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Most Breeders' Cup winners fail in follow-up races
Ralph Siraco's horse racing column appears Monday and his Southern California selections run Tuesday-Sunday.
For many sports, the year-end championship event is usually the end of the year for its participants. Win, lose or draw, the championship day is the final competition until the next season starts.
In the wall-to-wall sport of horse racing, however, seasons run into each other and years seam into decades. The year-end championship, known as the Breeders' Cup comes with two months left to the year. And, if a horse is sharp, there are other races to conquer. The World Thoroughbred Championships is a great one-day event that truly brings together championship caliber horses from all over the world for a day's competition, but, then it is usually off to another challenge.
Trainer Richard Mandella has four of this year's Breeders' Cup winners under his shedrow. Sitting on the spoils of a record-setting Breeders' Cup day, Mandella has already run one of his Breeders' Cup winners back in a race half a world away. And, until recently, he entertained running the Classic winner another half a world away.
Statistics show that Breeders' Cup winners who return to race in the same year are bad bets. More often than not, they do not repeat a championship performance at short priced odds. These performances lead to the conclusion that most horsemen have their Breeders' Cup contender cranked up for the race of its life on Breeders' Cup day. And, win, lose or draw, a horse usually peaks for the event, thus, leaving chances for a letdown after the competition a sobering reality. Also, many horses may have had a hard prep race leading up to the Breeders' Cup. Thus, lending to another trend that suggests a horse can't keep it's peak form for long. Such is the rigors of racing.
Mandella sent his deadheat Breeders' Cup Turf winner Johar to Japan for the $4 million Japan Cup on Nov. 30. In a torrential monsoon condition, Johar slip and slid his way to a non-threatening 16th-place finish. Until recently, Mandella had entertained an invitation to run in the Hong Kong Cup with Breeders' Cup winner Pleasantly Perfect. That plan has since been scrapped in favor of a slower return to the races for his Classic winner, pointing instead to the Jan.31 San Antonio Handicap as his next objective.
Mandella hopes that first start of 2004 will set him up perfectly (no pun intended) for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 6.
Johar is taking a well-deserved rest while Mandella's other Breeders' Cup winners are easing slowly back to the track. Action This Day, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, returned to the track early last week for a slow 3-furlong work. His first start as a sophomore may be the January 17 Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita to test the possibilities for the Kentucky Derby.
Mandella's impressive Juvenile Fillies winner Halfbridled hasn't worked since her Breeders' Cup victory and Mandella has yet to map out the next start that will put her perfect record on the line.
Of the Europeans that took Breeders' Cup hardware, the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Islington competed in the Japan Cup. She finished off-the-board. Take Charge Lady, sixth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, also finished off the board as the favorite in the Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs on Thanksgiving Day. Irish Warrior, fourth in the Breeders' Cup Mile, was runner-up in the recent Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park. Shake You Down, third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, returned as a beaten favorite in the DeFrancis Dash at Laurel.
Others who were beaten in the Sprint and returned to be beaten again include Captain Squire, Midas Eyes and Yankee Gentleman. On Sunday at Hollywood Park, Breeders' Cup Distaff upset winner, Adoration, finished runner up in the Bayakoa Handicap.
Although Breeders' Cup winners have lackluster return races within the year, many who competed on the day, but did not win their event, have come back with return victories within weeks of their Breeders' Cup competition.
One recent winner, Be Gentle, came out of her 11th place Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies finish to take the closing day feature at Churchill Downs. The D. Wayne Lukas trainee won the Golden Rod on November 29. Two others from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies have come back to win recently. Ashado, second in the BCJF, and Victory U.S.A., third in the BCJF, both bounced back with stakes victories. Posse, 4th in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, won the opening day Thanksgiving Handicap at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Heat Haze, fourth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, came back to win the Grade I Matriarch on the Hollywood Park lawn on Nov. 30.
Congaree, fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic to Pleasantly Perfect, won the last Grade I race of the season in New York when he captured the Cigar Mile for the second consecutive year on Nov. 29. And, Evening Attire, 7th in the Breeders' Cup Classic, finished first only to be disqualified from victory in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28.
So, for those of you still trying hard to understand -- or put up with -- the BCS final rankings, just remember, if it was horse racing there would be a good chance that whoever loses the national championship in the Sugar Bowl could have played USC the following weekend anyway.