Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Yorkers licking Cup wounds

David Grening,
Daily Racing Form

ELMONT, N.Y. - It was another brutal Breeders' Cup for New York-based horses. One year after winning just 1 of 14 Breeders' Cup races - Maram in the Juvenile Fillies Turf - the New York-based contingent drew a blank in last week's Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita. Tapitsfly, this year's Juvenile Fillies Turf winner, did race three times in New York, but she spent most of the year in Kentucky with trainer Dale Romans.

While a handful of turf horses ran well enough to be second, the New York-based dirt horses displayed yet again their disdain for synthetic surfaces, with many putting in abysmal efforts. Graded stakes winners such as D' Funnybone (last in the Juvenile), Devil May Care (11th of 12 in the Juvenile Fillies), Pyro (last in the Dirt Mile), Game Face (last in the Filly and Mare Sprint), and Girolamo (last in the Classic) epitomized the day for horses who had done most, if not all, of their previous running on dirt.

"Same thing as we thought going in - until you run on it you don't know," said trainer Todd Pletcher, who went 0 for 10 with two seconds and a third in the two-day Breeders' Cup. "I thought the horses we ran on the turf ran pretty well, and Ready's Echo [second, Dirt Mile] had some Polytrack experience, ran well. Some of the other ones did not run well on it. It's a guessing game."

Pletcher said it was evident from the start that Devil May Care - who won the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont - was not enjoying her synthetic experience.

"She was the most obvious case, she never traveled well on it," he said. "We knew going into the first turn she was not going to run the same race that she had been running on the dirt."

Game Face won three graded stakes on dirt this year and finished third in the Grade 3 Masters over Tapeta at Presque Isle. She didn't lift a hoof over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride. Pletcher said Game Face will most likely be retired.

Pletcher said it was not fair to attribute Eskendereya's ninth-place finish in the Juvenile to a disdain for synthetics.

"I thought he had a horrendous trip," Pletcher said. "He took the worst of it in a pretty roughly run race around the first turn. It surprised me he even finished as well as he did."

Pletcher left Eskendereya in California to run in the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park on Dec. 19. Rose Catherine also stayed in Los Angeles to run in the Hollywood Starlet the following day.

Quality Road never had the chance to prove his ability over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface. He freaked out at the gate and had to be scratched after he suffered a cut on the gaskin, the region between the stifle and the hock, in a rear leg that required stitches. Pletcher said Quality Road had three problem-free schooling sessions at Belmont Park before he left.

"We tried to challenge him a bit, put him with other horses, back him out, put him in [with] rider on, rider off, try to get him to misbehave so maybe we could figure out if he were to misbehave what we could do different," Pletcher said. "Basically, in three sessions here he never so much as hesitated."

Quality Road will remain in Southern California until Pletcher and owner Ed Evans resolve whether to run him again this year or send him to Florida for a 4-year-old campaign. Pletcher said the possible spots this year for Quality Road are the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 29 - Quality Road won his debut at Aqueduct last year on Cigar Mile Day - or the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs the previous day.

One horse headed to south Florida is D' Funnybone, who had won two graded stakes on dirt at Saratoga and Belmont before his last-place finish in the Juvenile.

"We're under the impression he didn't like the track, and we still don't know if he likes two turns," trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said.

Dutrow said he has picked up Radiohead, who finished seventh, beaten only four lengths in the Juvenile. Before the Juvenile, Radiohead was purchased privately by IEAH Stables. He ran for trainer Brian Meehan in the Juvenile.

Trainer Bill Mott may have had the best showing of any New York-based trainer, sending out Mushka to a runner-up finish in the Ladies' Classic and Courageous Cat to a second-place finish behind Goldikova in Saturday's Mile. Both horses will remain in training in 2010, Mott said.

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