At one point in time, the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic was shaping up as the best BC Classic ever. But such are the vagaries of racing that the race has fallen apart in the last month. Gone are Funny Cide. Empire Maker. Candy Ride, Perfect Drift.Azeri. It has reached a point that I had – for the purposes of this column – a problem finding five bonafide contenders for the Classic. And my five includes Mineshaft, who is very doubtful. That said, I’m delighted that the rest of the racing media has finally discovered that Mineshaft is questionable at best for the Classic. You read that here for the first time on Sept. 17. You can look it up. It has reached the point where some media folks are pleading for owner Farish and trainer Howard to run Mineshaft in the Classic inorder to preserve the integrity of the sport. Right now, Farish is weighing the pros and cons. It’s his call. The pros are fame and glory, and a $4 million purse. When Candy Ride came out, Mineshaft went from 2-1 to 3-5. The cons are that Mineshaft already has fame and glory. He’s being hailed the best American horse since Cigar. He’s a lock for Horse of the Year now that Azeri got beat Sunday. And if by chance, Mineshaft should run and get beat at odds-on in the Breeders’ Cup, his stud value would decrease. The $4 million Classic purse is small potatoes compared to the millions in stud fees. As you can readily see, the cons outweigh the pros. Speaking of integrity, where is the integrity in baseball? Last Sunday, with all the divisional and wild-card races decided, there were only two issues left: the NL and AL batting titles.
You saw what happened. In the NL, San Diego intentionally walked Todd Helton in the eighth inning, depriving Helton of getting the opportunity to overtake Pujols for the title. And in the AL, Mueller and Ramirez sat out the game in Tampa to protect their 1-2 finish. Jeter would have had to go 2-for-4 to win the title, which he didn’t do. One other baseball quickie. With the highest payroll ($120 million) in the NL, the Mets finished with the second worst record in the league (66-95). San Diego was 64-98. But here’s the amazing statistic. On Monday, USA Today listed the leading 120 players in 20 year-end categories (12 batting and eight pitching) in the NL -- and guess how many were Mets. Answer: One. (Steve Trachsel, tied for fifth in W-L at 16-10). Too bad they don’t count plate appearances at Scores. Mo Vaughn would have topped the leader board. Now, back to the Breeders’ Cup. With the days dwindling down to the Oct. 25 big show at Santa Anita, I’ll take this opportunity to narrow each of the eight races down to five major players. Don’t forget, there is still plenty of time to call audibles. CLASSIC If he goes (and that’s a big if), Mineshaft will be odds-on in what would be the final race of his career. Of course he doesn’t have to win. There is always the question of how much juice there is left in the lemon. The Top Five: 1. Mineshaft2. Ten Most Wanted3. Medaglia d’Oro4: Congaree5: Volponi SPRINT Ghostzapper was enormous winning the Vosburgh last weekend, but trainer Frankel said the next day that he is not taking the horse to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. The reason: he already has Aldebaran in the race, and the two horses have the same running style. The Top Five: 1. Aldebaran2. Beau’s Town3. Valid Video4. Shake You Down5. Clock Stopper
DISTAFF In view of her subpar second in the Lady’s Secret last Sunday (she reportedly bled), Azeri goes from odds-on lock to questionable ifshe will even run. My favorite post-race quote attributed to trainer de Seroux was: “She broke slow…but I still love her.” The Top Five: 1. Sightseek2. Azeri3. Get Koko4. Wild Spirit5. Take Charge Lady TURF As usual, foreign horses appear to dominate this race. High Chapparal won it last year at odds-on, and is 2-for-2 this year in Ireland. Storming Home and Sulamani have been lights-out in the U.S. this year. The Top Five: 1. Sulamani2. Storming Home3. High Chapparal4. Johar5. Dalakhani MILE In his last two starts, the 6-year-old Special Ring was beaten a half-length by Candy Ride in the American Handicap at Hollywood Park, and won the Eddie Read by five at Del Mar. The 3-year-old Oasis Dream has won a pair of Grade Ones in Great Britain. The Top Five: 1. Oasis Dream2. Special Ring3. Perfect Soul4. Touch of the Blues5. Trademark FILLY AND MARE TURF Good reports on the 3-year-old Nebraska Tornado, a two-time Grade One winner in France. Frankel comes in loaded with Tates Creek and Heat Haze. Dimitrova was brilliant winning the Flower Bowl.
The Top Five:1. Nebraska Tornado2. Dimitrova3. Tates Creek4. Heat Haze5. Voodoo Dancer JUVENILE Trainer Asmussen is firing major players Posse and Lady Tak (both of whom just missed cracking the Top Five) in the Sprint and Distaff, but his best shot is with Cuvee in the Juvenile. First-time two-turns, but he was awesome winning the Saratoga Special and Belmont Futurity. Cactus Ridge, unbeaten in four starts, looks like a monster. The Top Five: 1. Cactus Ridge2. Cuvee3. Pomeroy4. Siphonizer5. Value Plus JUVENILE FILLIES Halfbridled is unbeaten and untested in three starts under Julie Krone, and will be the shortest-priced favorite in the eight BC races. Any other year, Class Above, a 16-length winner at Turfway, would be the favorite.
The Top Five:1. Halfbridled2. Class Above3. Tarlow4. Victory U.S.A,5. Everyday Angel