Former Turf Writer and Handicapper for the New
York Post and Daily Racing Form
Senior correspondent for www.NationalRaceMasters.com
LOOKING BACK AT THE 23rd BREEDERS'' CUP
I have watched
-who knows? -maybe 50,000 races in my life, and I''ve never been as drained as I
was during and after the Breeders'' Cup Distaff.
Euphoria at seeing
Round Pond, my favorite racehorse since Damascus, win the
Distaff going away by four-plus lengths.
watching two grand fillies -Pine Island and Fleet Indian
-break down. Pine Island fatally.
again at seeing the second-place finisher''s number come
Somehow it seems worse when a filly breaks down than a male
horse. The examples are too numerous to relate. Just start with Ruffian. Go For
Wand. Moccasin. And now Pine Island.
Then there was the
agony of watching Michael Matz and Edgar Prado. There was no celebration of
Round Pond''s remarkable victory. Only the sadness of revisiting
Just six months back. Watching the first Saturday of
May morph into the first Saturday of November.
But I would be
lying if I didn''t admit my first thoughts were with Round Pond.
Watching her train and race for two springs for John Servis at Oaklawn Park.
Watching her win five of six starts in Hot Springs, including the fantastic
Azeri Breeders'' Cup back in March. Stopping at her stall virtually every
morning. Feeding her peppermints. Worrying about her health. Interviewing her
owner, trainer, jockey, exercise rider and groom.
me to learn last spring that owner Porter fired Servis, and sent Round
Pond to Michael Matz, a trainer I have long considered a friend, and a man
for whom I''ve always had tremendous respect. Long before
I spoke with Matz
several times during the summer -not so much to check on Barbaro, but
to check on Round Pond, who has chronic foot problems.
Pond returned to action last summer with a tremendous second in the Molly
Pitcher at Monmouth Park, I felt she was back. But it was distressing to see her
get blown away in the Beldame at Belmont, beaten seven lengths by Fleet
Indian and Baletto.
Pond worked a bullet :59 a week ago Sunday at Keeneland, I called Matz,
and, he told me, among other things:
Pond will run much better in the Distaff. Now, we just have to figure out a
way to make up seven lengths."
The interview ran
in this space last Monday (Oct. 30). If you missed it, you can click it up here on the
In the same piece,
I also mentioned that Happy Ticket, considered the best mare in the
land last summer, is getting no respect for the Distaff.
The reader didn''t
need to be a rocket scientist to know what I liked in the Distaff. I made it
official on my phone service (1-888 612
2283) and online at www.JohnPiesen.com a few days later when I
Pond 2. Happy Ticket.
Pond nosed Happy Ticket in the Azalea back when , the exacta came
Saturday, the Round Pond--Happy Ticket exacta came back
As we all know,
Happy Ticket needed some luck to complete the exacta. After a jockeys''
objection (no inquiry), Asi Siempre, the second finisher, was dropped
from second to fourth, and Happy Ticket was moved up to
Thanks to the
Churchill stewards -an all-time euphoric moment.
Now, in addition
to feeling so good about Round Pond, I felt equally as good for the
folks who had the good sense to purchase my Breeders'' Cup
A $446 cold exacta
doesn''t happen every day.
And when I got
home, and checked out the selections from the various media types, I discovered
- I finished first
among the 45 handicappers from the Breeders'' Cup consensus boxes of Daily
Racing Form, USA Today, the New York Daily News, and the New York Post; and
- With three
winners from the eight races, I selected more winners than Russ Harris, Andy
Beyer, Steve Crist, Ray Kerrison, Ed Fontaine and Vic Zeigel COMBINED.
And, I couldn''t
help noticing the fact that, after suffering through a week-long saturation
coverage of Todd Pletcher and Bernardini, they went a combined
for all his his wondrous achievements, is now 2-for-41 on racing''s biggest
stage. And I couldn''t help think that maybe this time, the Eclipse voters might
vote Michael Matz champion trainer.
Bernardini, isn''t it amazing to see a horse compared to
Secretariat and Seattle Slew in one moment become a trivia answer
in the course of two minutes?
It disturbs me no
end to see the media make excuses for Bernardini. Oh, brother -- he got
beat by a better horse.
And when jockey
Castellano is getting dumped on by the media for "moving too early" that really
gets my juices boiling.
Bernardini made the same move in every one of his victories, and
was hailed as the greatest thing since the exacta box. Moreover, the horse who
was in front at the stretch call of the four prior dirt races at the Breeders''
Cup (as well as in the two preliminary races) all won!
And before we
annoint Invasor the next Secretariat, consider that he ran the
last half in :51 seconds.
Here are some
other random thoughts on the Big Show -
It was not a
particularly auspicious debut for announcer Denman. Among other things, he had
Octave going by Dreaming of Anna in mid-stretch of the
Juvenile Fillies, and he didn''t pick up Round Pond until she was three
in front in the Distaff.
As they were
loading for the Sprint, one of the non-stop ESPN talkers kept yakking at trainer
McLaughlin, who had the favored Henny Hughes in the race. I had to
admire the fact that McLaughlin, who suffers from MS, didn''t whack the guy in
On the other hand,
ESPN gave us a fabulous blimp shot of Street Sense coming down the rail
to win the Juvenile.
Sense of course will attempt next May to become the first B.C. Juvenile
winner to win the Kentucky Derby. And jockey Borel, a two-time Oaklawn champion,
will be the go-to guy of the upcoming Oaklawn meeting.
finally will get the national media exposure he so richly deserves. No jockey
gives as much time to charity work as Calvin. Maybe, just maybe, next year his
peers will recognize that when it comes to handing out the George Woolf
All week long, I
heard the media tell us what a disadvantage the one-hole was. It made me wonder
if any of these people ever watch a race. But as it developed, who could
possibly have predicted that "the one" would win the first four B.C. dirt
Anna ($7.20); Street Sense ($32.40); Thor''s Echo
($33.20), and Round Pond ($29.80).
No surprise then
that Brother Derek got pounded down to 22-1 for the Classic, and was
beaten only five lengths by Invasor. Chances are Derek would have been
closer if he hadn''t been pressed for a mile by Lawyer Ron.
Which reminds me.
The trainer (and jockey) change really moved Lawyer Ron up. Didn''t
Were not the
connections, and the folks who played Her Majesty (in the Juvenile
Fillies) and Germance (in the Filly and Mare Turf) just thrilled to
The gate crew
needed eight minutes to load Her Majesty, making me wonder how many of
the other 13 fillies left their race in the gate.
Surprise. Her Majesty, the 8-1 fourth choice, never was better than
11th, and checked in 13th.
Germance blew the start, was promptly rushed up into rail traffic, checked
out before a half-mile had been run, and finished last of 10.
I find it annoying
that media folks suggest -as they do every year -that this was the greatest
Breeders'' Cup ever run.
As far as I''m
concerned, I would like to see one -just one -close finish in the eight races.
The closest margin of victory this year was a half-length.
When the smoke
clears, the single biggest story of this year''s Breeders'' Cup will be the feud
between Andy Beyer and the sheiks.
Beyer ripped the
sheiks last week in his DRF column, and the sheiks reportedly responded by
pulling their advertising from the Form.Now this could be
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