BC Classic Will Provide All Answers
BC CLASSIC WILL PROVIDE ALL THE ANSWERS
"Everything's on the line," Bob Baffert said, allowing himself to look ahead a couple weeks to the Breeders' Cup Classic. "There are so many unanswered questions. But after the race, we'll all know."
Yes, about 10 minutes after sunset on Nov. 6 in Louisville, Ky., in the eerie clarity of Churchill Downs' new lights, all those questions that had seemed so perplexing will suddenly give way to lucid answers. That's one of the sport's virtues: The race always supplies answers, produces winners. And in this case, the Breeders' Cup Classic will answer the question of who's Horse of the Year.
Or at least it should. And that's the point. Zenyatta's 14 victories before this year, and all the goodwill and inspiration she has meted out, and all the publicity and attention she has brought to the game and all her brilliant charismatic flashes probably won't trump what happens when the latches of the gate spring open a few minutes after sunset on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs. That's just the way it is.
Pre-entries for all 14 Breeders' Cup championship races will be announced Wednesday. Eleven are expected for the $5 million Classic, including the four leading candidates for Horse of the Year: Zenyatta, Blame, Quality Road and Lookin At Lucky. Their accomplishments are such already that with a Classic victory, any of the four could virtually pocket the sport's highest honor.
That's why Baffert sees everything "on the line" in the Classic, where he'll saddle Lookin At Lucky. That's also why the Classic could produce a moment unrivaled in sport for tension, for this is where Zenyatta will conclude her great career after 20 races and where she'll probably get her final opportunity to claim the golden Eclipse Award symbolic of the Horse of the Year, the award that eluded her each of the past two seasons.
"If I get beat," Baffert said about the Classic, "then I don't mind getting beat by her [Zenyatta]. And I think everybody in the race will feel the same way."
Trainer Al Stall Jr., who'll send out Blame in the Classic, said he'll stand and cheer Zenyatta if she wins. Her victory would be great for the sport. And great for the soul. Twenty wins without a loss -- as Baffert said, explaining how he gets goose bumps when he watches replays of her, "this is something we've never seen before."
And indeed everyone at Churchill Downs that day will give her due tribute and honor, whether she wins or not. But what if she loses for the first time in her career? What about Horse of the Year?
She could still get the honor, of course, depending on who wins the Classic. If, for example, Espoir City, the Japanese invader, upsets, then Zenyatta would become the default choice for Horse of the Year.
But, frankly, after 19 victories, Zenyatta has surpassed such honors. She has moved far beyond Horse of the Year. That isn't to say the golden Eclipse would be just another bibelot on her mantel. No, it would be more than that, but it wouldn't be anything she needs; it wouldn't be something required to complete her résumé or confirm her greatness. She is beyond that.
The golden Eclipse might need her. But for credibility and continuity, the award needs to go to the horse who had the best year on the track, where such awards should always be decided, even if that horse isn't Zenyatta.
In other words, if Lookin At Lucky, or Blame or Quality Road wins the Classic, then he should also be Horse of the Year. And so everything will be on the line.
by Gary West
On the Breeders' Cup worktab
Dwyer S. (G2) king FLY DOWN (Mineshaft), third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and runner-up by a nose in the Travers S. (G1) in his past two, clocked a half-mile in :48 2/5 over Saratoga's fast Oklahoma dirt training track on Saturday. The Nick Zito sophomore is headed for the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1).
Pennsylvania Derby (G2) hero MORNING LINE (Tiznow), also expected in the Classic, also posted four panels in :48 2/5 for Zito.
King's Bishop S. (G1) third LATIGO SHORE (Malibu Moon), who might go in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1), sped a bullet four furlongs in :48.
Multiple Grade 1 heroine LIFE AT TEN (Malibu Moon), who suffered her only loss of the year when third in the Personal Ensign S. (G1) two back, covered five furlongs in 1:02 3/5 on Belmont Park's fast dirt training track in advance of the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (G1).
Ruffian Invitational H. (G1) vixen MALIBU PRAYER (Malibu Moon), most recently second in the Molly Pitcher S. (G2), geared up for the Ladies' Classic with a five-furlong move in 1:01 4/5.
Spinaway S. (G1) victress R HEAT LIGHTNING (Trippi), runner-up in the Frizette S. (G1) most recently, covered a half-mile in :48 as she readies for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
With Anticipation S. (G3) scorer SOLDAT (War Front), a last-out second in the Pilgrim S. (G3), logged four panels in :48 2/5 in preparation for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G2).
Bed o' Roses S. (G3) second QUALIA (Saarland), fourth in the Gallant Bloom H. (G2), breezed four furlongs in :48 2/5. The Robert Ribaudo trainee might show up in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1).
On Belmont's fast main dirt, Japanese Group 1 queen RED DESIRE (Jpn) (Manhattan Cafe), third in the Flower Bowl Invitational S. (G1) last out, breezed four furlongs in :48 in advance of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
Grade 2 heroine SARA LOUISE (Malibu Moon), third in the September 25 Gallant Bloom H. (G2) while making her 2010 bow, traveled a half-mile in :49. The Saeed bin Suroor four-year-old may make her second start of the year in the Filly & Mare Sprint.
Champagne S. (G1) runner-up MOUNTAIN TOWN (Cape Town) readied for a possible start in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) with a half-mile move in :53 2/5 on Aqueduct's fast dirt.
DECIPHERING DREAMS (Freud), third in the Pilgrim last out, breezed a bullet five-eighths in 1:00 2/5. The Richard Dutrow charge might try the Juvenile Turf. Madeline Sciametta guided Big Drama in his six-furlong work at Calder (Jim Lisa Photos)
Over the fast main track at Calder on Saturday, Breeders' Cup Sprint candidate BIG DRAMA (Montbrook) covered six furlongs in 1:14 1/5. Winner of the Smile Sprint H. (G2) over the summer, Big Drama will enter the Sprint off second-place finishes in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1) and Forego S. (G1).
At Hollywood Park, Frizette winner A Z WARRIOR (Bernardini) drilled five furlongs in a bullet :58 on the Cushion Track in advance of the Juvenile Fillies.
Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-G1) hero KINSALE KING (Yankee Victor), up the track in the July Cup (Eng-G1) when last seen, zipped a half-mile in :46 2/5. He will be cross-entered in both the Breeders' Cup Sprint and Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G2), with first preference in the former.
Multiple Grade 1 vixen GABBY'S GOLDEN GAL (Medaglia d'Oro), sidelined since her victory in the January 31 Santa Monica H. (G1) zipped six furlongs in a co-bullet 1:12 4/5 and has been confirmed for the Filly & Mare Sprint.
Grade 1 winner AWESOME GEM (Awesome Again), exiting a fifth in the Goodwood S. (G1), worked in 1:13 1/5. He will be pre-entered in both the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and Marathon (G3), with first preference in the Dirt Mile.
Ancient Title S. (G1) runner-up SUPREME SUMMIT (Cactus Ridge), gearing up for the Sprint, finished in 1:13 2/5.
On the fast main track at Monmouth Park, Grade 2 victor MUSKET MAN (Yonaguska) traveled six furlongs in 1:17. A neck second in the Monmouth Cup (G2) last time, he will try his hand in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Dual Sword Dancer Invitational (G1) hero TELLING (A.P. Indy) covered five furlongs in 1:02 1/5 on Delaware Park's fast dirt in advance of the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1). He exits a fifth in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (G1).
Grade 2 veteran ELDAAFER (A.P. Indy), last seen taking the Turfway Fall Championship (G3), clocked six panels in 1:13 3/5 in advance of the Marathon.
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