Let's just imagine English Channel's thought process as he drew off to an easy 4 1/2-length victory in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. IT) going something like this:"What's going on here? Where is everyone? Why am I not feeling the sting of the whip in the final furlong? Why am I not straining every muscle trying to out-battle another horse? Where the heck is Cacique?"Not since his early carefree days as a 3-year-old when he was blowing open stakes at Colonial Downs has English Channel had anything remotely close to an easy race, so no one deserved this one more than him. In his last eight starts, the chestnut son of Smart Strike – Belva, by Theatrical has proven himself to be one of the toughest warriors in the game. To his opponents, he is like a little terrier who refuses to let go of your pant leg.Deadlocked at two and two, his rivalry this year with Juddmonte's Cacique, recent winner of the Man o'War Stakes (gr. IT), should provide some big fireworks in the Nov. 4 John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT).Top horses will be late arrivals at ChurchillDon't expect the normal amount of action at Churchill Downs during Breeders' Cup week. Bernardini will not ship to Churchill until the Wednesday before the race; Henny Hughes, who turned in another spectacular performance in the Vosburgh (gr. I), and Invasor also will remain in New York, with the alternative being to ship to Keeneland to train over the Polytrack surface. And Todd Pletcher said he, too, will train all his Breeders' Cup horses in New York before shipping down on that Wednesday."I don't see a big advantage training at Churchill," he said. "We had a lot of success last year shipping to Churchill right on top of races. From a personal standpoint, I'm at home and I get to train here. You can close the barn easily and keep the horses warm if it starts to cool off. If we had a really wet fall, then we might want to take a look at the Polytrack and see if we want to train on that."Also heading to Keeneland is Lava Man, who will join Great Hunter. That's a lot of top-quality horses who will not be at Churchill Downs the first half of Breeders' Cup week. And you can bet there will be many others who either will remain at home or train at Keeneland.Other News and Observations from the Weekend:-- Speaking of Polytrack, it looks as if you can throw form for the most part right out the window judging by some of the weird winners over the weekend, most of whom had either run or trained over the track, and the number of good horses who didn't run their usual race over it, such as Happy Ticket and Spun Sugar in the Juddmonte Spinster (gr. I), and a host of others in the Phoenix Breeders' Cup (gr. II) and Alcibiades (gr. I).-- The Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) took a bit of a beating with the sound defeat of 6-5 Horse Greeley in the Norfolk Stakes (gr. II) and the failure of unbeaten Circular Quay, the 2-5 favorite, to demonstrate his powerful closing kick in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (gr. I), leaving the Juvenile a lot more wide-open than it appeared to be. Breeders' Futurity winner Great Hunter, who was a big overlay in the race at nearly 6-1, is an extremely talented colt and deserves to be no worse than second choice in the Juvenile, regardless of the outcome of Saturday's Champagne Stakes (gr. I).-- It was great seeing Brother Derek rebound from the El Cajon to run a big second in the Goodwood, suggesting he should be ready for a peak effort in the Classic. And Giacomo's solid third put him right in the picture as well. -- Fleet Indian, Henny Hughes, and Aragorn established themselves as early favorites for their respective Breeders' Cup races with exceptional performances. Although Fleet Indian won the Bedlame (gr. I) by only a head, she showed a totally different dimension and was as game as can be in the final 50 yards to hold off Balletto. And how about Aragorn breaking 1:33 for the mile for the third time this year?-- Since losing the 2003 Hollywood Wildcat Stakes at Calder by a head, Honey Ryder, a gutsy nose winner of Saturday's Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT), has been involved in eight finishes of a half-length or less and has won them all.
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