Where I was right, where I was wrong on Breeders' Cup weekend
After 24-36 hours of decompression following a long yet fun week, it's time for me to review what I got right and what I got wrong about the 2015 Breeders' Cup. I'd like to say there's more of the former than the latter, but sadly that story never changes. The following is just a sample of takeaways, and the hope is the lessons learned through this exercise will not be completely forgotten by this time next year.
RIGHT: Wedding Toast is a bet-against
The 5-2 favorite had never run remotely as well outside Belmont Park and figured as vulnerable leaving those friendly confines after three explosive wins in a row there.
WRONG: I'm a Chatterbox is the three-year-old filly to beat
Despite coming into the race off a sharp win in the Cotillion (G1) and possessing winning experience over the track, it hardly appeared during the running that she was going to pick things up. Outfinished by both Stellar Wind and Curalina, this unexpected whiff threw the three-year-old division into chaos. I should have been more wary of her given a lack of past experience facing older horses.
WRONG: Stopchargingmaria is too unreliable to back
This filly has been able to pick up a lot of hardware when able to avoid her division's best (Untapable in 2014, Beholder in 2015), and more slack should have been cut for her Personal Ensign (G1) performance when she was sent to the lead, which is not her game at all.
TwinSpires Turf Sprint
RIGHT: This distance is way too short for Undrafted
Given the evidence in the past performances, I was surprised he was mild 7-2 favorite. Just goes to show the power of trainer Wesley Ward among bettors at Keeneland.
WRONG: It's hard to envision anyone being ahead of Lady Shipman (post 5) early, especially those in the outer posts
One of the dangers in trying to predict in your head how a race will be run is that it usually turns out completely different. Ready for Rye, whom I expected to be stalking the filly from post 12, instead was the one that made the lead. And Mongolian Saturday, breaking from post 14, had no trouble crossing over and settling into second. Lady Shipman was farther off the pace than she had been all season, which was to her benefit as she just narrowly missed after a solid late bid.
Ready for Rye, who had no experience facing older horses in stakes company, wound up being a significant underlay at 6-1. The five-year-old Mongolian Saturday, who had made it a habit of being on the wrong side of photo finishes in a pair of Grade 3s at Parx this season, had several things going against him on paper but was one of the better values in the field at 15-1.
TwinSpires Filly & Mare Sprint
WRONG: Wavell Avenue's noticeable improvement in the Gallant Bloom was probably more of a fluke than a sign she's peaking at the right time
In a race I never had a great feel for all the way to post time, it would have been better to ignore the fact that she broke her maiden in a claiming event and her unplaced effort in a restricted stakes at Saratoga three starts back. Every logical contender had significant liabilities, as did she, but that much-improved effort at Belmont should have been recognized as the huge tip-off that it was. The expected pace scenario was also going to benefit her with La Verdad likely to be hounded at a distance farther than she generally likes in top company.
RIGHT: The more I look at this race, the less sense it makes to try and beat Runhappy
Up until Wednesday of Breeders' Cup week I had viewed the sophomore as a vulnerable favorite. When push came to shove, though, he simply looked the best on paper and I couldn't leave him out of the top slot. There was a couple anxious moments in the stretch when he didn't immediately pick up steam against Private Zone, but he ultimately did.
WRONG: If Nyquist is that much slower than Songbird, I can't seem him winning a race against the other leading two-year-old males in the country
The filly Songbird has now posted faster times than Nyquist on the last two days of racing they've competed on, and is undoubtedly the best juvenile in the country. But Nyquist hasn't needed to face or beat her to top his own division.
The appearance of mild regression from the Del Mar Futurity (G1) to the FrontRunner (G1), plus drawing post 13, clearly swayed me and a lot of others off the colt, but he and Swipe running 1-2 for the fourth consecutive time shows West Coast-based two-year-olds continue to hold a lead over their eastern counterparts heading into the winter. However, I still remain unconvinced of Nyquist's long-term viability for next year's classics.
Filly & Mare Turf, Mile, Turf
WRONG: A general class advantage should give the Europeans an edge whether they totally handle the turf conditions or not
Count this as about half-wrong. Perhaps Legatissimo fares better in the Filly & Mare Turf if not going to her knees at the start, perhaps not as she wasn't loving the course. With the exception of the less-fancied Mondialiste, the Europeans were embarrassed in the Mile. In the Turf, class prevailed as Found and Golden Horn beat back the best of the Americans. As the gap has seemingly narrowed a bit between the two contingents the past several years, I'll need to be more open-minded about the chances of the home team going forward.
WRONG: American Pharoah is beatable
With the late-week withdrawals of Beholder and Smooth Roller, the more likely it looked that the Triple Crown winner would not face any kind of serious test on the front end. I lost a few bucks on Honor Code (big deal), but enjoyed the show as American Pharoah went out in a blaze of glory.