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The Z Word

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 11/3/2010 3:15:08 PM

This edition of the Breeders’ Cup Classic will go to a whole new level if Zenyatta can win her 20th consecutive race and the Classic back to back.

It won’t be easy and it shouldn’t be.

Let’s take a look back to the future to see how the winners got it done the others times the race was run at Churchill Downs.

Jack Van Berg’s star Alysheba won the 1988 running of the Classic as the chalk after getting a perfect trip. He was coming off a win at the Meadowlands, sat fourth early and was going away late.

Three years later lone speed Black Tie Affair made it look easy on the lead going wire to wire at 4-1. Another 3 years elapsed before Concern used the opposite approach circling the field from dead last to get up in the final strides at a fat 7-1.

The 1988 renewal was also won from off the pace as Awesome Again had only 2 beat early but passed Silver Charm in deep stretch to pay 9-2.

Tiznow took the first of his Classics to kick off the decade virtually wire to wire at 9-1. Giant’s Causeway, trained by Irishman Aidan O’Brien, was wide every step of the way and possible best.

Four years ago one of the best horses we’ve seen this decade, Ghostzapper, scared the daylights out of the field by running fast early and fast late to pull away at the end. The flagfall to that’s all score came as the 5-2 chalk.

The trend it seems is to be fairly close early to avoid traffic woes.

Last year I took a stand against Zenyatta for a few reasons. Her style makes it so everything has to break ideally. The competition was keen and I questioned whom she was beating all year long.

It appears she just runs as hard as she has to in order to win and this is a true trait of a champion. In a couple of races this year, her streak appeared to be in serious jeopardy with less than a sixteenth of a mile to go but she just digs in and pulls off the win.

The huge mare, who was tabbed as the 8-5 chalk on the morning line, has to beat a good field this year and first let’s look at Lookin at

Lucky. The Bob Baffert student has won 4 of 6 this year and appears to be peaking. He’s registered 3 consecutive triple digit Beyer figures and showed a new wrinkle handling the slop last time in the Indiana Derby. The key to success for him at Churchill will be that he will likely get first run on Zenyatta, and then he’ll have to hold her off.

Lucky unlucky at the draw when getting slot 12 and being tabbed at 6-1.

The exacta players in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Blame and Haynesfield will again pit their skills in this fray.

Blame starts at 9-2 and Haynesfield is a value laden 12-1.

Blame is a serious horse. He has never been out of the money and has won 3 of 4 this year. The most impressive performance was his game Whitney win over Quality Road with a 111 Beyer. He has an advantage over some in this race as he proved he liked Churchill with the win in the Grade 2 Clark to close out 2009.

Haynesfield got a lonely lead in the Gold Cup and although he was losing ground in the drive, he was never in danger of losing the race. The feeling is he’ll be forwardly placed again but he’ll have plenty of company on the lead and that may do him in.

Quality Road, who drew the inside and will open at 5-1, will be a handful. He’s 4 for 5 this year with the loss to Blame only by a head. He then validated that race by returning to take the Grade 1 Woodward with a 106 Beyer. He brings a very nice style to the race in that he can make the lead or he can settle just off of it and still prevail.

These 4 runners are the biggest threats to upset Zenyatta but lets glance at a couple of runners that race a longshot look.

Fly Down is light on winning experience but he had the excuse of being hung 5 wide in his last race and he’s in the clever hands of Nick Zito.

For a horse that has only lost twice in 9 starts, Etched has to be given a long shot look. He was coming off 2 tough races when handled by Blame.

Here’s how we see it. The pace will be hotly contested with Haynesfield, Etched and Quality Road carving out legit splits.

They will be strung across the track like the Rockettes at the top of the lane and this is when Mike Smith starts to go to work on Zenyatta. With 100 yards to go, it appears she falls short, but like always, she quickens just in time to win by a head.

Good luck and make some money.

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