●Merit Man was the heaviest favorite of the entire day, but the 1-to-2 shot was outdueled in the stretch run of the Juvenile Sprint by Hightail, the longest shot in the field. The upset gave legendary trainer Wayne Lukas his 19th Breeders’ Cup victory, but did the absence of Lasix have something to do with Merit Man’s failure?
●The French 2-year-old Flotilla accelerated powerfully in the stretch to give Europe its first victory in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Unlike his American rivals, Flotilla had raced Lasix-free throughout his short career.
There is no way to draw any meaningful conclusions about Lasix from such evidence. But as the Lasix ban is applied to the entire Breeders’ Cup, bettors and horsemen will always be guessing about its effect on individual horses; when horses run after competing in the Breeders’ Cup, the impact of Lasix will become a question again.
If the Breeders’ Cup ban represented the start of a move to drug-free racing in America, it would serve an important purpose — but this is never going to happen. Medication rules are set by state racing commissions, not by any national governing body.
With Lasix permitted, virtually every horse in the Breeders’ Cup was treated with it (including the Europeans) and they competed on a level playing field. Lasix was a non-issue. Now it has become a distraction.
There shouldn’t have been any distractions from the racing action on the first day of the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita. The $2 million Ladies’ Classic drew one of the strongest fields of fillies in its history with three Eclipse Award winners (two of them undefeated) in the lineup.
Royal Delta, the defending champion in this event, was the favorite, but few people expected her to win the way she did. Against a field that included two brilliantly fast rivals, jockey Mike Smith let her go to the lead and set a lightning-fast pace: a half-mile in 45.81 seconds. She disposed of the speedsters, then repelled the stretch-runners, winning by 1½ lengths over the previously undefeated My Miss Aurelia.
The fact that all eight fillies in the field ran on Lasix — as they had for most of their careers — hardly detracted from the spectacle. It’s hard to imagine that if this were 2013, and they were all Lasix-free, that the race could have been any better.
For previous columns by Andrew Beyer, visit washingtonpost.com/