Heading into the 2011 Breeders’ Cup, gamblers will watch, re-watch, scrutinize and draw conclusions from all of the prep races that will take place over the first 2 weekends of October. Here are the conclusions I took away from last weekend.
Royal Delta will be tough in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic. Her runner-up finish in Belmont’s Beldame Stakes to Classic contender, Havre de Grace, will prepare Royal Delta for a prime performance at Churchill Downs. In the Beldame, Life at Ten was given a loose lead, running the first quarter mile in 23.53 seconds. Royal Delta rushed up to engage Life at Ten, gaining 3 ½ lengths in a second quarter run in 23.18 seconds, the quickest quarter of the race. This would mean Royal Delta ran her second quarter in approximately 22.48 seconds, which is very quick for a race of that distance. At this point, Havre de Grace was sitting a perfect trip and was not going to be beaten, but Royal Delta pulled away from the rest of her rivals and defeated the third place runner, Satans Quick Chick, by 5 ¾ lengths. This performance reminds me of Royal Delta’s performance in the Coaching Club American Oaks, and how it set her up perfectly to capture Saratoga’s Alabama Stakes. The path is also reminiscent to the one former Bill Mott-trainee, Ajina took to capture the 1997 Breeders' Cup Distaff. As a 3-year-old, Ajina finished second to 4-year-old Hidden Lake in the 1997 Beldame, and then won Distaff over Sharp Cat later that fall. With Havre de Grace pointing towards the Breeders’ Cup Classic, her toughest competition appears to be fellow 3-year-olds Zazu, Plum Pretty and It's Tricky. Her gaining ground into the quickest portion of the Beldame signals her fitness and that she is peaking towards a top effort on Breeders’ Cup weekend.
Though Drill got drilled by Creative Cause in Santa Anita’s Norfolk Stakes last Saturday, look for him to build off that effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Drill, running a route of ground for the first time, sat well off a slow pace. The first six furlongs were run in 1:12.69, compared to 1:10.94 in the Oak Leaf Stakes for 2-year-old fillies run the next day. On the final turn, Drill moved up strongly to engage the leaders but was boxed in with nowhere to go. Once he was able to shake free in the stretch, Drill had too much ground to make up on Creative Cause, who had a perfect trip sitting just off the slow pace and getting a clear run without a straw in his path. Drill got a much needed education in the Norfolk Stakes that will serve him well in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where a quicker pace and longer stretch of Churchill Downs’ will benefit Drill’s closing kick.
Please be sure to follow me on Twitter-@Cappercorner and/or friend me on facebook.com to continue the horse racing conversation!