For those thinking the election “season” has gone on too long – and is there anyone beyond cable new outlets that doesn’t think so? – and for those of us with a constant sick feeling about what we will face Wednesday morning, there have been two wonderful respites.
The first was the World Series. Both teams had great stories, not the least of which was that the most “recent” winner last won 68 years ago.
Then there were the two days of the Breeders’ Cup. It was the best the sport has to offer, albeit marred by a catastrophic breakdown in the Distaff.
There were the spectacular finishes, no fewer than six of which were decided by a half-length or less, and each had its own interesting storyline.
Could the grand dame Beholder, winner of two previous Cup races, summon up one more great effort and catch the undefeated three-year old Songbird (who only had one Cup win on her resume)? She could, and did, by what was less than a nose.
Could Lady Eli, who last year was also an undefeated three-year old (and compared to American Pharaoh) overcome the life-threatening condition of laminitis and win a Cup race? Alas, the answer was no, as Queen’s Trust closed strongly to nip her at the wire, again by a nose.
Could Obviously, running in his fifth Cup race, finally get the W? He did it on the front end, holding off the wonderfully-name Om to prevail by – you guessed it – a nose.
The winner of the Juvenile Colts becomes the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby. Yes, this is absurd for a race six months away, but we will be seeing lists of top Derby horses in early January. At least the curse of being the Juvenile winner not wearing roses has gone the way of a fan not being permitted to bring his billy goat into Wrigley field. So this year’s fav is Classic Empire who held off the fast-charging Not This Time to win by a neck.
Then there was Tepin, a mare who had beaten the boys in the turf Mile last year and also prevailed over European lads at Royal Ascot going for her second Mile win. She closed dramatically but came up a half-length short to Tourist.
And finally, of course, there was the Classic. California Chrome, who should be elected to the Hall of Fame unanimously, was six-for-six this year with three convincing Grade I wins including the Dubai World Cup, and facing the young upstart Arrogate. The latter’s first stakes effort was in the Travers, where he not only won by 13, but set a track record in the process. Chrome had everything his own way and seemed to be sailing to victory when caught near the finish to lose by a half-length.
Mike Smith really is the money man
No jockey won more than one of the thirteen Cup races – except for Smith who won three. He also had three seconds.
But what about Todd Pletcher?
Pletcher has been one of the top money earners in racing for years. He has an enormous stable, has wealthy owners and routinely buys a number of top horses at the major sales. His lack of success in the Kentucky Derby is legendary, having only one winner from over 50 starters. He entered nine horses in seven races for this year’s Cup. Only one hit the board (top four finishers). And that was Keen Ice who finished third, beaten by 11 lengths in the Classic.
By contrast, Chad Brown, the trainer rivaling him for supremacy on the New York circuit, entered 12 in seven races, and came away with a win, three seconds, a third and a fourth.
Europeans no longer dominate the turf
There was a time when my handicapping focused on horses from Europe in the turf races. This year, they only had two hit the board in Friday’s two juvenile races, neither of which was a win. They ran first and fourth in the Filly and Mare Turf, and came close to a sweep in the Turf race, and it would be one if you counted Flintshire as a European – he was bred there and began his career there, but has been in the U.S. this year. But no one hit the board in the Turf Sprint, and remarkably not in the Mile either.
NBC (and NBCSN) do a really good job
We are blessed with interesting and informative coverage by the crew working for NBC. There are the occasional fluff pieces, but they are thankfully limited. I only pay attention to their handicappers for entertainment value and do not utilize them for selections. If I were making picks on air, you would say the same thing about me except for the entertaining part.