her alley.
Owendale got a tremendous lung opener, working six furlongs in 1:13 3/5, going out well past the wire and well down the backstretch. I like that he was on the inside of his workmate, because you can't guarantee a clear trip outside of horses, where he runs his best races. He seemed quite comfortable on the inside, going much easier than his workmate.
Code of Honor breezed an easy half in :50 3/5, but this was all about the gallop-out, where he really laid it down and accelerated past the wire, and was really motoring heading into the clubhouse turn. You won't find a smoother-striding horse. He followed that up with a visually stunning five-furlong work in 1:00 1/5, in which he coasted by his workmate, who was under the whip, and with the rider motionless, bounded clear on his own before turning in a powerhouse of a gallop-out. This was a super work and he could not be training any better.
McKinzie's half-mile breeze in :49 2/5 was not your typical Baffert work. There was no attempt at speed, even in the gallop-out. So, all in all, it seemed more of an ordinary maintenance move. I would imagine he will rip one next time.
I'm still trying to figure out how Come Dancing can work six furlongs in 1:10 1/5 on the Belmont training track and do it under no pressure at all with her ears up. I would say she's ready for the Filly and Mare Sprint.
BREEDERS' CUP SPRINT RANKINGS
||Combines blazing speed with class; versatile enough to win Met Mile. Deadly at six furlongs, seven furlongs, and a mile. Only defeat this year was a bad spot dropping back from mile to six furlongs and being stuck down on a deeper rail. Might be better at seven furlongs right now, but still has super record at six panels.
||His best effort could very easily win this race. Only thing is that his best efforts have come at Saratoga, and he has already been beaten twice in this race, although he's run well both times. He dusted Mitole in the A.G. Vanderbilt, but needs to do it away from Saratoga.
||Gifted colt, but hasn't been six furlongs in 18 months. His two scores in the 1 1/16-mile San Diego Handicap would seem to indicate he is more geared toward the Dirt Mile, even though he has never been beaten sprinting. His most recent San Diego win was nothing to rave about, so with Omaha Beach going in the Dirt Mile he gets to use his on and off again speed against Mitole, Imperial Hint, and Shancelot. But this is his home field, and dropping back from 1 1/16 miles and seven furlongs, it could put him in a position to lay behind the speed and run them down late, as he did in the True North early in the year.
||Speed, speed, and more speed. His monstrous 121 Beyer speed figure in the Amsterdam, which he won by 12 1/2 lengths in record time was an other worldly performance. Coming back in four weeks and stretching out to seven furlongs, he couldn't hold a clear lead in the stretch. But his head defeat to Omaha Beach in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship was an excellent effort and gives him a race over the track.
||Just when you thought this tough 6-year-old had seen his best days and was tailing off, he bounces back with a huge effort in the Phoenix Stakes, rallying from ninth to finish second, beaten a half-length. Remember, it was only last year that he finished a rallying second to Roy H in the BC Sprint, and this year's renewal should provide a blazing, contentious pace so he could pick up many of the pieces again.
||We saw what he is capable of in his last start when he nearly defeated Imperial Hint in the Vosburgh after a gut-wrenching stretch battle. He is more about class than speed, but can use that class to beat you at any distance. His most striking score this year came at six furlongs when he aired in the Runhappy Stakes in 1:08 flat. If it sets up for Whitmore, it sets up for him as well.
||He seems to have found new life in Asmussen's barn, winning his two starts, both stakes, including a big win in the recent Phoenix Stakes. He has always been a gem of consistency, but his speed figures do not compare with the leading contenders in here.
|8—Hog Creek Hustle
||Another whose speed figures are simply not fast enough, but if he gets a crushing pace, which is likely, his closing kick could be strong enough to pick up a piece of it at a monster price.
||He's been hopping back and forth from dirt to turf. Looked like a sure thing to go for the Sprint after a victory in the Smile Sprint Stakes and a second to Imperial Hint in the A.G.Vanderbilt, but he shifted course again when he finished an excellent second in the grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile last time out. So he actually has the credentials to run in the Sprint, Mile, or Dirt Mile and could run well in any of them. He will be a monster price.
||Lightly raced colt has good early lick and would have a say on the pace. Although trained by O'Neill, only one of his five career starts has been in California, and that was at Del Mar. He may have stamped his ticket to the Sprint with a sharp second-place finish in the Gallant Bob Stakes at Parx in 1:08 4/5 after setting a swift pace. He is short on experience and probably could use this time for growth rather than get thrown into the arena against the fastest horses in the country.
||Totally inconsistent, but ran a game third in the Phoenix last out. Won photos in Chick Lang and Concern stakes in Maryland, but looks overmatched in here if he winds up running. Status still up in the air.
BREEDERS' CUP JUVENILE RANKINGS
||I know Romans gets high on his horses, but I think I know him well enough to have an idea when he's blowing smoke and when his praise is warranted, and I have never seen him as high on a young horse as he is this colt. The only one to come close was Not This Time, who would have been a major star had he not retired early. I thought this colt's Iroquois victory was extremely impressive coming off that devastating maiden laugher, as he put his field away so easily and merely cruised the last part while under wraps. He has a Derby pedigree for sure and looks physically like a Derby horse. He's in tough against some heavy hitters, but his future is limitless.
||Talk about a Derby horse with a Derby pedigree, if this guy stays healthy he is going to be a major player on the first Saturday in May. And talk about a Derby move, that's what he demonstrated with his ninth to first explosion on the turn of the Breeders' Futurity. And to seal it, he bounded away from his competition, including the highly promising Gouverneur Morris, as if he were in a different league from them. Stamina and class top and bottom, just like Dennis' Moment, makes him a threat to land the Juvenile—Derby double.
||It shows you how special the top two are when a Baffert horse wins a two-turn grade 1 prep by six lengths after breaking his maiden by 6 1/4 lengths and is not ranked No. 1, even though they will be running over his home track. He is another with a Derby pedigree, he seemed more focused and mature with the addition of blinkers in the American Pharoah, but he has never faced horses of the quality of the top two. Look, the top three are virtually dead-even with so little separating them. If they can run 1,2,3 in any order we will have one heckuva Derby trail to look forward to next year--along with the addition of the undefeated Champagne winner Tiz the Law, another horse who will not have any distance questions.
||It's hard to knock either of his seconds in the Saratoga Special, when he broke poorly and rallied late behind Green Light Go, and in the Iroquois Stakes, when he rallied strongly to finish more than five lengths ahead of the third horse. This looks to be one of those horses who is always going to run a big race and is always going to be coming fast in the stretch. Never turn your back on this guy or underestimate him. He is that good and he'll be running you down before know it. Not quite there with the top three, but he will be competitive.
His second to Eight Rings in the American Pharoah was solid enough, even though he was soundly beaten. He has a bright future, but doesn't seem ready to be competitive against the top three, or even top four. But he is still a very nice horse.
|6—Storm the Court
||He was beaten more than eight lengths when third in the American Pharoah, and isn't fast enough to pull off a major upset but if he takes a big enough step forward off that race he could pick up a piece of it if one of the favorites doesn't run his race. I would like to see Flavien Prat take him back and make one run with him.
||Not sure if he's running. I loved his maiden victory at Saratoga and his second in the Hopeful was promising enough, but distance is a question mark and he needs to get faster. We'll see if they decide to send him.
||Second in the Del Mar Futurity gives him credentials, but that looks to be a very poor race, and the winner came back and ran terribly in the American Pharoah. He did run a pretty good second in the six-furlong Best Pal Stakes.