Talking Track: Breeders’ Cup Friday Recap
An exciting day of racing graced the historic ground of Churchill Downs on Friday. The Breeders' Cup played out its opening act over the wet track in Kentucky with My Miss Aurelia a profound winner of the Juvenile Fillies and Royal Delta an impressive champion of the Ladies' Classic.
Friday's racing action opened with the Juvenile Sprint. Silver-haired wonder Bob Baffert's Secret Circle was sent away the 1-2 favorite in this the innagural running of the race. Posting suicidal fractions early, with a quarter time under :21, Secret Circle was able to flex the muscle that he had showed in dominating fashion in his first two races. Despite staggering home in an almost 26 second final quarter, and despite his horse wandering around the track as though drunk in the stretch, Rafael Bejarano was able to survive a late run from Shumoos to get the win.
The Juvenile Fillies Turf followed with Elusive Kate a, by comparison, long-odds favorite at 5-2. She would lead this field of 14 out across the yielding turf course. In the end it was Stephanie's Kitten, with Johnny Velazquez in the irons, that would come along the rail and nip the front running StopShoppingMaria on the wire. It was a valiant effort for the Mike Repole horse who crawled through the first half of the race and looked to have enough in reserve to get the win but was ultimately second best to Stephanie's Kitten and the brilliant ride of Velazquez.
Turbulent Descent was sent away as the 7/5 favorite in the next race, the Filly and Mare Sprint. This dynamic filly was the right pick by the betting public as she was coming off an awe-inspiring throttling of the field in the Grade One Test Stakes at Saratoga. The favorite had a disastrous open, however. She was squeezed at the start and found a poor trip at the back of the pack, through the stretch and into the turn. She would fight gallantly and strike the lead, however, taking the field into the stretch. The poor trip proved too much for her, though; she just had to work too hard to get out front. Turbulent Descent would fade to the late run of several horses including the winner, Musical Romance who came on through the rail. Switch edged out Her Smile for second. The upset paid $42.40 to win. Well. That's horse racing, I guess. One bad step and the sure thing pays nothing.
Following the Filly and Mare Sprint was another ladies affair in the Juvenile Fillies. The race set up as a show-down between a few different undefeated fillies with some real class. My Miss Aurelia and Grace Hall were the names of mentions with Wemissfrankie a live third betting option; all were undefeated in three races. In the end, it was My Miss Aurelia who would take the race in masterful, impressive fashion. This brilliant filly stalked the early lead down the backstretch, into the turn, and as the field moved through the final turn you could simply see it coming. My Miss Aurelia looked prime to run, and run she did. When urged by Cory Nakatani, My Miss Aurelia blew past them all with ease. She was by far the best on this day, and may be one of the better horses going forward. Grace Hall and Wemissfrankie finished second and third, but were no match for this special filly.
The Filly and Mare Turf was next, with horses like Stacelita, Nahrain and Misty For Me leading this wide opened three turn race. Stacelita ended up drawing the most love from the betting public, she was a 2-1 favorite at post time. An irrelevant favorite she was, however, as Johnny Velazquez would come through with his second win on this Breeders' Cup card - navigating Perfect Shirl through the very tight pack and getting the exciting victory. She paid an impressive $57.60 for the win with the Perfect Shirl-Nahrain exacta paying an eye-popping $324.
The two million dollar Ladies' Classic, Friday's headliner, took us home on the first day of the Breeders' Cup. This race, the fifth of five filly and mare contests on this the apparent ladies night of Breeders' Cup weekend, was a very interesting one. Plum Pretty, It's Tricky and Royal Delta were the main attractions. The three had beaten themselves up in recent history, each having scored wins over the others. They were not the only quality to speak of in this race, however. Ask The Moon and Ultra Bend were also horses of note who had scored impressive wins in their career. Royal Delta, who was a dynamic winner of the Alabama Stakes over Plum Pretty and It's Tricky, would be bet down to favorite status at 9-5. She would lead this very balanced field under the lights and into the Ladies' Classic.
Plum Pretty took an easy lead out of the gate and ran a shockingly slow first half. With a half in :49 the race looked like it was Plum Pretty's to lose. She took the lead easily around the final turn with the favorite Royal Delta looking dead in the water. She had yet another huge stretch run in her, however, as the Bill Mott trained horse turned it on at the top of the stretch. She ran down and past the leaders in a stretch run that largely resembled her dominance of the field in the Alabama. It was an outstanding win for the filly; one that rivaled My Miss Aurelia's win for the semantic crown of most impressive race of the day. It's Tricky was second, Phachattack was third with Plum Pretty fading to the back of the pack.
It was without a doubt a very exiting night at the Breeders' Cup. Close finishes, upsets and star studded racing were par for the course on this day, but it was all a mere prelude to tomorrow's should be scintillating action. Who will stamp themselves the favorite for next year's Derby? Can Goldikova possibly 4-peat the Turf Mile? Will Havre De Grace once again beat the boys, or will Uncle Mo show what could have been and claim the glory that was predicted for him? All of the answers will come tomorrow. Be sure to tune into ABC, ESPN and on 104.5 the Team, as we'll have the radio call, and check back here for a recap of Saturday's action. Good luck, gamblers.