Friday, November 11, 2011
Final Assessment of Breeders’ Cup 28: A Real Mixed Bag
PLANTATION, FLORIDA, November 11, 2011--First of all, to all veterans, past and present, thank you for your service and God bless.
What with all the travel, we never had a chance to wrap up Breeders’ Cup 28. Now that we’ve had a week to digest, here are some of the developments, positive and otherwise, that quickly leap to mind.
I fully really that averages, especially with small samples, can be misleading. Fifteen is not a big number, but it is a big number of races with the addition of the Juvenile Sprint, a race that proves nothing except for the fact that some babies are really fast.
TV viewership was down. Two words: No Zenyatta.
Betting handle was down, Two words: No churn.
Two more words: No form.
Even when takeout levels are low, you can’t churn what you don’t have. Dividing the $2 win mutuels by 15 races, the payoffs averaged just north of $38.
Admittedly, a 5.1% is a bit on the steep side but considering the comparison was to last year’s record handle, maybe that’s no so bad.
More than $140-million ain’t exactly chump change.
In this game, you take what you get. And, as we’ve said often in the recent past, there will be more pain before the sport begins to grow anew.
TV, especially with respect to national events, drives handle.
Given the new normal, devoted fans and insiders can’t be too upset when nearly 106,000 people show up for any two-day event.
Price-wise, Breeders’ Cup is a bargain event compared to major sports, but it’s not inexpensive, especially if it requires at least one night’s lodging.
With respect to the now retired Uncle Mo, a few observations. Health issues notwithstanding, the colt simply failed to develop from 2 to 3.
Or it’s quite possible that his victory in the 2010 Juvenile was just too much too soon for the individual. Call it a permanent bounce. The feeling is that there’s more to the story than just an elevated enzyme count.
After all, didn’t owner Mike Repole once say to “you guys,“ a.k.a. the racing media, that he doesn’t believe in the concept of full disclosure?
As part owner of an inexpensive claiming filly, I can relate to his reluctance to tell all. That’s all part of the claiming game that‘s part horse racing and part poker.
But if I were ever fortunate enough to own a horse with Uncle Mo’s talent, one that catapults me into the public eye, I’d like to think I would take my obligation to the game seriously enough to be forthcoming, .
You can choose to believe that, or not: There’s more to the game than the price of a stallion share.
As for Havre De Grace, the leading vote getter in the NTRA Poll before and after her fourth place finish in the Classic.
She was a little worse for the wear coming off the racetrack following her final workout for the Classic, I was to learn too late on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, that rumor might have had some merit.
However, Havre De Grace finished very respectably to finish fourth, not so the early favorite for the 2010 Kentucky Derby.
Which leads to another question for that camp. If Travers winner Stay thirsty was doing as well or better than any other horse in the Pletcher shedrow, what was his excuse last Saturday? As far as we could tell there was none; he stalked comfortably, then stopped.
I always resist the temptation to judge a three year old class before its time; meeting older horses in the fall. But those who were down on the class from jump street were correct.
It wasn’t until Caleb’s Posse won the Dirt Mile impressively over elders did a three year old win as many as two Grade 1s this season. Two top-ranked stakes in 11 months speaks loudly against this class’s consistency in the overall.
We looked at a replay of the Mile for a third time and still don’t understanding the non disqualification of Goldikova in a display of the worst kind of political outcome.
Philosophically, I’m for discretionary powers for the stewards over a foul-is-a-foul hard mandate. However, this kind of careless riding was egregious and borderline reckless considering the chain reaction involved.
And neither did I understand the scratch of Announce, washy and obstreperous in the post parade, but hardly showing signs of obvious discomfort or lameness. *It was later announced that Announce required12 stitches to mend a cut, the result of a pre-race accident.
Speaking of fillies, did anyone notice that Life At Ten was quietly retired and sold as a broodmare prospect to Frank Stronach, always among this country’s top breeders?
The karma at this year’s Breeders’ Cup certainly was strange. But, per usual, for overall excellence and excitement, it’s the event that never fails to fire.
*Editing correction made on 111211 at 6:48a.m.