Shapiro: Santa Anita surfaces played fair on Breeders' Cup Friday
by SCOTT SHAPIRO
We head into Breeders’ Cup Saturday with a dirt and turf course that both appear to be playing quite fair.
Understandably, racing fans were concerned that the main track might have a significant bias based on memories of the 2013 event at Santa Anita Park, as well as there being a distinct advantage for those on or near the lead over the late stages of the short autumn meet. While the first couple of races did little to curb that fear, as the day went on it became evident that the dirt course was playing fairly to all running styles.
Despite an extremely small sample, a closer examination of the two Breeders’ Cup races over the main track shows there was not a significant speed bias to speak of. 11-1 shot Tamarkuz rallied from well off the pace despite solid, but not chaotic early fractions to capture the Dirt Mile. Then, in the other championship event run over the Santa Anita dirt, Beholder came from a few lengths off Songbird's early lead, came even with the leader in the stretch and grinded out a win over the previously undefeated Fox Hill Farms’ filly.
In terms of the turf racing, two-turn races also appeared fair to all competitors.
Oscar Performance sat just off the pacesetter and powered home to capture the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, while New Money Honey relaxed several lengths off loose leader Lull before getting the jump on other late runners and hitting the wire first in the Juvenile Turf Fillies.
In the Grade 2 Twilight Derby, it was Frank Conversation that came from way out of it to run down the early pacesetters, Free Rose and Blackjackcat, further suggesting a fair lawn for all, with perhaps a course that appears a bit difficult to take a field gate-to-wire over.
In the only race conducted down the hillside turf course on Friday, it was front running Watch This Cat that rushed up the rail to the early lead and captured her second straight in relatively easy fashion. While the hill has played towards front running types more often than not over the past few weeks, I would not read too much into this event today since the winner was odds-on.
We should be set for an amazing day of racing tomorrow.
Photo by Spencer Tulis/Horsephotos.com