The Brock Talk

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Classic Arrivals And Departures

With just under a kazillion grade 1 stakes from the last two weeks in the books, the Breeders' Cup Championship Day at Santa Anita is taking shape. With every official result and decision by trainers and owners comes news of who's going or not going in what race or the ever dissappointing news that they are not going to race in the Breeders' Cup at all. It's a head spinning amount of information about 14 races to be run in two days that has even the most astute handicappers and fans on the verge of memory overload.

Unfortunately, the top two stories about the Breeders' Cup so far are about who's not going to run. Owner Jess Jackson has said from just about the first time the question was asked that Blackberry Preakness (gr. 1), Haskell (gr. 1) and Woodward (gr. 1) winner Rachel Alexandra will not be racing "on plastic," in reference to Santa Anita's Proride synthetic track.

Now comes the news that European star Sea The Stars (photo) has been retired and will not be coming to invade the colonies. After going undefeated this year and winning the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-gr. 1) Oct. 4, trainer John Oxx said from Ireland that "We feel it is unfair to keep him going any further given his unprecedented record of achievement in the last six months."

Rachel Alexandra has already been given Horse of the Year honors by many in North America and Sea The Stars is as likely to win the Cartier Horse of the Year in Europe as the Queen is to drink tea. But neither will be racing in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on November 7.

But in the karmatic world of horse racing, good news came our way when trainer John Sherriffs said the undefeated mare Zenyatta may be considered for the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. 1) instead of trying to repeat in the Ladies Classic (gr. 1). Don't expect a definitive answer in the next few days though. Sherriffs said there is no rush for a decision. Sherriffs and Jerry and Ann Moss, the owners of Zenyatta, can enter Zenyatta in both races during the Breeders' Cup Pre-entries Oct. 26 but must make a decision by Friday, November 3 when final entries are taken.

There will likely be a number of horses pre-entered in more than one Breeders' Cup race on Oct. 26, but only one with the intentions of actually running in both races. Trainer and co-owner Barry Abrams said he considering running Lethal Heat in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic on Friday and then again in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint the following day. Obviously, it would be the first time a horse competed in two Breeders' Cup races in the same year, but it wouldn't be the first quick turnaround for Lethal Heat.

Lethal Heat finished second to Zenyatta in the Lady’s Secret Stakes (gr. 1) on Oct. 10, just one week after finishing second in the restricted California Cup Classic Handicap against California-bred males at Santa Anita. She also finished third to Zenyatta in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) on August 9 at Del Mar. Lethal Heat, like all horses, will undergo pre-race veterinarian inspections before each race and will be excluded from her non-preferential race should it have more than 14 entries. All horses entered in two races must be declare a preference.

With the departure of Sea The Stars and Gitano Hernando's victory in the Goodwood Stakes (gr. 1) Saturday at Santa Anita, the door has opened for other Europeans to consider the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Orginally scheduled for the $500,000 Breeders' Cup marathon Nov. 6, the upset Goodwood victory has prompted owners Team Valor International and Gary Barber to consider the Classic for Gitano Hernando. Prior to the Goodwood, Gitano Hernando had won a conditons race over Wolverhampton's Polytrack in Great Britian after a lay-off of some four months.

Other European stars that are now considering the Classic include Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-gr. 1) winner Rip Van Winkle and Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-gr. 1) winner Mastercraftsman.

Summer Bird, the winner of the Belmont (gr. 1), Travers (gr. 1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. 1); and Quality Road, second to Summer Bird in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the winner of the Florida Derby (gr. 1) last spring, head the list of North Americans who appear destined for the Classic.

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