Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eureka Eurico!

The leading rider at Woodbine during their 2010 season, Eurico Rosa Da Silva, will be taking his tack to New York to ride there this winter. Da Silva won an impressive 186 races during the season at Woodbine, which will actually end on December 5. Included in those victories was a win in the biggest race that Canada can offer, The Queen's Plate. Da Silva was aboard Big Red Mike for his front-running win in the equivalent of the Kentucky Derby to the Great White North.

Da Silva's triumph in the jockey standings at Woodbine ends a three-year reign of Patrick Husbands, who has only won 171 races during the extended Woodbine racing meet. Before he heads to The Big Apple, however, Da Silva will try to get one more stakes victory aboard Grand Style in the $150,000 Ontario Lassie on Saturday. Da Silva has been suspended for the final day of the season at Woodbine due to a whip infraction, according to the story on the Daily Racing Form detailing Da Silva's big move.

I, for one, will be very interested to see if Da Silva's success will translate to the big meet at The Big A. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if it did. If you would like to watch Eurico Rosa Da Silva's seminal win of 2010 aboard Big Red Mike in The Queen's Plate, here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URuv6KZ4XBw. Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Grade 1 $250,000 Cigar Mile

The Grade 1 Cigar Mile will pretty much be the swan song for the strong stakes program in New York state for 2010. It will be run over the main track at Aqueduct and before too long, NYRA will be moving the racing to the inner track at The Big A.

It would appear to me that this race will have quite a bit of speed in it with Haynesfield, Vineyard Haven, Friend Or Foe, and Jersey Haven all running toward the front end. For that reason, I will side with a closer in here with #3 Bribon. While Bribon seems to have found a niche as a sprinter or an extended sprinter this season, keep in mind that the one mile distance at Aqueduct is a one-turn race, turning this into an extended sprint. Johnny Velazquez was aboard for the win the Grade 3 Bold Ruler last time out on October 30 and gets the call again here. For second, I will go with #1 Girolamo, who is part of an entry with #1a Vineyard Haven. Girolamo was a bigtime floparoo in the Breeders' Cup Sprint just three weeks ago, running 11th out of twelve horses. I think the connections got caught thinking too much after the Grade 1 Vosburgh victory at Belmont in early October. Had they sent Girolamo to the post in the Dirt Mile, I think his Breeders' Cup fortunes would have been distinctly different. He has won twice in three career starts at the one mile distance, including the Grade 2 Jerome Handicap in 2009. I will put #4 Haynesfield in the third spot. He, too, was a disaster in the Breeders' Cup. He got caught in a speed quartet in the Breeders' Cup Classic and never was able to establish any kind of lead or advantage and eventually faded to 11th. In no way did that race resemble the front-running win over the Classic winner, Blame, in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, when Haynesfield looked unbeatable. However, I think there will be a similar challenge to the lead for Haynesfield here and therefore, cannot pick him higher than this. Finally, I will inject a price into the proceedings with #8 Half Metal Jacket. This will be his second start off the most recent layoff. He ran a closing third in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler behind the top pick and Jersey Town. He gets an extra furlong to close into what should be a stout pace. His morning line odds of 12-1 make him a player here. Here is the play for the Grade 1 Cigar Mile:

$10 WIN #3
$2 EX 3 with ALL
TOTAL- $24

As always, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Martha And Michelle Lovell

They Are Off contributor Martha Claussen has a new article in the current issue of SureBet Racing News on trainer Michelle Lovell. Michelle might be a new name to some on the national scene of the Thoroughbred game, but she is an excellent trainer whose career is only heading in one direction... UP! The article on Michelle Lovell begins on page ten of the following link: http://www.surebetracingnews.com/Newspaper_pdf/SureBet_11-23-final.pdf.

They Are Off will take the Thanksgiving Holiday off tomorrow, so be sure to tune in again on Friday for a look at one of the major races this weekend. For right now, HAPPY THANKSGIVING! and I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Loving Lucky

It was announced on Friday afternoon that 2010 Preakness champion, Lookin At Lucky, has been retired and will stand at Ashford Stud for a fee of $35,000. It is likely that Lucky will be named the Champion Three-Year-Old when the Eclipse Awards are announced in a couple of months. I think that will be a deserved victory since he more or less dominated the three-year-old proceedings after the Kentucky Derby.

Yes, Super Saver won the Kentucky Derby, but he never won another race after that and was soundly defeated by Lookin At Lucky in both the Preakness Stakes and the Haskell Invitational later in the summer at Monmouth Park. I make the argument that if Lookin At Lucky had not been absolutely demolished the first time past the stands in the Derby, he might have done better than his sixth-place finish. Considering the trauma that Lucky had to fight through to get there, his Derby might have been the second-best race on the day, second only to Ice Box, who also had a world of traffic troubles en route to running second to Super Saver.

Another seminal performance for Lookin At Lucky was the Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park. I realize that there really wasn't much in the way of competition for the Preakness winner running in the Hoosier State, but the effort was still tremendous as he overcame a horribly sloppy track and actually came from well off the pace to score a nifty victory. Lookin At Lucky was also a major player in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, where he ran fourth. He was right in the midst of contention in the stretch before Blame and Zenyatta put on their show and Lucky probably should have been third, but Fly Down got by him late.

I admit I was late jumping on the Lookin At Lucky bandwagon. I tried like the dickens to beat him last year in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and just happened to settle on the right horse among the many possibilities in Godolphin's Vale Of York. He won at 30-1, but Lookin At Lucky came back after that second-place finish to win the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park and clinch the Champion Two-Year-Old Colt honors. Lookin At Lucky will likely go down as the best of the three-year-olds this year and he certainly should. He had more staying power than Eskendereya, proved to be more versatile than Super Saver, and stood head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd.

Here is the link to watch Lookin At Lucky's 2010 Preakness victory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPJFs24BeDA. Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Grade 3 $1,000,000 Delta Jackpot

The fine folks at Delta Downs in Vinton, Louisiana certainly know what they are doing when it comes to their showcase races. Not only do they offer the second-richest two-year-old race in the country two weeks after the richest one (The Breeders' Cup Juvenile), they had the forethought to move post time to the afternoon rather than run under the lights, as is their custom. Therefore, you give some of the top horsemen in the land options as to what to do at the end of the year and you all but guarantee the winner of the Grade 3 $1,000,000 Delta Jackpot a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby in May. Just look at the trainers who are sending horses to Louisiana for the Jackpot: Bob Baffert, Anthony Dutrow, Mark Casse, Kelly Breen, and Bruce Levine all have horses running at Delta Downs. Here is the analysis for the Grade 3 $1,000,000 Delta Jackpot:

I think that there might not be enough speed to challenge #6 Bug Juice in this race. He might just go to the front and never look back. His 91 Beyer Speed Figure from his last race at Finger Lakes is the best figure in the field and his work over the surface at Delta on November 17 was a three-furlong bullet. There is a lot to like with this gelding, including A.P. Indy on the Sire side, Javier Castellano in the saddle and an 8-1 morning-line. #4 Rush Now scored a win at the distance of 1 1/16 miles last time out in the Dover Stakes at Delaware Park. The Sire is two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Tiznow. Robby Albarado rides and he also threw a recent bullet workout into the mix at Delaware on November 14. #9 Sweet Ducky won back-to-back minor stakes races at Monmouth Park this fall. His only non-victory came over the only wet track he has faced. In keeping with the apparent theme here, his last workout was also a bullet at Delta Downs on November 13. Jersey Joe Bravo joins the Garden State import for a try in the Bayou. Finally, I will wrap up the top four with #2 Classic Legacy. Yes, I know that Blue Laser (also in the field) beat him in the Grade 3 Grey Stakes at Woodbine (which was the race that produced Mine That Bird for his two-year-old championship season in Canada). I just happen to think that the Baffert trainee can make up the 3/4 of a length he was behind in the Grey. I also tend to favor the riding skills of Joe Talamo over Shaun Bridgmohan. Here is the play for the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot:

$5 WPS #6
$1 EX BOX 2-4-6-8-9
TOTAL- $35

Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

And Zo It Ends...

Zenyatta, who just missed stretching her career win streak to a perfect 20 for 20 in the Breeders' Cup Classic by the slimmest of margins to Blame, has been retired and will be at Lane's End Farm starting in December. Zenyatta was very nearly a perfect racehorse. She joins Man O'War and Native Dancer and the great ones that have just that one blemish on their otherwise sterling records. Ironically enough, Zenyatta and Native Dancer both lost in the shadow of the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs.

So, now comes the deliberation. Where does Zenyatta rank on the list of all-time greats? Should she be Horse Of The Year for 2010? What was her impact on the sport? I am not sure about either of the first two questions, but allow me a shot at answering the third one. Her impact on Thoroughbred racing was such that we may never see the likes of it again. CBS's "60 Minutes" dedicated many of those minutes to Zenyatta and her team the week before the Classic. ESPN's ratings for the Breeders' Cup were driven to all-time levels for horse racing on that network due to her presence. Oprah named her one of the most influential ladies of the year. OPRAH!!! When Oprah is on your side, you have most definitely arrived. Some of her fans might have taken their love of this lady way too far, but you can most certainly say that Zenyatta's fans are among the most dedicated this sport has ever seen.

That, of course, is the hope that comes with any great horse that comes down the pike. Those fans that love them to the deepest degree, will that affection translate either to the sport as a whole or to the next superstar that comes along (maybe Uncle Mo in about five or six months)? Will those people carry that zealotry and help bring racing away from the brink? Maybe or maybe not, whatever the ultimate impact of Zenyatta is and whatever her place in history is, she took not only the Mosses, John Shirreffs, and Mike Smith for quite a ride, she took every last one of us for quite a ride. Enjoy your retirement, Zenyatta!!! Honestly, I don't know if anyone ever did it better.

Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Grade 1 $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup

Now that all the hullabaloo from the 27th Breeders' Cup World Championships is starting to dissipate, it is high time to get back to the business of trying to find a winner in the big races for this weekend. The race I selected is the Grade 1 $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup with what appears to be a hyper-competitive group of eight going 1 1/2 miles. Here is the analysis:

My top choice in the Hollywood Turf Cup will be #7 Temple City. I expect there to be some pressure on the front end from a couple of the others in here, but he has hit the board twice in three lifetime grass starts at Hollywood Park and his last victory came at this distance, albeit over the polytrack at Del Mar in the Grade 3 Cougar II Handicap on July 30. By the way, Joe Talamo was aboard for that win and gets the ride again today. For second, I will go with #2 Treat Gently, who will likely be a lukewarm favorite in this race. She caught a wide trip in her last effort at Belmont in the Turf Classic and remained in contention until the bitter end, when she ended fourth. However, she was less than three lengths off the winner on that occasion. Her last workout at Hollywood covered three furlongs in 36 2/5 seconds. A mare taking on the boys here might be too much to ask as well. I am not sure what kind of race my third choice, #1 Worth Repeating, is going to run. Is he going to go to the front and open up a large margin like he did last time when he gave it up late to lose by a nose or is he going to sit just off the pace and try to rally late? He seemed adept at the latter until the Clement Hirsch, when he didn't fire and ended up seventh. Rafael Bejarano got this colt in-the-money the last four times they were paired together. Finally, I will use #5 Where's The Remote, who finished less than a length off of Champ Pegasus in the Hirsch. We all know that Champ Pegasus came back in the Breeders' Cup Turf to run a heck of a race to finish second to Dangerous Midge after setting the pace the whole way. Mike Smith gets the riding assignment. Here is the play for the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup:

$5 WP #7
$1 EX BOX 1-2-7
$1 TRI 7 WITH 1-2-5-6
TOTAL- $34

Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gold Standard

We cannot overlook the most impressive accomplishment from the 2010 Breeders' Cup, even with all the hoopla from the dramatic Classic, the revelation that was Uncle Mo in the Juvenile and his Triple Crown chances going forward, and the unfortunate circumstances that have led to controversy with Life At Ten, who should not have run in the Ladies' Classic. No, the most impressive accomplishment from the 2010 Breeders' Cup is that we now have the single greatest performer in Breeders' Cup history right in our midst. Goldikova made it three in a row on Saturday with another epic victory in the Mile, becoming the first horse ever to win the same Breeders' Cup race in three consecutive years.

Her trainer, Freddie Head, has now been connected with the winner in five total Breeders' Cup Mile races. He was the jockey on the great Miesque in 1987 and 1988 when she went back-to-back in same race. Now, as a trainer, he has gone himself one better. Goldikova broke well in the Mile and settled into mid-pack on the outside. This was a departure from her win in 2009, when she came from well out of it to run down the rest of the field and win going away. This time, she was in the clear with a furlong to go and when rider Olivier Peslier asked to go, did she ever go? She absolutely flew past everyone in what many called the best overall field to go the post that day and won by about two lengths. She really could have called out whatever reasonable margin she wanted to and done that also.

Here is the best part of the story, folks. She is coming back to try in again in 2011. That's right, even after making history, her connections are coming back for more. Her owners waited to make sure she came out of the race OK and when they found out she did, they announced to the world that we will be able to see her try for a FOUR-PEAT in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Considering that she has only missed the top three in just one of her twenty-one starts and was the winner in fifteen of them, she certainly has given us a lot. I think we are just happy to still be able to take from her for another year. By the way, maybe Seth Hancock was right and the race for Horse Of The Year was won by Blame on Saturday night in the Classic, but I think there was another realistic candidate that had run just a couple of hours before and she now has won just one less Breeders' Cup race in her career than Blame has won just races this year. Goldikova would be a tremendous choice for Horse Of The Year, even if it was her only start in North America in 2010. She deserves it as much as anyone else.

Here is the link to watch Goldikova win her third straight Breeders' Cup Mile: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOcsc94rGSo
Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now I am Gone.., GOODBYE!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Mine That Bird

The 2009 Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird, was not one of the bigger stories on Saturday at the Breeders' Cup. He would end up finishing tenth in the Dirt Mile. It was his ninth consecutive defeat since that magical First Saturday In May, when he came from hopelessly out of the race to run past the entire field and win the Derby by 6 3/4 lengths at odds of 50-1. It now appears that Mine That Bird just happened to catch lightning in a bottle and happened to run his best three races of his career in a five-week span that encompassed the Triple Crown of 2009.

Remember, after his stunning victory at Churchill Downs, he very nearly corralled the Horse Of The Year, Rachel Alexandra, in the Preakness, falling just a length short. He was very much a factor in the Belmont Stakes in 2009 also, ending up third behind the Champion Three-Year-Old, Summer Bird. He was never able to recapture that glory again though and the losing streak began to become a problem for his connections. The owners, Double Eagle Ranch, made the crucial mistake of taking the horse away from trainer Chip Woolley and turning him over to D. Wayne Lukas. This came after the equally crucial mistake of taking the mount away from Derby-winning jockey, Calvin Borel. I understand how you can make hasty decisions in the midst of a pressure-packed losing streak, but sometimes patience is best used when it comes to a winning team that is not performing up to expectations. Keep in mind that the Yankees didn't start winning World Series titles again until George Steinbrenner hired Joe Torre as manager and then left him in that position for more than a decade.

The breakup of the Mine That Bird team also took away from the captivating story behind the horse. We all know about Woolley vanning the horse across the country to get to Kentucky on a broken leg and we all remember him hobbling around Churchill Downs on his crutches. Who can forget Calvin Borel becoming so emotional after his magnificent ride on the gelding in the Derby? Finally, those owners in the Winner's Circle looking just as shocked as everyone else in Kentucky that day was absolutely priceless. In case you want to know more about that story, by the way, there are stories floating around the Internet that there is a Mine That Bird movie in the works. The Canadian Press says that Jim Wilson, director of "Dances With Wolves", and Tony Mark, executive produced of "The Hurt Locker", are on board with the project. Plans are for the movie to go into pre-production in February.

Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Monday, November 08, 2010

That's Why It's A Classic

Where do I begin when talking about the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic? Well, I guess I can state the obvious first. Zenyatta was defeated by a devastatingly narrow margin by Blame under the lights of Churchill Downs on Saturday in what must go down as the greatest Breeders' Cup Classic of all 27 that have been run. The rush of excitement that racing fans, non-racing fans, and anyone else that watched that race felt reverberated around the sporting world for the last two days. There were discussions about Zenyatta's loss on Around The Horn, Pardon The Interruption, Sportscenter, and other media outlets that normally treat horse racing as a leper that gets covered only as a last resort. Zenyatta and her performance were that transcendent. She ran her greatest race in the one race she did not win.

Let us not ignore the winner either. Blame held off quite possibly the greatest horse of the last ten years by digging in and gutting out a final furlong for the ages with everyone watching at the track and on television rooting for him to fail. I had winning tickets on Blame and I found myself rooting for the mare to make the special kind of history we all wanted her to. Blame will most likely be voted Horse Of The Year in light of the victory and also in light of the fact that he beat the horse that he will most likely be pitted against in the voting, however scant the margin. He was truly a champion in victory, even if Claiborne Farms' Seth Hancock did not distinguish himself in the post-race press conference by declaring Blame Horse Of The Year and almost being dismissive of Zenyatta and her tremendous effort.

That effort is what will make this Classic the most classic of all the Classics. The first time under the Twin Spires, it appeared that Zenyatta might have had a problem or something that might have caused her to be pulled up and out of the race. She was that far behind the rest of the Classic field. Jockey Mike Smith (who was as gracious in the post-race aftermath as Seth Hancock was not) called on Zenyatta to get into the action a little earlier than usual and she responded to his urging and clawed her way back into contention as the field moved on the far turn. By the time they hit mid-stretch, Blame and Zenyatta had put all of the competition behind them and had the race to themselves. The near-hysterical crowd was pleading with Zenyatta to get there and win and end her career as The Perfect Horse. She couldn't quite make it and settled for the lone second of her tremendous career. But, you know something, she finally was able to convince all the nay-sayers that she was one helluva racehorse with her character, grace, and magnificence in defeat.

It is hard to believe that Zenyatta will likely never be voted Horse Of The Year. She would have been a longshot candidate in 2008 when she won the Ladies' Classic and in 2009, she ran into the dream season of Rachel Alexandra. In 2010, she came as close as she would ever come and lost the award by a nose. She now becomes like Stirling Moss, who is considered one of the greatest drivers in Formula One history, but never won the F1 Championship. She now becomes like Rocket Richard, the Montreal Canadiens legendary goal-scoring ace, who never won an NHL scoring championship. She will probably never be Horse Of The Year, but she certainly has been the horse of the last three years and for me, that's good enough.

Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!
Photo courtesy of tsn.ca

Friday, November 05, 2010

Saturday's Breeders' Cup Selections

Since I opened the blog yesterday, it only seems fair to give Martha Claussen the honors today, so:
My day began well with Eldaafer ($23) winning and ended with a nice victory by my top pick, Unrivaled Belle ($17). Of course, the big highlight of the day was Calvin Borel going "Bo-serk" in the winner's circle against one of my fave riders, Javier Castellano. It brought back fond memories of my days at Sam Houston when I was poised, microphone in hand, to do a post-race interview and barely missed getting knocked out in a slugfest between two riders. I certainly understand how emotions can run high, and have ALWAYS been vocal of my praise as jockeys as underrated athletes. Let's just pray that ESPN does not replay the Borel incident (another) 2 million times on Saturday. So, now it is on to Saturday.

The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf
The Euro invaders didn't really show a whole heck of a lot on Friday, but I will stick with it and take #5 Master Of Hounds here. First-time Lasix and a most impressive Racing Post rating in the last Group 1 make him the choice. #9 Soldat has never been worse than second in four lifetime starts and got his only win in a Grade 3 with Alan Garcia in the irons.

I think the Todd Pletcher trainee Pluck might be sitting on a big race. He rallied for the win in a Grade 3 at Woodbine and has had a series of nice works at Churchill. European trainer John Gosden has won the last two editions of this stakes; his colt, Utley faced tough company at Longchamp on October 3; would be no surprise.

Pluck, Utley, Master of Hounds, Mantoba

The Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint
Two of the last three Beyer figures for #5 Smiling Tiger have been in the 100s. He posted a bullet workout at Churchill Downs on October 30, going five furlongs in 58.3 seconds. Russell Baze was up for the win last out and gets the ride Saturday. #1 Big Drama finished within three lengths of Majesticperfection, who would have been the favorite here if he had stayed healthy. He also was within a length of hot horse Here Comes Ben, who goes later in the Dirt Mile.

West coast invader Smiling Tiger has two Grade 1 wins in the last four months and fired a bullet work at Churchill on October 30. Riley Tucker from the Steve Asmussen barn posted a 110 Beyer speed figure in his Churchill stakes win last May. Not too keen on the two favorites and remember that longshot Dancing in Silks ($52) won this last year.

Smiling Tiger, Riley Tucker, Atta Boy Roy, Big Drama

The Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint
#5 Silver Timber rallied to win the Grade 3 Woodford last time out. This will be his second start off the layoff. Also, eight of his thirteen lifetime wins have come at this distance. #11 Grand Adventure led at the five furlong point of the six furlong Nearctic at Woodbine on October 16. If you can get 12-1 on Grand Adventure, that is like stealing in this spot.

Rose Catherine takes on the boys today. Todd Pletcher trainee has been almost perfect in 2010 with five wins from six starts. Her running style is to take the lead and fly so if she is not at her best, closers Silver Timber, with Julian Leparoux aboard, or Woodbine shipper Grand Adventure have a shot.

Rose Catherine, Silver Timber, Grand Adventure, Quick Enough

The Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile
The favorite in this spot will be #7 Uncle Mo and he deserves the honor. If he runs up to either of his last two performances, he should be the winner. There will be some speed to challenge him here, but I just think he is faster than the rest. If he should falter in a pace battle, how about a juicy closing longshot with #9 Rogue Romance? Julien Leparoux has been hotter than anything on the track lately and gets the call on this Smarty Jones offspring going turf-to-dirt.

Who could forget the Godolphin longshot who won last year and paid $63? Most everyone as Vale of York never made it onto the Derby trail.. But they are back with the undefeated Biondetti once again with the unheralded jockey Ahmed Ajtebi in the irons. Will be interesting to see how another undefeated colt Murjan stakes up against this caliber of 2-year-olds. He has won his three races in Peru by a combined 27 lengths and will be ridden by top California jock, Rafael Bejarano.

Biondetti, Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty, Murjan

The TVG Breeders' Cup Mile
I think this is clearly the best race on the card and as such, I will favor the horse that has been the best of the best the last two years, #10 Goldikova. She has won four of five starts in 2010 and ran second in the other race two back at Deauville. She will be the first three-time winner of any Breeders' Cup race if she pulls this one off. If she doesn't, I think the horse that ran second to her twice this year, #6 Paco Boy, gets a table-turning win here.

Two-time defending champion, Goldikova (IRE) is strictly the one to beat. She drew a wide post last year and was still able to split foes and get up just in time. Gio Ponti finished second to Zenyatta in the 2009 BC Classic. Clement trainee has won $4.6 million and multiple turf graded stakes; deserves respect. Going back to 2006, the last time the BC was held at Churchill Downs, Miesque's Approval ($50) defeated the Euros and maybe Get Stormy is the spoiler this year.

Goldikova, Gio Ponti, Sidneys Candy, Get Stormy

The Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile
#7 Thiskyhasnolimit ran second to Lookin At Lucky in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby over a sloppy track at Indiana Downs last time out and won the Smarty Jones at Philadelphia two races back. His only try at a mile came at Churchill Downs in the Grade 3 Iroquois and it was a victory. #2 Tizway is a son of two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Tiznow. He posted a 105 Beyer last time out at Belmont in a win in the Grade 2 Kelso. In fact, all three 2010 Beyers have been in the 100s.

Two sons of BC Classic winner Tiznow stand out in the Dirt Mile. We all know that Nick Zito is most dangerous when he flies under the radar and he saddles Morning Line and Cool Coal Man. Morning Line dazzled at Saratoga and won his graded stake debut. Tizway was impressive in his Kelso victory on October 3.

Morning Line, Tizway, Here Comes Ben, Thiskyhasnolimit

The Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf
No winner of the Arc de Triomphe has ever returned after that win to win the Breeders' Cup Turf in the previous 26 runnings. I don't think it happens here either, but I will take the horse that ran fourth behind Workforce in #7 Behkabad. He won his prior two efforts at this distance at Longchamp in a Group 1 and Group 2. I also think that #2 Winchester deserves a long look in here. He always gives an honest effort and won the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational last time out at Belmont on October 2.

Debussy (IRE) from the barn of John Gosden did not run in the Arc de Triomphe like Workforce and Behkabad, but he did win the Grade 1 Arlington Million in the U.S. in August. The Arc winners are always short prices, and have not won the BC Turf to date, but with just eight horses in the field, Workforce could reverse that trend.

Debussy,Workforce, Behkabad, Telling

The Breeders' Cup Classic
I am going to be The Grinch and tell you that I don't think that Zenyatta is going to win here. I know I said that last year and she proved me wrong. You know what, I hope she proves me wrong again this year. I would love nothing more than for her to win. However, I will be betting on #5 Blame, who only had one misstep this season in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, when he ran second behind the pacesetter, who was able to steal away to an insurmountable lead on the far turn. That pacesetter was #3 Haynesfield, who could get a similar scenario in here in no one goes with him to the front. Quality Road might, but Quality Road also might freak out in the gate again like he did last year.

Zenyatta has been an inspiration and joy to watch. To complete her career with a perfect 20 for 20 enshrines her as one of the greatest of all time, and racing needs a heroine right now. I'll be rooting for her, but would be remiss in not reviewing some of the upsets in recent BC Classic history: Raven's Pass ($29) in 2008; Pleasantly Perfect ($30) in 2003 and Volponi ($89) in 2002. Tiznow was the last champion with back to back wins in 2000 and 2001. I can't identify a bonafide longshot to play, but think Lookin at Lucky could easily play the spoiler; big Beyers and Baffert.

Zenyatta, Lookin at Lucky, Blame, Haynesfield

Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Friday Breeders' Cup Selections

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, so sang Andy Williams many years ago. Of course, Andy was referring to the holiday season. I am referring to the Breeders' Cup World Championships to be conducted on Friday and Saturday beneath the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Here are the selections for the Friday races from myself and They Are Off frequent contributor, Martha Claussen. I am following last year's lead and giving out two horses that I fancy in each race, while Martha is giving out four selections per race. Why the different approaches to the races? Well, Martha didn't want to limit herself to two horses per race, so there:

The Breeders' Cup Marathon
I will go with the Calvin Borel horse in here, #12 A.U. Miner. I think the longer the race, the better this horse will perform. It is also his second start off the layoff. #9 Bright Horizon won a two-mile race at The Curragh in Ireland as his last prep race before coming over to North America. I also think if they get any moisture in the track, it could benefit this Euro invader.

Could it be a repeat for Euro-trainer extraordinaire, Aidan O'Brien? He scored with Man of Iron ($14.80) last year in the Marathon and Bright Horizon (GB) could find similar good fortune this year at Churchill Downs. Prince Will I Am has won his last two with impressive closing kicks, but tacks on eight more pounds, so adding to the streak is no lock.

Bright Horizon, Prince Will I Am, Eldaafer, Precision Break

The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
#13 Together could have everything together for a win under John Murtaugh on Friday. She has not won since a Group 3 score at Leopardstown in July, but her last two races show improvement and I think her running style will assist her here. #8 Wyomia won a Grade 3 last time out and is working a two-race win streak entering this try. Rafael Bejarano gets the ride.

The morning line favorite, Winter Memories is undefeated for trainer James Toner, but there are many other price horses that match her talent. New Normal had a sharp five furlong drill at Woodbine and front-runner may rocket from the gate and hold off the closers. Ken McPeek had a tremendous Keeneland meet and his filly, Kathmanblu looks live at 10-1. Julian Leparoux is superb on the turf and this filly loves to come off the pace.

New Normal, Kathmanblu, Wyomia,Winter Memories

The Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Filly And Mare Sprint
This is where I think all hell is going to break loose on Friday afternoon. My top choice in here with be 20-1 morning-line choice, #9 Switch. She is one of the several horses to give the great Zenyatta all she could handle this year. She also has been working tremendously at Churchill Downs. If it comes up wet as expected, I think that a 30-1 shot, #6 Moontune Missy, could be a surprise winner. She scored a win in the slop at six furlongs at Belmont Park in late September.

Defending champion Informed Decision returns but seems to do her best running on synthetic surfaces. Rightly So is a seven furlong specialist, and despite the outside post, she looks tough. Switch looks sneaky good for trainer John Sadler. She ran second to Zenyatta in the Lady's Secret; if she can run as well on dirt as synthetic, she could be a huge price.

Rightly So, Switch, Informed Decision, Moontune Missy

The Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies
I am looking for a Frankie Dettori flying dismount after #2 Theyskens' Theory wins this race on Friday afternoon. I think she will be the speed of any speed in this spot and she is also exceptionally well-bred. #12 Tell A Kelly should be flying towards the end of this one. I am sort of discounting the loss in the Oak Leaf after she was in trouble most of the way. There is a rider change to Calvin Borel on Friday.

Just have a feeling that Canadian trainer Mark Casse could have a really good showing at Churchill Downs. His filly, Delightful Mary ran a game second in a Grade III at Woodbine and check out the bullet work at Churchill on October 25. Theyskens' Theory ran in a Group 1 at Ascot and gets Lasix for her US debut with Frankie Dettori aboard. Interesting!

Delightful Mary, Theyskens' Theory, A Z Warrior, Jordy Y

The Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly And Mare Turf
I backed #7 Midday as the winner of this race last year and I am doing it again this year. She won three straight before stopping her schedule to come over to North America. All of those races were Group 1s, by the way. I think that 8-1 is very generous on #3 Miss Keller in this spot. She has a win and a second in her last two over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course at Woodbine.

Defending champion Midday is one talented turf mare. She has bankrolled $2 million and won her last three Group 1 stakes in Europe. Miss Keller has been impressive for trainer Roger Attfield and gets the riding services of my fave turf jock, Javier Castellano

Midday, Miss Keller, Plumania, Keertana

The Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic
Much as I hate to admit, I think this race is likely to be a chalk-fest. My top selection will be #1 Life At Ten. I think she has been the most impressive performer at the end of the season with her only loss coming in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at 1 1/4 miles. She won't be going that far here. #10 Blind Luck was the star early in the season with a victory in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill earlier this year.

This is a tough race and I am not sure that the favorite Blind Luck, can overcome her far outside post. Unrivaled Belle bested Rachel Alexandra at Churchill and could be sitting on another good effort for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Acoma, at 20-1, could pull the upset. Mare is a million dollar earner, is two for two at Churchill and reunites with the resurgent Robby Albarado.

Unrivaled Belle, Blind Luck, Acoma, Life at Ten

Remember, They Are Off is not responsible for any wagers placed in conjunction with these wagers. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again tomorrow for a look at the Saturday Breeders' Cup races. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The 1986 Breeders' Cup Classic

1986 was maybe the greatest year in sports we have ever seen. The Chicago Bears completed their greatest season ever with a 46-10 shellacking of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. Jack Nicklaus shot 65 on Sunday to come from way back to win The Masters at age 46. Bill Shoemaker also managed to turn back the clock one more time and score a fourth Derby victory aboard Ferdinand (who is the last horse to win the Derby from the #1 post position). The baseball playoffs were unbelievable from the get go, with the Red Sox one strike away from elimination rallying to win the American League Championship Series over snakebitten Gene Mauch and the California Angels. The Mets and Astros engaged in maybe the greatest baseball game ever played in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series to send the Mets to the World Series, where they then defeated the Red Sox after being one strike away from elimination themselves.

Ferdinand would have his moment in the Breeders' Cup sun one year later in 1987. However, in 1986 the Breeders' Cup made its first journey to the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains in California and beautiful Santa Anita Park. The actual star of the day would turn out to be Lady's Secret, winner of the Distaff. She would be voted Horse Of The Year in 1986 following her win in the Distaff, which came after wins in the Ruffian, Beldame, Whitney. Molly Pitcher, and Shuvee. It was an incredible season for Lady's Secret, but she still had to hold off Turkoman for the honors. Turkoman had won the Oaklawn Handicap, The Marlboro Cup, and the Widener leading up to the Cup. If he would have won the Classic, he might have been able to take Horse Of The Year away from the Distaff winner. Turkoman would have to settle for second in the Breeders' Cup Classic, as Laffit Pincay Jr. gave us a demonstration of top-notch race riding. He sent lightly considered Skywalker to the front and then settled back to let Herat set the pace, but Skywalker was never more than a length away from the lead. Once Skywalker took the lead, the horse never looked back. Skywalker won by a length and a half from Turkoman and third place went to the 1985 Sprint Champion, the versatile Precisionist. Turkoman would still be named Champion Older Male Horse in 1986.

It would be the greatest moment in the career of Skywalker, who was named for Star Wars hero, Luke Skywalker, by the son of the owner. He would win eight of twenty starts in his career, compiling earnings of $2,226,750. If you would like to watch Skywalker's victory in the 1986 Breeders' Cup Classic, here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EONZMClsuPQ.

Tune in to They Are Off tomorrow for Friday's Breeders' Cup selections. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Before We Forget...

Yes, I know that the big news of the day is the draw for all the Breeders' Cup races. I will comment quickly that I didn't think much of the draw Quality Road got in the Classic. He will likely load first and have to wait in the gate while the remainder of the field will load. If you remember last year's Classic, Quality Road freaked out during his load and had to be scratched. Hopefully, he will be better behaved this year, but that wait in the gate might prove costly.

Anyway, on to the news I meant to discuss before everyone gets too hysterical over the Breeders' Cup (and believe me, I am already searching for oxygen having to wait three more days), Super Saver has been retired. The 2010 Kentucky Derby winner, trained by Todd Pletcher, has been retired to stud at WinStar Farm. He joins 2009 winner Mine That Bird as a Derby winner unable to win another race following his triumph in the Run For The Roses. While Mine That Bird will go in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile this weekend, Super Saver is getting ready to pass along his genes to a new generation.

Super Saver finished eighth in the Preakness and fourth in the Haskell following his Derby triumph. Clearly, he was not the same horse in those two starts that he was in the Derby. Was it the injury that forced him to retire or was Super Saver just a fluke winner of the Derby because of the wet track that day that prevented him from returning to the Winner's Circle? Was Mine That Bird or Super Saver a bigger fluke winner of the Derby? I will say that Mine That Bird did run well following his Derby score, he just hasn't returned to the Winner's Circle and he might never. We know for a fact that Super Saver never will. We are left to wonder whether or not Super Saver would even be a Derby winner if it hadn't rained like the Amazon Rainforest over Kentucky on the First Saturday in May. Who knows? What we do know is that Super Saver has moved on, and like Rachel Alexandra before him this year, we will wait to see if he can pass along his ability to his progeny.

Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!
Photo courtesy of DRF.com