Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m happy that’s over with. With the Breeders’ Cup past, now I can look forward to getting back to the things I really love about racing. Conditioned claiming races, maidens on the grass, Grade 3 stakes races around two turns for three-year olds. Thanksgiving weekend, the inner track at Aqueduct, and the start of the prime winter meets at Gulfstream, Santa Anita, and Fair Grounds. The Best is Yet to Come? Indeed!
The Breeders’ Cup serves its purpose as a two-day spectacle and showcase (and would be better as a one-day spectacle and showcase). But, as a gambler, I’ve had it with Santa Anita and the Frankentrack dirt course we’ve see there the last two years for this event – the extreme advantage to the early leaders on Friday, and the races with lightning fractions early and harness horse fractions late, on Saturday. The European horses can go back home with their pace- and point-of-call-less running lines. You can have your appearance-for-appearance sake medication rules. Keep the TV personalities who know nothing about racing at home. Let Trevor Denman call, for national TV, the races at his own track. Let me see camera angles that I’m familiar with; that don’t make me wonder where the horses are. (Or at least provide a running positional diagram on the screen instead of the stupid MPH.)
Instead, gimme the trainer stats, the pedigrees, the subtle, and not-so-subtle, changes in class and distance and surface that provide the juice and makes the everyday racing game as fascinating as it is. And I know this is highly politically incorrect…but gimme the suspicions, scoundrels, and intrigue that swirl around grandstands and gives horse racing the edginess that helps set it apart from a night in an antiseptic gambling parlor.
So, with that said, we’ll take a final look at the results as seen by TimeformUS. I’ll list all the winning TFUS speed figures at the bottom of this post. But first, let’s review some highlights, and a few of the races that produced the kind of numbers that set ours apart from the competition. Given some of the aberrant pace scenarios that we saw, especially in the dirt races, one shouldn’t be surprised that our figures, which take pace into account, might produce results that differ from those based only on final time.
– As one might expect, Wise Dan earned the best TFUS speed figure (123), despite a bit of a stumble at the start, with his rousing stretch run in surely clinching Horse of the Year honors.
– Beholder earned a figure of 118 (second best of her career, but best for a route effort) in clinching three-year old filly honors. But it was disappointing to see Royal Delta flounder as she did; and Princess of Sylmar had no shot given the moderate fractions, even if the track wasn’t favoring early speed as it did.
– Will Take Charge surely gets three-year old colt of the year with his near miss in the Classic, right? If Orb wins, I will never pay attention to Eclipse Awards again. Wayne Lukas’ colt finished the year with [UPDATE – almost!!] three straight wins, and earned a by-far career high TFUS figure of 121. He raced ten times this year, and doesn’t have a layoff line on his PPs since his debut, at Saratoga in August, 2012. (In this day and age, and as opposed to the competition, we don’t consider any gap less than 90 days to be a layoff worthy of notation. Layoffs of more than 90 days are noted by a blue line, more than 180 days are in red.) He improved his figures in each of his last five races to close the year….or should I say considering his trainer, to maybe close the year. And, oh yeah, Mucho Macho Man, the solid but unflashy Classic winner (who you’ll probably have to look up to remember that he won the race two or three years from now) earned the same figure of 121, six points less than he got for finishing second last year.
– Mizdirection made it six-for-six on the Santa Anita downhill turf course in winning the Turf Sprint, but Reneesgotzip earned the best TFUS figure, 116 to 113. The latter gets extra credit for setting a pace of 21 2/5 and 43 1/5 (and gets nothing additional for getting off to a slowish start after getting bumped) before settling for a dead heat for second.
– The Breeders’ Cup Marathon. Enough said about that.
– Gentlemen’s Bet finished third in the Sprint, but earned the top TFUS figure; 115 to the 112 assigned to the winner, Secret Circle. The son of Half Ours stalked the leaders (including our pace meltdown candidate, the morning line favorite Private Zone) through the opening quarter of 21 1/5, took over in a half mile zipped in an absurd 43 3/5. Yet he still managed to finish just a length and a half behind Secret Circle, who the bettors correctly identified as the post-time choice, and who just edged out our longshot selection Laugh Track.
– In the category of ‘fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me’ category is The Fugue. Defeated as the 8-5 favorite in the F&M Turf last year, she was sent off as the 3-2 choice in the Turf, and, this year, had no excuse whatsoever to offer for her defeat, to Magician, who earned an easily-career-best TFUS figure of 120. By Galileo out of a mare by Mozart, Magician’s pedigree just cries out “genius!” He’s out of the distaff family of Henrythenavigator, second in the 2008 Classic (his second dam is the third dam of Magician).
– She’s A Tiger was correctly, in my opinion, dq’d to second in the Juvenile Fillies after she bumped Ria Antonia. Thought it was apparent watching the race live that the latter was set to go past her, and that something must have happened. She’s A Tiger wins the battle of TFUS figures though, 93 to 88, considering the quick fractions that she set, and that Ria Antonia closed into. The official winner is by Rockport Harbor out of a winless Mr. Greeley mare, and this is the distaff family of the crack sprinter Behaving Badly (her third dam is the dam of Behaving Badly).
– In the Juvenile, third place finisher Strong Mandate earned the best TFUS figure – 98 as compared to New Year’s Day, who got a 95. Easy to understand that one, as Strong Mandate set a strong pace of 45 1/5 to the half before yielding in the stretch to favored Havana; and the winner took advantage of the 27-second quarter – as I said, literally harness horse time – that those two threw in to the sixteenth pole to rally past them for the win. New Year’s Day is by Street Cry out of Justwhistledixie (Dixie Union), a multiple stakes winner at the Big A and at Gulfstream; so he certainly had a right to go well first time on dirt (he has a pedigree rating of 89 for dirt routes).
Here’s that complete list of the winner’s TFUS figures (with career bests noted with an asterisk, and the best figure earned, or co-earned, in the race in parenthesis where applicable):
Marathon – London Bridge – 103*
Juvenile Turf – Outstrip – 99* (Giovanni Boldini, 100*)
Dirt Mile – Goldencents – 117*
Juvenile Fillies Turf – Chriselliam – 92*
Distaff – Beholder – 118
Juvenile Fillies – Ria Antonia 88 (She’s a Tiger – 93)
Filly and Mare Turf – Dank 113
Filly and Mare Sprint – Groupie Doll 109 (Judy the Beauty – 109)
Turf Sprint – Mizdirection – 113* (Reneesgotzip – 115)
Juvenile – New Year’s Day – 95* (Strong Mandate – 98)
Turf – Magician – 120*
Sprint – Secret Circle – 112* (Gentlemen’s Bet 115)
Mile – Wise Dan – 123
Classic – Mucho Macho Man – 121 (Will Take Charge – 121*)