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Nov 11, 2011

BREEDERS' CUP POST-MORTEMS

By: John Piesen


I've had better Breeders' Cups, but this wasn't bad.

I nailed two double-digit winners (Caleb's Posse, $15.60 and Hansen, $16.20) on Saturday's nine-race BC program, but, with any luck, it could have been much better

Force Freeze (7-1) and Sea Moon (3-1) finished second, Farraaj was third at 8-1, Pleasant Prince fourth at 12-1.

And, in the final two Cup races, Mr. Commons finished fifth at 20-1 (beaten three lengths with a terrible trip), and So You Think (5-1) was going to be one-two until he had the misfortune to get shut off on the fence at the furlong pole by the lovely Chantal.

I can only hope that Caleb's Posse and Hanson are rewarded with Eclipse Awards -- CP as top 3-year-old and/or sprinter, and Hansen (2-year-old). But, more likely, they will become two more victims of the East Coast bias.

As for Horse of the Year, I felt after the Classic (and still do) that it's a craphoot this year. Which is fine. You can't get a superstar every year.

So much to my surprise did I discover that 15 of the 21 votes in the post-BC NTRA poll went to Havre de Grace, with no one else getting more than two votes.

If that's any indication (and it usually is) how the HOY voting will go, then Havre De Grace is a cinch, despite her fourth-place finish in the Classic.

Again I can't quarrel with that. Anyone who knows my work knows my ties to the Porter/Jones barn, and I've been a fan of Havre De Grace since Day One. My only knock has been that 10 furlongs is beyond her best distance, and I was proven right. I went against her in the Classic.

And, just as in '09, when Rachel Alexandra's Woodward victory over males was over-rated, I feel the same about HDG's Woodward victory. I hardly think that was the race to decide Horse of the Year.

I do feel that HDG will get Horse of the Year not so much for her record, which was fine but not spectacular...but for payback from the racing media for Eight Belles.

Porter and Jones made repeated references to the Eight Belles tragedy in the morning briefings at Churchill. Not a day goes by they don't think of her.

And I feel the same. If you recall, I was there at the beginning of Eight Belles, spent part of every morning with her at Oaklawn Park in the spring of '08, and, indeed, contributed to the decision to run her in the Derby rather than the Oaks.

Eight Belles tragically never got the chance to prove she was HOY in '08...so I guess it would be poetic justice if Havre DeGrace gets the honor three years later.

Of course, if Chantal wasn't busy shutting off So You Think, Game On Dude conceivably wins the Classic...and Horse of the Year.

Otherwise, what does it tell you when $3 million-plus was wagered on the Pick Six on Saturday, and it went unhit? And historians will note that my two BC winners equalled the number of Cup winners selected by Andy Beyer, Steve Crist, David Greening, Marcus Hersh, Marty McGee, Randy Moss, Jay Privman, Mike Hammersly, Ray Kerrison, Ed Fontaine and Mike Watchmaker COMBINED.

That said, the TV coverage -- be it ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 -- was downright awful.

I will never understand what possesses the TV people to use seven or eight different camera angles, up to and including ground-level and sky-level. What's wrong using one camera to show the race, and save the fancy stuff for re-plays.

Sure didn't help ratings much. The Cup got a 1.2 on Saturday, an 0-3 on Friday.

Down 60 per cent.

Just imagine if Alabama-LSU had kicked at the original time of 3:30. Is there such a thing as a minus rating? Who would have got to hear Hank Goldberg's plays?

Radio was just as delinquent.

As far as I could determine, the only radio coverage of the BC was a one-hour window on Friday afternoon on WFAN in New York when talk-show host host Mike Francesa interviewed Todd Pletcher and Mike Repole.

Not suprisingly, Pletcher and Repole spent most of that hour raving about Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty.

I, for one, was not swayed. I didn't have either horse in my top four, and, in fact, if I had been in a last-place pool, my choice would have been Uncle Mo. With all due respect, he was nowhere fit to go a mile and a quarter...and he did well to survive to the head of the stretch.

And, I'm sure, you, like me, were shocked when Mo was retired to stud the next day.

I found it so ironic that Pletcher and Repole spent Breeders' Cup hyping Uncle Mo's stud value. How stupid do they think we are?

It wasn't by chance that Mo went from 5-2 morning-line favorite to 5-1 fourth choice.

And, oh yes. The Toddster left town 0-for-12 for the two Breeders' Cup days.

Compare that to Billy Mott, who doesn't get the air time and media exposure, but just goes abut being the best horseman in North America. In addition to winning the Classic with Drosselmeyer, and the Ladies' Classic with Royal Delta (who sold for $8.5 million on Sunday), Mott also won Friday's opening-day feaure at the Aqueduct Racino, and Sunday's stake at Churchill.

Speaking of Mott, a month back on this venue we wrote about the Mott-trained Harrod's Creek winning a very controversial 12-furlong grass-race photo at Chuchill Downs. Well, Harrod's Creek finished third last Saturday, after leading throughout, in the graded Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct. Carnival Ride, who lost that CD photo although the whole world called him the winner, goes in today's ninth race at Churchill, and is 12-1.

Then there's the Goldikova issue.

Straightening for home in the Mile, she came out and bumped Courageous Cat, nearly unseating jockey PVal, eliminating four or five other horses, in the process before getting third.

No inquiry, much less an objection.

So when is a foul not a foul?

Obviously not when the culprit is the most popular horse in the world, and the stick in a $2 million race.

Incidentally, there was a published photograph of a football game on one of the TV sets in the stewards' room.

Small wonder the Cup ratings were so low.

Then there was the small matter of the Filly & Turf on Friday.

During the warmup, Announce, 5-1 in the betting at the time, started acting frisky, and brushed with the ambulance. Much to the dismay of her rider, she was ordered scratched by the stewards, and all monies bet on her in the various pick fours and pick sixes were by rule transferred to the post-time favorite, in this case Stacelita.

You know the rest. Stacelita ran out...and the players got shafted.

Life at Ten last year. Goldikova and Announce this year. Don't these people ever get it right?

Hey, the Hoover movie comes out this week. J. Edgar was a degenerate horseplayer.

Maybe that's what we need now. A modern-day Hoover to run the show.

Finally, Ramon Dominguez returned from Churchill to begin riding full-time at Aqueduct, and kicked off the meet with a four-bagger on Wednesday, including Mucho Macho Man, who looked terrific in his return.

On Saturday, RD will wide Musical Rain for trainer Romans in the feaured $150,000 Long Island Handicap. At 6-1 morning-line, she has a shot.

Thanks for tuning in. Remember, Aqueduct's Fall Meet has kicked off and is offering us plenty of moneymaking opportunities each racing day. You can get on board for my best bet selections, 2-3 races each day, either here online or by phone at 1-888-612-22983.

P.S.

Question: Who was the only horse this year to compete in the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic?

Answer: Stay Thirsty. He finished 12th in the Derby; 11th in the Classic.



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