November 11, 2009

Can Win For Losing

There were fourteen winners over the two days of Breeders’ Cup and these horses deserve all the attention and accolades they receive. Zenyatta was the biggest of winners and currently the toast of the racing world, but what about the horses that did not hit the finish line first. Losers, disappointments and afterthoughts? I think not. Many of these horse deserve some love for the outstanding races they ran in losing efforts. Here are the best of the lot:

Lookin at Lucky was the clear favorite in the Juvenile despite his #13 post position. He had been perfect in four starts including facile scores in three major stakes in Southern California. The clear leader of the division, the Eclipse Award was his to lose. He did not. Lookin at Lucky’s race in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was the best run by a 2-year-old this past weekend. He suffered through a pedestrian early pace near the back of the pack and was parked wide the entire race. Despite this, his drive in the lane was relentless and was only denied in a photo finish by a horse who had a perfect trip and was able to sprint home the last 100 yards. Lookin at Lucky strengthened his claim as the 2-year-old champion and the early Derby favorite.

It was business as usual for Gio Ponti who never fails to fire his best shot on the far turn. Usually this patented move preludes a canter into the winner’s circle. The BC Classic was not to be for Gio Ponti, as he succumbed to the fantastic feminine force, but he did secure his standing as the best older male in America on turf or synthetics. Gio Ponti, with his second in the Classic, proved his class and consistency and did nothing to tarnish his reputation. At least one Eclipse Award is in his future.

Summer Bird is the best three-year-old colt in the nation. There can be no more debate. While his run for fourth in the Classic was nothing sensational, it did show what an honest and classy horse he is. On a surface that he had never before raced, Summer Bird was still able to put himself in position to win the race at the top of the stretch in a race where every other horse his age ran poorly. I do not know if he will ever have to run on Pro-Ride again, but if he does, you can expect improvement. It will be back to dirt for our three-year-old champion, and a trip to Japan next, but his race in the Breeders’ Cup only reaffirmed his hold on the glamour division.

What can you say about Presious Passion? He is tough as nails. He is unique and he is fun too watch. He sprints to a huge early lead running 6 furlongs in 1:09 and 1 and then has plenty left to dig in the entire stretch. Horses do not run this way. It took a great effort by the best older turf horse in the world to run him down and make no mistake, Conduit was life and death to get by our American speedster. Final time was a brilliant 2:23 and 3 for the 1 ½ mile test on the Santa Anita lawn. I do not think he will rest the turf championship away from the deserving Gio Ponti, but Presious Passion proved to the world what a truly special horse he is.

Ventura is a wonderful mare and she ran a huge race in running second in the BC Filly & Mare Sprint. Pace makes the race and the first part of the race was just a little too slow for the confirmed stretch runner. Informed Decision is a great mare and a deserving Eclipse Award champion this year, but Ventura gave her everything she had and if the pace had been different the result may have been as well. I credit Ventura for easily passing all the other horses and gobbling up tons of ground in a race that did not set up well for her. She lost the race, but none of her reputation.

Cloudy’s Knight is nine-years-old and is still as good as ever. In the BC Marathon, the old-timer ran one of the best races of his life. He made a winning move on the turn, only to be passed by Man of Iron on the inside. Cloudy’s came back at him on the outside, but lost in a thrilling finish. His trainer, Jonathan Sheppard should be credited for preparing this horse to run his best at an advanced age. Riding Cloudy’s Knight, was jockey Rosemary Homeister. It was her first ever ride in the Breeders’ Cup and she gave the old boy a great chance to win on Ladies Day. Win or lose, Cloudy’s Knight was a wonderful story…too bad he did not get that photo.

Biofuel was an unknown Canadian juvenile filly a short time ago, but with her impressive win in the Mazarine Stakes at Woodbine and then her spirited rally in the BC Juvenile Fillies, she has stamped herself as one of the most promising horses in her division. In the Breeders’ Cup, she was running fastest of all in the middle of the track when she was banged sideways by another filly. The trouble was enough to throw Biofuel completely off stride. Once she gathered herself, she once again came flying. Biofuel finished fourth, but was beaten only a length and a half for all the money. With a better trip, she may have well been the winner.


ja.raymond said...

This is a nice one, Brian. But I dont really consider 2nd and 3rd places as a me its always been more like "runner-up" (2nd)and 2nd runner-up (3rd).

Marti said...

Good list, Brian. If they ran Lookin At Lucky's race 5 more times, he'd win each one. SO unfortunate.

CJ said...

The only horse I'd seen before with a running style like Presious Passion's was Circuit Bar, a fabulous Steeplechasing son of Mokhieba who ran through the 90s. I saw one race in New Jersey where he opened up a furlong lead in the first mile (not kidding) and, though it narrowed, there was just no catching him.

tjreyn01 said...

What more can you say about Presious Passion! He runs lights out and by the fractions you would think he is gonna finish last. Probably a tie for me between him and Cloudy's Knight for biggest heart in the BC this year.

Heather said...

nicely written, brian. Presious Passion's and Cloudy Night's upsets stand out the most to me, though. i was REALLY pulling for Presious Passion...too bad :(

Brian Zipse said...

Sounds like my readers would like to see a column on Presious Passion in the very near future :>)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing out some great horses that almost won! Nice of you to remember the ones that didn't win it all.

Luvbarbaro said...

I agree about Summer Bird, it's unfortunate he doesn't seem to like the synthetic surface. Not so sure he'll race on it again, we'll see??

Now for the Rachel/Zenyatta debate. Rachel won all eight of her races this year in 6 different states, three times against males, once against older male horses, while Zenyatta raced in the same state, on the same surface 5 times this year, only once against the boys in BC Classic.

I do feel the handicappers & the horses continue to have problems with the synthetic/pro-ride surface.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see a column on Presious Passion! Can't wait to see Summer Bird do his thing in Japan.