- Bill Finley
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Random Breeders' Cup thoughts while waiting to get on a plane to LAX:
Something tells me Curlin is going to run the best race of his life Saturday. His primary Classic workout was among the best five-furlong works I have ever seen. He glided effortlessly over the Pro-Ride surface, never seemed to get out of a common gallop and stopped the clock in :59. He seems to love the Santa Anita surface, which shouldn't come as a surprise. He's by Smart Strike, who is one of the better synthetic surface sires out there. His offspring is winning at an impressive 16 percent rate on synthetic tracks and he's already had three horses win stakes on synthetic tracks. That list includes Breeders' Cup Juvenile starter Square Eddie. Curlin will win by five.
I've come to like the idea of putting the filly and mare races on Friday. Two exciting days of racing action beats one exciting day of racing action. It certainly doesn't hurt that the race they used to call the Distaff might just be the best Breeders' Cup race that will be run this year. Had they instead dumped all the new, second-tier Breeders' Cup races on Friday you'd be left with an inferior day of racing that wouldn't generate much in the way of excitement.
I'm not telling you anything you don't already know but the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic is an absolutely awful name. The race should still be called the Distaff, but that's not going to happen. I will settle for them changing the name to the Filly & Mare Classic.
I'm rooting for 2-year-old Gallant Son. In an era where people think nothing of paying seven figures for unraced, untested babies at the yearling sales, owner Chris Randall paid $9,000 for the son of Malabar Gold at a Keeneland sale. Some big-name jockeys have contacted Randall and trainer Frank Lucarelli about getting the mount in the Breeders' Cup, but the team showed a lot of class by sticking with their local jockey Leslie Mawing. The colt is 4-for-5 and is coming off a win in the $90,000 Gottstein Futurity at Emerald Downs. He's stepping way, way up in class, but he's got some decent figures and has a lot of heart. You never know.
Speaking of feel-good stories…how about Pete Anderson. The 76-year-old former jockey turned trainer didn't have any horses to train and wasn't ready for retirement. So he turned to friend Allen Jerkens for some help. Jerkens talked longtime client Hobeau Farm into giving Anderson a horse and it turned out to be Delightful Kiss. Still with just one horse, Anderson has done great work with the 4-year-old gelding and has him in the Breeders' Cup Marathon. He's won two straight, both of them on synthetic tracks. You never know.
Don't be afraid to bet a horse just because they've never run on a synthetic track. They'll be fine.
Speed did poorly over the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita the first three weeks of the meet, but there was a noticeable shift in the track last week. There were 10 wire-to-wire winners during the week, including the jockey legends race won by Sandy Hawley. Keep a close eye on how the track plays this week before coming to any conclusions on how the frontrunners will do in the Breeders' Cup races.
Big Brown wouldn't have beaten Curlin.
Why exactly did they enter Henrythenavigator in the Classic and why do so many people give this horse a chance? He's never run on anything but grass and he's never gone beyond a mile. For him, the Classic is run on the wrong surface and at the wrong distance. He should be in the Mile.
Biggest cinch of the two days? Well Armed in the Dirt Mile.
Want to do something meaningful to move toward hay, oats and water and clean up American racing while showing that the Breeders' Cup can lead the way in this industry? Outlaw the use of Lasix in the four Breeders' Cup 2-year-old races. It would be a compromise and a first step toward getting rid of a drug that has done the sport a lot more harm than good.
Monmouth Park should get the Breeders' Cup again and get it soon. If ever a track deserved a second chance, it's Monmouth. And if Hialeah is ever revived from the dead, it has to get a Breeders' Cup.
Bill Finley is an award-winning racing writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated. Contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Something tells ESPN.com contributor Bill Finley that Curlin is going to run the best race of his life Saturday.