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American Thoroughbred horse racing does its Tarzan yell this weekend as beautiful Keeneland Race Course hosts the 36th annual Breeders' Cup World Championships.
The racing heart beats steady today and tomorrow, so it would be premature to perform the autopsy on the 2020 racing season. At this point, while Breeders' Cup glory is a real goal, don't discount the dollar signs owners and breeders see in horses who win and then hit the big parlay in the breeding shed. Some of the horses, like Tiz the Law, already have it made. Others can sink or swim.
Another, much bigger prize than Manager of the Year will ever be, is an Eclipse Award. That also translates into real money on the stud fees.
I may have to finally admit that the disruptions that racing went through this year unnerved me greatly.
We do have one bright spot. Lexington, home of Keeneland, will seem like Fantasy Island as it voted for Amy McGrath over Mitch "Call Him a Name Here" McConnell. But other than that . . .
Gobs of early turmoil this year were gleefully shoveled out by Churchill Downs Inc.
It again barked at Arlington Park like a dog that has its owner wrapped around three out of four paws. It threatened not to run this year unless it could have fans and, oh by the way, yowled again that it's going to destroy the track anyway, so who cares?
You could say it was justice that the big three summer turf races, culminating with the Arlington Million, were not run this year. But I see it as CDI licking its chops over the overhead it saved and the purse money it kept.
Then the bully, who will never be reformed by the closing credits, arbitrarily moved the Kentucky Derby from May to Labor Day weekend, forcing every track, every trainer and every horse to adjust to its terms. It was a Simon Barsinister cynical roll of the dice that either the coronavirus would be gone by then or nobody would care if it packed the Churchill stands with the usual suckers. Forget that Oaklawn Park had already proven that running a quality meet without fans was completely achievable. They could have run the Derby in May.
One good development was that three different horses won each of the "Triple Crown" races. Tiz the Law impressively dominated the first one, the Belmont, which can now be forgiven for only running nine furlongs. Just forget it. It was never going to be a real Crown.
Tiz the Law then dominated the Travers Stakes in early August and many of the pundits, especially those at NBC Sports, baptized him a superhorse.
Thank God for Saratoga, I honored my vow to boycott wagering at Churchill that day.
A month later, Swiss Skydiver became multiple drug investigations he is under. We'll have to endure two days of Mike Tirico, unless Notre Dame has dibs on him we hope. And Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey seem like they're going through the motions. The only spark plug is Eddie Olczyk. And Larry Collmus is a very good race announcer.
But I reserve the right to make the cats scatter and shout "Go, Baby, Go" and even win some money. My early hunch about all the chalk dust flying around this year bore out, which kept my wagering down.
Friday will be all juvenile races. I have a hard time on those because i don't know them. I'll take a look.
As for Saturday, Gamine and Serengeti Empress in the Filly and Mare Sprint (Grade I, seven furlongs, $1,000,000) are your stars. I also like Speech, who's not only on my good-bad-good Beyer Speed Figure angle, but the race of her life was at Keeneland. Except for his minor connections, there's something to like about Inthemidstofbiz. Sconsin could shock with a leap forward.
Art Collector will take money in the Dirt Mile (Grade I, 1 mile, $1,000,000), but the once-touted Crown horse bounced badly in the Preakness, which should have been his elevation to a higher level. But he has won in the 6-to-8 furlong range, so a mile could be in his wheelhouse. Knicks Go romped here by 11 last out, but it was an optional claimer and this is a huge jump in class for him. But that 107 Beyer . . .
The familiar gang of C Z Rocket, resurgent at age 6, and Whitmore, Firenze Fire, Hog Creek Hustle and Vekoma will duke it out in the Sprint (Grade I, six furlongs, $2,000,000).
Monomoy Girl, who's won 10 straight and 11 of 12(!), is your 8-5 favorite in the Distaff (Grade I, nine furlongs, 1-1/8 miles, $2,000,000) which could be the race of the day. She sat out all of 2019 and won this race in 2018. She's a joy to watch.
Swiss Skydiver at 2-1 is in my good-bad-good-bad Beyer angle, but that's nitpicking because there's only a six-point range and they include two Grade I wins.
Improbable, at 5-2, is your favorite in the Classic (Grade I, 10 furlongs, 1-1/4 miles, $6,000,000). Tiz the Law is right behind at 3-1 with Maximum Security (7-2) and Authentic (6-1) bunched on the morning line.
Can Baffert get Improbable or Authentic or Maximum Security over the finish line without Environmental Contamination? The Breeders' Cup runs a tighter ship.
Keep an eye out for By My Standards (10-1), Tom's d'Etat (6-1) or Global Campaign (20-1). Tom's d'Etat has nine consecutive triple-digit Beyers, but I don't like company he beat in his Grade I races.
The weather figures to be perfect. The turf will start Good and get up to Firm. Friday is marketed as Future Stars Friday, tomorrow is Championship Saturday. NBCSportsNet has all coverage Friday from 1 p.m. -5 p.m. NBCSN covers Saturday 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and NBC network takes over from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. TVG will also have all the races, if you can take their analysts.
One more action-packed weekend and we can put a lid on this year's racing season.
Tom Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.
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