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Stay Thirsty (Bernardini) and jockey Javier Castellano win the Gr. II Jim Dandy at Saratoga 7/30/11

Stay Thirsty will meet Flat Out in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont

  PICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos  

Breeders' Cup hopes to stamp claims at Belmont

WORLD CLASS: an analysis of the international scene according to Racing Post Ratings

IT MAY be Arc week but anyone with an interest in the Breeders' Cup will be glued to the action at Belmont Park this weekend.

The New York track plays host to many of the biggest names in US racing on Saturday when the picture for the Breeders' Cup and Horse of the Year (HOY) should become clearer.

The headline race is the Jockey Club Gold Cup, which will see a clash between Classic fancies Stay Thirsty (123) and Flat Out (123). Tizway (125) was also scheduled to appear, but will bypass the race after developing a fever last week.

In the Kelso Stakes another Classic hopeful, Uncle Mo (124), will face stiff opposition in the form of last time out Forego winner Jackson Bend (124).

And yet another Classic and HOY possible is scheduled to run at Belmont on Saturday when Havre De Grace (123) faces her own sex in the Beldame. She became only the second female ever to beat the boys in the Woodward Stakes last time and remains a leading player for the Classic granted her fillies' allowance, but I've got a feeling she might go elsewhere.

On the undercard some of the best sprinters in the country are set to meet in the Vosburgh Stakes, where 2010 Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Big Drama (125) takes on Trappe Shot (123) and Euroears (121).

There is also top class turf action at Belmont, where Cape Blanco (122) will bid to back up his Grade 1 victories in the Man O' War and Arlington Million with success in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.

If you also figure in the potential Breeders' Cup players running at Longchamp, including Goldikova (126) and So You Think (132)  and Twirling Candy (125) running in the Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday, there will clearly be plenty of Cup clues on offer this weekend.

As far as the Eclipse Awards are concerned, the HOY title still remains wide open with Havre De Grace and Tizway sitting at the top of the NTRA poll and Blind Luck back in third.

None of those have done enough to secure HOY honours yet, however, and the prize will likely be determined on Breeders' Cup night - although Saturday should provide a major pointer.

Stay Thirsty could put himself into pole position in the three-year-old male division if he can beat his elders for the first time in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. If he loses, horses like Animal Kingdom, The Factor and Uncle Mo are still in with a shout. The Factor remains top of the American three-year-old and outright standings on RPRs with a mark of 129.

He is expected to run next in the Ancient Title at Santa Anita (Oct 8) before a probable tilt at the BC Sprint (although the Dirt Mile is an option) where he would meet the big names from the Vosburgh.

Sprinters have a dismal record in the HOY award (none of the last 40), but he might have the tiniest squeak of a chance in this open year.

If the title is to determine who the best horse in America is The Factor deserves more credit than he has been given to date, but the award has a broader scope than that. There aren't any rules regarding which horse to vote for, or what criteria to use, in the Eclipse Awards, but patterns have emerged - and The Factor would be a long shot. Barring a juvenile and two distaffers, the last 40 winners of the Eclipse Award have all excelled at 1m2f.

It doesn't really matter how good a sprinter is because he will never get the media attention like a horserunning in the Triple Crown races or aiming for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

With nothing standing out in the intermediate division this year, perhaps The Factor could prove the exception to the 1m2f rule. Or maybe something will score at Belmont this weekend and win the Classic at Churchill Downs in November and the award will remain with the 1m2f brigade.

I think there is a more likely scenario, however... I think Havre De Grace will switch to the Ladies' Classic, setting up a winner takes all (including the HOY) showdown with Blind Luck.

Those fillies have provided the main narrative to a season which has been sorely lacking a stand out performer (until The Factor came along, but he doesn't count because he's a sprinter), so whichever comes out on top when it matters will gain a lot of hearts - and votes.

Havre De Grace has 2lb in hand of Blind Luck on RPRs, so you could see why, oddly, it would improve her chances for Horse of the Year if connections opted for the supposedly weaker race (the Ladies' Classic) where she would face her old foe.

You've got to imagine what the big advertising draw will be for Breeders' Cup night. Willit be Tizway versus Stay Thirsty or Blind Luck versus Havre De Grace? I think we all know - and that then becomes the most important race of the meeting.

If Havre De Grace goes for the Classic, and loses, it might scupper the HOY chances of both fillies. Together they are stronger. The Ladies' Classic therefore looks the obvious choice. The logical choice.

If Havre De Grace does remain on target for the Classic, and loses, Goldikova enters the HOY picture. She will also be a poster girl for the 2011 event as she will bid for an unprecedented fourth win in the Mile. Again, hearts and headlines would be stolen.

This awards game isn't really about stats and figures. It's hearts and minds - and the stats say the hearts will sing for the distaffers.

The best performances on the world stage in this quiet week came in Italy and the US.

Dick Turpin hasn't made the radar in Group 1 company this year, but he did just enough to secure a win in that grade with a last gasp success in the Premio Vittorio Di Capua, which earned him an RPR of 122. Mugged-on-the-line Cityscape posted the same figure in defeat.

In the Pennsylvania Derby on Saturday, Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice charged home for second behind To Honor And Serve (116), posting an RPR of 122 under his Group 1 winner's penalty.

TOP OF THE CLASS: Dick Turpin 122 Richard Hannon (GB) (Premio Vittorio Di Capua, San Siro, 1m, September 24)

Overall World Top Ten

  Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 Frankel (GB) Sussex Stakes 137T
Black Caviar (Aus) Newmarket Handicap 133T
3 So You Think (Ire) Eclipse 132T
4 Workforce (GB) Eclipse 131T
5 Canford Cliffs (GB) Queen Anne 130T

Rewilding (GB) Prince Of Wales's Stakes
7 The Factor (US) Pat O'Brien Stakes 129A
Hay List (Aus) All Aged Stakes 127T

Rocket Man (Sing) Lion City Cup
  Twice Over (GB) International 127T


Top Turf Performers

  Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 Frankel (GB) Sussex Stakes
2 Black Caviar (Aus) Newmarket Handicap 133
3 So You Think (Ire) Eclipse 132
4 Workforce (GB) Eclipse 131
5 Canford Cliffs (GB) Queen Anne 130

Rewilding (GB) Prince Of Wales's Stakes
Hay List (Aus) All Aged Stakes 127

Rocket Man (Sing) Lion City Cup
  Twice Over (GB) International 127
10 Goldikova (Fr) Queen Anne
  Nathaniel (GB) King George

Whobegotyou (Aus)

Excelebration (GB)

Sea Moon (GB)

Rokk Ebony Futurity







Top Dirt Performers

  Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 Animal Kingdom (US) Kentucky Derby 126
2 Big Drama (US) Mr Prospector Stakes

Tizway (US) Whitney Hcap
4 Uncle Mo (US) Timely Writer 124
  Jackson Bend (US) Forego Stakes   124
6 Trappe Shot (US) True North Hcap 123
  Smart Falcon (Jap) Teio Sho 123
  Stay Thirsty (US) Travers Stakes 123
  Flat Out (US) Woodward   123
  Havre De Grace (US) Delaware/Woodward 123


Top AW Performers

  Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 The Factor (US) Pat O'Brien 129
2 Smiling Tiger (US) Triple Bend Handicap 126
  Rocket Man (Sing) Golden Shaheen 126
4 Acclamation (US) Pacific Classic 125
  Twirling Candy (US) Hollywood Gold Cup 125
Twice Over (GB)
Al Maktoum Challenge R3
7 Game On Dude (US) Hollywood Gold Cup 122
  Sidney's Candy (US) Mervyn Leroy Hcap 122
9 Crown Of Thorns (US) Mervyn Lero/Pat O'Brien 121
  Euroears (US) Bing Crosby 121
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