Bayakoa is one of only a few horses to win the same Breeders' Cup race in back-to-back years, a club that Goldikova and Conduit both joined this year. She was named Outstanding Older Female Horse in both 1989 and 1990 after those wins. However, Bayakoa is not as fondly remembered by some as she should be. The reason for that is the tragic circumstances surrounding her second win in the Distaff in 1990. That was the race where the unfortunate Go For Wand broke down while battling Bayakoa through the stretch. In some respects, Bayakoa was the Foolish Pleasure of her day. Foolish Pleasure is not recalled these days for his Kentucky Derby win, he is recalled as the horse that was racing against Ruffian when she similarly broke down. Hollywood Park runs the Grade 2 $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap on Saturday afternoon and here is a look at the top picks:
The top pick is #8 Smooth Performer, who ran 2nd in California state-bred restricted stakes races in her last two tries with Garrett Gomez aboard. Martin Pedroza takes over the ride on Saturday. She has plenty of experience on the synthetic surfaces with seven top three results from ten tries over them. She is incredibly well-bred with both Alydar and Bertrando present in the lineage. Also, if you look back far enough, she finished just a head behind Lethal Heat in the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks in June 2008. For second, I will put a 20-1 shot that finished just 1 3/4 lengths behind the top choice the last time they met at Fairplex. #9 Made For Magic finished just seven lengths behind the almighty Zenyatta in the Grade 1 Lady's Secret (which has since been ridiculously renamed in honor of Zenyatta) on October 10. She ran 2nd over the turf in an Allowance spot on November 13 and I am always a fan of the turf-to-dirt switch. She also has a scorching workout on November 28, going 3F at Santa Anita in 34.1 seconds. That might even be too fast. In the third spot, I will use another longshot at 12-1 with the Pletcher-trained #6 Floating Heart. She has not raced since a mile and a half win at Keeneland in a turf Allowance race on October 18. She gets Joe Talamo aboard here and she won her only artificial surface race ever by over five lengths at Turfway Park on September 20. I will wrap the top four with #5 Eissoai. She adds blinkers for this go on Saturday and these Bobby Frankel trainees now under the tutelage of Humberto Ascanio have been running like gangbusters in Southern California since Frankel's untimely passing. She has been away from the races since September, but her works have been solid and she might sneak in there and get a piece of this. Here is the play for the Bayakoa Handicap:
$5 WP #8; $1 EX BOX 2-5-6-8-9
Before I finish, I would like to clarify one thing. I didn't intend to for anyone to think that Zenyatta should not be honored with a stakes race named in her honor, far from it. She absolutely deserves to have a race named after her. What I take issue with is the removal of a great horse like Lady's Secret from a Grade 1 at Santa Anita, when she was pretty awesome in her own right. After all, she was the UNQUESTIONED Horse Of The Year in 1986.
Tune in Monday for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!