- BC: Familiar Storylines Highlight, Mar Cup
By Steve Byk
At the Races and Beyond
LOUISVILLE, KY -- Breeders' Cup, the day that racing likes to bill as its' greatest, once again offered the stories that regularly thrill, and all too frequently chill, those that are captivated by the intoxicating game. Saturday at Churchill Downs, stunning upsets, heroic efforts and a tragic breakdown demonstrated all the passions and pathos and range of emotions that keep horse lovers coming back whether hardened punters or starry-eyed admirers of the pageant.
With the day moving inexorably towards a showdown between Bernardini and a host of possible upsetters, the breakdown of the Phipps' Pine Island entering the backstretch in the Distaff, brought the joyful element of the preceedings to a grinding halt. And as the ambulance reached the stricken Alabama-Gazelle winner and shaken Javier Castellano, co-favorite Fleet Indian was being pulled up with an injury by Jose Santos. While Fleet Indian's mishap turned out only to be career-ending, Pine Island's quickly turned out to be life-ending.
Up to that point in the day, a typical parade of intriguing and stunning results had the crowd of 75,000 in a happy mood on a day that turned out be chilly, bright and pleasant. And while the public might not have known it, much of the events which were to unfold had been seriously influenced before the first horses entered the gate. Track management had earlier in the day scraped the track which resulted in a hard, dry surface that would heavily impact any of the day's main track results, and may have contributed to the day's most unhappy result.
DREAMS COME TRUE
To get things started, Frank Calabrese's Dreaming of Anna kicked off the festivities with a wire-to-wire Juvenile Fillies performance that quickly placed her alongside the long line of dominant winners in the event here like Flanders and Silverbulletday.
Word had clearly spread on the special qualities of the Rahy daughter who was bet down to 5-2 by post time and justified investors with aplomb. Under Rene Douglas, the Wayne Catalano-trained chestnut burst to the lead at the break and utilized a day long inside bias that propelled her the 8.5 furlongs. After shirking a dogged Appealing Zophie a half mile into the race, the winner then answered the Todd Pletcher-trained twin threat of Octave and Cotton Blossom down the stretch. She went on to win by a burgeoning 1.5 lengths as much the best; Octave and Cotton Blossom followed with Appealing Zophie staying on determinedly, while second choice Cash Included never threatened.
Out of a Broad Brush mare and still undefeated in 4 starts, Dreaming of Anna immediately gave her thrilled 78 year old owner dreams of Derby glory. But unlike many frequently-rumored filly rose blanket aspirants, this certain Juvenile Filly Eclipse Award winner already proved her mettle versus colts when she wired the Gr. III Summer on the Woodbine lawn. Her two grass victories further enhance her resume as an uniquely gifted baby girl. Her performance set a good tone for the day.
'SENSE' EARNS 'STREET' CREDIBILITY
When it was the boys' turn, the race style was completely different with pacesetters Principle Secret and Pegasus Wind setting quick fractions and relinquishing the lead after three quarters to another Pletcher pair, first and second choice Circular Quay and Scat Daddy. But unbeknownst to Team Todd house riders Garrett Gomez and John Velasquez, local character Calvin Borel was flying up the rail from the back of the pack on the Carl Nafzger-helmed Street Sense.
Off the turn, Borel and the son of Street Cry came screaming through a generous inside opening and stunningly distanced the field down the stretch to win by a widening dozen lengths in an effort startlingly similar to that of Arazi here in 1991. It would turn out to be the first of six straight open length heroics on the day before the Classic's thrilling hystrionics. The winner paid a handsome $32.40 which became a typical mutuel as the afternoon progressed.
Owned and bred by James Tafel, Street Sense is the kind of Juvenile winner one likes to see having run four times in top company and always acquitting himself well. For Nafzger, the win marked a return to Breeders' Cup glory last enjoyed with Unbridled in the Classic at Belmont in 1990. While Street Sense hadn't displayed the style and pizazz of this effort previously, he had been bested only by Unbridled Express, Officer Rockett, Got the Last Laugh, Great Hunter and Circular Quay while posting a 1-1-2 mark. The finish in fact was simply an inverted reshuffling of the trifecta in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on October 7. Scat Daddy ran an even fourth behind the trio, while Norfolk winner Stormello held on gamely for a check.
OUIJA BOARD AN UTTER TREASURE
The Filly and Mare Turf was joyfully captured by Lord Derby's precious Ouija Board, a mare who in the twilight of her career can only be described as a treasure. Rarely in this sport are we treated to a performer who nearly never disappoints. Despite a career-threatening injury and non-stop globe-trotting, the Ed Dunlop-conditioned daughter of Cape Cross continues to bring an "A" game to every Grade or Group I gathering.
Her heroics marked her second BC title in three years, and only an endlessly wide trip chasing Intercontinental from post 13 at Belmont in '05 prevents her from being the first victor of three straight Cup trophies. Frankie Dettori, gaining the first of two grassy glommings on the day, utilized the same under cover, off the pace style that has seen him score three times as her pilot.
Trusty Film Maker, herself building a curious F&M Turf history (3/0-2-1), muscled through horses at the top of the stretch but could do no better than follow the victress home as she did at Lone Star in 2004. Yet another Pletcher pair were third and fourth as Honey Ryder closed to pass stablemate Wait a While late.
WAKING UP THE 'ECHO'
While the mutuels had been lucrative through the first three events, the fireworks started in earnest with the Sprint. Doug O'Neill, who had won the card's sprint stake opener, sent Ancient Title runner up Thor's Echo postward as the 7th choice (15-1). After gaining early position from the rail slot, Thor's Echo took command by the half mile mark and never looked back, fully capitilizing on the inside highway.
This Swiss Yodeler gelding, who came into the race looking like a bounce candidate off his best career figure 4 weeks earlier, had regularly distinguished himself in top company. Placements behind horses like Bordonero, Proud Tower Too and Attila's Storm in races like the Malibu, Dubai Golden Shaheen and Sunshine Millions Sprint for owners Royce and Suarez Racing marked Thor's Echo as eligible for success, but like Cajun Beat and Kona Gold, the 4yo bay had yet to make a splash at the game's highest level.
Pletcher's Friendly Island, the plucky NY bred, was second at 58-1, while Calder stalwart Nightmare Affair was third at 29-1. With 4-1 Bordonero checking in 4th, the Superfecta returned $113,900, the trifecta $10,611 and the exacta $955. Favorite Henny Hughes struggled early with the footing, found himself snowed under early and never launched a bid finishing last.
'MIESQUE'S' IN '05? $50K CLAIMER
Miesque's Approval capped a brilliant season in the Mile, storming to the lead at the eighth pole while widest of all. Under Eddie Castro, the 7yo bay, his career declared over by Bill Mott exactly a year earlier when 6th in a $50k Aqueduct claimer, returned to the course on which he had scored in the Firecracker and turned the tables on a host of more heralded rivals. Euros Librettist, Araafa, Rob Roy, Sleeping Indian and Echo of Light and domestic stars Gorella and Aragorn all failed to withstand the Miesque's Son progeny's powerful charge.
With Aragorn, Badge of Silver and Sleeping Indian behind the $50 winner, a Superfecta ticket brought back $98,500, the tri $4,781 and the exacta $246. While a debate is likely to ensue, a case could be made that the Live Oak homebred earned himself the Eclipse Award as top grass horse with the score.
TRAGEDY OBSCURES DISTAFF STAR'S EFFORT
With the poor decision to scrape the track already taking a toll on any horse hoping for a square shot at coming from off the pace, the track condition likely helped turn things tragic with Pine Island's breakdown in the Distaff. The incident also marred a wonderful display by Michael Matz' Round Pond and a nifty move by Edgar Prado. Stalking the pace from the slick and cozy rail, the 4yo daughter of Awesome Again pounced on faultering leaders Sharp Lisa, Healthy Addiction and Pool Land exiting the turn for home. There, Prado wisely redirected the '05 Acorn winner to the rail after briefly considering a move towards the outside. The 14-1 6th choice then powered home to win easily while a melee ensued behind her.
Asi Siempre, Happy Ticket and Balletto exchanged a series of checks and jostles from the top of the stretch to halfway down the lane that ultimately resulted in a change in the order of finish. Happy Ticket and Balletto were awarded second and third while Asi Siempre was moved to fourth in a decision that could have just as easily pushed Happy Ticket down. The changes, and the absense of the two injured favorites from the tote, produced another lucrative mutuel with the exacta returning $46, the tri $4,355 and the super $38,600.
For Matz, the victory was bittersweet, having been in Shug McGaughey's shoes just six months ago when Barbaro suffered what appeared at the time to be a catastrophic and life-ending injury. Matz had been quietly confident that Round Pond had legitimate excuses in her Beldame try October 7, and those that stuck with the never-off-the-board bay were rewarded with a $29.80 win price.
And obviously, our sincerest sympathies to the Phipps', Shug McGaughey and his staff and all those who came to love Pine Island. While not the most beautiful filly the august family has ever bred and campaigned, she had captured many hearts with her charmingly goofy style and determination. RIP.
'RED ROCKS' THE TURF
While questions to trainer Brian Meehan focused mostly on Classic entrant David Junior during Cup Week, his Turf challenger Red Rocks was blossoming in his new environment. The lightly-raced three year old Irish bred had made a habit this year of finishing secoind in good company, and entered the gate as the 11-1 sixth choice. Under Dettori, the son of Galileo and the lone sophomore in the field, bided his time at the back of the pack before coming with a powerful run in the stretch that left game English Channel (3rd), surprising Rush Bay (4th) and even Scorpion (5th) in his wake.
2004 Turf winner Better Talk Now was following the first time Graded or Group Stakes winner, but was never a threat. The placement completed a pair of runners-up finishes for rider Ramon Dominguez and trainer Graham Motion who have an excellent record together wherever these preceedings are conducted.
The outcome was undoubtedly disappointing to followers of Hurricane Run, a non-threatening 6th as the 3-1 public choice, and Cacique, who briefly challenged before fading in the stretch to finish 10th at 4-1.
A CLASSIC 'INVASION'
The day's main event already seemed destined for an unusual result before Bernardini, Invasor, George Washington, David Junior and Lava Man entered the gate. While the result, Kiaran McLaughlin's Invasor catching Tom Albertrani's even money favorite in the final 150 yards, seemed fully plausible before the gates opened, the public appeared eager for a confirmation of Bernardini as a regal entity.
With the predictably eager soph pair of Brother Derek and Lawyer Ron renewing aquaintance on the front end of the first half of the race, Bernardini sat fifth stalking the speed. Invasor, likely at McLaughlin's instruction to Fernando Jara, was just behind him. When Bernardini made a sweeping, and perhaps premature, move on the turn, he looked free and clear at the quarter pole. But the lead was short lived as Invasor came to call in advance of the 16th pole and was by him in just three strides with the wire looming.
The win by the 9 of 10 Argentinian bred by Candy Stripes caps a wonderful ascension to the top of the game for McLaughlin, his brother Neal and their well-managed operation. The victory likely makes the winner of four straight American Grade I's the 2006 Horse of the Year.
For Bernardini, the defeat will be a bitter pill if it is indeed his final career start...
BREEDERS' CUP SELECTIONS
Below are my final selections for BC XXIII.. My owns plays may vary somewhat based on the oddsboard, but the basic framework of my view of the day should be the core of the wagering.. Good luck! Enjoy the day...
JUVENILE FILLIES SELECTIONS:
1. #4 Octave 6-1
2. #10 Her Majesty 10-1
A. #6 Bel Air Beauty 8-1
B. #1 Dreaming of Anna 4-1
WIDE EXOTICS: #11 Satulagi 20-1/#9 Adrythem 12-1
1. #1 Street Sense 20-1
2. #5 C P West 15-1
A. #9 Circular Quay 5-2
B. #7 Great Hunter 9-2
WIDE EXOTICS: #3 Scat Daddy 4-1/#2 Stormello 6-1
F&M TURF SELECTIONS:
1. #2 Ouija Board 8-5
2. #7 Wait a While 3-1
A. #1 Dancing Edie 30-1
B. #4 Film Maker 6-1
WIDE EXOTICS: #9 Satwa Queen/#10 Germance
1. #4 Henny Hughes 2-1
2. #9 Too Much Bling 10-1
A. #10 War Front 12-1
B. #14 Kelly's Landing 20-1
WIDE EXOTICS: #11 Siren Lure 10-1/#3 Bordonaro 3-1
1. #5 Free Thinking 15-1
2. #3 Araafa 9-2
A. #12 Gorella 4-1
B. #8 Badge of Silver 12-1
WIDE EXOTICS: #10 Miesque's Approval 10-1/#11 Super Frolic 50-1
1. #6 Spun Sugar 10-1
2. #7 Fleet Indian 8-5
A. #2 Pine Island 5-1
B. #1 Round Pond 15-1
WIDE EXOTICS: #13 Happy Ticket 12-1/#14 Balletto 6-1
1. #4 Scorpion 6-1
2. #6 Cacique 4-1
A. #2 T. H. Approval 15-1
B. #10 English Channel 7-2
WIDE EXOTICS: #11 Silverfoot 30-1/#1 Go Deputy 6-1
1. #3 Bernardini 1-1
2. #11 Invasor 5-1
A. #7 David Junior 10-1
B. #13 Sun King 15-1
WIDE EXOTICS: #2 Premium Tap 30-1/#5 Lawyer Ron 20-1