The Brock Talk

Monday, October 3, 2011

Breeders' Cup Picture Comes Into Focus

Three impressive winners of grade 1 races Saturday are heading for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic according to their connections, and the trio will likely make up the top three favorites when they go to the post beneath the twin spires of Churchill Downs. One female superstar is among them while another won’t be going to Kentucky to renew the best rivalry in Thoroughbred racing in recent years. A $3 million showdown in the Breeders’ Cup Turf was highly anticipated Sunday evening, but will not materialize as we know now. And then there was that crazy uncle.

That's how the 2011 Breeders’ Cup, to be run Nov. 5,6 at Churchill Downs, is coming into focus.

The three big winners headed for the Classic are Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. 1) winner Flat Out, Goodwood Stakes (gr. 1) winner Game On Dude and the filly who won the Beldame (gr. 1) with ease, Havre de Grace.

Flat Out may have taken the lead away from the absent Tizway in the older horse division with a convincing win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup over 2010 Belmont (gr. 1) winner Drosselmeyer and this year's Travers (gr. 1) winner Stay Thirsty. After winning the grade 2 Suburban at Belmont in July, Flat Out finished the summer running second to Tizway in the Whitney and second to the filly Havre de Grace in the Woodward. With neither in the Gold Cup, Flat Out capitalized and provided an emotional victory for midwest journeyman trainer Charles Dickey.

As impressive as Havre de Grace was in New York however, her nemesis Blind Luck was equally puzzling in California Saturday. Before finishing last by 18 lengths behind winner Zazu in the Ladies Secret Stakes (gr. 1), Blind Luck and never finished worse than second in 21 previous races. According to reports as recent as today, trainer and part owner Jerry Hollendorfer has said they have found no problems but Blind Luck will be heading toward a vacation and will miss the Breeders’ Cup. Blind Luck and Havre de Grace have raced against each other six times in the last two years with Blind Luck winning three and Havre de Grace two. In the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic last year won by Unrivaled Belle, Blind Luck and Havre de Grace finished second and third respectively as 3-year-olds.

As Jay Privman mentioned in his Blind Luck update today in Daily Racing Form, “With Blind Luck out of the Ladies’ Classic, and Havre de Grace headed to the BC Classic against males, the top two females in the country are both now bypassing that race, leaving 3-year-olds such as Zazu, Beldame runner-up Royal Delta, and Cotillion Stakes winner Plum Pretty among the leading contenders.”

Zazu iz zertainly, no Zenyata, but zhe doez have the zame Jerry and Ann Moss teal and pink colorz and runz with a zimilar, clozing running ztyle.

Many consider Acclamation, with his four consecutive grade 1 victories, a Horse of the Year candidate and the same can almost can be said of Cape Blanco. This weekend Acclamation won the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (gr. 2) at Santa Anita on the turf for his fifth straight graded stakes win, while Cape Blanco won his third consecutive grade 1 turf stake by taking the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. 1) at Belmont Saturday. Acclamation may still go to the Breeders’ Cup Classic instead of the Turf Classic, but any chance of a showdown between the two was dashed when Anne Marie O’Brien (wife of trainer Aidan O'Brien) tweeted Monday as @aobballydoyle, “Cape Blanco has been retired to stud following an injury he sustained when winning the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont”.

Uncle Mo fans (led by owner Mike Repole I might add) have certainly been on a roller coaster year in 2011. The 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and Champion Two-Year-Old Male cruised in his first win of the year in an ungraded stake in Florida before expecting to take the Resorts World Casino Wood Memorial (gr. 1) waltz into the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. 1) as the favorite. But at some point, a liver infliction hit Uncle Mo and he not only finished third in the Wood, but also missed the Derby and much of the year before making a return four months later in the King’s Bishop Stakes (gr. 1) at Saratoga last month. He finished second, but it was only by a nose to Caleb's Posse and as learned later, with front shoe nearly twisted off in the final sixteenth of a mile.

If some thought that the big return may have drained Uncle Mo, few put money in the mutuel machines to back their belief as Uncle Mo went to the gate as odds on favorite in the Kelso at 6-to-10. Off of a very nice win in the Forego Stakes (gr. 1), Jackson Bend figured to threaten Uncle Mo on paper in the Kelso, and actually tried to do so in the race.

As the short Kelso field raced around the big Belmont Park turn, Uncle Mo lead but Jackson Bend and jockey Corey Nakatani had him in their sights. And as Jackson Bend got closer to Uncle Mo, it seemed he got faster with every stride and passing the leader looked near certain. But as Jackson Ben raced up on the inside of Uncle Mo just as they straightened away for home, John Valenzuela on Uncle Mo would not allow Jackson Bend through along the rail. Suddenly, Uncle Mo was an Italian jail and Jackson Bend was Amanda Knox – trapped and no way to get out.

By the time Nakatani emphatically steered Jackson Bend to the outside to pass, Valenzuela gave an acceleration signal of some type to Uncle Mo and he blasted away from Jackson Bend and won the Kelso by three lengths.

So impressive was the win, that despite receiving free entry fees into the Breeders’ Cup Mile, Repole told reporters that Uncle Mo was Classic bound. There he is expected to meet Havre de Grace, Flat Out and Game on Dude.

What was I said about the favorites in the Classic again?


Walt Gekko said...

The Clement L. Hirsch was downgraded to a Grade II stakes this year, and also lowered to $150,000, below the minimum purse for a Grade I anyway.

Unknown said...

thanks Walt. Much appreciated so I can make the edit. And Thanks for reading.

amdaman said...

"Uncle Mo lead but Jackson Bend and jockey Corey Nakatani had him in their sights" (instead of sites).