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Sunday, November 05, 2006

BC Hangover

- It's the morning after, and the Breeders Cup is not sitting well. Not at all. And it's not because I prominently mentioned three double digit winners in my final recaps, yet didn't manage to put them together in a winning way (not having the Pick 3 with Street Sense-Ouija Board-Thor's Echo was an inexcusable mistake on my part). Let's start with these reasons:

- A mixed bag at best by ESPN, which showed little in the way of innovation, and no post parades until the Classic (as well as a disappointingly inconsistent Breeders Cup debut by Trevor Denman.) C'mon man, isn't that something that a degenerate like Randy Moss would point out to the producers? It's just basic stuff!!

- A poor day for our U.S.-based stars, most notably Bernardini, but also Henny Hughes, Lava Man, and Gorella; as well as for Cacique and English Channel, those two considered to be the top American-based grass horses (the latter perhaps the victim of his own trainer's misguided and unnecessary decision to start a rabbit in the race). And speaking of Todd Pletcher, not a very good day for him either.

- A main track with a golden rail that may have skewed the results and sent hours of handicapping down the drain. All four of the dirt races prior to the Classic were won by the '1' horse.

- And, of course, the grisly death of Pine Island. The headline of the story on the front page of the Sunday Times sports section (buried far below the story of the all-important third game of the Knicks' season) reads Death Overshadow Upset of Bernardini in the Breeders Cup. There's your coverage of racing's second biggest day in the Paper of Record. And you'll be glad to know that columnist William C. Rhoden was on the scene and will most assuredly be checking in with his thoughts in tomorrow's paper.

Let's start with Bernardini for now. The way I was brought up to learn the game, there's never any disgrace in a top three-year old losing to a top older horse. In fact, at scale weights, you come to expect it. And yes, all props go to Nick Mordin - Invasor is an exceptional older horse. Affirmed lost no luster in his Triple Crown year when defeated by the four-year old Seattle Slew in the 1978 Marlboro Cup (he actually conceded Slew one pound on scale). Despite being beaten as the 1-2 favorite, he still won Horse of the Year. The next year, Spectacular Bid fell short against the four-year old Affirmed. Alysheba couldn't handle the older Ferdinand in the 1987 Classic.

But each of those defeated sophomores returned to establish (or re-establish) themselves as superstars at four; Alysheba never lost to Ferdinand again. Great horses do lose after all; Secretariat was hardly undefeated. For Bernardini, this was a whole new experience, having to actually exert himself. He must have been like "Whoa! Who are these guys? You mean I have to try?"

And it was a new experience for his jockey Castellano as well. Given the horrific spill that he took just two races earlier, it's hard for me to really get on his case too much for his ride, though the question of whether he moved too soon will haunt him for some time. But he rode the horse the way he was used to riding him; in the same fashion for the most part that produced his scintillating wins. Though with far more urging, Bernardini and Castellano basically ran the same race, disposing of the leaders on the turn and opening up a lead. If Castellano was a bit overconfident, can you really blame him?

I'm sure the rider wouldn't make the same mistake again, and that Bernardini would give Invasor all he could handle if they met again next year. But will they have the chance? It's doubtful that either will be on the track anymore; we'll likely only be able to speculate. But perhaps Bernardini's loss will change Sheikh Maktoum's mind, at least about him.

- Kiaran McLaughlin had expressed dismay at the illness that caused Invasor to miss the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but after the Classic he remarked, “There were 5 million reasons to miss. We just proved that....We won today, so it was great that we missed (the Gold Cup).” Oh man, talk about setting a sour precedent. Could be that whoever wins those Breeders Cup Challenges next year will move immediately to the sidelines to await Monmouth. We can probably expect some short fields in any October or late-September preps.

If Invasor had run in the Gold Cup, I think it's now fair to say that he could have, if not would have beaten Bernardini that day. I wonder what the Classic would have looked like if that had happened. Perhaps Discreet Cat would have run, and considering that he beat Invasor when he was barely a three-year old, I suppose he would have won. That's assuming a lot, but let's do it anyway and say: Great move to leave an Eclipse Award on the table, eh? How many times will Godolphin Guy Rick Mettee be asked about that in the run-up to Discreet Cat's scheduled appearance in the Cigar Mile? How anticlimactic and bizarre will that race be at the Chapter 11 Big A?

- Seven other races besides the Classic to discuss, and a lot more about the latter as well. Fortunately, as opposed to the mainstream press, which just cannot effectively deal with eight championship races in one day, we have all week, so we'll try and grind through them all.


Anonymous said...

In addtion to those you mentioned my pet peeve is the use of purple Breeders Cup saddled cloths. I know branding is important but it should not be at the expense of the fans ability to follow a race.

With a distant camera shot and screaming fans, no one in the simulcast could tell who was about to blow by Berny.

Lack of post parade is inexcusable. Which producer decided that is the perfect time to go to commecial?

The shame is that they changed up a format that was working on the regular season ESPN brodcasts. I thought they did a nice job on those races. My guess is they brought in a big name producer from another sport that never covered racing before.

And Durkin is so superior to Denman it is ridiculous. Denman gets by because he mostly calls five horse fields out West.

Mr. Ed

Alan Mann said...

Hey GMP - nice to hear from you, and that is some surprising commentary from you. I'd be interested to hear your take on what's going on with NYRA here.

And I agree with Mr. Ed's points here for sure. The simulcast fans may have been confused from a couple of Denman's calls as well. Whereas with the shorter fields he's used to, he's usually impeccable at picking up horse's moves early, he wasn't able to do so yesterday. He completely missed the move by Street Sense for one, and was late with Round Pond as well.

Anonymous said...

There were over a hundred people in the room and it was still quiet enough to hear Trevors call but not one person knew who won the Juvenile. I dont like Denman but the saddle cloth thing just peeves me.

GMP, with all due respect Dubai has a better standard of living than the USA, these particular Sheikhs take care of the people better than any of the other Oil Royals out there. They are actively attempting to create a toursim economy for their nation so that they remain that way when the oil wells dry up in about 20 years. Horse racing is a big part of that, branding their name.

I am sure their millions would be better spent elsewhere but that can be said of all the money spent on race horse ownership. At least they are spending most of it in the USA.

Not to say they are perfect but they are better than most of them.

Anonymous said...

As a Brit who came upon your website on Saturday because of a google search on "Nick Mordin" I want to say many thanks - it led to me having a good bet on Invasor.

Like you I hope they do keep Bernadini in training. Godolphin have built a reputation for keeping horses in training and having lots of success with the likes of Swain and Halling, so let's hope they change their mind with Bernadini.

As for the comments on Dubai, having done business there I have to say I am impressed with how the UAE has been developed by its leaders over the last 20 years. The economy is building and jobs are being created for Ex-Pats and the local population.

Most people would put this rapid development of Dubai into an aspiring Hong Kong/Singapore of the Middle East down to the leadership of Sheik Mohammed, building on the work started by his father.