Countdown to the Cup: Classic Appeal

Let’s be honest, this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) needs a boost, especially with Zenyattamania and even a double dose of Curlin still fresh in everyone’s mind. The most obvious boost would be the inclusion of Havre de Grace. Even better would be a showdown between Havre de Grace and Blind Luck. The latter scenario appears doubtful at this time, but Havre de Grace’s owner Rick Porter has already stated he wants to run the Woodward (gr. I) winner in the Classic. That would leave it up to Blind Luck’s connections.

We have a solid base of males to work from this year, with Tizway, Stay Thirsty, and Flat Out heading what looks to be a dominant Eastern contingent. But the race still needs that extra ‘oomph’ to elevate its interest level.

Late blooming 3-year-olds such as Prayer For Relief, To Honor and Serve, and Rattlesnake Bridge, and of course Uncle Mo, could make an impact (boy, do the performances of Triple Crown stars like Animal Kingdom, Shackleford, Ruler On Ice Mucho Macho Man, and Nehro seem like ages ago), but, except for the presence of Uncle Mo, we need more, which brings us to the names listed below, even with the question marks surrounding them.

TWIRLING CANDY – Yes, we know, he’s not a mile and a quarter horse. At least that’s what many people think. We also know that premise is based on three grade I races, in which he was beaten in photos in two of them (a head and a neck). We also know he’s had his problems settling early in a race, but he’s shown improvement and has run three bang-up races since having blinkers removed. Yes, he pulled hard in the Californian Stakes (gr. II) two races back, but they were crawling in :49 2/5 and 1:14 1/5 and he still closed from sixth to win going away.

In the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I), he sat right behind the leader, was in between horses, and was beaten only a nose and a neck, giving six pounds to the victorious First Dude. In his most recent start, the Pacific Classic (gr. I), he rated three lengths off the pace, as the top-class Acclamation was able to get away with a :48 3/5 half in 1:12 4/5 three-quarters. He ran hard through the stretch, but fell a head short, while finishing four lengths ahead of the third-place finisher. To demonstrate how strong a performance this was, he came home each of his last two quarters in :23 2/5. Even on a synthetic surface, when you can close in :46 4/5 going 1 ¼ miles, that is impressive.

Just look where this horse is now compared to last year when he was an erratic and unpredictable youngster who created such havoc in the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT). His pedigree is loaded with stamina, he’s already won a grade I and grade II on dirt, he’s won stakes on grass, dirt, and synthetic, and most important, he looks like a horse who is just coming into his own and figuring things out.

He is also the kind of horse who could very well relish the Churchill Downs surface a lot more than the synthetic and turf surfaces he’s run on most of his career.

In short, don’t dismiss this colt because of some pre-conceived notion he’s not a 10-furlong horse. He is as brilliant and naturally gifted as any horse out there, and that alone should take him a long way. This is the time to load up on him in the future book.

GIO PONTI – They had the right idea two years ago when they ran him in the Classic – synthetic surface or no synthetic surface. He ran a winning race and there are no Zenyattas this year. This is a versatile, classy, mile and a quarter specialist who is one of those Breeders’ Cup lost children with no home they can call their own. The Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) and Mile (gr. IT) are either too long or a tad too short, and are merely ‘make do’ races that provide someplace to perform on racing’s biggest stage. Yes, he has proven to be effective at a mile, but at his age does he really the explosive burst you need to out-kick top European milers, especially Goldikova?

Gio Ponti is nearing retirement following a sensational career that has seen him take home three Eclipse Awards. But before he makes his exit there is one final crossroad to encounter – at least in one person’s opinion. We all know the BC Turf is not an option, which leaves the Mile. But if Gio Ponti couldn’t beat Goldikova in last year’s running when he was razor sharp coming off a victory in the Shadwell Mile (gr. IT), what is there to indicate he can beat her and any of the other classy Euros that come this year?

Let’s not forget that this is a horse who is bred for the dirt and has the perfect running style for a race like the Classic, but has never been given the opportunity to see what he can do on dirt. In addition to his second in the Classic on Pro-Ride, he was beaten 1 ¼ lengths and 1 ¾ lengths in the past two runnings of the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) on Tapeta. Do we know for sure there isn’t a dirt horse in there crying to get out? One thing we do know – he has as much class as any horse in training and horses often win big races on class alone.

Gio Ponti has finished second in seven grade I stakes (six on grass one on synthetic) in the past two years and hasn’t won a grade I since last October.. He just may need to find a different path to the winner’s circle. If dirt isn’t that path, no harm done; he’s already earned nearly $5.7 million and deserves a chance to go out in the proverbial blaze of glory, especially considering the Churchill Downs dirt course has proven to be extremely conducive to grass horses (just look at the winners of this year’s Stephen Foster and Kentucky Derby).

Chris Clement is a top trainer and knows his horse better than anyone, but sometimes horses do the unexpected (although it may not be unexpected at all) and it’s worth the gamble to attempt something bold and historic before heading to the breeding shed. Maybe it’s because some of us from the old school were weaned on the bold and historic, at least by today’s standards. Back then they were the norm.

The chances of Gio Ponti running in the Classic appear to be slim to none, but it’s at least something for his connections to think about.

SO YOU THINK/AWAIT THE DAWN – Aidan O’Brien always adds interest and intrigue to the Classic, a race he’s been trying to win since Giant’s Causeway’s narrow defeat to Tiznow in 2000. At this point it looks as if Euro titan So You Think is headed for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fra-I) and is only being quoted by Stan James for the Classic. Depending on what he does at Longchamp, the Classic would be a good spot for him, considering his best distance seems to be 10 furlongs and he just may be the most talented classic-distance horse in the world. He definitely would add glamour to the race, as he attempts to become a grade/group I winner in America, Europe, and Australia.

O’Brien already has Cape Blanco pointing the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. IT) and possibly the BC Turf, but that would mean four trips across the Atlantic for the Man o’War (gr. IT) and Arlington Million (gr. I) winner unless O’Brien decides to keep him here until the Breeders’ Cup.

Await the Dawn, another horse who has excelled at 1 ¼ miles, is being quoted by seven bookmakers for the Classic at odds ranging from 7-1 to 12-1. But the son of Giant’s Causeway came out of his third-place finish in the Juddmonte International (Eng-I) “very sick,” according to O’Brien, and his plans are up in the air right now,  With his participation in doubt, that would seem to enhance the chances of So You Think coming for the Classic.

Winter Thrills

If there is a more exciting horse in the country than Winter Memories it sure has escaped us. She doesn't win all the time, but with her number of horrible trips piling up with every start, it's amazing she wins at all. How she pulled off the Garden City Stakes (gr. IT) still is baffling and gets more baffling each time we watch it.

Another top-class Darby Dan product from the Golden Trail family, the daughter of El Prado continued her daredevil ways by overcoming a seemingly hopeless wall of traffic at the head of the stretch that had her bottled up for an agonizingly long period of time. But as she did in her victory in the Lake George Stakes (gr. IIT), she finally found room to unleash her now-patented rocket-like burst of speed and inhaled the entire field in one fell swoop to defeat a strong, deep field of grass fillies.

Whether she beats you by a head or six lengths, there is nothing more exciting in racing today than watching this remarkable filly come storming down the stretch.



Leave a Comment:


Steve - I totally agree with you on Twirling Candy. Here is a horse that can get 1 1/4 and  may relish the CD dirt. His gutsy performance over 1 1/4 over a classy Acclamation made a believer out of me. He could easily by 8-1 or higher come BC day, a big overlay i would say.

18 Sep 2011 9:37 PM
Paula Higgins

Good blog Steve as usual. I would love to see Gio Ponti go for it again. He is a wonderful horse. It would be great to see him end his career with a win in the BCC. But if they enter Mo that's where my heart will be. I think if they want Blind Luck to win HOTY they need to enter her in the classic. I don't think a win in the Ladies will be enough. I wonder why they aren't stearing her that way?

18 Sep 2011 9:51 PM

Steve: BCC notes;

ELMONT, N.Y. - Though they will take different paths to get there, the ultimate goal is have to Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty end up in the same starting gate for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.

Those sentiments were expressed Sunday by owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher after they watched both 3-year-olds put in workouts over Belmont Park’s main track on a gorgeous fall-like morning. Both horses worked by themselves.

“I think there’s a very strong possibility that they both show up in the Classic,’’ Pletcher said Sunday in his Belmont office. “It’s going to come down to if Mike wants to take two shots at the Classic or run one in the Mile.’’

Repole made it quite clear Sunday morning what he prefers.

“I grew up watching 25 years of the Classic, not 25 years of the Dirt Mile,’’ he said. “I want to run both of those horses in the Classic then watch it come to down to a Blame-Zenyatta duel down the stretch only it’s Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty coming down the stretch. I’ll be rooting for a dead heat.’’

18 Sep 2011 10:04 PM

I'm surprised more of the top Europeans aren't pointing toward the Classic.  Fillies aside, it seems to me a weak bunch for the Classic as of now.  Maybe that'll shine more light on some of the other races, like the Turf with the great Goldikova and the Dirt Mile with exciting young horses like The Factor.

18 Sep 2011 10:21 PM

I am so pleased that you think so highly of Twirling Candy, especially in conjunction with bringing some excitement to this year's Classic! He is a favorite of mine. I just love the way this horse runs and he really seems to try so hard. I wonder if maybe he would  do even better if they would race him more? He's 4 and has had only 11 starts, which seems pretty light for a horse who looks like he is capable of so much more.

So glad you are back at your familiar stand. Nothing better than savoring a fresh Haskin column!

Ann Maree

18 Sep 2011 10:40 PM

I agree totally with you about Gio Ponti. I felt so sorry that he had to run in Zenyatta's year. Twirling Candy is a wonderful choice and a horse that is really turning into his true self right now. A horse I think you left out  a horse that deserves a shot, Awesome Gem. He is a horse that I feel will be retired soon and deserves his chance to put his name in the record books. Many times I have thought he was running over his head, but he peaks later in the year and always gives it his best.

He has been the rock star for West Point and a Breeders Cup Classic win would be huge for them.

18 Sep 2011 10:49 PM
Karen in Indiana

Twirling Candy is a horse that has grown on me and I LOVE him. He not only is all those things you so eloquently described, but he has personality. Just a little quirky.

You are spot on about Gio Ponti. They have nothing to loose and a lot to gain by running him on dirt in the Classic. If he doesn't do well, then they can say that's why they never ran him on it. But if he wins....

It would be awesome if they brought So You Think over.

18 Sep 2011 11:51 PM
Rachel NH

I love horse racing every year.

To me, lowly me, especially the last 10 years or so, it's the sportswriters who either salivate over one or two horses, or demean the whole lot.

19 Sep 2011 5:30 AM

I agree with you on TC, and as the future book reads, at least the last time it was listed on this site TC was at 12-1 and Tizway was one of the favorites, and that is going by the reputation of his sire Tiznow to be able to run 1 1/4 miles effectively.I dont have access to any future bets on the classic as far as I know,but even if I did I would like to bet  into the exacta pools like I do in the KD future pool.I dont think you have to worry about TC's race day odds with Stay Thirsty and UM also starting.BTW I think Harve and Blind Luck have a lot better shot at 1st or 2nd in the classic as ANY 3YO in the race,unless there will be one that I dont know about.

19 Sep 2011 8:41 AM
R.D. Hill


I completely agree with your thoughts on Gio Ponti running in the Classic.  Worst case scenario: he doesn't win, but retires (?) with $5.7MM in earnings.  Or he could win.  Besides, I don't see him beating Goldikova in the Mile or Cape Blanco in the turf, assuming the latter horse makes the trip.

To be perfectly honest, I'd be even more excited to see So You Think try to pull off the Arc-BC Classic double though.  In my opinion, he is the best classic distance horse in the world.  I think it'd be incredible for racing if he came here to run.  Even though he's untested on the dirt, he's got so much raw talent that it shouldn't be a problem as far as I can tell.  Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part...

Keep up the good work.  I always enjoy the perspective you take in your posts, whether I agree with them all or not.

19 Sep 2011 9:54 AM

I hope Repole sends Mo in the classic,it's a softer spot because if he goes in the mile TF is going to have him for lunch.The rivalry between the two fillies is great stuff but i see neither winning the classic.

19 Sep 2011 10:36 AM
calico cat

Good column Mr. Haskin. I'm not a huge fan of Twirling Candy but I agree that he is very capable of winning at 1 1/4 miles. I don't understand people who say he can't do it. When a horse comes in second or third with such small margins of defeat, there's no question in my mind that he's OK at the distance. I hope I remember that on BCC day!

Gio Ponti is a favorite of mine. Seeing him win the Classic would be pure joy. What a fantastic way to end a brilliant career!

I don't have much faith that we will see So You Think at CD... but we can hope, can't we? One of the most powerful looking horses I've ever seen.

To quote Trevor Denman (about another thrilling closer) if you didn't like Winter Memories' charge to the finish line, you simply don't like horse racing!!! My only concern is: can my nerves take one more filly/mare who sets out to achieve what appears to be impossible? Yes they can!!!

19 Sep 2011 10:47 AM
Pedigree Ann

Just a point: So You Think has been ASKED to run at a distance beyond 10f only once in his career - in the 2-mile Melbourne Cup, on soft ground no less. He hit the lead too soon (also happened at Royal Ascot) and couldn't hold on. But that race doesn't indicate that he can't win at 12f in top-class company. Oh, and did I a mention that the Melbourne Cup is a handicap and he was giving weight all round?

I think O'Brien has been 'way too conservative in his campaign for So You Think. He knows the horse is guaranteed to be first class at 10f so (like Cecil with Frankel at 8f) he has run him in top-class at that distance and not longer. After all, Coolmore paid a bunch of cash for this horse and want to enhance his stud credentials with as many G1 races as possible.

19 Sep 2011 11:01 AM

Horses to be concerned about at 10furlongs are Stay Thirsty, Ruler On Ice and Twirling Candy, of the 3, 1 plays A ball in NY only, the other is a 1 hit wonder so far and TC just doesnt seem to want to run past a horse at this route of ground. There are no Curlin's or Invasors in here that have been able to show the type of consistency needed to be afraid of the Group. I absolutely love that Rick Porter realizes his filly is the best horse running in America at this time, she has the size, abilty, talent and the running style to make a big splash on this stage, and when they straighten out in that long Churchill Downs Stretch, she will most likely run past them all, Larry Jones is an amazing horseman and she will be ready to run her best race to date, all they will do is allow her to rate 3 wide the whole way around.  So You Think and Gio Ponti, Classy as they come but they have to prove they are able to handle the dirt, and i am sure this is something Porter takes into consideration. No reason to be afraid of anyone in the Classic Division as of right now.

19 Sep 2011 11:17 AM
Ida Lee

Oh boy! This is going to be rough. If Gio Ponti is in, and Uncle Moe, and Stay Thirsty, and someone mentioned Awesome Gem, OMG who would I cheer for...I love all these guys!!! Oh no..I forgot Havre..I always want the girl to win. I may just go for whoever wins and hope that everyone comes out of the race safe and sound.

19 Sep 2011 11:35 AM
Linda in Texas

Hi Steve, i see as of the time i found your blog that there are 13 comments posted.

I am horrendously superstitious so i am just saying Good Morning,and hope you are doing much the better.

Watched you on Friday with Lenny and you are looking great.

Now i will read your article. Just needed to do it without 13 posts.

This makes 14 if it loads before anyone elses.

Thanks, Steve. Have a nice day.

19 Sep 2011 12:02 PM
Linda in Texas

Steve,I read your thoughts. Now, as for Twirling Candy, i respect him as i do all of them. I cannot dislike any horse. With that said, i am surprised when he does win, place or show. At least he is in the race to win and gives it his all.

As for Gio Ponti, i have always thought he is a beautiful fella, his well honed facial structure is perfect. He is built like a runner, and i hope he is allowed to run if he is 100 percent. I hated to see him lose his last race.  I am always taken aback to see any special horse retire, i want them to run forever, but that is being so selfish on my part. But i admire Gio Ponti big time.

For the thought of Mike Repole running both of his horses in the same race, i tend to shy away from that thought. Stay Thirsty has performed like a trooper, though a late bloomer, he has surprised the fans and shocked the owner and trainer. He has missed out on the

publicity his stablemate earned and i think Stay Thirsty should not run in competition with Uncle Mo in the same race. Period.

Let Uncle Mo run in his own. I would rather have 2 separate chances of a win in 2 separate races, than have 2 chances running in the same race. I am not a handicapper, but i am an eternal optimist and if they came in 1 and 2 or 2 and 3 or any other combo,i

don't think it would be fair to either. They are 2 unique horses with their own special attributes.

Run them in separate races.

Now for the dessert of the article, Winter Memories. How sweet she is. I came out of my chair and was so mad when she was locked in behind a wall again, i was horrified. And all at once the racing Gods moved the wall and here she came with a burst of powerful energy that must have been from some place i have never been. That was truly the most awesome display of sheer power and stamina and desire to win as i have

ever witnessed since i don't remember when. I was stunned. Lost my breath and sat down and asked myself if what i saw really happened. Now i know why jockeys hold some horses back. Castellano wasn't holding her back because he wanted to, he was blocked so WM reserved some energy, but my my my

whoever thought she had that much left in her. She knew where that wire was and she had her eyes on it if you go back and watch and she knew what she had to do and she did it. Plain, flat  and simple no other explanation to it.

I watched the race last night again and i watched it early this morning. I am still in awe. So Thank you Mr. Toner, you have a special lady in your barn and i simply love her determination,  her heart and above all her.

Turallure didn't do so badly either. His race was a thriller also and he came out on the winning end. And you all know i am a sucker for grays. What it is that

causes it, i don't know. Just have a special thing for all of them.

Thanks, Steve.

19 Sep 2011 12:50 PM

I see the Classic shaping up to be a bettor's and a fan's dream.  As we know, who you bet on and who you root for are seldom the same horse....but, it will be a fun and exciting experience either or both ways! This will be the first year I will have followed the sport the entire year, from January through November, so I have a lot of rooting interests.  I may just have to shut my eyes, cover my ears and watch the replays, because I don't know if my heart can take so much suspense and excitement. I realize there don't seem to be any realsuper-stars, at least by the definition we have grown accustomed to.  Yet, the industry seems to judge the quality of the season by having one or more 3 yr old male standouts! The ladies have certainly turned in some super-star performances, once again. And, internationally, gee whiz, how much bigger can you get than Frankel, Black Caviar, Goldikova, So You Think, etc., etc., an embarrassment of riches there!! It seems to me that every season offers reasons enough to continue to love the sport. There's been excitement around every turn this year, as well as  lots of egg on the faces of the handicapper experts, which has been a lot of fun to watch in and of itself!! And, maybe it has been a bettor's nightmare, I don't know, since I'm not a big gambler. In the end, though, it just may be that a litte ole starter allowance horse will be the season's real super-star if he makes the magic #20.  Wonder if NBC will cover the race, if he makes it that far!  Would certainly be a first!  Go Rapid Redux!!!

19 Sep 2011 1:07 PM

Steve, call me crazy but if Uncle Mo is fit and ready for a mile and 1/4, and Johnny V rides a smart race, I can see Mo going with and by So You Think in a stretch run.

I can also see Twirling Candy going right with those two as well.  His last race against Acclamation, he came out as professionally as we've ever seen him from the gate and get settled in.  That's a scary proposition as it seems he's starting to "get it".  That was 2:00 & change at a mile & 1/4 for TC.  

This may be a stretch but is Wilburn not rounding into shape as a possible candidate for the Classic???

It's too bad Animal KIngdom isn't going to be there and you are right on about Gio Ponte.  I don't think he's ever had a good trip in ANY of his races.  If he gets one, he may get there on the dirt.

Having said all that, Stay Thirsty just does not tolerate losing anymore, so if he wins JCGC on 10/1, then he's the horse to beat in the Classic.

19 Sep 2011 2:42 PM

Ahhhh, brought up my favorite horse this year.  Of course it's So You Think, and I happen to think he's a handsome stud!  Nothing could make the Classic more exciting than having him enter it.  Workforce came last year, but didn't run, and that was a HUGE letdown.

Winter Memories?  WOW!  She's a super freak, and I love watching her run.  She always makes my jaw drop with an astounding performance.  But it didn't look as though there was much of a crowd at Belmont that day.  Too bad because it was a day worth being there.  And Theysken's Theory put on a great performance herself.

tcc: of course Repole hasn't watched the dirt mile for 25 years; it's been around only 4 years.  I wish the both of you would realize that.  If QR had run it it last year, he probably would have won it, and it would have been memorable.

I'm guessing that the only horse we're presently certain will be in the Classic is Stay Thirsty.  

And while everyone is jumping for joy over Prayer For Relief and his sire Jump Start, does anyone remember another Jump Start colt who won the Louisiana Derby, Pants On Fire?  I do!

19 Sep 2011 2:42 PM

It's a bit frightening to consider what WINTER MEMORIES could accomplish if the jockey wasn't always giving her the hardest trip possible. If watching this fantastic filly charge from off the pace doesn't give you goosebumps...then you are probably dead.

19 Sep 2011 3:12 PM

Excellent analysis Steve.

However, I think the key race  will be run this weekend at Parx. It should be a statement from To Honor And Serve.

From what I recall, he ran the fastest 9-furlong race at Saratoga during the last meeting, winning by daylight. He is not only fast, he is built and bred to stay.

19 Sep 2011 3:25 PM

i  think  there is  one  horse   we are all forgetting  about   that  could get the  job   done  if  they  would  give  him a  shot


19 Sep 2011 3:37 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

If it wasn't for a freakishly, unbelievably shocking upset in last years Classic the girls would be going for three in a row and having every chance to achieve that if both Blind Lick and Havre de Grace are both in there. Invasor, the 2006 Classic winner, loved Churchill so maybe Twirling Candy will. Invasor was sired by Candy Stripes who is also prominant in Twirling's line. Everyone knows that the 2007 Classic was won by Rachel's husband. Find out if they are thinking of breeding her to any of this years contestants and you might have yourself another winner. So You Think belongs in the Arc and is expected to run in the Arc so it could depend on how quick he comes out of that prestigious race. I love the way both Tizway and Flat Out are running this year and would have no problem rooting for either. A Gio Ponti win would be a fabulous story. Winter Memories last win certainly reminded me of our 2009 Classic winner the Great Queen Zenyatta so that was a thrilling and amazing win by Winter Memories. Shades of "looks like she has no chance to win this one," which is what we often thought in Zenyatta's races. It was fun and nostalgic. It was really nice to find this column in time to read it while eating my lunch.

19 Sep 2011 3:42 PM
steve from st louis

The past couple of years, following racing has been "Pinch me, I must be dreaming." This year, it's "Wake me when it's over." You know when standardbreds appear to be exciting, it's a down year. The aptly named horse? Prayer For Relief.

19 Sep 2011 3:53 PM

In recent years it seems the fillies and mares have been the most impressive and certainly the most interesting.  As a "California Girl" myself, I love Blind Luck, but I also love Havre de Grace and the beautiful Winter Memories.

  If Gio Ponti were to run in the Classic, however, I would be cheering for him.  What an admirable horse: consistent and sound.  As a horsewoman, it dismays me to see unsound colts retired at three to sire more horses that will never hold up.  Gio Ponti is an old-fashioned race horse with a wonderful trainer who knows how to keep them going.  I would so love to see him win.

19 Sep 2011 5:07 PM
Betty S

I know it can be done. (Running on Turf and on dirt).  Acclamation does it.  Does anyone think that at some point Winter Memories might?  She is really great and very beautiful as well.  I'd love to see her get some of the "big" honors.

19 Sep 2011 5:13 PM
Karen in Indiana

Here I am - in Indiana - and if they ran a race with Acclamation, Twirling Candy, & Setsuko, I wouldn't know who to root for because I like them all. Wait - that's happened already! Love the Unusual Heats and since most of the males are gelded, Acclamation looks to be the best one to carry on that line. They are a little quirky, too.

19 Sep 2011 9:00 PM
Karen in Indiana

P.S. I think they said Acclamation doesn't like the dirt, didn't they?

19 Sep 2011 9:01 PM

They would be crazy to risk something happening to Gio Ponti in the Classic. Stick to what he likes, try Goldikova again this year. She is geting older as well.

19 Sep 2011 9:09 PM
Matthew W

Steve, you are, as usual, correct in your identifying Twirling Candy as the Classic horse to beat--his most recent race was, perhaps, the most impressive race run in US this year! He came home like a real racehorse--and that was some kinda animal holding him off--no, he prefers a mile over 1 1/4--but so did Ack Ack, Ancient Title, Precisionist, Swaps, Dr Fager, Native Diver--horses who, when they put it all together, were able to dominate at 1 1/4--I have laid off Twirlybird, and his 8-5 odds---now he's 12-1 and that's a whole thing alltogether! I'll take some of that, in face a whole lotta that 12-1! In fact, when you throw in that Tizway and Harve De Grace would probably prefer shorter than 1 1/4, all of the sudden Twirlybird's latest, a gut-wrenching duel with Acclamation, who was coming off his Eddie Read Tour de Force (and the Eddie Read is a top-class race) his latest race looks very good compared to these--I have him as the horse to beat, and I'd love to see Jerry try the Classic with Blind Luck--a full field would be advantageous for a closer, she would get the pace that she rarely gets in those smaller fields--there would be a story within a story with the fillies--and yes, we are spoiled on fillies, with Azeri, Rags To Riches, Rachel Alexandra, Big Z and now possibly a one-two finish? That's unlikely, as Tizway/Twirling Candy are gonna be real tough to beat, and while very good I am not confusing those two fillies with Zenyatta, or for that matter, with Rags To Riches--it's very rare for a filly to beat the top males at 1 1/4--very rare indeed! They would be bad bets, especially Harve De Grace--I just cannot see her moving with Tizway/Twirybird--then holding them all at bay--I do not see that kind of filly, if they wanna try be my guest, I'll toss Gracey completely and maybe include Blind Luck based on her love of the track/running style, which should benefit her/get her a piece, at least....Think Rosario needs to stay up on Twirlybird--think he should stay up on Zazu--think Zazu will win the Ladies Classic, and I like her over any and all comers--including the so-called super duo...also like Creative Cause in Juvy/think he'll like two turns....Ultra Blend will get a price--she has developed into a top class filly....also like Smiling Tiger in Spring--he'll fetch a price and he's all class....speaking of all class, Freaky won the Go Man Go Sunday night at Los Al, Freaky, with the all-white face, former HOY, paid 7-1 over a fast field of Quarter Horses--that's the "play a top-class horse when ya get a big price" angle--that's the Twirling Candy angle--sooner or later he's gonna blow them all away, just like ya thought he would, eventually--only he's 12-1, and this time I'm gonna have him!

19 Sep 2011 9:49 PM

So You Think it Tizway too early to Flat Out pick a BCC winner?  Man I am getting mighty Thirsty from eating all of this Twirling Candy and with a little Blind Luck and some divine intervention from Grace, and with 2 bridges to cross (Gio Ponti & Rattlesnake) we might be looking at our BCC champ, Mo!!!

Sorry couldn't resist combining the names again! Nice article Steve, I love your idea of Gio Ponti going in the BCC.  I like him but I agree with Paula, of the two my heart is with Mo as well.  It is tough choosing between Havre and Mo but my heart belongs to Mo.

I too so wish Animal Kingdom could be in the BCC, another one robbed of his chances by that Belmont mishap that I'm still miffed about.

I credited Awesome Gem and his owners blogs ago for continually running him all these years.  He's been at it a LONG time!!!!!  He deserves to be in it too, after all he did run the 2007 BCC with to quote Dr. D. "Rachel's husband!!!!!"

Mo and Thirsty coming down the stretch in the BCC  -   Mo goes, "You go Thirsty." Thirsty replies, "No man you always go first."  Mo, "No Thirsty, you go." Thirsty, "I can't man this one is yours."  And so on the the wire..............!

19 Sep 2011 10:38 PM
Paula Higgins

I would love to see boh Mo and Stay Thirsty in the BCC. I am in Mo's corner all the way, even over the girls. He has had a tough year and to see him come back in this fashion would gladden my heart. There are a alot of horses to love out there. ITA Rachel in NH.

19 Sep 2011 11:44 PM

100% could not agree more about Twirling Candy!!! MY PICK!

Cris, Awesome Gem is an iron horse. It's umbelievable what he has accomplished and how hard he tries every time. I have total respect for him and everything he has done and I route for him every time. He is a champion. With that being said, i don't think he is not up to facing this group. In his prime maybe, but he is running where he should be: in secondteer GR.1 races.

Bornahorsemen, Acclamation would not be able to go to the front and hold on like he did in the classic. With the dirt and much more speed which should develop in this race, I don't think it sets up for him. I want to see him on his natural surface, the turf, and try and take on the Europeans!

19 Sep 2011 11:52 PM

Linda in Texas,

When my "darling" husband returns from this lengthy vacation in Morocco I will email the photos to Steve of the gray and horses I got to walk and maybe Steve can be so kind as to forward them for you to enjoy.

I watched the ponies at Los Al in Ca. this Saturday evening.  They were so cute.  All the gate attendants had pink shirts on and the horses had pink wraps on their legs.  My white horse was working and it was awesome looking.  What a cool horse, I have got to know it's name.  

20 Sep 2011 1:25 AM
The Deacon

You can make a case for about every horse that may or may not run in the classic. Certainly wouldn't disagree with your assessment of Gio Ponti or Twirling Candy. This years crop of 3 year olds is down and the older division is not too exciting execept for Blind Luck and Harve de Grace. These 2 mares have saved the year for me. Picking a winner is a crap shoot at best.

West coast horses haven't fared well at Churchill Downs in many a year. With the possibility of cold weather I don't see it changing this year. Other then Acclamation, who probably won't run in the classic I don't see any contenders coming from the west. Uncle Mo loves the track but can he get the distance, that is the question. Especially off of 1 race back, which he so desperately needed.

Stay Thirsty didn't fire in the Derby, which may tell us that he doesn't like the track. The only logical choice if I were picking today would be Tizway.

It would make a nice story if Gio Ponti wins but the connections may not even run him.

I wouldn't rule out Shackleford, he seems to like the track and the 10 furlongs isn't a problem. He has been resting and should come into the race in fine form.

Game on Dude is a hard hitter but can he beat the east coast runners.

So many questions and so few answers. Certainly no standouts, it wouldn't surprise me if the favorite went off at 5-1.

It's asking a lot of So You Think to run in the Arc and then come over here and be competitive. The Euros know that we have a weak crop this year so they may send the whole calvary. Nevertheless, the classic should make for a great betting race. Good luck to all.........

You look good Steve, you even look like you lost some weight.  

20 Sep 2011 1:45 AM

GIANT OAK. Only needs a legitimate pace to run the field over. Do some handicapping guys and stop looking at previous results -  without reading between the lines.

20 Sep 2011 9:52 AM

Forget what I wrote about To Honor And Serve above.

The race has been reduced to a farce. He has been assigned 114 pounds. What a joke!

When will they start assigning weights under weight-for-age terms in all big money races? The purse here is a million dollars.

20 Sep 2011 11:54 AM


Of all the horses you mentioned, I think the horses with the most upside is Prayer for Relief. I was extremely impressed with his run in the Super Derby. He found another gear in the stretch after setting up pretty salty fractions. Is one to keep an eye on.

Uncle Mo has the talent to be a major player in the Classic, I still have some doubts about waht kind of foundation he will have going a mile and a quarter for the first time, and after going thru a very rare and dangerous illness. I would prefer him to go to the Pennsylvannia Derby to have a more fit horse going to the Classic.

Neither Gio Ponti or Twirling Candy are of my liking. The first one has not been tested against Grade 1 company on dirt, while the latter has not been able to pass horses like Game On Dude and Setsuko, which have not been consistent in California. Furthermore, the jury is still out on his dirt form. I'll pass. And I'll pass also on the Euro's, although this crop is one of the weakest of the last twenty years. They can get a share.

Right now my money is on Tizway, if he runs as I expect him in the JCGC. HDG and BL are contenders if they go for the Classic. Stay Thirsty is thriving at the moment, lets see what he can do in the JCGC. Wide open, to say the least.

20 Sep 2011 12:10 PM
Mary in VT

My husband and I go cuckoo for cocoas puffs over the late kick on Winter Memories. What a class filly she is. We think she is the most exciting horse running in this country right now. LoOoOove the way she uses her pelvis so that her croup seems to slant distinctly upward like a cat at one point in every stride when they let her go. Yowza. Have watched it in slow mo repeatedly. She is doing something the rest of them aren't doin'.

Don't think I have ever seen her get a good trip which is very frustrating. Thank heavens she will rate and settle and relax, and is capable of firing again if her jock has to check hard.

I was sorry to hear that her people are going to call it a year after that race at Keeneland that they are pointing to. No BC??? Could she not give Goldikova a run for her money, especially shortening up to a mile?

Still very much enjoy following every little move that Blind Luck and Havre de Grace make. They are two good ones that help to define each other.

Deep respect for Gio Ponti. Stay Thirsty coming into his own now. Want to see Acclamation in the Classic mix.

20 Sep 2011 1:36 PM
Bill Two

The thing with Winter Memories is that she was able to close like that and blow by other closers - including the impressive Hungry Island - to win this race. A race she had no business winning given the pace setup.  She really ought to be in the Turf Mile. A filly with that kind of kick takes a back seat to nobody.

20 Sep 2011 5:37 PM

Here's hoping you've set Gio Ponti's connections to again considering entry in the BC Classic. Like your thinking concerning GP, Steve. Cannot find a chink in the line of argument. To summarize your bent of mind: 7 seconds in Grade 1s in the past two years is a good indication Gio Ponti needs a different path back to the Grade 1 winner circle. He has not shown the explosive turn of foot late in his career and when sharp that will be needed to beat Goldikova and other Europeans in the BC Mile. The Turf Classic is a distance too far. Gio Ponti is bred for dirt (and should have been making well thought out dirt appearances throughout his career). The Churchill Downs dirt course has proved a kind surface to grass horses - think Animal Kingdom and Pool Play. It's worth the gamble to see if Gio Ponti can do something bold and historic late in his career, and it may just be that his connections missed the best of the horse's abilities and potential by staying away from a dirt surface his breeding says Gio Ponti would relish. Keep putting the bug in Clement's ear, Steve. He may yet see the light. I've been hoping since Gio Ponti failed to catch Goldikova in last year's BC Mile that Clement would think about trying the horse in a couple of Grade 1s on the dirt this year with a possible career climax in the BC Classic so that we, the racing public, might gain some sense of just how good Gio Ponti could be on the dirt. Keep up the lobbying effort, Steve, in this campaign to bring Gio Ponti back to the BC Classic. Here's hoping you stir up a groundswell of support from the racing public for this idea, producing a chorus of voices clamoring to see Gio Ponti attempt something bold and historic on the dirt in the Classic - one so loud and pervasive that Clement cannot fail to take notice. Love to see what is, as you say, admittedly far fetched come to fruition and create some expectancy and excitement in the racing world.

20 Sep 2011 6:24 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Mary in VT

   You guys must have been nutty as a fruit cake and going bonkers while watching the World Series in The Cuckoo's Nest when watching Zenyatta but I too was cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs watching Winter Memories in her last race. "No way Jose. You have got to be bloody kidding me Maria. Did she just do what I think I saw? Mac?"

20 Sep 2011 6:49 PM

I think these next 2 weeks should be telling if we have a favorite (or at least who are the strongest 2 - 3 horses per division are). Some horses get tired the end of year, others perk up in the cool weather. With some good ones coming off the injured list too, I think it will be an exciting 5 1/2 weeks (that's all it is til the Breeders Cup weekend).

21 Sep 2011 8:49 AM
Bill Two

Jersey Boy, you have a good point. To assign To Honor and Serve a feather for the PA Derby is a farce.  Judging from the way he ran the other day he will be one to ten and should be.

21 Sep 2011 9:09 AM
Linda in Texas

Alex'sBigFan - you know that when i posted about Winter's and Turallure's wins that i failed to mention Unbridled Humor's win. I had written down the win place and show on her race and watched it but it was 2 pages over on my notes and i missed it. But there were also 2 other grays who won on Saturday. It was a winning Gray day for sure. And we finally got a bucket of rain here in my Texas town speaking of gray days,but we need a lot more. Rain perked up the leaves a little.

But Winter Memories' race still makes me skip a breath just thinking about her blast from last. My word, and makes me lightheaded just thinking about her.

She reminds me of Skippy a lot. She has a long neck and holds her head so high it draws your attention to her. She is just plain gorgeous when she runs.

Glad you made it home ABF. And though i love Mo i am going to have to stay with Stay Thirsty now. He has earned respect, so if they run together, i will be for ST. I hope they do not run in the same race and stated that.  

And i want to say just a little somethin' somethin' to all the wonderful people who post their remarks and knowledge and the mixtures of opinions that flow forth. I love them all, good, bad and wrong. I know i am getting there in the Racing Department when i can form my opinion and am backed up by the pros when they state their posts. And you pros all know who you are.

Thank you Steve, and I was not a teenager in 1969. I was 29 and holding!:)

21 Sep 2011 12:57 PM
Old Timer


Your comments on Twirling Candy remind me of old Black Tie Affair. Back in 1991 he also did not seem like a horse for the mile and a quarter but he took them all the way home.

I also agree with Gio Ponti. What the hey, why not?

Lastly, there is something about that Super Derby. It seems like the perfect springboard to BCC. Maybe it is because I remember cashing some nice tickets when Tiznow got that Super Derby-BCC double. Plus, you have to respect Baffert. I definitely lean to the three year olds this year. Prayer for Relief or Stay Thirsty.

21 Sep 2011 4:40 PM

Excellent points, Steve, in all regards.  The Classic could be shaping up to be a more interesting race than I first thought if some of those scenarios you mention do come up.  Thanks for pointing out so many interesting ideas to ponder and thanks to everyone else for their thoughts as well.  Maybe it isn't going to be as humdrum as I had been thinking - lol!

21 Sep 2011 8:59 PM

Good comment about the 114 lbs that THAS will go to post with,this is the lowest impost of his carrer.This race is a Derby what are the conditions that allow a ten pound difference between ROI and THAS.

22 Sep 2011 1:56 PM
Bill Two

I may be guilty of hyperbole in my previous post where I said that THAS should be one to ten, but the point is these weights seem unfair. Unless ROI is better than I think, he's up against it spotting that much weight to that field.  Rattlesnake Bridge is an improving colt who apparently is sitting on a big race, although, like THAS he hasn't won a big one like ROI has. The thing that makes me reconsider about THAS is what Richard Migliore said recently on HRTV - he said that THAS looks great when everything goes his way, but when it doesn't he's not so good.  I really respect his opinion.  Still, I have the feeling that this colt has grown up and will produce a really good effort tomorrow.

23 Sep 2011 10:51 AM


Was just reading this.

The Goodwood will not feature Twirling Candy, who was second in the Pacific Classic. Hampered by a bruised foot in early September, Twirling Candy will be trained toward the BC Classic or BC Dirt Mile. Trained by John Sadler, Twirling Candy had his first workout since late August on Sunday at Santa Anita, going a half-mile in 47.40.

25 Sep 2011 8:41 PM

The BC Classic is going to get some much needed appeal. Just be patient until So You Think finishes up with his trip to Longchamp, and comes back to Ireland with the Prix De l' Arc De Triomphe trophy. Then you'll see Aidan O'Brien's eyes start lighting at the prospect of sending this horse to Churchill Downs to try and complete the Arc/BC Classic double. Even on conventional dirt, So You Think will gallop the American horses in the Classic off their feet at 1-1/4. They just won't have an answer for him, IMO.

26 Sep 2011 4:30 PM

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