Countdown to the Cup: Pray for Rain
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Swift Temper is still looking for respect after winning the Ruffian.
Order This Photo

Circle the date Oct. 4 on your calendar. Your assignment is to pray for rain in France — enough to turn the Longchamp turf course soft. The softer the better.

 

Yes, it is a selfish request, as no one wants to see thousands of dejected European racing fans, but considering what a soft course that day would mean for the Breeders Cup, we have to at least give it a shot, whether you believe in divine intervention or not.

 

A soft course would mean that European megastar Sea the Stars likely would be withdrawn from the Prix de l’Arc d Triomphe (Fra-I) and could very well point for the Breeders’ Cup Classic instead.

 

Sea the Stars’ trainer John Oxx said in the Sporting Life: “If we miss the Arc then we'll have to look at the two races that are left, which are Newmarket (Champion Stakes) and Santa Anita. It would likely be the Classic rather than the Turf,” Oxx told At the Races.

“We'll have to look at that but the horse tells you what to do. He has to still be in good form and giving us the right signals. It's very late in the year for a horse that has had a Guineas run but if he missed the Arc we'd have to seriously consider America.”

Remember those words “seriously consider America” as Arc day nears. They are huge. The presence of Sea the Stars, who has rattled off victories in the 2,000 Guineas, English Derby, Eclipse Stakes, Juddmonte International, and Irish Champion Stakes, while knocking off every group I horse Aidan O’Brien has thrown at him, would give the Breeders’ Cup one of its greatest drawing cards ever, and help fill the void left by Rachel Alexandra’s absence. Imagine a match-up between Zenyatta and Sea the Stars, along with Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird, Belmont (gr. I) and Travers (gr. I) winner Summer Bird, Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) winner Einstein  , Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) winner Rail Trip, Pacific Classic (gr. I) winner Richard's Kid  , Whitney (gr. I) winner Bullsbay  , and maybe even Quality Road   and Macho Again.

Even if Sea the Stars runs in the Arc, perhaps the five weeks between that race at the Breeders’ Cup will entice the colt’s connections to take a shot anyway. But as Oxx said, he’s been running all year, going all the way back to the Guineas.

Speaking of Sea the Stars, the British bookmakers are quoting him between 2-1 and 9-4 favorite for the Classic. Zenyatta is basically 4-1 across the board. The Aidan O’Brien-trained Rip Van Winkle, who gave Sea the Stars all he could handle in the Eclipse Stakes and then came back to the Sussex Stakes (Eng-I) can be had from 9-2 to 6-1. Summer Bird’s odds range from 4-1 to 8-1.

That brings us to the huge overlay, and that is Mine That Bird, who obviously doesn’t even get respect in England. Nine of the 12 British bookmakers have him at 20-1, despite his explosive Kentucky Derby victory, his bad trip in the Preakness, poor rides in the Belmont and West Virginia Derby, and the fact that he was the Canadian 2-year-old champion, racing exclusively on a synthetic track. If you can forgive his poor effort in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) on the Pro-Ride, feeling he was off form, you can’t help but be attracted to his 20-1 odds.

Rachel and Euro fillies: no comparison

 

There have been published comments recently stating that Rachel Alexandra’s conquests over males is not as big an accomplishment as one might think, because it is done all the time in Europe.

 

It’s true that fillies face and defeat colts on a much more regular basis in Europe than they do in America. Of course, most top-class fillies are forced to run against colts in Europe, due to the lack of group I championship caliber races in the fall. It should be noted that a typical European filly, especially a 3-year-old, is given two or three races in the spring, then has the entire summer off, and returns for two races in the fall. That was Zarkava’s campaign last year; three races in the spring and two in the fall.

 

Europeans as a whole (Sea the Stars and the top Ballydoyle runners are an exception) do not run steadily throughout the year and have much easier campaigns than American horses. You’d be hard-pressed to find any European filly that has ever defeated males in May, August, and September, as Rachel Alexandra has done.

 

Almost all the European filly conquests over males come in the fall. They do not win classics and they rarely win a midsummer stakes against males.

 

For example, no filly has won the English Derby since 1916. There is no record of a filly winning the 2,000 Guineas in modern times, or the French Derby. Only two fillies have won the Irish Derby in at least the last 60 years. No filly has won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 29 years, and the last one that did was a 4-year-old. Only two fillies have won the Eclipse Stakes in at least the last 39 years and they were both 4-year-olds. It's been 33 years since a 3-year-old filly has won the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. When people say fillies defeat colts in Europe all the time, they are referring to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and as stated earlier, those fillies normally are fresher horses at that time of the year, and unlike the French colts, are coming off a competitive group I prep in the Prix Vermeille, while many of the French colts are coming of slowly run, paceless races in short fields in either the Prix Foy for older horses or the Prix Niel for 3-year-olds.

 

In short, even in Europe, it is extremely rare to see a 3-year-old filly win a classic against males, and almost as rare to see them win a grade I midsummer stakes of championship caliber against males, both of which Rachel Alexandra has done.

 

It is difficult to compare racing in Europe to racing in America, and what happens across the Atlantic should not serve as a gauge in assessing the accomplishments of a horse in the United States. Rachel Alexandra’s feats this year were unprecedented in modern times even by European standards.

 

Cheer-olamo

 

Was that Discreet Cat cruising to another brilliant victory in the Godolphin silks Sunday at Belmont? Not quite, but one could have mistaken Girolamo   for the now-retired Discreet Cat following his impressive score in an allowance/optional claimer, in which he completely dominated a talented field to win comfortably by 5 1/2 lengths in 1:35 for the mile, his second impressive score since returning off a long layoff. It’s hard to tell at this point whether there is a Breeders’ Cup race to fit Girolamo, but the Cigar Mile (gr. I) looks like a terrific spot for the son of A.P. Indy. He is a handsome colt with a beautiful way moving who seems to do things effortlessly. This looks like a star in the making.

 

Swift recognition

 

Dale Romans was one perplexed trainer following Swift Temper’s victory in Saturday’s Ruffian Handicap (gr. I)

 

He couldn’t understand why his filly, who had won the Delaware Handicap (gr. II) and Sixty Sails Handicap (gr. III) this year and placed in four other stakes, was being short-changed by the media.

 

“She’s a very talented filly,” he said. “I don’t know why she’s been so underrated this year. You never see her mentioned among the top fillies and mares. I don’t know the reason why, but I don’t think she’s gotten much respect. Besides than the top two or three, she’s as good as anybody. But I guess the turf writers don’t like her. Change that; give her some respect.”

 

You got it, Dale. She deserves respect after dropping back from two 1 1/4-mile races to 1 1/16 miles around one turn and defeating 1-5 favorite Seventh Street by 1 3/4 lengths in the Ruffian in a swift 1:40 2/5.

 

The daughter of Giant’s Causeway, who was trounced by 13 1/2 lengths by Icon Project in the Personal Ensign (gr. I) in her last start, has really come into her own this year and should be a major factor in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I).

 

Juveniles to watch

 

Keep an eye on the first three finishers of a six-furlong maiden race Saturday, all of whom look to have a good deal of potential, especially when the distances stretch out. The winner, Quick Ride, from the Nick Zito barn, is a son of Afleet Alex, and he turned in a strong performance to sweep to the front turning for home and win going away by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:10 4/5. Runner-up Litigation Risk, by Closing Argument, broke slowly and closed steadily along a wide-open rail to finish a solid second, four lengths ahead of Unbridled Fury, who also broke slowly, was stuck in traffic, then ducked to the rail and got up for third all on his own. The son of Broken Vow has an efficient low action and reaches out with great extension. Watch out for him going longer.

 

A New York-bred juvenile who can run is Bwana Jake, a son of Forestry who broke his maiden Friday by 10 3/4 lengths in 1:09 3/5 over a sloppy sealed track for Bruce Levine and Len and Louise Riggio’s My Meadowview Farm. Three races later, WinStar Farm’s Maria’s Mon colt, Super Saver  , broke his maiden at a mile by seven lengths in 1:38 1/5 for Todd Pletcher. In the next race, the Zito-trained Thomas Got Even, by Stephen Got Even, broke his maiden by 9 1/2 lengths in 1:26 1/5 for seven furlongs. So, either the sealed track became noticeably slower after the first race or Bwana Jake is a horse you definitely want to keep an eye on.

 

Two exciting prospects scheduled to square off in Saturday’s Futurity Stakes (gr. II) are D’Funnybone, 10 3/4-length winner of the Saratoga Special (gr. II) for Rick Dutrow, and the brilliant maiden winner, Discreetly Mine  , a half-brother to Discreet Cat and Pretty Wild who romped by 6 1/4 lengths at Saratoga. Another intriguing colt who could show up is Successful Score, who broke his maiden by 3 1/2 lengths at Saratoga going seven furlongs.

Most Popular Stories