Cup good & bad: ‘Saint’ is king

Nov 1, 2005 12:27 AM

Today’s column begins like the scene from "The Godfather," where consigliore Robert Duvall, after hearing that Al Martino won’t get the part, tells the movie mogul he must leave immediately, because "Don Corleone insists on hearing bad news right away."

Here’s the bad news on my Breeders’ Cup selections:

Original Spin, Juvenile Fillies, third after racing evenly, beaten six lengths by 2-1 favorite Folklore, who wrapped up the 2-year-old filly championship.

Private Vow, Juvenile, last when he "bore out after his rider’s left rein broke along the backstretch and failed to menace while racing very wide." Said his jockey, John Velasquez: "It was a brand new bridle. I felt it stretch and ”˜boom,’ it went”¦ In that situation you just hold on for your life and try to get control and your balance." Sort of like what I did with my wallet all day.

Megahertz, Filly & Mare Turf, eighth, beaten nearly 14 lengths after running 14th and last into the stretch. Far from being "The Little Equine That Could" that dominated her rivals in Southern California, when it’s Megahertz against the world, the world wins. At least my second selection, Intercontinental, won and paid $32.20. Oh happy day.

Lost In The Fog, Sprint, seventh, beaten 6 lengths, after leading into the stretch. Gary Mandella, who missed by a head with 12-1 Taste of Paradise, had Pat Valenzuela pegged to a T in analyzing the race in my recent column: "He’ll gun his horse even if it costs him the race, if he has a chance to jeopardize the favorite’s chances." And so P. Val did, taking the lead with 45-1 shot Attila’s Storm for the first quarter. Did it cost Lost In The Fog his first defeat? It didn’t help, and it ruined a fairytale story line.

Leroidesanimaux, Mile, second by three-quarters of a length after leading into the stretch. I plead the KOD Factor (Kiss of Death) on this one because both of NBC’s blathering nabobs picked "Leroy," as they did Lost In The Fog.

Happy Ticket, Distaff, 11th, beaten nearly 29 lengths. Ditto on my excuse, because the NBC jinx masters picked her, too.

Shakespeare, Turf, suffered his first loss, finishing 12th of 13, beaten more than 53—count ”˜em—53 lengths, finishing in front of only 81-1 shot Shake The Bank. To paraphrase the Great Bard, "Wherefore art thou, Shakespeare?"

Borrego (after Rock Hard Ten was scratched), Classic, 10th, beaten more than 10 lengths, never disturbing a soul after a smashing victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup that made it two Grade I wins in a row. I’m not a believer in the so-called "bounce" theory, but Borrego ran like he was on a trampoline.

End of bad news.

In no-brainer balloting, Afleet Alex will win the Eclipse Award as top 3-year-old and Saint Liam will be named Horse of the Year.

Whether Lost In The Fog can overcome the Eastern bloc’s bias and be named top sprinter remains to be seen. Silver Train, who won the Sprint at odds of nearly 12-1, had only a Grade II victory in the Jerome and an allowance win to his credit this year before his Sprint surprise, hardly credentials to overhaul Lost In The Fog, whose campaign included five graded wins, capped by the Grade I Kings Bishop.

Had Lost In The Fog won, he would have been considered by some as Horse of the Year timber, but not by outspoken clocker and gambler Gary Young.

"Personally, I don’t think he would have deserved it," Young said. "People just don’t hold sprinters in the same regard as they do classic distance horses. If Leroidesanimaux had won, he would have been undefeated for the year and he beat better horses than Lost In The Fog.

"They broke tradition and it was questionable enough when they voted Favorite Trick Horse of the Year as a 2-year-old (in 1997). In my lifetime, I don’t know if I’ll ever see a horse that runs seven furlongs or less (as did Lost In The Fog) ever being Horse of the Year.

"I have nothing against Lost In The Fog. He’s a very nice horse, but I knew he was in for a test in the Breeders’ Cup. I know the older sprinters didn’t look near as formidable because they kind of took turns beating each other this last month or two, but he wasn’t running against 3-year-olds and he wasn’t running in San Francisco."

That said, the 22nd Breeders’ Cup was as bland as unsweetened oatmeal and just as opaque.

How forgettable was it? Just three hours after the last race, during the sports segments on LA’s two major sports stations, there wasn’t one word mentioned about the Breeders’ Cup. In other words, it was business as usual.

The homestretch: Heard on the backstretch: Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. bet $300,000 at 7-2 on his horse, Saint Liam, with a British bookmaker.

”¡ Of the 19 selectors in the Daily Racing Form, no one picked the winners of the Filly & Mare Turf, the Sprint or the Mile (Artie Schiller at a modest $13.20), but a few tabbed Shirocco at $19.60.