Season titles still up for grabs

November, 29, 2013

The Breeders Cup traditionally brings down the curtain on the championship portion of a racing season, yet this year a few extra performances have been added to the show.

This Thanksgiving weekend, several of the stars of the 30th Breeders Cup will squeeze in one more race before the calendar turns to 2014 and the results could very well impact Eclipse Award voting.

The most interesting race promises to be Fridays Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs which features Will Take Charge, who lost by a few inches in the $5 million Breeders Cup Classic, and Game on Dude, who kissed his Horse of the Year hopes goodbye with a ninth-place finish in the very same race.

Even though the Clark is a Grade 1 stakes, its unlikely that it can repair the damage done to Game On Dudes reputation. A win in the BC Classic or perhaps even a narrow loss probably would have been enough to wrap up Horse of the Year honors for the 6-year-old gelding, but finishing ninth -- and flopping for a second year in a row in the Classic -- opened the door wide enough for Wise Dan to charge through it and stamp himself as the one to beat for the sports most coveted prize.

Horse of the Year implications aside, Game On Dude should be very tough to beat in the mile-and-an-eighth Clark Handicap.

Horse of the Year implications aside, Game On Dude should be very tough to beat in the mile-and-an-eighth Clark, which makes matters more interesting for Will Take Charge.

Unlike Game On Dude, Will Take Charge turned in a huge effort in the Classic and his runner-up finish by a bob of the head had the look of game, set and match as far as the 3 year-old male championship goes -- if he didnt race again.

But now, with Will Take Charge heading to the starting gate one more time, and facing a quality field which may include Game On Dude and Golden Ticket, that perception could change. While the aforementioned win or close loss should be enough to seal the deal, if he mimics Game On Dudes effort in the Classic, a stinker could come back to haunt him -- especially since theres a line of thought in some quarters that Kentucky Derby winner Orb has a better resume right now.

Then on Saturday comes a unique matchup that brings together two Breeders Cup winners in the same month they were victorious at the world championships. Groupie Doll, who captured the BC Filly and Mare Sprint, and BC Dirt Mile winner Goldencents will tangle in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct.

Though shes won only two of four starts this year, Groupie Doll clinched a second-straight Eclipse Award as the champion female sprinter with her second-straight win in the BC Filly & Mare Sprint. While a loss in the Cigar will not alter the pecking order in a weak female sprint division, back-to-back Grade 1 victories could make her a worthy adversary for Royal Delta in the race for the champion older female award.

If Will Take Charge loses and Goldencents wins, it would give Goldencents three Grade 1 wins this year which would equal the combined total of Grade 1 wins belonging to Orb and Will Take Charge.

With those three Grade 1 wins coming in the Santa Anita Derby, BC Dirt Mile and, potentially, Cigar Mile, Goldencents would have quantity on his side but not quality. A 3-year-old champion almost always owns a win at a classic mile-and-a-quarter distance or more and thats something Orb and Will Take Charge have -- but not Goldencents.

Still, if Will Take Charge flops and Goldencents takes the Cigar Mile, there could be a lively three-horse battle to the wire for the 3-year-old crown and the votes Goldencents attracts could swing the decision in someone elses favor.

Well know more on all of those fronts after all of the leftover turkey is turned into sandwiches, which is pretty odd to hear.

Apparently this year the show must go on … and on and on for a few extra weeks.

• Bob Ehalt grew up a few furlongs from Belmont Park and has followed horse racing as a fan, turf writer or owner since 1971.
• Has won three Associated Press Sports Editors awards and was the recipient of the '09 Breeders' Cup media award for outstanding social media.



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