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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


The first phase of Breeders’ Cup 2019 is only days away. Preliminary entries are due Monday. Four standouts, who have virtually locked up Eclipse Awards—Sistercharlie, Mitole, Midnight Bisou and Bricks and Mortar–are expected in the box.

Not expected are many defending champions. Probably only one.

Sistercharlie in the Fillies and Mare Turf is a definite defending champion. Having established she is just about unbeatable against her own gender, it would be a great act of sportsmanship if she tried to emulate Enable against the boys. Alas, it doesn’t look like this is going to happen.

You have to wonder if the decision not to bring Enable to Santa Anita will sway Chad Brown’s choice of  whether to run Bricks and Mortar in the (Turf) Mile or the Turf.

The Horse of the Year leader in the NTRA poll is 2-for-2 at a mile but has not run beyond a mile and a quarter. However, he captured the Manhattan and Arlington Million at 10 furlongs as if the Turf’s mile and a half wouldn’t be a problem.

The absence of Enable could make the Turf more alluring for the Chad-ster, who is steering crack mare Uni to the Mile.

There surely will be a couple or three tough Euros but Bricks and Mortar handled Euros at Arlington and would have home court advantage around Santa Anita’s tight turns. There is no American horse, who has shown the ability to beat him at any distance.

Premature retirements aren’t the sole culprit for the achievement deficiency from last year’s Breeders’ Cup class. All but two of last year’s 14 winners started in 2019.

To be fair, Dirt Mile winner City of Light and Classic champion Accelerate made only one start apiece, on Pegasus Day in January, before scheduled trips to the breeding shed.

Sprint winner Roy H also made his only start, a win in the Palos Verdes, in January. He’s been on the injured list since. Despite the best efforts of Peter Miller, the 7-year-old won’t be back to attempt to equal Goldikova’s three Breeders’ Cup wins.

Future Stars Friday was a total misnomer last fall. The five winners have compiled a 3-for-22 mark this year, two Grade 3’s and an ungraded stakes. Newspaperofrecord (Juvenile Fillies Turf) was shut out in three attempts and Line of Duty (Juvenile Turf) was winless in five European starts.

Sistercharlie and Enable are the valedictorians among the older horses from the Breeders’ Cup Class of 2018. Each won three times, the former all Grade 1 stakes in as many tries.

At the other end of the spectrum, Stormy Liberal (Turf Sprint) is 0-6 and Shamrock Rose (Filly & Mare Sprint) is 0-3.

With the exception of the juvenile races, the Breeders Cup is meant to crown champions of the current year, not serve as harbingers of the future. Still the subsequent performances of last year’s winners, especially the 2-year-olds, underlines the frailty and inability to sustain brilliance of contemporary thoroughbreds.

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