Few significant takeaways from Breeders' Cup prep weekends
by DICK POWELL
So what did I learn from all the Breeders' Cup prep races run over the past two weekends? Nothing, zilch, nada.
I learned that I am going to have to do a lot of work to get ready for this year's Breeders' Cup that will be held for the first time at Del Mar. Charts, videos and trend analysis based on previous Breeders' Cup will be on the agenda for the next few weeks.
Let's just hope that the Del Mar weather stays predictable and the main track will be fast and the turf course will be firm. Track condition will be one less variable to account for.
This year, many contenders have one prep race coming in and some have even skipped their prep races to train up to the big weekend. Throw in bad weather over the weekend, so some of the final prep races were run on track conditions that are very different than what they will be at Del Mar.
I thought the race of the weekend was the Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park for juveniles going one mile around one turn. I know, many trainers want their horses to go two turns to see if they will be capable when the big day comes, but this year's Champagne was a truly run horse race with a big field and a hot pace.
I liked the maiden, GOOD MAGIC, from Chad Brown who was second in his debut at 4-5 going six furlongs. He looked like he would have no trouble stretching out and could sit behind the early speed.
With Jose Ortiz aboard, Good Magic was sitting behind three dueling leaders through a half-mile in :49.64. Ortiz looked like he was asking him for run way too early but he had enough energy to swing to the outside at the top of the stretch to go after the leaders. Just when it looked like Good Magic might have the race won, FIRENZE FIRE arrived on the scene even farther out and was able to surge to a hard-fought win.
I used the other Jason Servis-trained runner, FULL OF RUN, in exactas over Good Magic, but not the winner since he won the Sanford (G3) before getting beat in the Hopeful (G1), both at Saratoga. When Firenze Fire won the Champagne on Saturday, trainer Jason Servis explained his loss in the Hopeful as the horse being sick the week of the race. Wish we knew that BEFORE the Hopeful, in case you bet him that day, or BEFORE the Champagne, which would explain his poor last start.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) just ain't what it used to be so expectations of it generating a Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) contender were rather low. DIVERSIFY gunned to the front from post one from the weird angle the starting gate is placed at Belmont Park going 1 1/4 miles and he never looked back. Coming off a monster win at Saratoga in the Evan Shipman, which he won by 11 lengths and earned a career-best BRIS speed rating of 110, and being the lone speed in a paceless race, the betting public made him the second choice at 39-10 and he never looked back.
KEEN ICE rallied strong around the far turn but flattened out in the drive to be a length behind in second. The final time of 2:00.96 was very good and Diversify ran another BRIS speed rating of 110, which puts him in the elite company of the handicap division.
Maybe the stars of the Belmont Park Super Saturday raced earlier in the day and not in stakes races. In race two, a 1 1/16-mile allowance event on the main track, Todd Pletcher sent out COPPER TOWN as the 9-5 second betting choice. A fast winner to break his maiden second time out in September at Belmont Park, where he earned a BRIS speed rating of 101, he showed that was not a fluke with a facile win against first-level allowance foes.
Copper Town won in 1:41.08 and earned major style points with an effortless run through the stretch. A three-year-old colt, I would expect to see him in stakes company at Gulfstream Park for Pletcher this winter.
Race six was a loaded maiden special weight event for two-year-olds going seven furlongs on the dirt. Chad Brown had the even-money favorite with ALLURED, who was second in his career debut in fast time at Saratoga. Second betting choice was MONTAUK, who was making his career debut from post 12.
Johnny Velazquez sent Montauk up to stalk the leaders three wide through a fast first half-mile in :45.10. Without a whole lot of urging from Johnny, Montauk eased by the front runners and just kept increasing his lead with every stride through the lane. The final margin was 11 1/4 lengths and the final time for the seven furlongs was an excellent 1:22.97. He would have been very tough two races later in the Champagne as a first-time starter.
The Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) might be a bridge too far and the Remsen (G2) in early December has been a negative key race for years, so I don't know where Pletcher will go with him. Hard to keep a young horse with this much talent in the barn but he has a classic pedigree and he could be an emerging superstar of his division.