As he begins to train for his 3-year-old campaign, Tasso has most of the credentials that a would-be Kentucky Derby winner needs.
He has an astute trainer, Neil Drysdale, who won't make any mistakes on the road to Louisville. He has a great jockey, Laffit Pincay Jr. He has the right kind of stretch-running style. In fact, there is just one thing wrong with the champion 2-year-old colt of 1985. He doesn't have much talent. I will bet that he will very quickly be exposed as one of the least-deserving horses ever to win an Eclipse Award.
Tasso's entire claim to fame is based on his victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. When he rallied wide and caught the front-running Storm Cat in the final yards, the performance looked like a good one; I certainly thought so at the time. But with the benefit of hindsight, Tasso's big effort and those of other winners on Breeders' Cup day were somewhat illusory.
A powerful track bias existed at Aqueduct for the Breeders' Cup, giving a tremendous advantage to stretch-runners who rallied wide on the turn, hindering horses with speed on the inside.
Remember the way the Breeders' Cup Classic was run: Proud Truth and Gate Dancer swooped around the field to finish one-two, beating such highly regarded rivals as Vanlandingham and Turkoman, who spent most of the race near the rail. Subsequent performances of these horses have disclosed just what a fluke the result was. Proud Truth was humiliated in his next two starts; Gate Dancer finished last in a minor stake. But both Vanlandingham and Turkoman came back to score impressive victories in major stakes.
In the Distaff, Life's Magic came from last place, rallying wide on the turn, to upset her stablemate, Lady's Secret. I thought at the time that Lady's Secret had gone off form after a long campaign, but she hadn't; she has run consistently well all winter at Santa Anita. The bias beat her at Aqueduct.
In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Twilight Ride and her stablemate Family Style both looked like world-beaters as they circled the field and finished one-two. Both of them came back to Hollywood Park and were beaten soundly in their subsequent starts.
If these other stretch-running performances were not as good as they seemed, what of Tasso? His Breeders' Cup victory was the least impressive of them all. His time of 1:36 1/5 for one mile was two-fifths of a second slower than the time of the filly Twilight Ridge.
Third-place Scat Dancer came west and lost the Hollywood Futurity by 16 lengths. Fourth-place Regal Dreamer still has not won a race outside of Minnesota.
The shining moment of Tasso's career can be summarized thusly: With the condition of the track overwhelmingly in his favor, he was only able to beat a bunch of nonentities by the narrowest of margins, and he did it in slow time. He is not on the road to Louisville; he is on the road to oblivion.