Remember the time when the big Breeders' Cup preps served to clear up the picture rather than confuse it? Well, it seems those days are long gone.
Basically, what we have now is the following: A super filly in Riboletta
, who would be an awesome addition to the Classic, but who may go nowhere because of the same old supplementary nonsense we go through every year. Her defection from the Breeders' Cup altogether likely would leave the fillies in the Distaff competing for money and glory only. She actually has nothing to gain by running in the Distaff, and could lose the divisional title if soundly beaten by Beautiful Pleasure
. And she has nothing to lose running in the Classic, but has a chance for Horse of the Year honors and an exalted place in the history books if she wins. The other logical move would be to simply call it quits and hope she can back into Horse of the Year.
We also have a decimated older horse division, following the failures of Lemon Drop Kid
, and the all elders in the Goodwood Handicap, not to mention Golden Missile
's surprising defeat at Hawthorne last week, and Cat Thief
's dismal effort at Turfway Park in mid-September. The only marquee name left coming off a victory is Fusaichi Pegasus
, and everyone is holding their collective breaths, hoping his troubled foot, which was recently patched, holds together. We hate to paint a dim picture, but if Fusaichi bids racing sayonara before the Breeders' Cup, we'll probably have a total of two horses -- Albert the Great
-- going into the Classic off a victory, and they're both 3-year-olds, with one still having to put up $400,000 to run.
We could go on, recapping the weekend results in much the same manner. The favorite for the Filly & Mare Turf, Perfect Sting
, was upset in the Galaxy Stakes, one week after second choice Snow Polina
was upset in the Flower Bowl; one of the big three in the filly and mare division, Heritage of Gold
, ran a lackluster race in the Spinster Stakes; Europe's big invader, Daliapour
, was beaten in the Canadian International; the Calder sensation, Platinum Tiara
, showed little in the Alcibiades Stakes; and the two favorites, Surfside
, both fell to Darling My Darling
in the Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland.
On a more positive note, Kona Gold
established himself as a solid favorite in the Sprint, although he beat very little in the Ancient Title; the vastly improved Delaware Township
put his name in the Sprint picture with a solid score in the Forest Hills Handicap in 1:08 2/5, as did Five Star Day
, who sizzled 6 furlongs in 1:07 4/5 in the Phoenix BC; A P Valentine
shot right up to the top of the 2-year-old class, along with Flame Thrower
, with Arabian Light
, Street Cry
, Point Given
, and several other outstanding youngsters not far behind; and War Chant
exploded onto the Mile scene with a convincing victory in the Oak Tree BC Mile in his turf debut.
Perhaps the biggest turn of events this past weekend came as a direct result of one of the upsets. After Montjeu
's defeat in Saturday's Champion Stakes, trainer John Hammond said the colt either will be retired or go for the Breeders' Cup Turf, which would give that race a much-needed lift. Another defeat would not diminish Montjeu's reputation any more than it has been. But a victory certainly would boost it back up, and it's not every day you get an Arc-King George winner in the Turf.
Speaking of reputation, the victory in the Champion Stakes by Kalanisi
boosted the reputation of Classic hopeful Giant's Causeway
, who defeated Kalanisi in the 1 1/4-mile Eclipse Stakes and Juddmonte International.
As for the Classic, Albert the Great
was in complete control of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and would have been tough to beat no matter who was in there. The son of Go for Gin is a powerful front-runner with great speed and a lot of guts. The same can be said of Tiznow
, who out-battled Captain Steve
in the Goodwood Handicap. The question now is, do these two classy 3-year-olds have another big one in them after their big performances. Albert the Great, coming off some brutal fractions in the Jerome Handicap, ran a mile and a quarter in 1:59 1/5, while Tiznow, coming off a track-record score in the Super Derby, bounced back two weeks later and had to gut it out against Captain Steve in 1:47 1/5. Now, they both have to come back and do it again in three weeks, with Tiznow traveling back cross-country again. Several sources told us that the owners of Tiznow turned down a $4 million offer before the Goodwood, indicating they are serious about putting up the $400,000.
In the Spinster Stakes, the victory by Plenty of Light
now gives owner Aaron Jones the luxury of having a horse in the Distaff if he doesn't run Riboletta
. Surely, Plenty of Light's trainer Elliott Walden has no desire at all to run his 3-year-old filly against Riboletta, so we doubt we'd see both of them entered.
On Wednesday, we'll be one week from pre-entries announcement, and we'll go over the prospective fields and see how each race is shaping up, and who might be the dark horses to keep an eye on.