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  • 29 May
    The order in which the Breeders Cup races ran was rarely tinkered with in the events early days. Things change, however, and the Breeders Cup has evolved. The race order is no longer semi-untouchable.This is good. The Classic will always be the final race of the event, and should be. But it makes sense to capitalize on the popularity of some of the stellar horses who compete in other Breeders Cup races by putting those races in prime spots adjacent to the Classic, when the most eyeballs are watching.The lineup got me thinking when the order for this weekends event at Santa Anita was announced last week. The Breeders Cup Turf, which has always been the second-richest Breeders Cup event behind the Classic [and this year, it received a purse boost to $4 million] is positioned three races before the Classic. For the Breeders Cups first 27 years, it owned the events prime supporting spot right before the Classic.But for five of the last six years -- counting this one -- the Turf hasnt exactly been treated as the second-richest and, by association at least, the second most important Breeders Cup race.In 2011, the Turf was first moved out of its traditional position as the lead-in for the Classic and was instead run three races before the Classic. No one could argue with this particular move. Goldikova was going for her fourth consecutive victory in the Breeders Cup Mile, so the Mile was promoted to the spot immediately preceding the Classic. (Goldikovas amazing pursuit fell short and resulted in a third-place finish.)In 2012, the Turf again was run three races before the Classic, and the Mile again got the prime lead-in spot to the Classic. That time, however, the reasons for the move were unclear.But the reasons for the same placement of these two races in 2013 were quite clear. Wise Dan, who won the 2012 Mile en route to Horse of the Year honors, was going for a repeat in 2013. As in 2011, it made sense for that particular Mile to get the prime supporting role. And, of course, Wise Dan was successful.In 2014, for the fourth straight year, the Turf was run three races before the Classic and the Mile was run right before the Classic, and I still cant figure out why. The horses involved in the Mile certainly didnt have much to do with it, and there was no compelling storyline, such as with Goldikova or Wise Dans second Mile victory.Last year, the Turf was back in its traditional pre-Classic spot. And for me, all felt right with the world again as Found sprung a memorable upset on Golden Horn.But this year the Turf is back to three races before the Classic, and the Mile is again the race before the Classic, and again, there doesnt appear to be a compelling reason.I know Tepin is popular, and she is going for a repeat in the Mile. But her situation isnt anything like the circumstances that surrounded Goldikova or Wise Dan the second time. And frankly, I think quality is higher at the top in this years Turf than it is in the Mile. Even the Filly & Mare Sprint will be run closer to the Classic this Saturday than the Turf.Okay, if you cant or dont want to run two grass races such as the Turf and Mile back to back, then at least put a traditional Breeders Cup race such as the Juvenile between them. Running the F&M Sprint so late in the Saturday Breeders Cup card is just ? weird.Purse boost this year aside, it almost seems as if the Turf has fallen out of favor with Breeders Cup management. But even if appearances dont reflect reality, with the Mile having been run in the top supporting slot right before the Classic five of the last six years, perhaps its best to close the $2 million purse gap between the Turf and Mile, if for no other reason than to make the Miles purse almost as valuable as its placement in the race order says.A few pre-final entry Breeders Cup thoughts** I think too much emphasis is placed on post positions, but I do think post positions might be very important to the Classics pace. Specifically, I think if California Chrome draws inside of Arrogate, California Chrome will go to the lead and Arrogate will sit off of him. Conversely, if Arrogate draws inside of Chrome, I think he goes to the front and Chrome sits.** Im very interested to see how Beholder does in the Distaff with Songbird a target to run at, because I do think shes at her best with someone to track. That is not meant to make excuses for Beholder when Stellar Wind beat her in the Zenyatta and Clement L. Hirsch. Beholder set very comfortable paces in both races, giving her huge tactical advantages, and Stellar Wind still beat her. But while it doesnt mean Im picking her to win, I do think Beholder gets her best trip Friday.** I was very surprised that Limato, the European sprinter who goes in the Mile, wasnt even cross-entered in the Turf Sprint. But Im gob-smacked that Mondialistes connections are eschewing the Mile with their miler in favor of the 12-furlong turf.** Given what I wrote in this space last week (Limato belonged in the Turf Sprint; the Turf is crazy thinking for Mondialiste; and Curalina should go in the F&M Sprint), I now fully expect Curalina to go in the Distaff, and indications Saturday were that she will. Selfishly, I hope she does. I think Curalina wins if she runs in the F&M Sprint. But without Curalina, the F&M Sprint becomes a very juicy betting race.** I realize Holy Lute is the first also-eligible in the Turf Sprint, meaning hes got a good chance of starting, but I dont understand why he was even on the also-eligible list at all. Holy Lute won the second and fastest by 34 hundredths of a second division of the Eddie D., and yet Ambitious Brew, who won the first and slower division, was in the body of the Turf Sprint. Yeah, Ambitious Brew has the reputation of being a downhill specialist, but guess what, Holy Lute has finished first or second in 5 of 9 career downhill starts.Moreover, when the Turf Sprint is run at Santa Anita on the downhill course, it becomes a very unique animal. And I think that makes the Eddie D., the local prep over the downhill, especially important as preps go. In this situation, horses coming out of the Eddie D. should be given greater deference. 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Paul Georges buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter spurred a 21-4 run, finally sending Indiana past the Magic 97-87 in a tougher-than-expected opening night matchup. CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs find themselves on the brink of history as they return to Wrigley Field on Thursday.The Cubs -- owners of baseballs best record, 93-52 -- would clinch their first division title since 2008 with a victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in the opener of a 10-game homestand.The division crown would only be the Cubs sixth since Major League Baseball split into divisions 47 years ago. Chicago is on pace for 103 wins, which would be its first season with 100 or more victories since 1935.Cubs manager Joe Maddon is ready to lock it down.Lets do it, he said Wednesday after the Cubs 7-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. I think itd be a nice thing to do. The sooner, the better. Then we can make our appropriate plans going forward and really set things up to make our best push.Jon Lester (17-4) worked eight innings on a hot afternoon at Busch Stadium while the Cubs wrapped up a 6-3 record in St. Louis this season, beating the Cardinals in all three series.Lester wont see his next action until early next week as the Cubs continue with their late-season, six-man rotation. Left-hander Mike Montgomery (1-1, 3.67 ERA) goes against Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Jimmy Nelson (7-14, 4.42 ERA) on Thursday evening.Montgomery, 4-5 with a 2.74 ERA overall between the Seattle Mariners and the Cubs this season, makes his fifth start with Chicago and second straight against the Brewers.He didnt get a decision on Sept. 7 at Milwaukee in a 2-1 Cubs loss after allowing just two hits and one run while striking out six over five innings. Montgomeryy has given up just 12 hits in four starts with Chicago since arriving in a late-July trade.ddddddddddddNelson is making his 30th start of the season and fifth against the Cubs.He has repeatedly struggled against Chicago, going 0-3 with a 3.59 ERA in four starts this season. Nelson is 0-3 with a 4.32 ERA in five career games (four starts) at Wrigley Field. He has an 0-6 record with a 3.59 ERA in 11 career games (nine starts) against the Cubs.He has been similarly unsuccessful against the Cardinals, posting an 0-7 record in eight career starts, including a 4-3 loss in his last appearance. He allowed four runs on five hits over six innings Friday in St. Louis.Its just a crazy game and stuff happens, Nelson said. Theres never really just one answer in this game to anything. You dont want to think theres something wrong and start over-analyzing stuff, so you just try to keep it simple.The Brewers (65-81) snapped a two-game losing streak and salvaged one win in the three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds by earning a 7-0 victory Wednesday. Milwaukee is just 26-45 on the road.The four-game series at Wrigley Field is the last leg of an 11-game Milwaukee road trip. The Brewers will be back at Miller Park on Tuesday to face the Pittsburgh Pirates.Chicagos homestand includes four games with Milwaukee, three with Cincinnati and three against St. Louis. The Cubs close the regular season with seven road games beginning Sept. 26. ' ' '