Weekend Overview: Another Breeders' Cup in California and another heyday for locals and Europeans. I wonder if the easterners will get a clue next year? I still loved the Breeders' Cup this year but I didn't see any of the changes as positives. Curlin's loss guarantees that for the next 12 months we will hear nothing but complaining over the fact that the Breeders' Cup won't be kind to dirt horses. I suspect the Racing Post and Sporting Life will have a record number of hits from North American's in 2009 looking for Europeans to use next year. Zenyatta's Horse of the Year cause will have significant momentum unless Curlin has a redeeming effort in the Clark or Japan Cup. Goldikova was sublime and I couldn't have enjoyed her race any more. Midshipman and Stardom Bound look like top class juveniles who despite racing only on synthetics would probably be tough on dirt as well. It's a shame that there are big questions over both their 2009 campaigns. Midnight Lute was fantastic in the Sprint, I hope they keep him fit and run him a few more times this campaign to make up for lost time.
Thoroughbred Championship Rankings: Despite his complete failure Curlin manages to hang on to the overall top spot just ahead of Zenyatta. The synthetic experience didn't detract from his overall campaign that much. Zenyatta is lock within her own gender after Ginger Punch's failure to perform. The American Turf Males are the weakest in recent memory. Einstein still holds down top spot in that division. He's the only American Turf male to break 200 points this year. Not since 2001 have we seen such a poor group. If you view the divisional standings in the spreadsheet you'll notice that the Europeans don't show up. That's because those standings are for the year end awards and a horse needs to run 3 times in North America to be eligible. Street Boss is still the #1 sprinter in the nation basically because he's had the fullest and most accomplished campaign. He was obviously not as good as Midnight Lute but his overall campaign is definitely more award worthy. Music Note, despite running an excellent third behind Zenyatta did not do enough to catch Proud Spell in the Three Year Old Female division. In fact Indian Blessing even managed to stay slightly above her in second.
Power Rankings: Again Power Rankings are just an attempt to quantify which horses are better. Goldikova is definitely the best Turf Female and three year old filly to run in North America. Midnight Lute vaults into 8th in the nation with his fabulous Sprint victory. Midshipman is just the third Two Year Old Male to make the top 10 since 1999. War Pass and Johannesburg were the others. He rates behind those two but above all the others in the last decade. The Female Sprinter division is super tight right now with just 0.19 points separating Ventura, Indian Blessing and Intangaroo. I'm not sure if there is another logical race for any of them but it would be nice to see a tiebreaker on another surface.
Performance of the Week: I said in my analysis of the BC Mile that I was really looking for a special performance from Goldikova and I feel that she lived up to every expectation. She was breathtaking. She seemed to have an ideal setup most of the way around but just when the real running began it seemed that she would be denied a clear run. She had to wait for a few precious seconds while defending champion Kip Deville produced his run. For just a moment I feared that the filly might not get it done. But all at once she converted the anxiousness into awe as she kicked to the front with seeming ease. Cornelio Velasquez must have been shocked at how quickly this slight little filly dismantled his hopes of back to back wins on Kip Deville. Superlatives seem inadequate to encapsulate this performance. It was one of the best ever at a Breeders' Cup.
Race of the Week: I would have said the Mile but that race has already been mentioned here. Despite the fact that I don't think they're proper championship events the Juvenile Turf races and the Turf Sprint were fantastic contests to watch. Tight finishes, longshots, swooping late moves. It makes you wonder, if fan enjoyment is the goal, why we just don't have all Turf races. Congrats to the winners and runners up in each of these three events. They put on a scintillating show and these close finishes were probably the only positives that came out of the myriad of changes employed by the Breeders' Cup.
Flop of the Week: There are obviously a few ways this could go. Well Armed was perhaps the biggest equine disappointment. He can't even use the surface as an excuse. He was plainly awful for no apparent reason. Johnny Murtagh was definitely the biggest flop of the weekend because unlike Well Armed he had so many chances to put things right. 10 mounts in the Breeders' Cup and he out-ridden every time. He did finish second twice with turf juveniles but both times he was on the best horse and got out-finished. His ride on Soldier of Fortune was a bad as any ride I've seen at the Breeders' Cup. It simply defied all reason. The average odds of his mounts was 8/1, he rode 3 favorites and got nothing. I'll bet Coolmore wishes there was some way they could get Dettori on their horses. I can't finish this segment without mentioning ESPN's broadcast. It was hands down, the worst Breeders' Cup telecast in history. Moss and Bailey are the only ones whose reputations don't look completely tarnished. Bill Nack was horrifically monotone. Worse than the on air talent was the people who produced the program. From the lack of in depth stories (unless they had to do with the Classic) to the airing of Dutrow's sexist comments the broadcast seemed to do everything it could to miss the mark.
Tip o'the Cap: I'm not if this has been mention much but I wanted to give a special tip o'the cap to three talented fillies: Sky Diva, Music Note and Zaftig. All of them ran third in their respective races which in and of itself is not such a big deal but these three fillies were the only horses to finish in the money in a Breeders' Cup race without prior experience on either turf or a synthetic surface. All three fillies came from the east coast and most east coasters struggled as well. All in all I think they ran huge considering the circumstances and they deserve a little special attention for their efforts.
KC Handicapping: It was a fairly decent week for me. I did not hit as many races as I would have liked but when you get a winner like Desert Code it masks a lot of other poor results. Specialists on the downhill course proves once again to be a pretty profitable angle. Specialists also dominate the Mile. 4 of the 6 horses I identified as the specialists finished in the superfecta. I thought Midshipman was as good as I hoped. I was off the mark in looking to key some speed horses and also in ignoring the Europeans on the main track. I was glad to be profitable on such a tough day.
I'll be reviewing the 20-20 system results later this week.
Cumulative record of selected horses: 23(14)-4-2-4 ($46.80 101.74% ROI)
Overall Record: 647(335)-112-104-88 (-$100.90 -7.80% ROI)