This is Proviso galloping at Churchill yesterday...again, this photo is courtesy of Churchill Downs (and thanks to them for having the good taste to include yours truly on their media list). Goldikova might be the most tempting horse to single on the Saturday card. But I think that this mare is one, listed at double-digit odds (along with The Usual Q.T., who I mentioned previously), who is eligible to provide some value underneath. She's proven to be no match for the two-time defending Mile champ in the past. But all she's done this year is win four Grade 1's in a row, running just a bit faster (according to the Beyers, anyway) each time, for trainer Bill Mott, who took over from the late Bobby Frankel this year.
Gio Ponti is entered in the Mile, but as you probably know, will be going in the Classic instead where, as far as I'm concerned, he's a dead-on no-doubt-about-it throwout in his first race on real dirt. Just another case, like Paddy O'Prado, of a turf horse caught in the middle of the Mile and the Turf, and taking a shot on dirt for no other reason than possible breeding shed glory. Well, fine with me, just subsidizes the odds on the others, in my opinion.
Zenyatta galloped a mile and a half at Hollywood Park, and her trainer says: "She looks just terrific.....Her weight is great, her coat is perfect." And her exercise rider, Steve Willard, said:
“Is superb adequate enough?....Judging by her aggressiveness, she’s training really forwardly. If I gave her her head, she’d go [three furlongs] in 35 and change. Her mind is in a different place.” [DRF]
There might be a lot of good horses and compelling races on the two Breeders' Cup cards (though also several races that I personally couldn't care less about). But let's face it, all of it - Goldikova included - is just a preliminary for the Classic, which, in turn, is just a showcase for Jerry Moss' spectacular, undefeated champion. Win or lose. What an amazing story for this mare to take her 19 for 19 record into this final race of her career. Only the bitter sourpusses of the world, those who just can't bring themselves to accept change and innovation in the name of the attempted betterment of the sport (especially when it poses a threat to their own methodologies and perception of how races should be run), would possibly be rooting against her. I mean, in the name of playing the game, I might bet on others, especially if Dirty really wants to give me 10-1 on Blame. But, even if she beats you, if you can't enjoy a deep appreciation what she would then have accomplished, then I think you should just be playing the slots, or some other game with less takeout and better odds of success.
And I don't see why she can't and won't end her career in the storybook fashion that we all...or at least most of us....would like to see. I'm not buying this stuff about this being amongst the deepest and/or most talented Classic field ever. I think it's being way overrated. You have the two throwouts I mentioned above, plus a collection of some pretty nice horses - including some three-year olds from a terribly mediocre crop - whose success I would attribute mostly to the general deterioration in quality that we have in racing today. Zenyatta aside, I would venture to say that there's not a horse in this race - with the possible additional exception of Quality Road, who, however, is not going to last the mile and a quarter distance - who's nearly as talented as any of the three horses who battled to the wire in that very first Classic. And I say that knowing full well that none of those three are even close to ranking amongst the all-time greats of the game.