Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Worst Breeders' Cup Ever"? - Come on!

(Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Sometimes I think a journalist pens an article just to be controversial; his or her emotions winning out over reason. That's my best reasoning for the essay penned by Gary West for espn.com on November 7.

I did not have a good day betting this Breeders' Cup - go back over my selections and you'll know this. But that did not dampen my enthusiasm for this year's event, as I was throughly entertained, especially with such big payouts. Who doesn't like to dream they'll hit it big at the Breeders' Cup? Here was a day to do just that.

Of course, I'm talking about Saturday, as Friday was rather chalky. Yet both days featured excellent racing, with thrilling finishes and intense drama. Texas Red won the Juvenile on Saturday, which throws the Eclipse award for 2 year-old colts into confusion. He may win it, but even his owner acknowledged the quality of American Pharoah, the early favorite for the race, who had to be scratched. Did the fact that this race did not have American Pharoah or Calculator - the horse who had finished second to American Pharoah in two consecutive Grade 1s - make it any less of an exciting race? Yes, it would have been a better race with those two horses in it and no one's handing the Eclipse Award to Texas Red just yet (I'd be highly surprised if he did win it), but congratulations to the Desormeaux brothers for their great win. It was an excellent race!

West talks about the lack of strength from the European contingent. Why is that? Last year, Treve who won the Arc de Triomphe in 2013, did not race in the Breeders' Cup (nor did she run in this year's Breeders' Cup Turf after again winning the Arc). That happens most years, given the proximity of that race to the Breeders' Cup. But last year, Magician, who was not Aidan O Brien's best horse, did win the BC Turf. So because one of the European horses, such as Flintshire - who placed second in this year's Arc - and Telescope, a highly regarded Sir Michael Stoute charge did not win the BC Turf, it's a disappointing race, according to West. Really? How about some love for the winner Main Sequence, who made this race his 4th consecutive Grade 1 conquest this year and should be one of the three finalists for Horse of the Year. Doesn't his win mean something?

Apparently for West, the Turf is only a worthwhile race if a European horse wins it. Well, we've got some pretty good turf horses in America as well.

I could go on and on about the points brought up by West, such as defections. Yes, it was disappointing that Palace Malice had to miss the Classic, due to injury, as he was one of the top older horses in the country for the first half of the year. But those things happen. As far as Will Take Charge not being the race, due to retirement, I'm sorry, but that horse wasn't the same in 2014 as in his magical year of 2013.

Seems to me that having Bayern, Shared Belief, California Chrome and Tonalist in the race guaranteed a marvelous Classic and that's what we got.

I notice that West did not mention the Friday card, which was rather chalky. Yes, Goldencents (Dirt Mile) and Tapiture (Distaff) ran bang-up performances in their races at very short prices. Apparently, this is what West wanted from the entire BC weekend, the leading horses in their categories winning their respective races. For myself and a lot of bettors, we want big prices and unpredictable races and that's what we got, especially on Saturday. Tapiture and Goldencents proved their status as likely Eclipse-award winning horses - we were treated to that on Friday, while on Saturday we witnessed some major upsets. For me, both cases are what makes the Breeders' Cup such a great event.

Worst BC ever? Try telling that to Roger Brueggemann and Florent Geroux, trainer and jockey of Work All Week, winner of the Sprint. A deserving champion - one who's ten for ten on the dirt. Defending champion Secret Circle placed a hard-charging second. Wasn't that a worthwhile result? How does a race like this make for the "worst BC ever?"

West also brings up the track bias argument for the early races on Saturday. He mentioned the first race won by Ocho Ocho Ocho in 1:14.57 for 6 and 1/2 furlongs on the dirt, after a blistering half mile of 43.96. Alright, the fastest horse went wire to wire - he was the favorite after all. Also, this was a race taken off the turf, with only six horses of the original 14 competing. The favorite shook loose, that's all.

As for the second race won by Acceptance, here was a horse that had won his previous race - his debut - by 13 lengths! Was it a shock that this horse, who started slowly, was able to defeat a field of six other two year-old Cal-breds?

As for 61-1 shot Take Charge Brandi capturing the Juvenile Fillies in gate to wire fashion, that makes a little more sense for making the speed bias argument. But Top Decile made a stout charge from well off the pace to be a strong second, while Wonder Gal also closed well to be third. So there were some horses that closed, but because Puca did not, West reasons that this was an unfair race in which the results were influenced by a speed bias.

Sorry, Gary, your argument is that of someone that wanted different results. I loved what I watched for two days, even if I didn't cash many tickets. There was nothing wrong with year's event, if only one watched the races with open eyes.

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