Random Breeders' Cup Thoughts

You think there is a lot riding on Ed Stanco’s decision whether or not to run Princess of Sylmar in the Distaff? If he doesn’t run, she’ll most likely still be the favorite for the Eclipse Award for 3-Year-Old Filly regardless of what Beholder does, having beaten her fair and square in the Kentucky Oaks. Her status supposedly will be decided by her work this weekend. But do top-class horses, whose status depends on a work, really ever work poorly, to the extent that it will cause a trainer and owner to pass a major stakes? It happens, but very rarely. Princess of Sylmar likely will have a typical Todd Pletcher solid breeze with a solid gallop-out, and a solid-enough time. In other words, she likely will have a solid work, and then what? That’s for Pletcher and most of all Stanco to decide. Who knows, maybe the Princess will indeed indicate she’s not ready for the long trip to California after a long campaign going back to the cold winter days at Aqueduct. Maybe she’ll work like a bear and come off the track playing and bouncing.

Now, let’s look at the other end of this dilemma. If Game On Dude doesn’t perform well again in the Classic, would a victory by Princess of Sylmar in the Distaff give her the upper hand for Horse of the Year? Many think so. On the other hand, if Princess of Sylmar should go and get beat by Beholder over Beholder’s home track, could she lose everything – Horse of the Year and 3-Year-Old Filly? Many think so, considering it’s the Breeders’ Cup, and Beholder would have beaten not only Princess of Sylmar, but Royal Delta, Authenticity, and Close Hatches, who, believe it or not, also could be in the running for the 3-Year-old Filly title should she win.

And, eek! what if Pletcher should beat Princess of Sylmar with the older Authenticity, who is coming off a strong second to Beholder in the Zenyatta?

Racing truly is a sport of dreams, as Stanco has discovered, but those dreams also have a way of punching you right in the pit of your stomach. Remember, Stanco's original gut feeling was to pass the Breeders' Cup and he had all but ruled it out a while ago. We'll see what, if anything, the Princess has to say about it this weekend. Stay tuned on this one.

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If you think a wounded badger is dangerous, you don’t want to mess with Royal Delta after she has been beaten. Excluding her two Dubai debacles, she not only has never lost two races in a row, she has been absolutely deadly coming off a defeat. After her first career loss, she came back to win by three lengths. After losing the CCA Oaks, she bounced back to win the Alabama by five lengths. After her defeat in the Beldame, she smoked her opposition by 2 1/2 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (then the Ladies Classic). After getting trounced by Awesome Maria in the Sabin Stakes (and never picking her feet up in a troubled Dubai World Cup), she crushed her foes by eight lengths in the Fleur de Lis. After being upset at 3-5 in the Personal Ensign, she roared back with a 9 1/2-length rout in the Beldame. After getting upset at 1-5 in the Fleur de Lis, she demolished her opponents by 10 3/4 lengths in the Delaware Handicap.

So, what terror will she unleash on the Distaff field after being beaten by Princess of Sylmar in the Beldame?

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Whether or not Wise Dan compromised his chances for a repeat Horse of the Year with his loss in the Shadwell “Turf Mile” over a puddle splattered synthetic surface, the belief here is that he still will not be beaten in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Some folks have been critical of trainer Charles LoPresti for running him on the wet Polytrack, but that is merely second-guessing and it’s useless to dwell on that now. It is what it is. Time to look forward.

The question with Wise Dan now is: was it the surface or is he starting to tail off a bit? If he trains well from here on and shows his usual spark and enthusiasm, I still don’t see a horse (American or European) capable of beating him at a mile on the grass, especially over the Santa Anita turf course.

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Just for the record, Mucho Macho Man, since his career debut sprinting at Calder, is now seven-for-seven when he has the lead at the eighth pole and 0-for-14 when he doesn’t. Gary Stevens rode him to perfection in the Awesome Again, and remember, even with the top-class speed and pace horses he’ll be tracking in the Classic, it’s still easier to pass horses on the far turn with one felt swoop than it is at the eighth pole after they’ve been set down and have their competitive juices flowing. They are in fighting mode then, but on the turn they’re still being reserved as much as possible and could be vulnerable to a quick surprise attack by a 17 hands giant who can inhale his opponents quickly with those huge strides, but has shown a tendency to not pass horses in the final furlong. Can’t wait to see if Stevens employs the same strategy that won him the Awesome Again, despite the far superior competition in the Classic.

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Based on the current list of possible/probable starters for the Classic (who knows who else will show up), if Graydar runs, he will be the only 4-year-old horse from America. The other 4-year-old would be Irish-trained Declaration of War.

Game On Dude is 6, Ron the Greek is 6, Flat Out is 7, and all have shown more brilliance on occasion this year than they’ve shown their entire career. However, it must be noted for whatever it’s worth, no horse 6-years-old or older has ever won the Classic. The two 6-year-olds who came the closest, Zenyatta and Cigar, both had won the Classic the year before. Palace Malice, Will Take Charge, and Moreno are all 3-year-olds.

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For those wondering if Declaration of War will be able to handle the dirt, his dam is a half-sister to Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags.

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Oh, no, not again. Dick Mandella has two big shots in this year’s Breeders’ Cup with Beholder and Indy Point in the Turf. Meanwhile, a headline in USA Today read: “Ominous Warnings About California Wildfire Season.” We are all aware of Mandella’s 10-year intervals mixing super Breeders’ Cup days with wildfires in the area of Santa Anita.

In 1993, Mandella won two Breeders’ Cup races and two undercard stakes after a raging fire broke out in the San Gabriels, right across from the track, causing havoc during Breeder’s Cup week. Then in 2003, Mandella had the mother of all Breeders’ Cup days, winning four BC races, with fires several miles to the East that dropped ash all over the track.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed. Best of luck to Mandella, but, please, no fires, this year.

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Remember, in the 1980 Belmont Stakes when TV analyst Charlsie Cantey came running up the stretch to the winner’s circle and planted a kiss on her husband, trainer Joe Cantey, on national television after he won the Test of the Champion with 53-1 shot Temperence Hill?

Well, history could repeat itself this year, as HRTV analyst Millie Ball, who does a fantastic job on “Pursuit of the Cup,” will watch her husband, Tim Yakteen, send out Points Offthebench in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Unlike Temperence Hill, however, Points Offthebench will be one of the favorites. If he wins, Millie can go ahead and lose it and plant a big one on her husband. The precedent has been set…and it’s great TV.

Suggestion to NBC: put a camera on Jim Rome during the running of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. Whether Mizdirection wins again or not, that also will make for great TV. Having one on Game On Dude’s co-owner Joe Torre during the Classic wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

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Could it be the toughest and deepest race both days will be the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf – Kitten Kaboodle, My Conquestadory, Testa Rossi, Clenor, Sky Painter, Granny Mc’s Kitten, Dancing House, Nesso, Colonel Joan, Rosalind, and a classy group from Europe that could include Vorda, Chriselliam, Queen Catrine, Royal Mania, Lesstalk in Paris, Wonderfully or Chicago Girl. Obviously, only a few of those Euros will run, but this is shaping up as one barnburner of a race.

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