GOLD CUP DAY
In days of yore, long before there was something called the Breeders' Cup, the biggest Fall race in the land was the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.
My, how times have changed. The Gold Cup, reduced through the years from 1-1/2 miles to 1-1/4 miles, has been reduced to a mere prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic. And now, thanks to Jetermania, the Gold Cup not only is no longer the biggest horse race in New York every Fall, it is not the biggest New York sporting event this weekend, and it no longer has the desired impact on the Horse of the Year vote.
If all the ducks fall right. Wise Dan, for the third straight year, will get Horse of the Year by beating a bunch of manes and tails in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Not even Bob Baffert, if he should win four Breeders' Cup races on the Oct. 31/Nov. 1 weekend at Santa Anita, can spoil the Wise Dan hat trick.
If you get the feeling that I get angry that, with all the good horses in the mix in the last few years, a horse who wins well-spaced grass miles can be a three time Horse of the Year, you are right.
Another spoiler for the Gold Cup, which will cap a stakes four-bagger late Saturday, is the unfair importance of post position.
Last week, we included in this space, five reasons why California Chrome had no shot at 4-5 in the Pennsylvania Derby at Philly Park -- and reason #1 was his poor post, the one. Sure enough, after Chrome, who, by his very presence, helped to break all attendance and handle records at the racino, jockey Espinoza blamed the post for his poor effort.
Of course, Espy didn't help matters by taking back at the start, and getting trapped behind runaway winner Bayern (a John Piesen Hot Line Special at $9.40) Win with me online or call 1-888-612-2283.
Bayern, incidentally, will presumably top Baffert's four-horse contingent for the Breeders, Cup. Baffert's other three are Secret Circle, American Pharoah and Midnight Lucky, all of whom will be among the first three choices, and all of whom stand to benefit from Bullet Bob's home-cookin'.
Since Baffert is sitting out the Gold Cup stakes four-pack, that throws the Saturday races wide-open, especially the feature.
A dozen will go in the Gold Cup, a huge number in this day and age, and, like the Pennsylvania Derby, post position is huge.
Mile and a quarter races are rare at Belmont, primarily because they start on a turn, giving the inside posts a large tactical advantage. In this case, Moreno, the clear speed, and most accomplished older horse in the field, had the misfortune to draw post 11, thereby costing him to lose precious ground and position at the start.
To make matters worse, Moreno will have company on the lead, unlike the Whitney, which he won wire-to-wire last month at Saratoga. Said company is named Big Cazanova, and he might as well be named Big Pain in the Butt as far as Moreno is concerned.
Big Cazanova is a 5-year-old ridgeling bred in Argentina, and raced with modest success in Peru. He was then shipped to trainer Peter Miller at Santa Anita, and won three of six allowance races on the left coast, all on the front end. He races in the familiar black and gold silks of the Wachtel family of Westchester County, and will be ridden by the aggressive Irid Ortiz.
Horses, especially those who have never as much as competed in a stakes race in the U.S., are normally not asked to travel 6,000 miles for a big-money race so trainer Miller must know something you and I don't.
Oh, yes. Big Cazanova will break from the 12-hole, right alongside Moreno out there in the wide-open spaces.
Another point worth noting: Mucho Macho Man (the winner); Will Take Charge, Palace Malice and Game On Dude, the Big Four as you will of the 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic, all have been retired, leaving Moreno as potentially the only horse from the '13 BCC to even make it to the '14 BCC. And, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting on Moreno.
That laves the 3-year-olds to fight it out in this year's Classic.
If the unbeaten Shared Again wins the 300K Awesome Again Stakes Saturday at Santa Anita, and does so impressively, he will go the Classic as the short-priced favorite, with Bayern and California Chrome as the potential second and third choices.
In case you missed in in recent columns on this venue, the underbidder for Bayern at the yearling sales was New York sports radio host Mike (The Pope) Francesa. If Bayern wins the Classic (and Horse of the Year) you might want to ring Mike for his response.
One or more of the 3-year-olds in the Gold Cup need a strong showing to earn a trip to the Classic. They would be V E Day, Wicked Strong and Tonalist, who exit a 1-2-3 finish in the Travers.
Of the three, I would give Wicked Strong the best shot. He should have won the Travers, but got blindsided by stablemate V E Day, and gets the best draw (three) in the Gold Cup.
Trainer Jimmy Jerkens, one-two in the Travers, curiously starts the weekend 0-for-10 at Belmont Park.
With Moreno compromised by a poor post, and the proverbial rabbit, I'm looking for the 3-year-olds to dominate the Travers.
And I'll be absolutely shocked if Shared Belief gets beat in the Awesome Again. Mad bomber alert!
Have a great and profitable weekend, go Bucco in the wild-card, keep the JP Hot Line at your ready, and see you in October.