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With this year’s Breeders’ Cup in the rear view mirror, here are some belated thoughts: I loved Monmouth Park. Although Del Mar and Saratoga take center stage, the Jersey shore track has to be a blast during the summer. It’s a throwback—like the old Gulfstream and Del Mar tracks—with loads of character.

The weather was a downer, no doubt about it. But looking at the results, can you honestly say that one winner would have been different over a “fast” main track? Now, no question a number of horses did not handle the wet surface, and the turf course was a bog. The fields were spread out a sixteenth of a mile behind the winners. Many runners were finished at the 1/2-mile pole, and top horses like LAWYER RON and ANY GIVEN SATURDAY were done by the far turn in the Classic.

But INDIAN BLESSING and WAR PASS were going to win the juvenile events no matter what kind of surface. MIDNIGHT LUTE and IDIOT PROOF were running 1-2 in the Sprint regardless of conditions. GINGER PUNCH was certainly a deserving winner in the Distaff. And who was going to beat CURLIN in the Classic?

As for the turf, those results might have been more skewed due to the heavy ground. I have my doubts that LAHUDOOD is the best female turfer in the country, but the Mile was very formful (I had winner KIP DEVILLE picked second, and third-place finisher COSMONAUT on top, with runner-up EXCELLENT ART picked third). The one race where you can make a case for weather causing havoc was the Turf, where odds-on Arc winner DYLAN THOMAS obviously couldn’t handle the going. He was under a drive down the backside and never got going at any stage. But could he have have beaten ENGLISH CHANNEL on dry ground? Who knows? Next year we won’t have to worry about wet conditions when the BC returns to Oak Tree at Santa Anita. Fires, maybe, but not rain.

I was on the same flight coming and going with Nick “Sarge” Hines. (No, he didn’t give the pilot a pre-flight pep talk.) He liked two horses on the card, LAHUDOOD ($25.40) and KIP DEVILLE ($18.40). And as the horses left the paddock for the Classic, he proclaimed CURLIN a standout on looks. Pretty good handicapping, I’d say.

NOTES: Garrett Gomez was terrific on BC weekend and has continued that run since returning to California. In his first three days here, Gomez won with eight of his 11 mounts, but “cooled off” to eight for 15 after four losers on Friday. Speaking of jockeys, Pat Valenzuela has resurfaced at Zia Park after getting licensed by the New Mexico racing board. Here’s a stat to ponder: P.Val ranks 18th on the all-time money list, right below Russell Baze, at nearly $150,000,000 in purse earnings. Had he stayed straight and healthy, P.Val no doubt would have doubled his current total, putting him right with all-time leader Jerry Bailey (who, by the way, is excellent on ESPN telecasts. According to people who work with him, Bailey is an absolute perfectionist who strives to get better with every show. Small wonder he retired as the leading money winner.), while racking up at least 8,000 winners by now….Julien Leparoux will be joining the SoCal circuit at the conclusion of the Churchill Downs fall meet, and rumor has it that Rafael Bejarano will be coming West, too. Now we’re talking about three world-class jockeys to join young lions Michael Baze and Joe Talamo, top-notch rider Victor Espinoza and a resurgent Tyler Baze. Should make for an interesting winter.

BALANCE has been retired after her off-the-board finish in the Distaff, as has THE TIN MAN, who fractured a knee coming out of anesthesia following a bone scan on his left ankle.

Tomorrow is Cal Cup Day. Will LAVA MAN snap back to top form against softer competition? My gamble is no. I believe once a top horse starts to show a declining form cycle, there is no coming back. My gut feeling is that his ultra-game nose victory in the HP Gold Cup was his last hurrah. At least that’s the way I’ll play the race.

To View Free Samples of Premium Plays, click on the links below: Oct. 27Â Â Â Â Oct. 28Â Â Â Oct. 31Â Â Nov. 1Â Â Â Â Nov. 2

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