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31 October 2014 @ 10:14 pm
Breeders Cup Day 1  
As a lover of horses in general and thoroughbreds in particular, one of my favorite times of the year is the Breeders Cup (BC) weekend. Practically every healthy racehorse of note in North America will make an appearance, with a healthy sprinkling of Euro invaders to add to the handicapping challenge. Big purses, big fields, and big payoffs are the order of the day. Frankly, I expect to pick no more than a couple of winners, but it’s always fun to try.

This year, the BC has seen many potential champions fall by the wayside due to injury, including Wise Dan (two-time defending Horse of the Year and favorite to three-peat in The Mile), Palace Malice (who had moved to the top of the older horse division after a stunning win in the Met Mile), American Pharoah (leading candidate for champion 2-year-old), Beholder (two time Eclipse Award winning filly) and Game On Dude (a much beloved older gelding, always dangerous on his home track). But the three year old division is particularly interesting this year and the Classic will certainly settle the honours.

On a sad note, the lead up to the Breeders Cup was marred by the announcement that Zenyatta’s weanling filly had suffered a paddock accident and had to be put down. So sad for those of us who have continued to follow Zenyatta’s fabulous career with her transition to a broodmare through zenyatta.com. I was really looking forward to Z Princess’s career and cried when I read the news. You really have to have a strong heart to love horses, because as powerful as they are, one serious misstep can spell the end. Here’s hoping everyone makes it around the track this weekend – that’s the most important thing for me.

3:00 PM – ‘Las Vegas’ Marathon
The Marathon was added to the Breeders Cup slate a few years ago to encourage the development of more stamina-oriented horses in the US, but never caught on. As a result, the Marathon has been downgraded to a normal Grade 2 stakes and may be discontinued entirely in future events. Pity that – I enjoy watching the tactics as jockeys try to nurse their mount’s speed. Pace is key – a half in under 47 seconds, fairly routine in most stakes races, will certainly burn out any horse close to the lead. And that’s exactly what happened here: the opening fractions were quick, so co-favorite Carry Street dropped way back, then swooped past everyone on the turn to win by several lengths. Carry Street paid 7.90 to win.

5:30 – BC Juvenile Turf
Pre-race thinking: I skipped the intervening races because they weren’t actual Breeders Cup races, and besides, I had no clue. Time though to take a plunge. Let’s see if I can make my handicapping thoughts comprehensible. First step is to look at the conditions – in this case 1 mile on the turf for 2-year-olds. There aren’t many races of this nature in the US so will have to do some guessing: will horses who’ve run at shorter distances be able to stretch out? Will those who’ve run on dirt or synthetics be able to handle the turf? Will Euros, used to more give in the ground, be able to handle the very firm surface? And how do the European Timeform ratings compare with US Beyer ratings, used to identify the fastest horses in the field? This is going to be tough! No clear standout.

  • Luck of the Kitten – a Kitten’s Joy colt, so has the breeding. Like that he won last time out on this course and distance, although the time wasn’t exceptional. Do like the odds: when the field is basically a tossup, I want to get at least 5-1. Bet $5 to show.

  • War Envoy – Like the breeding, nice Timeform ratings, albeit at 7 furlongs. Don’t like the fact that he hasn’t won for months, and especially that he’ll be at short odds. Pass.

  • Hootenanny – Breeding not as catch, but form is good (highest Timeform ratings in the field). But the short odds make me wince. Pass.

And they’re off. Luck of the Kitten goes for the lead and sets a quick pace, stringing out the field. The field starts to close in as jockey Mike Smith gives him a breather but it’s still looking good until they reach the 1/8th pole. Then Hootenanny comes flying with a perfectly timed run and wins by a half-length. But Kitten still holds on for second so I’m in the money – notionally at least, since I can’t remember my online betting sign-in.

BC Dirt Mile
  • Goldencents – defending champ, hot favorite, deservedly so. Consistently runs Beyers in the mid-100s. But I’ll try to beat him with a longshot.

  • Tapiture – will be interesting to see how he fares, as he has been just under the top tier 3-yo. Hunch bet to place.

Goldencents and Vicars In Trouble zipped to the lead and opened a huge lead. Going into the far turn, Tapiture started to close. He got within a length during the stretch but just couldn’t get by. Goldencents was exhausted but as game as can be.

BC Juvenile Fillies Turf
I just can’t take any of the US contenders seriously – pathetic Beyers – so will concentrate on the Euros.

  • Sunset Glow – started racing in Europe, ran (impressively) in the US last two times out. For some reason, her odds have drifted out to 6-1, making her hard to overlook.

  • Qualify – really impressive race last time out, has the breeding, top notch connections. Like her, don’t like her post. Still, figure she’ll tuck in and hope for racing room.

Okay, I ignored the pre-race hype about Lady Eli’s turn of foot, and paid for it (notionally, since I still haven’t figured out my sign in data – very confusing!) Sunset Glow went to the lead and was looking good, but then a hole opened and all of a sudden Lady Eli was 2 lengths in the lead. A real wow! Sunset Glow held on for second – that’s three seconds in a row I’ve (notionally) bet on.

BC Distaff
If you think Untapable is beatable, this becomes a real head scratcher, since there are so many closely matched fillies and mares waiting in the wings. Too bad Beholder had to miss her chance to defend her title.

  • Untapable – probable champion 3-yo filly, ran some monster races back in the spring before failing when trying to take on the boys. Can’t hold that against her. Don’t particularly care for the odds though. Try to beat her.

  • Close Hatches – was really impressed when I saw her on Belmont Day winning the Ogden Phipps. Tons of early speed, and usually game as the race is long. But her last race was awful, and sometimes fillies just lose it.

  • Don’t Tell Sophia – has been solid if unspectacular for nearly two years straight – always finishes in the money. Very safe bet for show, but wouldn’t make much money off it.

Turns out Close Hatches’ jockey was worried about the pace scenario too, and he took her under tight control in fourth. Untapable was just back of her, and it became a question of who would be able to outkick who. Except it wasn’t even that close. Around the far turn, Untapable started to roll to the lead while Close Hatches spat out the bit and dropped back. Untapable won as she pleased, with Don’t Tell Sophia running gamely on for second.

All told, a pretty good day at the races. No big upsets, which means tomorrow could be really crazy.
BabyDee: 0Chloe - Beast Sombre by m_strangchildbabydee1 on November 1st, 2014 09:28 am (UTC)
"You really have to have a strong heart to love horses, because as powerful as they are, one serious misstep can spell the end."

THIS. It's always so final when a horse sustains a injury, isn't it? :-(

Such a shame about Zenyatta's filly. Hope you're doing okay. *hugs*
chatchien: hat-two ladies talkchatchien on November 1st, 2014 04:39 pm (UTC)
I want to go to the races with you, I like the way that you talk.

My sympathy to Zenyatta. A weanling has been weaned, but are they still kept around the mother for a while? She might know that her baby didn't go to the far pasture to live and have fun.
apeygirlapeygirl on November 11th, 2014 07:00 am (UTC)
I've got no thoughts as I'm not a racing fan or a horse person in general (apparently, I'm allergic like I am to every animal that's not something lame like a bird or a lizard), but I live in an area with horse trails and I always envy those lucky bastards.