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How Globeform previewed the big race:
Breeders' Cup Classic: Zenyatta the one to beat

by Geir Stabell (geir.stabell@globeform.com) / Globeform (http://www.globeform.com)
Last update: 2010-03-11 13:57:19 (First published: 2009-10-05 11:34:49 )


Santa Anita: She goes for the big one, and what a wise decision it is.



Zenyatta's Globeform rating makes her better than any of the males lining up for this year's Breeders' Cup Classic (G1).

True, rivals like Santa Anita Handicap winner Einstein, the high class turf miler Rip Van Winkle and top three-year-old Summer Bird make for a quality challenge, stronger than she has ever faced, but Zenyatta is something else - and she's the one they all have to beat in the $5 million contest.

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GLOBEFORM RATINGS
BREEDERS� CUP CLASSIC (G1)

Santa Anita 7 November 2009 � 1 � miles Pro-Ride

Purse: $5 million

Contenders presented with best Globeform ratings,
sires, trainers, and GF ratings in most recent starts (l-to-r)


129 � ZENYATTA (Street Cry) mare/ John Shirreffs / 126p � 129p � 118P - ?P / M Smith
125 � RIP VAN WINKLE (Galileo) / Aidan O�Brien / 119p � 125 � 125 � 124p / J Murtagh
123 � SUMMER BIRD (Birdstone) / Tim Ice / 120p � 118p � 122 � 123 / K Desormeaux
123 � QUALITY ROAD (Elusive Quality) / Todd Pletcher / 123p � 122p � 111p � 121p / J Velazquez
123 � GIO PONTI (Tale of the cat) / Christophe Clement / 112p � 123p � 117p � 113p / R Dominguez
123 � MINE THAT BIRD (Birdstone) / Bennie Woolley Jr. / 123 � 121p � 113 � 114 � 111 / C Borel
122 � EINSTEIN (Spend a Buck) / Helen Pitts / 118p � 120p � 100 � 121 / J Leparoux
122 � RICHARD�S KID (Lemon Drop Kid) / Bob Baffert / 103 � 106 � 110p � 122 � 115p / A Solis
119 � COLONEL JOHN (Tiznow) / Eoin Harty / 119 in 2008 / 116p � 114 � 117 / G Gomez
119 � GIROLAMO (A. P. Indy) / S bin Suroor / ?p - ?P � 119p / A Garcia
118 � TWICE OVER (Observatory) / Henry Cecil / 0 - 114p � 115p - 118
117 � REGAL RANSOM (Distorted Humor) / Saeed bin Suroor / 117p � 95 � 117p / R Migliore
115 � AWESOME GEM (Awesome Again) / Craig Dollase / 112 � 110 � 112 � 115 / D Flores

All ratings � Geir Stabell / globeform.com

Zenyatta gets a 3lb sex allowance � add three pounds to her rating for direct comparison with males.


2008 BREEDERS� CUP CLASSIC (G1)

1 � RAVEN�S PASS (Elusive Quality) J Gosden / L Dettori - Globeform 128

2 � Henrythenavigator - GF 124
3 � Tiago - GF 122

Won by 1 � lengths, � length



GLOBEFORM ANALYSIS

ZENYATTA can win the Classic and complete a unique double, following her stroll in the Ladies Classic here last year. Not only is she the top rated horse on Globeform ratings, she holds home court advantage, she has plenty of experience with the surface, and she will be receiving a useful weight allowance. And what a boost her barnmate Life is Sweet gave her by outclassing her rivals in the Ladies Classic yesterday.

True, some of the Classic rivals are solid horses but, let�s face it, with Sea The Stars and Rail Trip both ruled out, there is not much �brilliance� left. Zenyatta owns well over half the brilliance on tap. She has nothing more to prove in her own division, and, while she has nothing to lose from going in the big one, a win in the Breeders� Cup Classic will make her Horse of The Year. Even if it is achieved in the closest of finishes. Normally, when Zenyatta runs, there is no need for a photofinish but � and this is the great thing � she has been in a couple of close final furlong battles. She has become accustomed to winning with ease, but she also knows how to fight.

Capable of Globeform 129p, she will be carrying three pounds less than Rip Van Winkle, Summer Bird, Quality Road, Einstein and all the other males. If Zenyatta performs to GF 130, which is not at all unlikely, a male will have to produce GF 133 or higher to beat her. Is that likely? If so, which one of them might be able to do so. To put the task into perspective; Sea The Stars returned GF 130p in the Irish Champion Stakes (G1). Thus, if Zenyatta runs to her best, the one who wants to match strides with her needs to run to a higher rating than See The Stars�s personal best. Think about it.

Capturing Horse of The Year, being hailed as one of the all time greats, and retiring with an incredible broodmare value, a Classic win for Zenyatta will also enhance the value of all horses in her family. We may be seeing racing history this weekend. Even running second or third would elevate her status even further. Some observers say that she has been �beating little or nothing� in the distaff divison. Well, that may well be how it looks on paper but anyone with a bit of experience with racehorses and thoroughbred racing, who has seen her race, must realise that she is an absolute freak. Mike Smith has ridden her with such unprecedented confidence in some of her races, that one thought �now comes her defeat�. But no. Zenyatta has overcome being in positions where other horses, never mind what they were called, would fail. Last year�s Ladies Classic is an excellent example of such a run � when Zenyatta came from way back to blow past her rivals for a comfortable win over Cocoa Beach and Music Note. They are both top class performers, with success in the highest grade, but neither had any sort of chance once Zenyatta got rolling. She won with plenty in hand.

The pace scenario should be to her liking in the Classic, as the early fractions should be sharp here. In addition, stretching out to 1 � miles may be just what Zenyatta wants to show even better form than we have seen so far. The way she finishes her races suggests that she would love racing over further than 1 1/8 miles, the longest trip she has tackled to date.

Thirteen wins from as many starts is a record that speaks for itself, and Zenyatta is a unique throroughbred. Coming off an easy win in the Lady�s Secret (G1), a race she won also in her final start prior to the Breeders� Cup last year, she will take all the beating.


RIP VAN WINKLE looks the best of the Europeans, and UK bookmakers have had him as their favourite since it became clear that Sea The Stars was out of the picture. Rip Van Winkle is not much to look at, in fact he is downright moderate in appearance � quite small and not particularly attractive, he will never be anybody�s paddock pick - but he sure has an engine. He looked awesome in Ireland last year, only to flop badly when heavily backed for the Dewhurst Stakes (G1) at Newmarket last fall. Rip Van Winkle has restored his reputation now, but it has happened gradually rather than �with a bang�. After running respectable races in defeat behind Sea The Stars in the 2,000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket, Derby (G1) at Epsom Downs and when Eclipse Stakes (G1) at Sandown Park, he turned the corner with a scintillating performance in the Sussex Stakes (G1) over a mile at Goodwood in the summer. Kicking clear early in the straight, Rip Van Winkle ran on much too strongly for his rivals and won by 2 � lengths from the impressive Royal Ascot winner Paco Boy, with the top filly Ghanaati beaten another 4 lengths in third.

Aidan O�Brien next sent him to the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1) at Ascot in September. Tackling a mile once more, Rip Van Winkle justified favouritsm to beat Breeders� Cup Mile contender Zacinto by 1 � lengths. Delegator, another Mile contender, was a well-beaten third. These performances set Rip Winkle apart from all bar Sea The Stars in Europe, and he must have a great chance in the Breeders� Cup Classic. He is just the type to handle Santa Anita�s Pro-Ride surface, and he will go well around the bends there. Now, that two European colts ran so well in the Classic here last year does not mean all Euros will produce their best over the surface. Turf runners do have a good record over this track, however, and there are many reasons to like Rip Van Winkle in this year�s Classic. One reason not to back him in the future books, is that he has suffered from some foot problems. These have been well documented, though they are probably minor and have not yet ruled him out of any intended races. That said, to win a Breeders� Cup Classic, you need to have a horse that is aboslutely �A1� and at the top of his game. O�Brien has had this race in mind for some time for this colt and we can expect him to be sharp on the big day. Raven�s Pass landed the Queen Elizabeth II at Ascot last year, prior to his historic win in the Classic. So let�s forget about that awful �stat� created by winners of the QEII that have gone on to the B Cup Mile� in fact, the double has yet to be achieved. Starnge, isn�t it, when you think about how the QEII / BC Classic double could be achieved for the second time on the bounce.


SUMMER BIRD was recommended on these pages when 50-1 in the future betting for the Belmont Stakes (G1), so he is a horse we like! The rate of is progress in the first half of the season was second to none, and he ran a great race in the third leg of the Triple Crown, to defeat Dunkirk and Mine That Bird with a dominating stretch run. The margins between the three were 2 � lengths and a neck. Beating Mine That Bird by three lengths meant a healthy 16-length turnaround in form, compared to their running in the Kentucky Derby (G1), where Mine That Bird was a clear-cut winner and Summer Bird came home in sixth after suffering from a poor trip. Mainly, however, he was suffering from a lack of experience, since the Derby was only his fourth start. Summer Bird made his racecourse debut as late as on March 1 this year (fourth in an Oaklawn maiden), and there is a good chance of further improvement in this son of Birsdtone, who also won the Belmont. Summer Bird could not match strides with the mighty Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park, run over a sloppy track almost two months after his Belmont win, but he was a clear second that day and it set him up for a bi run in the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga in late August. Ridden much closer to the pace than in his earlier races he quickened right away at the top of the lane and ran out a comfortable 3 �-length winner from Hold Me Back, who stayed on from off the pace to beat Quality Road for second. The latter lined up again in Summer Bird�s next race, the 10-furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) back at Belmont Park on the first Saturday of October. Rain, slop was the order of the day again. It suited him best once more, and he won once more � this time by a length from Quality Road � who put in a much-improved effort.

Whether Summer Bird can transfer his best form to the Pro-Ride surface is hard to say, but the evidence we have points us in the direction of the answer �probably not�. On the plus side; he can improve again, though he is a typical dirt performer, and one who relishes a test of stamina. Ten furlongs at Santa Anita are not as demanding as at Belmont Park, and a dry Pro-Ride is quite different to a sloppy dirt track. Still, it is hard to toss this horse out altogether, simply because he has done nothing but move forward all year long.


QUALITY ROAD is a very interesting Breeders� Cup Classic contender. He has the BC Dirt Mile (G1) as an alternative but hopefully he will take a shot at the big one. This colt has been sitting on a huge race for some time, and it was most unfortunate that a foot bruise ruled him out of the Kentucky Derby (G1) back in May. Quality Road, then trained by James Jerkens, had won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park, both in impressive style, and he was Derby favorite with many bookmakers and top ranked on many an expert�s list. Quality Road looked a world-beater in the making in the spring, though it needs mentioning that he was not bettering enough different horses at Gulfstream to qualify for what we call �solid form�. Was Theregoesjojo (2nd in FOY and 3rd in Fla.Dy.) a performer almost capable of Grade One winning form? Hard to say, but Dunkirk, beaten 1 � lengths in the Florida Derby, has run well with the best in the classic crop since and, to a certain extent, advertised Quality Road�s spring form. Quality Road, an attractive son of the classy stallion Elusive Quality, returned from a four-month layoff when winning the Amsterdam Stakes (G2) at Saratoga in August. Breaking the 6.5-furlong track record, he slammed leading BC Sprint hope Capt. Candyman Can by 2 � lengths, after overcoming a tardy start.

This win put him on track for the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga, where a sloppy track probably contributed to a below par effort for third, behind Summer Bird and Hold Me Back. The rain came again prior to the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont, and Quality Road�s connections went for a new plan � sending the colt to the lead. This was not ideal but better than being stuck in the kick-back. Quality Road was outstayed to the tune of a length by Summer Bird. He battled on really well all the way to the line and it was an impressive run in defeat. His credentials as a Breeders� Cup Classic contender moved up a notch or two. That the Dirt Mile is a tempting option is easy to understand, as he would be a short-priced favorite or that event, but Quality Road possesses s much class, and has every right to improve again, and he belongs in the Classic.


GIO PONTI, coming off a shock defeat when a heavy favorite for the Turf Classic (G1) at Belmont Park, is a bit of a surprise runner in the Classic. He would fit in so much better in the Turf but connections clearly feel that he has nothing more to prove on the lawn, and the distances are also a factor. A mile and a half is too far for Gio Ponti, whose best form has been produced ov a mile and a mile and a quarter. Christophe Clement�s runner had won four Grade Ones on the bounce prior to being beaten by Interpatation at Belmont Park. This fantastic run began with a solid off-the-pace success over Ventura (F&M Sprint fav.) and Dixie Chatter in the Kilroe Mile (G1) here at Santa Anita in March. Gio Ponti came with a strong finish from the back and just got up in the final jump to beat Ventura by a nose.

Facile wins in the Manhattan Handicap (G1) and Man o�War Stakes (G1), both at Belmont Park, follwed before he captured the Arlington Million (G1) in Chicago on August 8 The Manhattan was won by 1 � lengths from Marsh Side, while Musketier was runner-up in the Man o�War, beaten 1 � lengths. The Arlington Million always attracts strong Euro shippers and this year�s renewal was no different, but � for a change � they performed below par and the exacta was filled by two North Americans. Gio Ponti strolled to the lead as they left the home turn and was never in any sort of danger down the straight. He landed �The Million� quite easily, passing the post 1 � lengths ahead of the improving longshot Just as Well (who went on to win a G1 on DQ next out). Stotsfold, the best of the visitors, took third. It was another smooth performance by Gio Ponti but he did not have to run to his best to win at Arlington. He could not have had an easier race, and therefore it was extra disappointing to see his stride shorten badly close home in the Turf Classic (G1). So badly that Interpatation, a 50-1 shot without a win in two years, pass him. Gio Ponti may not have stayed the 1 � miles on soft ground though it is hard to believe that this was the only explination for his defeat. He simply wasn�t at the top of his game on the day. On Breeders� Cup day, he will have to be, and he will almost certainly have to improve on his already smart form to make an impact in the $5 million contest. Can he do that? Possibly, but realistically Gio Ponti looks more like a �filler� for Trifecta and Superfecta players, than one to play as the winner.


MINE THAT BIRD , the upset winner of this year�s Kentucky Derby (G1), has lost his form in recent months and, despite his connections continually sending out optimistic bulletins, he is hard to fancy in the Breeders� Cup Classic (G1). At his best, he can beat most of the three-year-olds, over a concentional dirt track and in a strongly-run race ensuring a test of stamina. He hs not been showing his best form, and that for some time, the Classic includes top older horses and Europeans, and as it is run over a Pro-Ride surface it will not be such a test of stamina. Ten furlongs on the dirt at Churchill Downs is an altogether different matter.

The Derby winner ran an unusual race at Churchill Downs, where he came from well out of it, having been dead last in the early exchanges, to win the race by 6 � lengths from the non-staying Pioneerof the Nile, with Musket Man third. It was a smart and solid performance, though not one of the best we have seen by winners of the first leg of the Triple Crown in recent years. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Mine That Bird proved that it the win was no fluke, however, as he ran a game race to finish second behind Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico two weeks later. Staying on from off the pace, as is his style, he was only a length behind the wonder filly at the wire, beating Musket Man by half a length for second. The Derby form worked out quite well but we also got confirmation that Rachel Alexandra was the best three-year-old in North America. She probably would have won the Derby. The Belmont Stakes (G1) followed next for Mine That Bird, and the step up to 1 � miles was sure to suit him, but it was another son of Birdstone, Summer Bird, who went to the winner� circle in New York. He beat Dunkirk, as Mine That Bird (committed way too soon this time) was a one-paced third, beaten 3 engths by the winner. He has since been an odds-on loser in the West Virginia Derby (G3) at Mountaineer � third to Soul Warrior � and well beaten once more in the Goodwood Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita � a dull sixth to Gitano Hernando. These runs are not exactly inspiring, as Benny Woolley�s pride and joy is coming up to the biggest test of his career. It would be nice to see him bounce back to form, and make his presence felt, but it would also be quite a surprise.


EINSTEIN won the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) over the same course and distance as the Breeders� Cup Classic (G1), and this Brazilian import is now well established as the best all-rounder in North American racing. All surfaces, and a variety of tracks, seem to come alike to him and Einstien must be taken seriously here. Although his form is a bit below what one would expect is required to win the Classic, it would not be the biggest shock of all if he pulls it off. Home court advantage and consistency are two factors that count for a lot in horseracing. Einstein enjoys both, and he could be set for a big run on November 7. Just going to post with a live chance is some feat, as the Santa Anita Handicap was run exactly seven months earlier in the year. It takes a tough and special horse to keep competing at the top level over such a long period. Since landing the �Big Cap�, which he took by a length from Champs Elysees, Einstein has raced four times and only once finished off the board. That was when he performed inexplicably badly in the Arlington Million (G1) � to be a distant fifth behind Gio Ponti � and it is a race to forget. He had previoulsy checked in as an unlucky third to Macho Again in the Stephen Foster (G1) on dirt at Churchill Downs, and taken the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) on turf at the same venue, where his excellent late kick made all the difference. He beat Cowboy Cal by a head with Court Vision, another four-year-old, rounding out the trifecta.

A month after his run in the Arlington Million, a race he ran below form in also last year, Einstein came back to something like his best with a solid run at Del Mar. The Pacific Classic (G1), run over 1 � miles, attracted a deep field of 12 runners and Einstein was one of the most popular in the betting. He raced prominently throughout, handling the Polytrack as well as any, and only the surprise winner Richard�s Gift proved too good. He outstayed Einstein close home to win by a neck, and Rail Trip finishing a close third with Parading fourth and Colonel john fifth helped give the form a strong look. Einstein lost nothing in defeat here, and he must be fancied to turn the tables on Richard�s Gift at Santa Anita. Beating that rival is no guarantee of success in the Classic, and Eisntein may not be one of the most obvious candidates for a big win, but he sure is an obvious name to include in any trifetca plan. To date, this son of Spend a Buck has raced 28 times for 11 wins, and he has finished in the top three 18 times.


TIAGO finished third in the Classic twelve months ago, doing best of the Americans behind Raven�s Pass and Henrythenavigator. Returning Globeform 122 in the process, he reached a career high that day, but he has not been able to reproduce it since. He ran a race full of promise when third in the San Antonio Handicap (G2) over 9 furlongs at Santa Anita back in February. Conceding 5lb to the winner Magnum, he went down by 3 � lengths. Subsequent Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Well Armed was second. This was a decent start to the new season for Tiago, though we have not seen much of him since and checking in last in the Goodwood Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita on October 3 was a particularly disappointing run. He had been last also in the Brubaker on turf at Del Mar in August, and Tiago is very much under a cloud at present. He has been a game and solid performer over the years, with plenty good performances in the book, he likes this track and his best form would put him in with a chance of hitting the board. But will we ever be seeing that kind of form again?


RICHARD�S KID served up one of the biggest shocks of the season, at when we are talking Grade One action, as he won the Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar in September. Going off at 24-1, Richard�s Kid was among the back-markers early on, but he hit a super stride around the home turn, and came five wide with a storming run to get up for a neck verdict over Einstein, with Rail Trip beaten a lenth in third. Richard�s Kid�s rider Mike Smith lost his whip, the Baffert trainee was coming off a photo loss to Unusual Suspect in the 12-furlong Cougar (turf), yet he was capable of beating a pair of solid Grade One winners in a tight finish. It was his sixth career win, with the previous having been gained in a minor stakes at Laurel in February, when he defeated Bullsbay by a length. That win was also gained from off the pace.

His Pacific Classic win represented incredible improvement in form, and it would be easy to dismiss it as a one-off, but Richard�s Kid performed really well in the top grade once more when third behind Gitano Hernando and Colonel John in the Goodwood Stakes (G1) here at Santa Anita a month later. Trying this year�s Breeders� Cup Classic surface, he was not quite as good as he had been at Del Mar but it was a decent prep for the big one. What about his chances on November 7? Probably about 50-50 to hit the board, no more.


COLONEL JOHN, winner of the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga last year, could well be the surprise package in this year�s Classic. Having been given time off in the first half of the year and prepared with a fall campaign in mind, he is a possible improver - and his affinity for the track is a big plus. Colonel John, who finished sixth in last year�s Classic, is 3-for-6 at Santa Anita. His previous best may not be up to matching strides with the very best in this field but � if Zenyatta defects � his chances of finishing in the top three or four are definitely there. Such a statement may sound strange, as he was a beaten favorite in the Goodwood Stakes (G1) here last time out (caught late by Gitano Hernando) but Colonel John ran well without getting a hard race. He was coming off an easy win in the one-mile Wickerr Stakes on turf and an unlucky fifth to Richard�s Kid in the Pacific Classic (G1), but probably still not fully tuned up when running in the Goodwood. There seemed to be that little bit extra lacking, that the spark that made him a dual Grade One winner as a three-year-old. It will be interesting to see whether his trainer has managed to put that back in place for the big day.

REGAL RANSOM, so impressive in Dubai and a smooth front-running winner of the Super Derby last time out, is a potential improver. His form was given a great boost when Super Derby runner-up Blame swept by a aolid bunch of older horses to win the Fayette at Keeneland, and to dismiss Regal Ransom would be folly - especially if you play trifectas and superfectas. His barnmate GIOROLAMO is equally talented but may be a bit too speedy, and perhaps a bit short on experience. One gets the feeling his entry here is a back-up plan, though Godolphin often run a couple in these big races so he may well turn up. His alternative would be to wait for the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, a race that would suit Girolamo really well.

CONCLUSION

ZENYATTA
is a clear choice, with the Irish raider RIP VAN WINKLE just as clear as the second choice. If he takes to the trac, and there is no reason to doubt that he will, he will run a big race � he is probably going to be the biggest danger to Zenyatta. Of the others, QUALITY ROAD may well be worth a bet at long odds. His stunning wins in the Florida Derby (G1) and Amsterdam Stakes (G2) are two performances ranking high on our ratings. He has been baten twice by SUMMER BIRD in recent starts, though that has been over slopp dirt tracks and Quality Road was beaten for stamina on both occasions. Ten furlongs over the Pro-Ride is a distance that suits 8 to 9-furlong horses best, and that is exactly what he is. Big �Cap winner EINSTEIN is another to include in the Classic Trifectas.


GLOBEFORM SELECTIONS

A: 4 ZENYATTA
B: 10 RIP VAN WINKLE
C: 12 QUALITY ROAD
D: 8 EINSTEIN

RECOMMENDED BET


WIN: 4 Zenyatta


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