1. Visiting with trainers and jockeys during cold mornings on the Churchill Downs backstretch during the week before the Breeders Cup…I especially enjoyed my chat with trainer Steve Hobby in barn 15, where he told me all about his longshot BC Turf contender, Telling. I was really rooting for this horse; it would have made for a great story, considering Hobby’s wife serves as the horse’s groom. Unfortunately, Telling finished unplaced in the race for the second year in a row.
2. Speaking with the renowned Cot Campbell and his wife, Anne, of the Eclipse award-winning Dogwood Stables at the White Horse Luncheon Thursday, Nov. 4 at Churchill’s Triple Crown Room. Anne made me feel better about wearing jeans at such a glamorous occasion where many donned suits and ties. She was all smiles, dressed comfortably in jeans and a green-and-yellow polka dot sweater representing the colors of Dogwood. Cot and I didn’t talk much about his two Breeders’ Cup contenders Aikenite and Atoned, who both finished eighth and in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) and Breeders’ Cup Marathon (gr. III) respectively. Interestingly, we instead conversed mostly about his pensioned stallion Wallenda, a grade I winner on the track who now resides at Old Friends equine retirement facility in Kentucky. The following is Cot Campbell’s explanation of his connection to Wallenda and the story behind his name:
“Michael (Blowen, Old Friends founder and president) had called and said (Wallenda) was in Japan and nobody would breed to him, so they were going to put him down if we didn’t do something. I ended up buying him for $10,000 and bringing him back. The flying Wallenda’s came and performed (at Wallenda’s coming home party), and it was delightful. The Wallendas were great fans of the horse while he was racing. I had seen the senior Wallenda (Karl) walk across Tallulah Gorge (in Georgia), which is 1,700 feet with a 1,000-foot drop.
(The horse) Wallenda was by Gulch, and I thought ‘gorge’ and ‘gulch’ went together. And he was out of a mare named So Glad, and I thought, ‘When (Karl) Wallenda crossed over that gorge, he was so glad.”
3. Witnessing the spectacle of reporters in the press box that made a mad rush to the television as Calvin Borel engaged in a physical altercation with Javier Castellano in the winner’s circle following the Breeders’ Cup Marathon.
4. Watching Goldikova’s amazing third BC Mile feat from the press box on the sixth floor balcony. Her jockey, Olivier Pesslier, paraded her around and around, and I even saw the tiny petals of flowers he was throwing from her blanket. Cheers erupted from reporters and fans alike as she was led back down the track.
5. Meeting and talking with Mike Repole, co-founder of Vitaminwater and owner of BC Juvenile victor Uncle Mo, the night before the big race at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse in downtown Louisville. Repole was dining with a 50-person group of family and friends, and I’ve never seen a more exuberant celebration. The crowd was enjoying a lavish steak dinner and an abundance of flowing wine, and it was certainly a sight to see! Repole was talking a mile a minute, both nervous and excited on the eve of one the biggest days of his life.
6. Watching Uncle Mo’s victory in the BC Juvenile from the press box the next day…my favorite part was seeing Repole circle around and around with the horse and jockey afterward, jumping up and down, engulfing the ever-stoic trainer Todd Pletcher in multiple hugs, and planting kisses on his cheeks. I’m pretty sure he also high-fived the Pletcher about 18 times. Repole has more energy and excitement about him than anyone I’ve ever met!
7. Running 16 miles in Louisville’s beautiful Seneca Park the morning of the Breeders’ Cup as part of my marathon training. If you want to know why I did such a crazy thing, click here.
8. Covering my first-ever Breeders’ Cup race—the Emirates Airline Turf. Surprise winner Dangerous Midge got up to capture the race for elated trainer Brian Meehan. Unfortunately, the owner and jockey weren’t present at the press conference. Thankfully, I talked to Meehan on the backstretch a couple days before the race, which kind of saved my story.
9. Feeling my heart sink while watching the Breeders’ Cup Classic by the rail and realized that Zenyatta had at last seen defeat. As I viewed the replay over and over again, I willed her to stick her head in front and get up just a smidge more for the win, but it wasn’t meant to be.
10. Cashing in a $14 voucher following the Classic, while to my left, another gentleman was cashing a winning pick four ticket for $15,000. He was literally putting $100 bills in piles, and I watched him tip his tellers generously.
Cheers to Breeders’ Cup 2010!
p.s. I almost forgot that I also attended Smarty Jones' going away party at Three Chimneys during my whirlwind Breeders' Cup week!
What were some of your favorite Breeders' Cup memories this year?