October 1, 2020

Uni deserving of turf female title; Omaha Beach can do better than the Malibu

Uni wins the Breeders' Cup Mile 2019
Horsephotos.com/Cecilia Gustavsson

As always post-Breeders’ Cup, there’s plenty to digest on the happenings at the weekend. The championship picture cleared up in a number of divisions, while others remained less clear cut.

Bricks and Mortar (turf male) and Midnight Bisou (older dirt female) were firmly in control of their division races before the weekend, and joining them as certain champions were British Idiom (juvenile filly), Covfefe (female sprinter) and Mitole (male sprinter). The latter might have had a case for older dirt male, too, based on his victory in the Met Mile (G1) and the potential for chaos in the Classic (G1), but Vino Rosso has seemingly done enough since May to warrant his selection in that category.

The results of Saturday seemed, from this view, to all but give Uni the turf female title, but there has been some pushback of such a view from other quarters.

Some argue that Sistercharlie, despite her third in the Filly & Mare Turf (G1), remains the most deserving recipient. However, one could only take such a view if Sistercharlie had been widely considered an indestructible choice, like Bricks and Mortar and Midnight Bisou, prior to the weekend. She was undoubtedly a strong favorite going in, but the possibility certainly existed that there could be a debate if she lost and, say, Got Stormy earned a second top-level victory on the season against males in the Mile.

In the event, Sistercharlie had no apparent excuse for losing other than simply being third best on the day. Got Stormy didn’t win either. Uni, in a scintillating performance that has become customary, stormed home to take the Mile, thus beating both males and Got Stormy, who had previously beaten her in the Fourstardave H. (G1) at Saratoga.

Got Stormy has had a terrific season, too, and might still pad her record with a potential appearance and win in next month’s Matriarch (G1) at Del Mar. However, early season losses in the Jenny Wiley (G1) and Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) are a knock against despite an even head-to-head record with Uni.

Uni’s campaign, much like her stablemate Sistercharlie’s, was not long in duration, but it produced the same number of victories if only one less at the arbitrarily bestowed “Grade 1” level. However, if it’s only about tallying “Grade 1” wins, why bother having a poll?

The bottom line, no matter what you think of the competition she defeated in the Mile, is that Uni transcended the division while Sistercharlie did not. It was a championship-worthy vote of confidence on her connections’ part to supplement her to the Mile, and it deserves no less.

***

Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach captures the Arkansas Derby (c) Coady Photography/Oaklawn

I don’t quite get the fetishization of the Malibu (G1) in recent years. What was once a nice, post-Christmas kick off to the Santa Anita winter-meet spring meet (not to mention a mere get-fit prep for the more prestigious events in the now-defunct Strub series) has turned into an overly-glorified race that, because of its restriction to three-year-olds only, should have virtually zero impact on whether a horse should or should not receive more Eclipse Award votes. Nor does it typically enlighten voters more than what happened the previous 360 calendar days, so encouraging them to needlessly wait to cast their ballot until after it (and its sister race, the La Brea [G1]) is run is advice I’ve generally refused to take.

I bring all this up because the Malibu is reportedly the next intended start for Omaha Beach, who suffered the first stakes loss of his career in Saturday’s Dirt Mile (G1) after falling too far behind over a track not overly hospitable to come-from-behind types. It was a brave effort, one that hardly disqualified him from further consideration as champion three-year-old male.

The Malibu fetish is absurd under the present circumstances. As a racing fan, I would much rather see Omaha Beach take a shot in the Cigar Mile (G1) or Clark H. (G1) against Maximum Security for all the marbles, and may the true champion win.