By Gene Kershner
The Breeders' Cup World Championships are a mere three weeks away and last weekend may have foreshadowed a change on the top of the thoroughbred world with key losses by Wise Dan and Groupie Doll at Keeneland and Obviously at Santa Anita, all coming within the same bewitching hour last Saturday afternoon.
It may have also opened the door for an improbable Horse of the Year in Princess of Sylmar, should Game on Dude falter in the Classic. A winner of four straight Grade 1's, albeit in restricted company, could propel the filly to the top of the charts. This week's NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll listed her as No. 3 behind Game on Dude and Wise Dan, but she's closed the gap and last week's loss by Wise Dan and a loss by the Dude in the Classic could turn the vote for the year's top horse into a toss up.
With most of the prep races complete, this weekend offers a chance to take a break and load up the ADW account for the big weekend on Nov. 1 and 2 at the Great Race Place in Arcadia, Calif.
Last week I gave a sneak peek at my top five favorite things about Santa Anita. This week we'll look at the top five things I'm looking forward to the most during this year's Breeders' Cup weekend.
1. The Classic. This race is shaping up as one of the better ones in the last few years. The last two were won by Drosselmeyer and Fort Larned. Yawn. This one will have horses coming off Grade 1 victories in Ron the Greek, Mucho Macho Man and Game on Dude, in addition to 3-year-olds looking to win that division in Palace Malice and Will Take Charge.
2. The Other Classic...er....The Distaff. Royal Delta and Mike Smith will try and shake off the loss to Princess of Sylmar in the Beldame at Belmont Park to attempt to win their third straight Ladies' Classic/Distaff. The race's name was restored after a brief hiatus to the Distaff, a race for fillies and mares, 3 years and up.
3. Will D. Wayne Lukas' banner year continue? He'll have Will Take Charge in the Classic, possibly Strong Mandate in the Juvenile and Optimizer in the BC Turf. He had statement wins in the Preakness (Oxbow) and the Travers (Will Take Charge), will he take home a Breeders' Cup win for the second straight year after a seven-year hiatus from the BC winner's circle? His only Classic win came in 1999 with Cat Thief.
4. Huge Pick-3 and PIck-4 pools. The chance for a life-changing score or at least a four or five-figure win is more likely during a BC card than on your average Saturday at Aqueduct. With betting minimums at $0.50, the opportunity to spread in Pick-3 and Pick-4 betting that will be rolling throughout both the Friday and Saturday cards will be there for the taking.
5. The Weather. Can you blame an east coast guy from enjoying the breathtaking San Gabriel mountains in picture-perfect 75-degree weather and little to no humidity? Count me in. With all three Triple Crown races affected by the weather this year, the chances for that happening in Southern California are very unlikely.