Friday, October 23, 2009

The End Of The Hall

After having some time to think it through I have decided that Kennedy's Corridor has reached it's end. It was just over three years ago, in October of 2006, that I decided to start writing here. Racing was preparing for the Breeders' Cup just as it is today. I was eager to share my thoughts in a space dedicated to them. For the last three years I have sought to bring you informative and original content on this great sport of horse racing.

So why am I choosing to end things now right before the biggest day of the year? Basically I have decided that I no longer want a space dedicated to my opinion. In the beginning, despite the illusion of humility, I think I really wanted a chance to make a name for myself. I wanted to share ideas I had like the Thoroughbred Championship Rankings and the 20/20 systems. Things that were a bit different from what you could get at the mainstream sites.

After three years I think there are a few people in the niche community of online horse racing fans that recognize my name but I no longer consider that an achievement of any sort. I don't want to be a face or name in horse racing. I'm fully content to just be a fan of horse racing. It seems pointless to continue with something that is not directed towards a goal I consider to be valuable.

This doesn't mean I no longer like racing. I will still follow racing as a fan as I have always done. The Breeders' Cup is like a family holiday in my house but I will enjoy it no less because I don't have a blog. I fully enjoyed every Breeders' Cup prior to 2006 and I will continue to do so this year and for many more.

What of my standings? I created them with the intention of proving that it's possible for standings to be accurate and relevant in the sport of horse racing. I imagine that I'll continue to calculate them for my own benefit. It helps me follow racing as a fan.

I'm sure some people will wonder if I'm having some crisis of confidence or bout of depression. Nothing sinister is brewing below the surface. I simply had a revelation that in order to do this blog well (and I have always striven to do this well) I need to dedicate a lot of time to it and I don't think it's a beneficial use of my time. In the world away from this keyboard I have many things that keep me busy but all of them are geared towards more beneficial goals.

I have never been one for dramatic exits but I thought an explanation was due to those who visit this space on a regular basis. In the grand scheme of things our lives will be no worse off for the discontinuance of this space. I want more time to spend on the things that do count in the grand scheme.

Thanks for enjoying the sport along side me these past few years. It's been fun.

Breeders' Cup Top 5

This is the last installment of the Breeders' Cup Top 5 for the Female side. I had already posted my last run down for the male side just in time for Rail Trip (my #1 Classic horse) to be removed from consideration. I'm not going to go back and edit that list but Rip Van Winkle now becomes my #1 and Summer Bird moves back onto the list at #5. The pre-entries are released next week so the next time we talk about these races it will be as we actually handicap them.

October 23rd

Ladies Classic
1. Zenyatta (1)
2. Music Note (2)
3. Careless Jewel (3)
4. Mushka (4)
5. Life Is Sweet (new)

Dropped: Icon Project (5)

Sadly the time came to drop Icon Project from the list. A few weeks ago she was my number one pick for the race but physical issues have basically seen her removed from consideration.

It's the Breeders' Cup so few things are as simple as they look on paper but Zenyatta and Music Note, the 1st and 3rd finishers from last year, look like they're set to have another big match up and all the rest will have to perform well above themselves to compete.
Careless Jewel and Mushka both have talent while being a bit below the standard set by the top two. Careless Jewel is more of a danger because of her speed but the hard closing Mushka could easily hit the board with the right pace and trip.

I've decided to add Life is Sweet to the list at #5 as a replacement for the ailing Icon Project. Really only Cocoa Beach and Lethal Heat got my attention as alternatives for the final spot. Both of them defeated Life is Sweet last time but I think Life Is Sweet is truly a better horse than either of them. She ought to put up a better performance second time off the layoff and realistically the extra sixteenth of a mile will help her. She needs all the ground she can get to run down those leaders.

Filly and Mare Turf
1. Midday (2)
2. Forever Together (3)
3. Pure Clan (4)
4. Rutherienne (new)
5. Dynaforce (new)

Dropped: Dar Re Mi (1), Gozzip Girl (5)

I'm taking a risk and dropping Dar Re Mi because at this stage I only like to list horses for one race and Dar Re Mi is among my top 5 horses for the BC Turf. I think she'll go after that spot instead of this one but she clearly could win this race.

Gozzip Girl has also been removed from consideration because she simply is no where near as good as I supposed she was.

I never thought I'd be going after a habitual loser like Rutherienne but with the defection of Dar Re Mi and the less than invincibility of Forever Together one begins to realize that it may not take that much to be a huge contender here. I really respect Clement as a conditioner and I'm not really fazed by her lack of experience at the distance. Intercontinental didn't look solid at the distance either. She's fresh and in good form. She'll handle the distance and she ought to run very well. The big question with her is can she get over her habit of losing? Her last race suggests that she can.

The lack of depth in this division is nearly enough to make me reconsider my stance on Magical Fantasy. Nearly. I was more drawn to the eastern pair of Dynaforce and Criticism. Criticism is a horse that fully requires added distance. I think she is even better at 11 and 12f than she is at 10f. Quicker horses seem to have more of an advantage even at 10f. Whereas Criticism wants to suck the life out of her rivals with a long and steady gallop. I think a sharp pace down the hill at Santa Anita won't exactly suit.

I settled Dynaforce for my last spot. She ran poorly in the Flower Bowl but she threw a shoe that day and the ground was an absolute bog. She is not the most consistent horse out there but on her best day she's a really good one. She was definitely a better horse last year but I think she could still have a good race in her. She crossed the line 8th in last years event but she didn't have a good trip. She actually got completely shut off in the stretch and had to steady. She still got a 98 Beyer for that. That's equal to Magical Fantasy's best work.

I obviously don't have much respect for the western Turf fillies because I like a European and four Easterners. I suppose time will tell if that bias is misdirected.

Filly and Mare Sprint
1. Ventura (1)
2. Informed Decision (2)
3. Indian Blessing (3)
4. Sara Louise (4)
5. Carlsbad (5)

Not much to add about this division. I think these are the right horses to consider and I don't see much hope for any others. Perhaps a European like Sweet Hearth is a much better horse than I think but I'm not counting on it. She would have to move up quite a bit on form to win this race.

Sometimes a surface does move a horse forward but there is nothing to indicate that Sweet Hearth or the other European Only Green are good candidates for that wager.

Juvenile Fillies
1. Always a Princess (1)
2. She Be Wild (2)
3. Blind Luck (3)
4. Beautician (5)
5. Negligee (new)

Dropped: Awesome Maria (4)

It's too bad Awesome Maria is not coming. I like her as a horse and as a candidate for this race but she won't win a race she's not entered in so we move on.

It came down to Negligee or Devil May Care for the last spot. I went for Negligee for a few reasons. First, she has run around two turns while Devil May Care has only gone around one turn.

The second reason is that she managed to beat She Be Wild whom I rate very highly. Devil May Care beat Awesome Maria whom I like but I think She Be Wild is a better horse right now. That's why I have her at #2 while Maria was #4.

The third reason is the pace. I think the pace might be hot in the Juvenile Fillies and I prefer a horse that can close as opposed to a pace presser.

Recent maiden winner Connie and Micheal is creating a stir because of her 95 Beyer Speed Figure earned at Keeneland but I still think that McPeek's best chance lies with Beautician. It's very hard for big figure maiden winners to step forward after a major performance in their career debut. I think class counts for something and Beautician has class. Ken McPeek said it best himself. Beautician already showed that she's good enough with her performances at Saratoga. The race at Keeneland was to see if she'd stay and if she'd handle the track. I think the answer to both is yes. Her finishing position does not indicate a lack of ability it was really just a result of a poor trip.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gauging Europeans

Two days ago Nick Luck looked to answer the question of which Europeans might be vulnerable at the Breeders' Cup. It's a good question and I thought he wrote out his analysis well. But there is another side to the coin that was not discussed and that is the statistical record of Europeans that fit specific profiles.

Europeans that are favored in Breeders' Cup races don't seem to have any more systematic vulnerability than any other favorites. Favorites have won 67 of the 194 Breeders' Cup races. That's a 34.54% clip. In races where Europeans have been favored the public choice has gone 14 for 45 or 31.11%. The difference is somewhere between negligible and non-existent. European favorites seem to be just as solid but no more solid than hometown favorites.

There is a bit of disparity if you isolate just the favorites that were odds on. North American odds on choices won at a 45.7% rate while European odds on choices managed only 33.3%. You have to take that with a grain of salt though because there have only been 6 European odds on favorites in the history of the Breeders' Cup. If Goldikova happens to be odds on this year and wins the winning percentage would jump to 42% which is right in line. The failed European odds on favorites were often pretty memorable though. Dancing Brave, Zilzal and Dylan Thomas all failed pretty badly.

Another relatively easy way to categorize Europeans is to judge the fresh against the not so fresh. It may be an overly simplistic measurement but look at every European that came to the Breeders' Cup since 1996 that has had more than 3 races since their last layoff. Their overall record is 2 for 48. A caveat to this statistic is the fact that from 1996 to 2007 they were 0 for 36 but last year Raven's Pass and Muhannak both defied the stat. It makes logical sense that a long season without breaks followed by a trip across the ocean may not be the best formula for success.

A third subset of Europeans that we'll examine statistically are those that have come to North America for their final prep before wheeling back in the Breeders' Cup. 34 horses have tried it from 1996 to 2008 and among those 34 a full 10 of them won their preps and 27 of the 34 hit the board. That's nearly an 80% in the money percentage. But when those same horses came back in the Breeders' Cup they have recorded a shocking 34-0-4-3 record. That's no wins and only 20% in the money.

These horses usually attract a fair bit of public support because they've already proven that they can handle American conditions and often they're impressive in the preps. But of the 34 entrants only Docksider, Ace and Banks Hill actually ran better races (ie... achieved an improved finishing position) in the Breeders' Cup than they did in their final preps. None of those three horses won their preps either, nor did they win Breeders' Cup races.

This stat does not include horses like Red Rocks or Winchester last year. Both of those horses did have European careers followed by a single North American race prior to the Breeders' Cup but both of them also had several month layoffs. The theory behind this "Euro bounce" is that a horse does not immediately feel the effects of a intercontinental journey. The adrenaline is still pumping and the jet lag has not set in at the time of their first start. However the arduous activity of a race seems to heighten the post race fatigue and they just can't replicate their form within the next few weeks. Obviously a lengthy spell on the sidelines mitigates this effect.

We've already seen Barry Irwin pull out Gitano Hernando from Classic consideration because of this type of thing. The official story is that he is too tired from his hard race in the Goodwood to wheel back in the Classic. Maybe he knows about the "Euro bounce".

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Track This

Not sold on the usefulness of individual timing or ground loss data? How about this use for Trakus.

From the DRF
"In a lengthy explanation to the Keeneland publicity staff, Michael Ciacciarelli, chief executive officer for Trakus, said Mushka was traveling about 2.2 feet per second faster than Proviso at the time of the foul. Had there been no foul and if the two horses had kept a constant speed for the remaining 380 feet of the race, Mushka would have won by about 1 1/2 lengths, Ciacciarelli said."

Now tell me why this would not be a good thing at every racetrack? I'm not sure if the stewards had this data available to them at the time that made their decision but they could have and in the future I think they should have.

Trakus is an excellent tool that can be used in so many ways. Helping the stewards make decisions about disqualifications is just one of them but that in itself would be enough.

Win And You're No More Likely To Be In

Although Lahaleeb earned a guaranteed spot in the Filly and Mare Turf through her E.P. Taylor victory, Channon expressed skepticism about the Breeders' Cup Win and You're In program, noting the prohibitive fees for horses not nominated to the Cup.

"In that sense," he said, "Win and You're In is a bit misleading."

The excerpt above was taken from the Daily Racing Form and I think Mick Channon has just voiced the sentiment of many people in racing.

Right from the very beginning people questioned the purpose and effectiveness of the "Win and You're In" program. It just didn't make sense. Then there was the issue they had with snubbing the major NYRA races. We were told to give it some time and let it play out but let's look at how it's playing out so far this year.

There were 60 "Win and You're In" qualifying races this year that were won by 58 different horses. Swift Temper and Magical Fantasy were the only horses to win two qualifying races. Here is a list of all the Win And You're In race winners and their likely involvement on Breeders' Cup Day.

So from 58 horses we have just 26 that are likely to run in the race they qualified for.

Tell me, from a marketing perspective, how does Win And You're In really help the Breeders' Cup increase exposure or how does it help fans follow the major contenders for each race?

The Classic division is likely the worst of all. Rip Van Winkle, Gio Ponti, Mastercraftsman and Zenyatta if she comes will have all opted out of the other races they qualified for in order to contest the Classic while only two "WAYI" qualifiers for the Classic will be there.

Win And You're In does not make it easier for fans to follow the buildup to the big day. Nor does it really grant guaranteed entry because supplemental fees have to be paid for some entrants. The races they've chosen are also pretty illogical.

I can certainly think of many more arguments in favor of scrapping the program than I can for keeping it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Breeders' Cup Top 5

All of the major preparation races are over so this week's top 5 rankings will be the last for this years Breeders' Cup. It's kind of useless to be putting out top 5 lists when you could be pouring over the entries making actual selections. Pre-Entries will be drawn sometime next week and from here on in it will be all about workouts, post positions and proposed tactics.

October 20th

1. Rail Trip (1)
2. Rip Van Winkle (2)
3. Mastercraftsman (3)
4. Richard's Kid (new)
5. Einstein (4)

Dropped: Summer Bird (5)

The Classic should be just that this year, although Rachel isn't coming, Sea the Stars is not coming and I think Zenyatta will skip in favor of the Ladies version. The Classic will be deep enough to absorb those losses and still look like a fantastic race. A list of 5 horses isn't long enough to mention all the really great talents that will be on display.

One thing that has really stuck out to me is the record of the sophomores in prep races. Not just for the Classic division but seemingly everyone. Three year olds are doing extremely well against older horses and as time marches on I think that spells bad news for the older crew. Many three year olds are maturing into the horse they're going to be while many older horses like Macho Again or Einstein are simply trying to still be the horses they were.

I know I have an older horse atop my rankings but I think that if Rail Trip can't handle the youngsters no one will. Rail Trip is a horse I have enjoyed following for all his career. I posted about him last December and mentioned that he was a horse worth watching but I never could have imagined that he'd end up being this good. I see him as the horse to beat in the toughest race of the year. We know he loves the track and we know he is capable of sheer brilliance like he showed in the Hollywood Gold Cup. I love the fact that he'll be more fresh than most of his competition as well.

The recent performance by Gitano Hernando makes me even more scared of the Ballydoyle duo of Rip Van Winkle and Mastercraftsman. Gitano may have been an experienced Polytrack horse but his level of talent is no where near what O'Brien's pair are capable of. I hate playing Europeans second time off the plane so Gitano is an out and out toss but it has to make you think that the established class in California will be up against it. So why do I have Richard's Kid on the list? Because I'm naturally contrary to the flow of public sentiment. Everyone will be looking for a European grass horse while I'll still be keeping my eye on a very solid horse who obviously loves synthetic tracks and probably needs 10f to show his best form. I was worried that his Pacific Classic was a fluke but it certainly wasn't. He would have the Goodwood too if it had been 10f. He's a serious horse and Baffert is as good as anyone at preparing horses for big events.

Summer Bird is a major danger. He is one of those improving three year olds but he's an unknown on the surface. I preferred Einstein because he of the surface issue and because Einstein is quietly in very fine form. I know it's bucking the trend to go with three older horses when we can clearly see that the sophomores are gaining tons of ground but I really think that Rail Trip, Einstein and Richard's Kid can give good accounts of themselves.

It may seem like rather weak reasoning but three weeks away from a race much of this type of ranking comes down to a gut feeling. My gut says that that Rail Trip is the horse to beat despite the strong evidence that three year olds and Turf horses are the ones to fear. It's hard to justify a lack of faith in Summer Bird, who looks like a powerhouse. Or Gio Ponti who is my favorite horse in training or even horses like Twice Over or Quality Road but I've decided to stick with these five who I've been pretty high on for months with the exception of Richard's Kid.

1. Spanish Moon (2)
2. Conduit (3)
3. Dar Re Mi (new)
4. Presious Passion (5)
5. Mastery (new)

Dropped: Fame And Glory (1), Kite Wood (4)

Are there really five horses even coming to this race? I'm looking over a list of contenders and most of the horses that people are listing are likely not to come. Grand Couturier endured a nightmare at Santa Anita last year. Why would he come against this year when he is far worse form? Telling is on many people's lists but he's not good enough to be a real factor. It looks as though no horse from the Canadian International will be headed to the Turf. That means that as of now it looks like the Arlington Million, Joe Hirsch, Clement Hirsch and Canadian International will have only produced one or two starters combined: Presious Passion and Telling. That is shocking and unbelievable.

Because of the dearth of quality I expect that Dar Re Mi will in fact target this race instead of the Filly and mare version. Fame And Glory has now surely dropped out of the running while Godolphin have not said a single thing about Kite Wood since the St Leger. With both of those horses being likely non runners it leaves the race wide open to a filly like Dar Re Mi. She already took on the boys in the Arc and was far from disgraced. I think she'll still have a very tough time with Spanish Moon and Conduit but she's a legitimate threat.

Presious Passion is also a horse with a winning chance and the shorter the field the better he'll do. His opponents will be seriously looking at options for pacemakers because aside from Spanish Moon none of the other names floating around have any semblance of speed.

Although he hasn't been mentioned I think Take The Points will show up. Connections should see this as an easy spot to grab some notoriety. Pletcher always likes to have runners on big race days and although Take The Points doesn't really fit in the Turf. He fits here more than anywhere else and this race looks much easier than the Mile.

I decided to go with Mastery for the last spot on the list. I know Godolphin has been talking about the Marathon with this horse but when they get a glimpse of the competition how could choose a $500k ungraded event instead of the Turf? Mastery is a G-1 winner on fast ground and the St. Leger was a successful stepping stone for both Conduit and Red Rocks. The temptation to chase the big prize will probably draw them here and Mastery has a realistic chance because the field lacks depth at the moment.

1. Goldikova (1)
2. Delegator (2)
3. Ferneley (3)
4. Zacinto (4)
5. Court Vision (new)

Dropped: Whatsthescript (5)

Last week when I compiled this list I said that the 5th spot was being reserved for the most impressive horse to emerge from the Shadwell Mile and Oak Tree Mile. I have to admit that now having seen those races I believe that none of those horses are likely to win the Mile. The bar set by horses like Goldikova and Delegator is much too high.

There is plenty to like about Court Vision, Cowboy Cal and Karelian even if you think as I do, that Goldikova will be nearly untouchable. Court Vision seems to be responding very well to his new barn and since his surgery. I expect an improved effort from him on firm ground. I think it's significant that IEAH is holding out Diamondrella from this race because of what they see in Court Vision. If Diamondrella was running in this race she would be near the top of my list. I really wanted to see him run a lifetime best effort in this race to show that a Mile suits him perfectly but I was left with the impression that 9f is still likely his best distance. I went with him because of the intangible feeling that this horse has been sitting on some world class talent since the beginning but that Mott struggled to get it out of him. Dutrow has a way of figuring out horses like that and he may even take a big enough step forward to pull off the upset. Maybe Goldikova won't be untouchable.

Karelian is a very admirable horse who is unquestionably a mile specialist but I think the circumstances are just against him. He is a 7 year old who has been notoriously unfit since the fall of 07'. The Shadwell was an unbelievable performance considering that it was his first of the season and that he is not naturally a speed horse. But my worry is that this old gelding won't be able to gear up again in a month. Performances like that often lead to regression in older horses unless they get a bit more time on the bench. If he had got another start in this year I'd be preferring Karelian to Court Vision.

Cowboy Cal is a classic example of a horse that is good at everything but not great at anything. He wins the races he ought to win because he is tough and classy but when special horses show up against him he always takes a back seat. Cowboy Cal has an excellent chance to hit the board in the BC Mile. He is undefeated at the distance and you could see how stubborn he gets. In races 8f-9f Cowboy Cal is 12-7-4-1. He has only missed the exacta once. The reason I haven't put him on my list is that I'm not trying to pick the horse that will be second or third. I'm looking for horses with the best winning chance. Cowboy Cal is a far steadier prospect than Court Vision but Court Vision has that upside potential that Pletcher's horse just doesn't have. what you see is what you get with Cowboy Cal and it's only going to be good enough for second place at best. At least with Court Vision there is that slim chance that the firm turf could really bring him to life and he'd fulfill that potential connections always saw in him.

1. Fatal Bullet (1)
2. Zensational (2)
3. Gayego (5)
4. Capt. Candyman Can (new)
5. Delta Storm (new)

Dropped: Kodiak Kowboy (3), Hollywood Hit (4)

Like the Turf this race is struggling to find runners but unlike the Turf there is still going to be quite a bit of quality. The loss of Fabulous Strike and Kodiak Kowboy is significant but Zensational, Fatal Bullet and Gayego are all good enough to make this a legitimate championship event.

I have been a strong supporter of Fatal Bullet all year long. I know the hype is with Zensational and that Fatal Bullet has not had a championship caliber campaign. But in a one race situation I still think he is the best synthetic sprinter in the world. He has lost just on synthetic sprint at 6.5f or less and it took the fabulous Midnight Lute to beat him. All of his last 7 races on synthetics have seen him earn triple digit Beyers. Now this doesn't really set him apart from Zensational who is undefeated in synthetic sprints and has also earned triple digit Beyers in every synthetic sprint race he has run. My case for Fatal Bullet is based more on visual impression, the strength of his competition and the fact that he has shown the ability to rate a bit. Zensational is a bit less reserved and he has never faced any horses like the ones he'll be facing in the Sprint.

Gayego has inherited the spot of closer most likely to swoop past the dueling pair of Fatal Bullet and Zensational. The threat of an all out speed duel with those two is very real and with Kodiak Kowboy pulling out of the Sprint it's left to Gayego to run them down. Gayego has exuded class all his life and he is quite effective going longer as well. What I like about him is that he makes winning seem like no big deal. The Ancient Title was a good performance but it seemed like Gayego was only going at workout pace. It took very little for him to sweep to the lead.

Capt. Candyman Can is one of the most admirable horses in training. He has never earned massive figures for his work but he has been nothing but solid all of his life. He has run in 7 sprint races in his career and the only horses to have beaten him fairly are Quality Road and Fatal Bullet. I'm not sure that he can close as effectively at 6f as Gayego can but he'll be another closer looking dangerous in the final furlong.

I was deeply saddened to hear that Hollywood Hit has been suspended for 90 days because he was found to have a tranquilizer in his system during his last race. I must say that I find it odd that the horse himself is barred from running instead of a sanction being brought on the trainer. Either way the BC Sprint has lost a legitimate threat.

Who else is coming to this race? I have no idea to be honest. I'm interested in Crown of Thorns but he's on the fence for this race and even for the Breeders' Cup at all. My feeling is that he is more likely for the Dirt Mile.

I have tossed Delta Storm on the list because he has a decent and consistent record on synthetics. I don't he has a realistic chance of winning and he should be 40/1 but he usually runs his race and the evidence suggests that he's as good as he's ever been. That's probably not good enough but stranger things have happened in racing. All we know is that 6f on a synthetic track fits him well and he's capable of running a good race.

1. Lookin At Lucky (1)
2. Pulsion (2)
3. Aikenite (new)
4. Aspire (5)
5. Noble's Promise (new)

Dropped: Dave in Dixie (3), Dublin (4)

When the Juvenile is hosted in the West it is usually won by a western horse. I have two westerners atop my list although I think that the form is really very close between all these five horses.

Lookin At Lucky and Noble's Promise are both major synthetic prep winners that have good tactical speed and decent figures. They also both come from barns that are excellent with two year olds.

On my list they bookend a trio of classy closers who should all have a big say. Pace meltdowns in the Juvenile are hardly rare. With all those young horses keyed up by the crowds it doesn't take much to wind up with a speed duel. Pulsion has proven that he can close effectively on this track. He is not a stakes winner but he is one of the few non stakes winners that will enter the juvenile having won a two turn race. Biancone has a good one.

I think there is very little to separate Aikenite and Aspire. The reason I have Aikenite a bit higher is that he got the two turn synthetic prep while Aspire got a one turn dirt prep. It was still a route race for Aspire but it just gives me a bit less confidence in him. Aikenite had closed hard in both of his last two G-1 races but he definitely looked better on the Polytrack at Keeneland than he did on the main track at Saratoga.

Aspire might be a bit of a hidden gem because he never really got to run in the Champagne. I thought he was the horse to beat going into that race and coming out of it I think he is the horse with the brightest future. I don't know what synthetics do to his chances but I will definitely be rooting for Aspire in the juvenile.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Weekend Review

Weekend Overview: Woodbine hosted the major action of the weekend and the races provided a good mixture between being formful and downright crazy. I was surprised to see Champs Elysees made the favorite in the Canadian International. I would have thought that Jukebox Jury with his flashy European form would command most of the attention but the public got it spot on. Lahaleed raised some eyebrows with her win in the E.P. Taylor off of very little back form. It's no surprise that she was 44/1 but evidently North America suits her very well because she never would have handled Rainbow View back home. I hope people have noticed that once again the three year olds did so well against their elders. Lahaleeb and Rainbow View completed the exacta in the E.P. Taylor with Eastern Aria running 4th and Jukebox Jury almost won the International for the sophomore class. On the heels of wins by Summer Bird and Gitano Hernando it appears that the older horses are weaker than usual. I was pretty surprised to see Gozzip Girl run as flatly as she did. I overestimated her quality by quite a bit. She's a good horse but pretty ordinary amongst her peers. She won't be a factor in the Breeders' Cup. Jackson Bend raised an eyebrow or two when he won the In Reality at Calder earning a 100 Beyer. He had a tough trip but he overcame the adversity and was very impressive. The steady little Canadian El Brujo won his second consecutive Graded Stakes race south of the border. He doesn't get big figures but he just keeps plodding along. His great form makes the suspension of Hollywood Hit look all the more unfortunate. Hollywood Hit was on a major hot streak, it's a shame to see him sidelined for 90 days because he had a tranquilizer in his system. I know there are differing viewpoints on that subject but I think it's unfair to suspend the horse specifically.

Thoroughbred Championship Rankings: The standings have finally been updated, I missed doing it last week because I was out of town but quite honestly things did not change as much as I thought they might. Zenyatta confirmed herself as the Older Female to beat. The Older Males lost yet another race to the three year olds in the Goodwood and Magical Fantasy continued to dominate the west coast turf. Forever Together is now forced into a position where she definitely has to win the BC Filly and Mare Turf if she wants to be champion again. Magical Fantasy has built up too much of a lead otherwise. Gayego burst onto the Male Sprinters scene and suddenly has a mathematical chance of reaching first place. The BC Sprint will be a major determining factor as it should be but sadly Fatal Bullet's meager campaign leaves him out of the running.

Power Rankings: Perhaps the tightest division right now is the Two Year Old Female division. There really isn't much to separate the best from the rest. There is a difference of just 3.42 from 1st to 5th. Nearctic winner Field Commission is sneaking up the sprinter standings. A good showing in the BC Turf Sprint may actually make him one of the year's top 5 sprinters. Girolamo is also among the upwardly mobile. He is now just 6th among active Three Year Old Males. It looks like there is more to come from this Godolphin colt as well.

Performance of the Week: There is no question that Jackson Bend was the most impressive performer of the week. If you have not seen the In Reality Stakes then go to Thoroughbred Times and check it out. This site, in case you weren't aware, has free links to stakes races both graded and ungraded. Jackson Bend was looking for a sweep of the Florida Stallion series but it looked unlikely after he went down to his nose soon after the break. Young horses rarely come back from that but he regained his rhythm pretty quickly and was in a good stalking position down the backside. Jeffrey Sanchez likely went for home a bit prematurely around the far turn and Jackson Bend again looked in real trouble as Thank U Phillipe came right up beside him near the 1/8th pole. But Jackson Bend fended off the challenge and went on to win by nearly 3 lengths! It was an unbelievable race, certainly the best route performance by any 2yo this year. The 100 Beyer figure confirms the class of the event. It's the highest number earned by a juvenile going two turns. Jackson Bend has now won 5 of 6 starts and is the only horse to have defeated D'Funnybone. Put him on your short list of horses to watch in the future.

Race of the Week: I thought the Nearctic Stakes was the most engaging of the weekend. Turf sprints tend to always be a little hectic and this one was no exception. Maybe I liked the race so much because of the good performances by Field Commission and Jungle Wave. I have a soft spot for these two Canadian based sprinters. Field Commission made an excellent move in the stretch to come between horses then flash by the dueling leaders. Maybe a few of these will turn up at Santa Anita in a few weeks. I don't think they'd be too over matched.

Flop of the Week: I think it likely has to be Gozzip Girl or Look Here. Gozzip Girl was facing a very ordinary cast of 3yo fillies and she had previously suggested that she was a great deal more than ordinary. That illusion is certainly dispelled. Look Here just never raised a hoof in the E.P Taylor. Here is a filly that won the Epsom Oaks, finish third against 3yo males in the St Leger and had been narrowly denied in a pair of tough graded stakes against older males. So what happens when she faces the softest field since her second career race? She runs next to last.

Tip O'the Cap: A horse I have been hard on for virtually all his career is Champs Elysees. He was bred to be a great one and I suppose it was the weight of expectation that resulted in the perception that he was an underachiever. But now with his career now ended I think he deserves a bit of a salute. The Canadian International was likely his greatest performance. He closed with a lot of determination to get Jukebox Jury. He may have only won six times but he struck three times at the G-1 level. All in all he was a solid performer. He was not in the same bracket as his illustrious siblings but 3 G-1 wins is a good haul for any horse. His racing career was not one that will attract breeders but the blood that flows through his veins could only be described as royal blue. I wish him the best of luck at stud.