Weekend Overview: Racing continues to limp into the new year with a fairly low key weekend. Some of the biggest news was the retirement of top Derby hopeful Street Hero, as well as the possible Breeders' Cup disqualification for Wait A While because of a drug overage, oh and don't forget the ever present reminders of just how much handle has declined. Racing isn't exactly evoking holiday cheer. But for those of us who just like to focus on the horses in motion there were a few bright spots as always. It was a great weekend for Calder as both their turf stakes wound up being cracking events and the top Calder juvenile, Big Drama, took his act on the road and scooped up the Delta Jackpot. I have to show a little love for the diminutive Briecat who repelled a bid from the imposing Model to score her first Graded Stakes win. Briecat has had a quietly effective year winning three stakes races and five of her ten starts overall.
Thoroughbred Championship Rankings: Champs Elysees broke his way into the top 10 with his second Grade 1 victory of the season. There is something about the thought of this horse being in the top 10 that just doesn't sit right with me but I think it's more a reflection of all the horses we've seen this year. Aside from some spectacular females the overall quality this season has been poor. None of the horses that Champs Elysees has beaten on the grass this year have even broken the 100 point mark.
Power Rankings: Rankings remain virtually unchanged. From 4th to 7th in the Turf division there is quite a bottle neck. The Power Rankings suggest that to date there is less than a point separating Champs Elysees, Ever A Friend, Kip Deville and Dancing Forever. Kip Deville has the chance to vault above his rivals in Hong Kong this weekend but that's a very tough ask.
Performance of the Week: No one really caught the eye as a fantastic overachiever. Perhaps Briecat in the Bayakoa just because she is still a little three year old filly and Model is a horse who even managed to press Zenyatta a bit earlier in the year.
Race of the Week: I have always said it and I'll keep saying it. If you want to really enjoy racing start watching a lot of turf races. If that doesn't get your blood up then you don't like racing. The Tropical Turf was this weeks excellent exhibition of what is still right with racing. Two horses absolutely throwing it down in the stretch. Soldier's Dancer just missing Spice Route by the faintest of margins at the line. I don't think I managed to exhale once while watching.
Flop of the Week: It might be harsh to give it to Terrain so I'll give it to his camp. Putting blinkers on a generally successful horse and then riding a late closer like a speed horse was a questionable tactic and it failed badly. Terrain looked all out of sorts and seemed to tire in a race that shouldn't have stretched his stamina much at all. For those who liked him as a Derby horse (myself included) this is not necessarily the time to jump ship. Remember even Funny Cide had a debacle in the Holy Bull Stakes before regrouping for a run at the Triple Crown. We won't know if Terrain is actually overrated until we see him on a proper track using his old tactics.
Tip O'the Cap: Greg Gilchrist is a pretty amazing trainer. He doesn't have high priced stock, for the most part he's picking out horses that others have completely passed over but in just the past few years he's had Lost In the Fog, Smokey Stover, Indyanne and now Wild Promises. All of these horses win as a habit and Wild Promises recorded her 11th win in 16 starts in the My Charmer at Calder. She has now taken 5 stakes races in a row and aside from her wonderful winning record she has never been out of the money and has only been worse than second once. She's unexposed, having raced mostly in Northern California, but Gilchrist is doing a great job of managing a filly who could just as easily have a record like Jade Queen's (0 for her last 12) if she was campaigned differently.
KC Handicapping: Four selections in three races and just one second to show for it. Although it was an extremely tight second. Soldier's Dancer missed by the smallest of margins where I thought he was the best horse. Oh well, not my first tough beat and it won't be my last. The rest of my picks were terrible although I did take some solace in the fact that I rightly went against Rutherienne and that one of my four horses who I deemed fast enough got the job done. Trouble was I decided not to bet on her so my only reward is the slightly sick satisfaction of a cynic. Perhaps I should just limit myself to picking horses who will lose.
Cumulative record of selected horses: 4(3)-0-1-0 (-$8.00 -100% ROI)
Overall Record: 669(352)-114-108-91 (-$123.70 -9.25% ROI)