Where to Begin

How does one even begin to comment on this year’s wild and crazy Breeders’ Cup? Pro-Ride form, the absence of any injuries, the filly phenomena, the European butt-whipping, Santa Anita, Horse of the Year, ESPN’s new camera shots? That’s just for starters.

Before anything, I must say I cannot recall a more enjoyable two days of racing, whether you felt they were formful or not. And never have I encountered friendlier people at a racetrack than I did at Santa Anita, from the security guards to the mutual tellers and everyone in between.

When the Breeders’ Cup announced they were expanding to 14 races, I like many people felt it was diluting the event. I no longer think that way. It was great seeing seven-furlong filly sprinters, juvenile turf horses, turf sprinters, dirt milers, and stayers all have a chance in the spotlight. Why not? They deserve the opportunity and they put on a show. It was great seeing trainers like Dave Donk, Gary Sherlock, Pete Anderson, Greg De Gannes, Bret Calhoun, and Dale Capuano given the opportunity to show off their horses in racing’s biggest event.

I was also against the Ladies Day concept, and I still have reservations about it. The Breeders’ Cup was extremely fortunate to have a buzz horse like Zenyatta to give it a big push. They can’t count on that every year. It’s OK in California where you don’t have to worry about possibly running on a fast track one day and sloppy track the other, which could severely compromise voting for Horse of the Year. And it’s still not fair to those who could only come on Saturday to be deprived of seeing Zenyatta. And you know she was viewed by far less people on TV. With that said, the Breeders’ Cup did have Zenyatta this year, and my initial reaction was: how fantastic to give a magnificent filly like this her own day and not have to share it with the Classic or the Turf. She was queen for the day and received all the attention, accolades, and coverage she deserved. So, at least for now, the concept worked.

As much of a proponent of dirt tracks as I am, I must say in defense of Pro-Ride, we needed a safe Breeders’ Cup, and in that respect, the track delivered big-time. After watching the first day’s races, I never went into any of Saturday’s races with apprehension. Walking on the track, there is so much bounce to it, and the horses’ feet don’t slide on it they way do on the dirt. That is going to help some horses, like those with large frames, long strides, and big kicks, which is why we saw so many explosive moves on the turn by horses similar in physical stature and running style. It also obviously helped the European horses, not so much that it acts more like turf, which is part of it, but that there is so little kickback, something the Euros are not used to when they come here.

As for the form itself, you couldn’t help but marvel at the spectacular performances by Zenyatta, Stardom Bound, Midnight Lute, and Ventura. Favorites, however, won only four of the 14 races. But when you’re dealing with so many top-class horses that statistic is deceiving. Three favorites finished second, including Square Eddie, who was only favored by 10 cents over the winner Midshipman, and two finished third. So nine of the 14 favorites finished in the top three and 12 of the 14 finished in the top four.  Amazingly, five of the beaten favorites were Europeans, which shows what bettors thought of the American horses. The only U.S.-trained favorite to finish up the track was Well Armed in the Dirt Mile.

As for Europe’s top two male milers – Raven’s Pass and Henrythenavigator – finishing one-two in the Classic, you can analyze it all you want, but the bottom line is that, with the exception of Curlin, the American horses were slow, if you go by the various speed figures. Raven’s Pass and Henry both were brilliant, consistent, classy,and game horses, and Raven’s Pass had more of a dirt pedigree than grass. When he galloped over the track on Thursday he glided over it. And he had worked brilliantly over the all-weather track in England before shipping here.

After watching the monster moves on the far turn by the long-striding horses, it would have seemed a perfect set-up for Curlin. And he did make the dramatic move everyone was expecting. Why he didn’t sustain is the big question. There will be numerous theories. Was he not able to get enough push off the synthetic surface after changing leads? If he hated it, he likely would not have put in the run he did. So, maybe it’s somewhere in between. It actually was reminiscent of the big run on the turn Bernardini made in the 2006 Classic and then couldn’t sustain it over a Churchill Downs surface some horses just don’t get hold of as well as other surfaces. It happens. Or could it be that Curlin simply isn’t as dominant as he was last year? After all, this was by far the toughest field he’s faced all year. This wasn’t beating Wanderin Boy, Past the Point, Einstein, and Barcola. Curlin has had a long year, and he ran as hard and as fast as he could on this day and was beaten only 2 3/4 lengths for all the money, and a neck for third. His time of about 1:59 4/5 was the fastest mile and a quarter he’s ever run. He got beat, period, and it serves little purpose to try to figure out why. Horses lose, even the best ones. Some have suggested that with only one serious five-furlong work in four weeks, he was a short horse, especially for a race over a synthetic surface. Let's just say I am not about to disagree with them.

The question now is: how many Europeans are going to come out of the woodwork next year trying to earn big bucks on the Pro-Ride surface?

I don’t buy the premise that the Pro-Ride surface gave the Europeans an advantage. Sure, it leveled the playing field, but what’s wrong with that? It’s still our surface, in our country, in our hot weather, and we still couldn’t beat them. I think it’s great that the Euros did so well in the Classic, and in the Marathon. But they didn’t win the Juvenile or the Juvenile Fillies or the Dirt Mile. Sixties Icon could only finish fifth as the 7-5 favorite in the Marathon. Duke of Marmalade was ninth in the Classic. Bushranger was 11th in the Juvenile at 5-1.Pursuit of Glory finished 11th in the Juvenile Fillies at 7-1. Let’s just face the fact that Raven’s Pass and Henrythenavigator are two gifted horses who simply were better than our horses on this day when the playing field was level.

What is disturbing is that yet another European horse with only one start in this country (Turf winner Conduit) likely will win the Eclipse Award for male grass horse, just as Daylami, Kalanisi, Fantastic Light, and High Chaparral (twice) did from 1999 to 2003. The American grass horses have had too many lean years in the past decade for it to be a coincidence. Only the head of Dancing Forever prevented a European 1-2-3 sweep of the Turf, which at least isn’t as bad the 1-2-3-4 Euro sweep in the 2005 Turf.

As I’m writing this, I have only watched several of the races on videotape. There is no one more opposed to numerous camera cuts and weird angles than I am. So, when I heard about ESPN’s many cuts on the first day I watched when I returned home with anticipated dread. And I have to say, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed the coverage. While I’m sure there will be detractors, I actually loved it, and can’t believe I’m saying that. There were some great angles that gave the race a sense of action and provided different perspectives without the audience missing much. This is the way they do it in Europe and Dubai, and it worked here. The ground-level shot, while not as revealing as the conventional shot in two-turn races, gave the start of the race an exciting look to it, and you could still see well enough which horses broke poorly and who broke quickly.

The switch to the overhead on the first turn was revealing and gave the viewer a good look at who was where. The backstretch camera following the horses was my favorite, giving the race a European/Dubai look, and for the most part you could see the entire field and where each horse was and how far off the rail. The return to the overhead on the far turn was just long enough to see who was making their move and who was in trouble. Fortunately, the timing was dead-on in the return to the conventional shot, where you could pick up the action. The quarter pole and stretch shots were close enough to see the action and far enough away to see all the horses making their moves. And the close-up gallop-out shots gave it all a good finishing touch. How about the shot of Midnight Lute galloping out?  I assume the rest of the races were as good as the Classic, Ladies Classic, Sprint, Turf, and Juvenile Fillies; the races I have watched so far. The Sprint in particular and the iso replays were breathtaking to watch. So, kudos to ESPN for a fantastic presentation.

One final note about Midnight Lute. Taking nothing away from the other spectacular winners, but watching the Sprint after getting home, I was blown away. That was one of the most awe-inspiring performances I have ever witnessed. He proved he is indeed a freak to do what he did. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a stride like that in 40 years. For him to go that wide and run down Fatal Bullet as quickly as he did was simply amazing. Fatal Bullet’s trainer, Reade Baker, summed it up best. After the race he went on the track with a dazed look on his face and said to no one in particular, “I can’t believe my horse just ran six furlongs in 1:07 2/5 and got beat.”

And what a training job by Bob Baffert. I normally would never vote for a horse with only one win and a 10th-place finish for an Eclipse Award, but not only would Midnight Lute be a deserving champion sprinter (with a case to be made for Benny the Bull), he is one of the most exciting sprinters we’ve seen. He’s won stakes on Pro-Ride (Santa Anita), Polytrack (Keeneland), a sloppy dirt track (Monmouth), and a fast dirt track (Saratoga). And he won on the old Del Mar dirt track.

That’s plenty for now. The next blog will get into the Horse of Year ramifications and other Breeders' Cup tidbits.



82 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Ejay

I got to thinking...Big Brown's injury causing his retirement was probably a blessing in disguise. Just like the masterful CURLIN who suffered his worst defeat of the year, it's highly probable that Big Brown would have lost to the European horses who displayed they had an edge racing on Santa Anita's Pro-ride surface.I

28 Oct 2008 3:08 PM
barb

I also thought it was a great two days of racing and am so grateful that noone got hurt (except maybe their feelings). I think it is good that the euros did so well,Yeah Frankie!! And if it is supposed to be the world championships shouldn't we hope that the best in the world wins? I loved the fact that Zenyatta got the spotlight but am still not a fan of ladies day. With 14 races there are better ways to split them than that. It encourages people to think that the fillies are worse than the colts and that is simply not true. And what's wrong with "distaff"? I much prefer it. Calling it the Ladies Classic is patronizing, fillies and mares can run in the other Classic so should it be changed to the Open Classic? No. I also thought Trevor D. did a better job this year, maybe being on his own turf helped him to relax. I still desperately miss Tom Durkin though. And as for ESPN/ABC...eh. It was ok, at least they showed the actual post parade and not shots of the horses in their stalls and jogging in the morning. All in all I loved it. Yeah Zenyatta!!

28 Oct 2008 3:33 PM
Eric

You can have the ESPN shots. Personally, I needed an air sickness bag after trying to figure out where the horses were with the ridiculous number of camera cuts. Perhaps it works better when you're watching a recording that you can stop, start, slow down, etc. but it made for miserable live television for everyone I know. I can't imagine another sport being "covered" like this. I certainly don't think viewers want to see 10 different shots after the football is snapped until the play concludes. In fact, this was reminiscent of the XFL. Kind of like smash-mouth horse racing.

28 Oct 2008 3:39 PM
Ekrueg

Awesome blog. And about Curlin, even the greatest of greats get beat. That fourth place takes nothing away from his amazing feets. And I have to see that when you called Henrythenavigator and Raven's Pass's rivarly I didn't think too much of it but for them to finish 1-2 in the Classic at a distance they've never gone. THATS amazing. I hope they both keep racing because there rivalry could be legendary.

28 Oct 2008 4:18 PM
THE ROCK

Steve,

I agree with you entirely. The only negatives I can find with the Breeders Cup this year were the ticket prices for seats along with its paying for both days plan. I had to take off work in order to attend (And I'd do it again in a heartbeat) just to see Zenyatta, Ventura & Stardom Bound run. And thank god I did. Each day should be sold seperately in order to put more buns in the crowd. And lastly is the commentary on ESPN. Can we just get a mix of TVG & HRTV personalities to handle the coverage? I really didn't enjoy Aaron Gryder's stand up  routine every hour and I think we can get some people in there that try not to soup up the day as something similiar to the Olympics! I didn't see Asia or Australia represented in here (just to name a few). Dubai is much closer to that.I was constantly channeling from TVG for up to date analysis and ESPN for the race. Let's get Chris Berman hosting this! Wouldn't that be a riot. He probably knows as much about horse racing as I do bass fishing! But you catch my drift...Anywho, It seems the big issue here is why Curlin didn't win. I think Saturday proved that when you're Curlin and you run against Grade 2 types for most of the year and Grade 1 American turf horses on dirt and then switch over against quality competition that you will get your butt handed to you. Curlin is a Grade 1 horse and a champion. There's no doubt about that. But I hope everyone stops blaming the surface for his loss. He made his move on the turn! He was 5 wide while doing it and Ravens Pass had cover b/c of it and outran when he pulled into the clear. Let's not forget that Henrythenavigator was standing on "five legs" in the paddock! When I heard that I completely through him out and he still ran on. Let's give him credit for his run. I've come to the conclusion that Pro-Ride is about the fairest racetrack I have ever seen. We've seen winners from up front, far back and in between. If it favored the Euros that much, what happened to the rest of the horses that ran up the track! I'd like for someone to bring up an arguement as why any of the winners didn't deserve to win. The best horses won. I can't wait for next year!

28 Oct 2008 4:23 PM
Karen in Texas

The place to begin is at the beginning with the truth--we now have three surface types and no way to truly reconcile their effects on a given animal's ability. How can this be fair; especially to veteran horses, trainers, and owners? Aside from the fairness issues, the Europeans are laughing all the way to the bank! Next year's BC will have many American runners staying home. It should probably just be renamed the Euro Cup at Santa Anita. In the name of "safety" we have created a complicated mess.

28 Oct 2008 4:37 PM
Hawthorne Chris

Nice write up Steve..I enjoy your interviews with Steve Byk too when I can catch them.  I liked the ESPN coverage and was happy to see they used Jessica Pacheco from Arlington and Fairgrounds...she is worth 10 Hank Goldbergs!

28 Oct 2008 5:06 PM
FLETCH

i was going to type until i read the rock...you said it perfect i believe pro ride is as fair for all horses as i gets the best horses won..i believe that all tracks in north america should go to pro ride

28 Oct 2008 5:37 PM
FLETCH

ROCK YOU HAVE STATED EVERYTHING I THINK AND I THINK YOU ARE DEAD RIGHT WELL STATED

28 Oct 2008 5:38 PM
FLETCH

IT IS ALSO OBV THAT THE AMERICANS JUST WERENT GOOD THIS YEAR WE HAD 1 GRADE 1 CLASSIC HORSE PERIOD AND THAT WAS CURLIN AND HE ISNT THAT FAST ANYWAY IT WAS AS FAIR AS CAN BE ALL BREEDS CAN RUN ON THIS IT DEF ISN'T KEENELAND AND DEL MAR I THOUGHT GOING IN IT PLAYED LIKE A DIRT TRACK AND IT DID THRU OUT THE WEEKEND

28 Oct 2008 5:39 PM
Steve G

Steve, one of the stated goals of the BC braintrust was to internationalize the event.  The choice of SA and synthetic surface (2 years running, no less) certainly plays to that purpose & was a success in that regard.

I agree that next year there will be an even larger contingent of Euros, well trained, race tested and loaded for bear.

Sometimes, one can learn more from losing than winning...most of the time actually.  So our American trainers will have a choice.  Sure, they can skip.  But I hope they don't.  I hope they rise to the expected challenge next year and attempt to turn the tables on their European counterparts...

It certainly will be interesting and the level of competition should provide some great racing moments.

28 Oct 2008 5:54 PM
THE ROCK

Don't forget Karen, Most of these horses like Henry & RP were bred in the US. And Henry has as much a dirt pedigree as Curlin. I'd say pretty fair. If you really want to make it fair. Let's have the american horses put in as much air mileage, quarantine time, and overall acclimation time as the Euros did. Fair?

28 Oct 2008 5:57 PM
Karen2

Thanks Steve. I was patiently waiting for your take on the BC. I have immense respect for you and everything your write and after reading this, maybe I moved a tiny bit on my opinion of synthetic, but not much. I am not an expert, but I don't like it. I don't want to make excuses for Curlin's loss. He is an exceptional race horse and it was not his day but I do think the surface did make a difference. It could have been as simple as him not liking it. I did enjoy the racing as I always do but because I was at work, I missed Zenyatta. I think its great the Europeans are coming over but why should they only come over if the race is on synthetic? I do think the Europeans have a better handle on training their horses and if some of that rubs off on us so we can be more competitive than it will all be for the better.

28 Oct 2008 6:08 PM
Brian A.

 I have to say that I was very, very unhappy with this years Breeders Cup Championships.  With the exception of Zenyatta, Midnight Lute and Stardom Bound the favorites, all our american champs got burned.  And it wasn't because they were racing against better horses.

 When is the last time you saw Indian Blessing get passed like that, or Ginger Punch finish a very dull eight, or Well Armed finish that poorly, or  Curlin get passed after taking the lead in the stretch?  There is no way it was all their off day, these are some of the best horses in the world on dirt.  The Pro-Ride was playing just like turf.  Call me biased, but I don't even care to watch the Breeders Cup run on a fake man-made surface next year, I'll wait till it comes to Churchill Downs and see a real series of championships.  Not to take anything away from the winners or their connections, but that was not real horse racing in my opinion!

28 Oct 2008 6:10 PM
MikeM

After viewing the classic for the fifth time I think the two main reasons for his defeat where the surface and the ride.Going into the first turn and down the backstreach Curlin didn't look comfortable. It also looked like Robbie was nudging him a little trying to keep him closer.Maybe that was the reason he made his move too soon. Combine those two reasons and you could easily come up with 3 three to four additional lengths which gets the job done.

28 Oct 2008 6:15 PM
Vespone

Brian A. - Seems to me we saw Indian Blessing passed like that by Zaftig in the Acorn on the dirt at Belmont, but that was a mile. So, does that not count?

It's hard for me to blame Well Armed's performance on the pro-ride, since he won the Goodwood on the same surface.

28 Oct 2008 6:24 PM
THE ROCK

Well put Vespone. And Ventura is no slouch either. She ran second to the boys in a Grade 1 prior. And Who did Indian Blessing face while racking up those 110+ beyers? She ran a great race while up close to a hot pace and Ventura took advantage of it. I really can't believe that baffert is still yackin' about the surface when he won twice and she ran second! And Brian, I think you took everything away from the winning connections on that one! lol. Also, weren't the winners' credentials good enough going into the race?

28 Oct 2008 6:48 PM
THE ROCK

btw, thanks Fletch for the support.

28 Oct 2008 6:50 PM
Steve Haskin

Believe me, I'm not a fan of synthetics; I'm just saying the racing was exciting. In some ways it's no different than last year when Street Sense, Lawyer Ron, Any Given Saturday, and Tiago all couldn't handle the slop. Curlin got raves for winning, but I dont think that was a fair race either. When you have so many top-class horses in 14 races there are going to be a lot of good horses who finish out of the money. I added a line about Curlin, because I've heard several respected opinions that Curlin was a short horse. I had thought the same thing, but didn't write it. But after watching the race over and seeing the move he made, I at least felt obligated to acknowledge the possibility. Asmussen admitted Saturday morning that he's not had success on synthetics at Keeneland, Arlington, and Woodbine. Perhaps there's a reason. Over a track on which you need to have a lot of bottom and be fit I have to wonder how much Curlin got out of that one 5-furlong work and one easy half-mile breeze in four weeks. He made that big move, suggesting he was handling the track well enough, but came up short in the final furlong. Maybe, just maybe, he was undertrained for a 10-furlong synthetic race against top-class horses. I'm not saying that's why he got beat, but you have to at least include it among the theories.

28 Oct 2008 7:19 PM
THE ROCK

One last point, isn't the whole purpose of the Breeders Cup and the changing of its location up to next year was to be a level playing field? Of course you're going to have horses that don't perform well on certain tracks. Even each dirt track has its own biases. Gulfstream has the rail and speed, same with Churchill. Just to throw out a few. The reason why I say it's level is that for the majority and possible in all CLASS prevailed. Every winner had some kind of G1 class or were improving at the right time. I'm willing to read any other opinions as to otherwise and would like to debate. But as to say that this Breeders Cup was a failure? Just b/c our best horse in America lost? Look, he's still the best in America, just not the World.

28 Oct 2008 7:20 PM
THE ROCK

Steve,

I'd really love your take on the ESPN/ABC coverage. I agree with Eric about the camera angles. They were a little too much for me. That arial shot of the horses coming down the hill. I mean I lost Desert Code right out of the gate! Good thing I found him in the End! :) But anyway, do you think the coverage can be presented better? Idk who the main host is for the coverage but I can do without him and have Kenny Mayne handle it. What are the possiblities of getting someone well known to take the reins, like Dick Enberg used to or someone from HRTV or TVG? With all due respect, I think we can take a little more notes on how Austrailia and the UK handle their camera shots during racing. :)

28 Oct 2008 7:27 PM
dave

Steve, thanks very much for your insightful comments. We saw some stunning performances, and the best horses usually won. A few questions:

1. Speaking of winners, how about Gone West as a top sire of sires? Elusive Quality now has a Derby winner and a Classic winner, not to mention what Smart Strike's offspring did last year.

2. Which horse got the worst ride? Casino Drive? Lewis Michael? There were numerous candidates. We saw some beautiful rides, too.

3. Wasn't the Classic as formful as most of the other races? Raven's Pass and Henry were better than any Americans at this time. Tiago, Curlin, Go Between (with an awful trip), and Colonel John is pretty formful, given that Curlin has tailed off a bit since Dubai. Duke of Marmalade is over the top or didn't care for the surface.

4. I can't imagine what a non-racing fan would make of Hank Goldberg, but I think his entertainment value is over, and the ever-smirking Kenny Mayne is only fit for Celebrity Mole or A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila.

28 Oct 2008 7:36 PM
Vespone

The best horse in America didn't lose - she won on Friday.

28 Oct 2008 7:37 PM
alydarstar

I agree. Those were two exciting, memorable days of racing...  Oh yes! We enjoyed so much the stellar performances of Ventura, Zenyatta, Conduit, Stardom Bound, Raven´s Pass and Midnight Lute.... Even the Desert Code one... What about Midshipman, Square Eddie and Street Hero... For sure, they will be doing some noise next year in the road to the triple crown... I love Curlin and I think he still deserves to be 2008 horse of the year, but i agree, he lost because Raven and Henry were simply better... We have to accept sometimes the best athletes win and sometimes they lost, and Curlin was defeated by two of the most talented 3yo colts in the world.  ¿ the pro-ride ? who knows, nobody knows how the track affected Curlin and some other American horses, because other stellar European horses din not do it well either. But, at this point, i want to stand out the results for the  stallion Chester House, who rebounded an exceptional year after the triumphs of two of his kids (Ventura and Muhannak). Chester, sadly gone too soon, contributed to the amazing success of Mr Prospector line in this Breeders Cup. Eight of the fourteen races were won by descendants of the great MrP. That demonstrates, once again, that his has been the most important influence in the american breeding industry in the last 20 years. That´s a fact!    

28 Oct 2008 7:46 PM
DANYLSON

THE ESPN SHOTS WERE GREAT, DESPITE MY FIRST VIEW OF NBC BEING THE GREATER TO SHOW RACING. ON CURLIN, AS I HAVE STATED IN OTHER BLOGS, THE JOCKEY GAVE HIM A BAD RIDE. LIKE TURKOMAN BEING 15 LENGTHS BEHIND IN THE 86 CLASSIC, NO WAY CAN A HORSE MAKE UP THAT MUCH GROUND TO TOP CLASS ANIMALS. BUT MY RESPECTS TO RAVEN'S PASS AND HENRY THE NAVIGATOR, HOPEFULLY THEY SHOW UP IN DUBAI TO ASSERT THEIR CLASS IN THAT RACE.

28 Oct 2008 7:50 PM
PointGiven

Is it possible that Robby Albarado moved Curlin too soon? Synthetic tracks are much more tiring, and it looked like Curlin was tiring in the final furlong after making such an explosive run on the turn. Curlin is more of a grinder and doesn't have that same quick turn of foot that you see in grass horses - - like Henry and Raven's Pass. Not to take anything away from the first three finishers, but I do think the synthetic track compromised Curlin; especially because Albarado moved (in my opinion) too soon - - Curlin couldn't grind on the synthetic, and tired out during the final furlong. All in all though, it was a great preformance by the first four finishers who put on a fantastic show.

28 Oct 2008 8:20 PM
Karen in Texas

Rock, I was not talking about breeding or pedigrees. The three surface types have created new issues for American trainers, clearly. Learning what works for a given horse will take time. If, as many people have said, the Pro-Ride was playing like turf, then it is possible that not as many American based dirt horses will be sent to run at next year's BC. I just think they will wait for it to be at Churchill in 2010. That's all I meant.

28 Oct 2008 8:42 PM
R. Oliver

Vespone,

Yes, indeed! The best horse ran on Friday, she is American, and her name is Zenyatta!! She's also the most beautiful!

28 Oct 2008 9:13 PM
pirate person

I was so excited when i was watching the bc classic and when curlin had the lead at the top of the stretch. when i saw ravens pass then henrythenavigator and tiago all pass curlin i was devastated. I still can't belive that casino drive finished last! when i saw the results i couldn't belive my eyes! i thoght that he would have been up there with curlin. i also don't like the idea of the breeders cup being run on synthtic. it could be safer but its just better to be run on dirt.

28 Oct 2008 9:16 PM
gammyp6

I applaud all the horses and their connections that showed up this year. Everyone showed great class and heart. The best part is no injuries to horses or riders. All the winners earned those wins and those who did not "win" should be applauded for competing. It was a great day for racing. Just to see the great Curlin in the flesh and gaze upon the phenom that is Zenyatta- I am at a loss for words.

The list goes on. Here's to the next 25 years!

28 Oct 2008 9:23 PM
afleetalexforever

I know there are people out there that feel the same way I do, but  Karen2, your statements ring so true and give testament to what made this Breeders Cup just another two days of racing and certainly not a Championship Venue.  I have looked very hard at what occured on these two days of racing, and tried to break down exactly what we watched.  To me the Pro-Ride is another in a long line of faulty experiments that as you said Karen2 made Champions look like they were working hard just to get to the wire.  Curlin is a good example of this, for a horse who has never been out of the money to struggle so mightily just to keep a 4th place finish just floors me.  I've heard good comments about how it doesnt diminish his career and I dont believe it does because he is a true champion but to say he possibly has lost a step, there is not a chance.  But Ginger Punch in the Ladies classic was the one that literally made me sick watching it, it made my stomach churn to watch such a magnificent mare struggle to a 6th place finish.  I looked back at her previous race record ( since 2007 she had run 14 times with 9 wins 3 places, and 2 show finishes, now what in her form would give an indication that she would run 6th in this race, yes soe horses throw in a clunker now and then but she never has before and its only the Pro-Ride that caused her to now.  No one from the connections not even the jockey will comment on this race because the owner of Santa Anita owns Ginger Punch so we'll leave it at that.  But I was happy to see Steve Asmussen be honest because those were basically grass races being run.  A sad day for horse racing and a poor excuse for 2 days of racing called championships by the members of the board for the Breeders Cup.  

28 Oct 2008 9:25 PM
PointGiven

A couple things I forgot...

1. What type of bit does Curlin run in, and what is its purpose? I'm always curious when I see it.

2. Aside from Goldikova's exciting preformance, I couldn't help but feel a little smug that Kip Deville got beaten by a filly. For all Dutrow's talk about how Brownie never got beaten by a filly and Curlin did, it was vindication to see Kip get beaten by Goldikova.

3. What do you think is going to happen to Midshipman? I really hope he doesn't end up in Dubai...

28 Oct 2008 9:30 PM
The Deacon

Like many others I have mixed feelings about this years Breeders Cup. Obviously Zenyatta is a freak, and Stardom Bound is coming up on her heels. Both are familar with Santa Anita and that gave them an advantage. I think this whole thing was set up for the Euro's. Having seen what they accomplished this year, next year should play out even better for them. These multiple racing surfaces are creating more and more specialists. I think Curlin just did not look like himself. It is really too bad, the biggest stage in racing was relegated to basically something less then thrilling. I do not like Trevor Denman's calls, he always sounds the same. Bring back Tom Durkin, or hire John Dooley. To this day nothing compares to the Kentucky Derby. Hearing My Old Kentucky home, and anticipating the best 2 minutes in sports. My overall grade would be a C.................

28 Oct 2008 9:46 PM
Brady1

Re: Curlin's Classic run; perhaps the trip to Dubai caught up to him or perhaps he is over the top; thinking back to his two previous races, the Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup... he won, but not in the manner one would have exepected, considering the competition, which was a bit lackluster.

28 Oct 2008 9:47 PM
Karen2

Steve, I think you hit the nail on the head. I believe Curlin came up short and his training had a lot to do with it. Although I am not an expert on this, it is my opinion that a horse must be trained for more stamina and must be much more fit for synthetic. Like you have stated, the europeans train their horses for stamina. I would be curious to hear how much or if any kick back these horses get from synthetic. At 146 degrees or better, I can't imagine thats a pleasant experience. Has there been any comments made about that? They also train in the morning when its cool. Did anyone ever take their horses out on the track in the afternoon in the middle of the heat? Those temperatures and the expansion of the surface has got to make a huge difference. CD, who is bred to go a mile and half was cooked in this race. Any opinions?

28 Oct 2008 9:48 PM
AnneM

I was at Santa Anita on Saturday - I even saw Steve Haskin going up into the press section - It was a great day. Other than the horrible ticket prices, the only bad thing was that Zenyatta ran on Friday.

The best race I saw was the Turf mile - Goldikova was amazing and she is being ignored - She has beaten many top males in Europe, including Henrythehavigator. She went by other horses in her race like they were standing still.

28 Oct 2008 9:50 PM
Karen2

Steve, I agree with you 100% on that last comment. Synthetic or no synthetic, it was exciting. Any time these horses meet up, my heart races and I get butterflys. So much talent all in one place. That's as close to heaven as it can get and I was watching on T.V. I can only imagine the experience of being there in person. WOW!

28 Oct 2008 9:51 PM
afleetalexforever

Any thoughts on horse of the year, I've said for a long time that with the B.C. being on synthetics H.O.Y. could not conceiveably be decided on that surface, I love Zenyatta she is amazing but I believe that the HOY was won at Belmont in September at the JCGC. The key Curlin runs in 7 races 6 Grade 1 5 wins 1 second.  He ran in the highest tier of competition each time out and was very impressive all year long.  No disrespect but Zenyatta ran in 7 races and only 4 were grade 1's. She ran against 1 full field of quality fillies and mares, only left Cali 1 time to run in a race at Oaklawn where no one was cranked and then went back to cali to run in 2 more Grade 2's.  I believe if you want the award you have to consistently beat the best.  Her wins against the likes of Romance is Diane, Dawn After Dawn, Indescribable and Fleet Caroline, Brownie Points, Lemon Drop Mom, Clever Strike, and Kettleoneup, Santa Teresita, Kris’ Sis, Double Trouble, Silver Swallow, Silver Z, Sealy Hill, Fleetheart and Andmoreagain, Model West Coast Swing and Dawn after Dawn leave alot to the imagination.  To have come east to win the Beldame, or Personal Ensign, Go For Wand or Ogden Phipps would have said alot but they failed to step up to that type of challenge.  Too bad too because I'd love to see how she would have faired against Hystericalady, Ginger Punch and Music Note or even Proud Spell on dirt.  So to me H.O.Y. will be won easily by Curlin!!!

28 Oct 2008 10:11 PM
The Colonel

I'm looking forward to Street Hero on the Triple Crown trail next year. He and Mr. Hot Stuff are my two Derby horses.

Now that the shock of Saturday's worn off, I must say I've never had so much fun before. As far as I can tell everybody was loving it. Well, there was this family next to me who cheered when Curlin lost...

I really wish I could have been there for Friday. Would have loved to be part of the crowd when Stardom Bound made that crazy move around the far turn and when Zenyatta arrived to the winner's circle.

Well, Midnight Lute won. Street Hero got a good third. I'm happy.

Can't wait for next year!

28 Oct 2008 10:16 PM
Flyinhome

Steve:

i agree with the whole training prospect. Get those Euros on Curlins own turf, and most likely, they would have no chance. I didn't get to see the ABC coverage, because they had some stupid football game...so i didn't get to see most of the races on saturday!! i was NOT happy about that....

Secondly, before we even talk about HOY honors, Curlin still gets my vote!! I didn't see the filly accomplish ANY of what Curlin has. Race on the turf, and still run a good race. he was second!! Travel to Dubai, CRUSH the world competition, win 3 G1 wins in between the WC, and the other G1 where he broke an earnings record....A record held by one of the best horses from the last century...I give Zenyatta credit...any other year, i would say she gets it. shes literally a freak. But, curlin has accomplished and proven more in this past year.

OK, as for the classic race....Curlin moved, and it looked like he lost traction. When he changed that lead, he seemed to paddle, like Robby said.

I vote for Another year of racing for Curlin....probly not going to happen, but, HEY i can DREAM=))

28 Oct 2008 10:55 PM
jwracinglogics

Steve-I disagree with you on many fronts about the just completed Breeders Cup races.First of all almost everyone is raving about what a huge success this was and that it was a level playing field.So,my question is huge success for and level playing field for whom.Certainly not the bettors like myself.When it comes to the Euros, the American bettors are at a huge disadvantage-where are the recent workouts,where are the running lines for their past races.You gave such glowing write up about Raven Pass and Henry the Navigtor-but you did not mentioned that those two horses took turns beating each other,that they have never ran a race over l mile and all on the turf.Now they were going 10 furlongs for the very first time.So they were strecting out and racing on a pro ride/poly track for the first time.I submit that most players were at a loss here.In my view the only time the field becomes level is when the Euro horses PP's are shown just the way our DRF PP's are shown.Infact DRF or Bris should enter into some agreement with the Jockey Clubs of Europe,Australia and Japan in an effort to have some kind of joint venture,which would allow them to gather and chart PP's in the same way that they do now for American racing.

28 Oct 2008 10:55 PM
sidekickflats

I was there both days and several things stood out.  Everyone at Santa Anita were very helpful and nice from the tram driver in the parking lot to the people in the concessions to the people taking bets.  And the place looked fantastic.  

I went down to see the filly and mare sprint participants get saddled.  I was right in front of Ventura and she looked amazing.  All dappled and on her toes. She looked like she was going to run big.

I was excited to see Stardom Bound and she didn't disappoint. Big filly with a bit of a plain head but she sure can run.

I hadn't seen Zenyatta before and she looked amazing. She's huge and she stood next to her pony with her ears pricked and stamped her foot over and over. She looked like she owned the place.  I thought she would win but I thought that Ginger Punch was an overlay so I bet a little on her.  But when I saw her, I knew there was no hope. She looked downright puny next to Zenyatta.

I was in the stands when the dirt mile horses came out.  Albertus Maximus looked gorgeous and he ran to his looks.

Goldlikova looked so little and feminine next to some of the big boys. It was great to get to see her in person.

I didn't bet the turf but when Conduit came out on the track I told my friend too.  He kept bucking while he was warming up. He looked like he was having the time of his life.

I loved the ovation that Curlin got when he came onto the track.  I was hoping that Casino Drive would run big but when he warmed up, I figured it was all over. He did not have a pony and he looked like he was running off with his jockey. He galloped strongly all the way to the other side of the track before coming back.  A bit to keen on the day.  

Curlin looked great and I was very happy to see that he got a nice ovation when he left as well.  It was nice to see that people appreciate him and what he's done even if he didn't win.  

Of course the best part was that no horses got hurt. There was one lone PETA person protesting at the gate when we left both days.  Had a sign that said Racing Kills young horses.  Interesting that it was in the 90's and she had her pit bull with her both days and there was no water for the dog.  

You can argue for or against Pro-ride all you want, but it was amazing to see so many good horses from so many countries in one spot on one weekend.  And the weather was pretty good as well. It's the first BC I've been too where the majority of the fans were in shorts! I can't wait for next year.    

28 Oct 2008 11:19 PM
barb

Well it seems to me that there are alot of sour grapes. And alot of excuses for Curlin, I saw him run his best race. He just got beat and the difference between 3rd and 4th was Mike Smith who rode all the way to the wire. And I totally agree that last years sloppy track was equally "un-fair". The best horses do their best every time and don't need a special surface to win. I always thought the BC was supposed to be a showcase for the best in the world and if more euros come in years when its on synthetics (the good old days are gone and like em or not the synthetics are here to stay) well we better just try to keep up :)

29 Oct 2008 12:01 AM
Racingfan

I agree Steve about synthetics and about Curlin.  I have been wondering often about training methods that attempt to prepare a horse for 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 mile races on 4 and 5 furlong works and breezes.  I don't think that is enough conditioning based on my reading of how horses were trained in the not so distant past. (I think that was largely Big Brown's problem in the Belmont too).  I also question Curlin being so far back (in 8th place some 8 lengths back).  Seems he was left with too much to do (same as in the Man O War) and his run was too early.  Of course we can speculate from now til forever but we will never know and since only the trainer and the jockey REALLY know the horses I guess who are we to question.  I think the surface favored turf horses and those who had run on it before. I'm just happy that Mr Jackson took a chance with Curlin for our enjoyment.  I am all for international competition but turf races are for turf horses and DIRT races are for dirt horses.  Can't wait til it's at Churchill Downs again.  Why do we need to level the playing field?  If people want to run turf horses on dirt they can take the same chance we would take running dirt horses on turf.  Loved ESPN's camera angle at trackside - it reminded me of the world cup which I really enjoyed watching. Can't stand that guy Hank though-he makes me want to change the station!  Also loved the added races and the fillies having a championship day-I just wish it could have been Sat/Sun but I guess football probably interferes with that.

29 Oct 2008 12:05 AM
Karen in Indiana

Lots of Karens on this blog. :-) Anyway, I didn't like all of the Filly & Mare races on Friday, but that's what the DVR is for and there was some very good racing. ESPN did a fine job with the filming of the races, but like the Rock said, I like HRTV & TVG's commentators better. But having the races on ABC & ESPN gives more of the public a view and it has probably brought more people in to the sport.

Steve, I agree with you on Curlin's condition going in to the race. He's looked big, but a little out of shape ever since he got back from Dubai. When they were showing the close-ups of him before the race, he almost looked scared of the camera. I thought that was odd, but then ESPN made the comment that they had asked for a short moment to film him in his stall and they were refused permission. Do you have any thoughts about that? Thanks for the stories and the coverage.

29 Oct 2008 12:09 AM
Racingfan

One last note on the international competition - isn't the Dubai "World" Cup run on dirt?  And if we wanted to send a bunch of horses to run in the Epsom Derby or the Arc, do you think they might run it on dirt to level the playing field for us?

29 Oct 2008 12:30 AM
Steve Haskin

Many of the comments seem to suggest that the Breeders' Cup will be run on synthetics every year. We have one more year to go at SA and then it's back to Churchill and probably Belmont. SA was not chosen to accommodate Europeans in the BC, nor was Pro-Ride built for that purpose. The BC did not level the playing field, they simply chose SA. Yes, the Dubai World Cup is run on dirt...for now. In 2010 it will be run on synthetic. Americans will still go there. You cant compare the BC Classic to the Epsom Derby, which is not an international event, any more than you can compare it to the Kentucky Derby.

Karen, I dodnt see the footage of Curlin, so I cant comment on it. I'm not sure what you mean about being scared of the camera.

JW, there are never workouts or running lines for Europeans, so why single out this year's BC at not being a success? There arent any works or running lines when the races are run on dirt either.

29 Oct 2008 1:35 AM
Terry

I watched both days and thought ESPN's coverage was abysmal. ESPN used to have great racing commentary a few years ago. What the heck happened?

I guess I am spoiled by the TV coverage from Woodbine in Toronto. On Woodbine Live, we hear about, and see, key past performances, find out what horses are fresh or raced often, whether they are cutting back in distance or going long after a sprint in their last start, and so on. We are told who the sire and dam are of each horse and see the horses in the walking ring before riders are up. There are interviews with jockeys and trainers. It is outstanding coverage and, after seeing that all year long, I had a real tough time being forced to watch ESPN mess up so badly. If there had been another network covering the BC, I would have switched immdiately.

I hated Kenny Mayne, the ignorant jockey "profiles" (they weren't funny), the stupid meaningless interviews (one about baseball, for pete's sake!), and don't even get me started on the idiot with his piggy bank.

The only commentators who actually had a clue about racing (as opposed to betting) barely got a chance to talk.

These two days of TV coverage should have been spectacular, but the only good part about them was seeing the actual races themselves. And, of course, knowing everyone, horses and riders both, came back safe.

I am a big fan of synthetic surfaces after seeing the race cards at Woodbine on Polytrack. Hot, cold, wet, snow, it makes no difference. The track is always in great shape. And I expect it's a softer landing when a jockey or horse falls. The jocks come back clean on the wettest, messiest days. The only adaption is that some horses wear eye goggles (great idea from Reade Baker). I hope the BC is always run on synthetic surfaces from now on, wherever it is.

There were many great performances over two days, and even ESPN couldn't ruin that! Zenyatta powering to the lead was something I won't soon forget.

29 Oct 2008 2:44 AM
da3hoss

If I owned a HOY that won on dirt, mud, Dubai and did not show affinity to turf you couldn't pay me enough money to "test" his affinity for synthetic...Mr. Jackson is a FAR better person than me.

As much as I like Tiago and have been hoping to see him get  a "big race" for his career (like I rooted for Sun King) to see him beat Curlin on any day, nope...I guess it did take a 140' temperature track (or more, they stopped telling us how hot the track was 2 or 3 races before the Classic) and 2 brilliant grass horses to do it.

I wonder if our best dirt horses will go next year, or if more will join Nick Zito.

As far as "L****s Day?" I only saw Mares and Fillies. Maybe next year we can call Saturday "Mens Day, Ladies allowed" and the men and ladies can run against each other in a few races.

29 Oct 2008 6:33 AM
Susan, Cambridge, UK

I'd just like to add that, on this side of the pond, we work our horses in an entirely different manner - on public and private gallops, not on the racetrack - so you will never see work-out times from our horses.  It's just another one of those things that we do differently!

Also, it is easy to look up European form by using websites like racingpost.co.uk for British and Irish horses or the France Galop website for French horses.

29 Oct 2008 8:15 AM
Tiznowbaby

I don't think Curlin's problems were completely Pro-Ride. For one thing, he ran lights out. 1:59 and change (estimated) it race horse time. He wasn't placed too far out of it -- after all Raven followed his run and won. He needed to get a jump on Raven and Henry, because he sure wasn't going to outsprint them. He's never shown that turn of foot. I thought he ran great, except he was a little tired. As Steve said, he was probably short. Well Armed was considered by one and all a synthetics specialist, and he didn't win. (which completely and utterly gutted me. Love him.)

I have no problem with Zenyatta winning horse of the year. I also have no problem with Curlin getting HOY.

29 Oct 2008 8:50 AM
Bob

Count me in as one who finds ESPN's coverage marginal at best. Thanks to the purple saddle cloths it's hard enough to figure out where in the field your favorite is running. But when the camera goes from ground level at the gate, to a head-on shot, to a blimp shot, to a rail shot, etc. I give up and just wait for Trevor to give the order of finish.

ESPN should try to figure out by next year's BC which way they want to present the races, either from a handicapping POV or an X-Games POV. Trying to combine the two just isn't working for me.

29 Oct 2008 9:13 AM
FSF

My biggest complaint about the latest evolution of ESPN's racing coverage is that they cut out the pedigree info that was always offered when ABC Wide World of Sports covered the races; and I believe on ESPN's own coverage not many years ago; thanks Terry for making a similar comment.

This was the BREEDERS' CUP- to not show the breeding behind the horse seems silly to say the least. Yes, they show the breeder/owner info, but they should also put the sire and dam up. We talk about problems in the sport where horses are retired early and regular fans can't continue to follow their favorites through multiple years of racing; well, maybe this way people would at least be excited to root for their old racing favorite as a sire or dam...

29 Oct 2008 9:33 AM
josue555

hi, steve first i'm really bother to see us lose to the europeans in the classic, but things happen. i still love curlin and think he would have beat then in the dirt. like a fan i found last years breeders cup more interesting than this year, last year field was run on a muddy track that nobody had control because it was a weather thing, not like the pro-ride this year and next. one more think do you know if pyro will remain in training and if he does will he continue to be train by steve.

29 Oct 2008 9:44 AM
Sammy Nishi

Nice job Mr. Haskin, and right on .. ..

Taking your thoughts a step further, we should periodically take the BC overseas - Sha Tin, Meydan & Ascot could easily handle the two days!

And, you're absolutely right on about the two days of racing - The day for the fillies is BRILLIANT, whether or not we have a ZENYATTA! A Ladies Day itself is worth traveling for .. ..

Thanks for the great piece!

29 Oct 2008 9:53 AM
DANYLSON

LET'S BE HONEST THEY WERE GOING A PEDESTRIAN ALMOST 48 FOR THE HALF AND A PEDESTRIAN ALMOST 1:12 FOR THE SIX FURLONGS; SO IF CURLIN IS UP WITHIN 3 OR 4 LENGTHS OF THE RACE, HE WOULDN'T HAVE BURNED OUT, HE WOULD HAVE WON WITH THAT GIANT STRIDE,YES THAT IS WHY HE NEEDED TO BE CLOSE TO OUTKICK THE EUROPEANS,DESPITE THAT ALL TOP 4 HORSES RAN SUB 24 LAST QUARTER MILES, PRETTY AWESOME FOR THE CLASSIC!!

29 Oct 2008 10:25 AM
Mac

I am surprised so little acclaim has been given little Goldikova, whose stretch punch was a knockout. Trainer Head put her in the same class with the great Miesque. Can't wait to see her back at Anita next year.

29 Oct 2008 10:56 AM
THE ROCK

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the track watered halfway through Saturday's card? And if it was, it throws that 140 degree temp out the window. When the Pro-Ride is watered, the temp on the track drops in half. I believe it was watered by the 5th, so it conceivable that Curlin ran in 70-80 temps. But to say he was done in by that alone is bull. EVERY HORSE ran in that heat as well!

29 Oct 2008 11:49 AM
THE ROCK

Also, if Curlin can handle Dubai's heat, this should've been a piece of cake.

29 Oct 2008 11:50 AM
fb0252

i have tried hard to find something Haskin wrote that I disagree with.  nada.

29 Oct 2008 12:08 PM
CURLINLOVER

Lots of great comments and opinions on this blog; very interesting stuff.  I'm a devout CURLIN fan and can't but help thinking that he'd have won on dirt, however; but we'll never know.  On the Proride, he definitely tired in the last furlong - maybe due to undertraining on this surface, maybe due to a loaded year; he's raced every month since June; and that was after Dubai!!! Maybe he was too far back early in the race, maybe too wide on the last turn! No matter! It's over! I still love CURLIN and hope to see him race again.  He deserves HOY after all he has done this year! Noone can match his sum of achievements! Not even the great Zenyatta!

So, here's to you, CURLIN, and HOY one more time! My little purebred silver bengal proudly bears your name

GO CURLIN!!!!!!!!!!!!

29 Oct 2008 12:43 PM
Bill

The thing that strikes me about the results this past weekend is that we really need categories for synthetic tracks when it comes to Eclipse Award voting.  Moreover, HOY should be based on [among other things] overall proficiency on all surfaces.  How can you say one horse is better than another when they excel on different surfaces?  It certainly appears that the supremacy of dirt form is now in doubt when it comes to determining which horse deserves the top honor.

29 Oct 2008 4:24 PM
MikeM

Please enough of Tiago. He is the new Perfect Drift. He can't be put in the same class with the top three. He ran third because Mike Smith rode a very smart race. I agree with the person who said that Curlins connections were partly to blame for not pointing to the race. He should have run in the Goodwood.Also, can someone tell me why they work him in 1:05,1:06,:52 etc.

and then  throw in a :59.I wonder why his works are always so slow.I'm not saying he has to work lights out every time but most of his works are slow.

29 Oct 2008 4:41 PM
DONNA

 If we can have dead heats on the race track at the wire, why can't we have a dead heat for HOY? Seems to me that would be pretty fair to all the Curlin lovers and all the Zenyatta lovers. I think they are both deserving of it and find it hard to fault either one.

 I also agree that maybe Curlin wasn't trained enough for the Classic. Don't athletes train day after day to just get better than they previously were?

 Also would like to hear more about dams and sires of the contenders and how they've been training and their workouts. That information on Derby Day this year is what helped me to include Denis of Cork to catch the tri that day. So that info can be very helpful.

29 Oct 2008 5:03 PM
THE ROCK

Well Bill, Zenyatta exceled at 4 different distances at a high level to Curlin's 1. I just think everyone is fixed with tradition and stuck on dirt and aren't quite ready to adjust to the game as it's presented now. Don't get me wrong, I was a huge critic of the synthetic surfaces when they first came out, especially out here on the west coast when speed just dominated all the time, especially under "wet-fast" surfaces. Although I'm still not a fan of the Poly, I believe that the form has held up well with the Cushion and Pro-Ride surfaces. I mean Class prevailed in the majority of the main track races at the BC or won by horses that were getting good at the right time (Albertis Maximus/Mile). Juvenile/Juvenile Fillies (All grade 1 winners ran 1-2-3 except for Pursuit of Glory, Euro Bias? lol) BC Sprint: Midnight Lute. Last Years' winner, Fatal Bullet horse improving at the right time, Street Boss. Filly/Mare Sprint: (Grade 1 winners 1-2-3 except Intangaroo)

Distaff: Zenyatta's tops. Cocoa Beach still improving along with Music Note. Ginger Punch ran well on sythetics at Kee. I thought she was over the top, and the public thought so as well if you look at the off odds. Classic: The 3 Euros had around 11 or 12 grade 1's combined this year alone! Curlin ran a good race but was no match. And again, the Euros didn't have it easy b/c of the surface. They flew in late for the race, were stuck in quarantine, only galloped a few days in this sweltering heat. I think they were more at a disadvantage than any horse based in America. The best horses won. Period.

29 Oct 2008 6:02 PM
THE ROCK

Hey, doesn't Steve A. know that for his horse to perform well over a racetrack that he needs to prep on it in an actual race? Like how he did in the World Cup? I'm sorry but if they were serious about this race they would've skipped the Gold Cup and prepped in the Goodwood. And Curlin still ran a great race. But he was beaten two top notch European based horses that day. Gotta give it to them and blame the connections for taking this race for granted and ultimitely blaming it on the surface for how it plays. I didn't hear him yack about Monmouth when Any Given Saturday trounced Curlin his first time over it. It was just a bad game plan set for the biggest race of the year.

29 Oct 2008 6:23 PM
Dreamer's Mom

Since there is no where to comment on your piece on The Mig, I am going to comment here.  YEAH!!!!! A big win for the good guys!  Thank you so much for giving Migs a few extra props.  He is a great tactician, but still rides with such joy.  Wish we all had jobs we loved that much!

Now that everyone knows how great he is I may never get him on my filly!  

Continued success and many safe trips, Migs!

29 Oct 2008 6:45 PM
Steve Haskin

Thanks for the comments on Migliore. I've known Richie since he was an apprentice and have been waiting to write a story about his first Breeders' Cup or classic for a long time. No one deserves it more. I hope others on here check out the story on the Bloodhorse Breeders' Cup channel, just so they can get to know who he really is and what kind of dedication he has.

29 Oct 2008 7:01 PM
Millreef

A couple of comments here after saying that this is by far the most interesting section on the BloodHorse! Thank you Steve!

Anyway, I'd like to approach this from a slightly different perspective. This was, for me, the best racing I've ever seen during a Breeder's Cup (I've seen all of them). We can sit here and argue (from an insider's perspective) about the relative merits of dirt, turf, synthetics, etc...and I'm sure we will all agree to either agree or disagree in the end.

However, I think the important question is what produces the best racing - of a type that will once again captivate the public. Our favourite sport is far from its glory years (try and even find decent coverage on general sports sites like Sports Illustrated) and, in my opinion, you start with re-generating interest by producing terrific finishes. This Breeders Cup produced some really great ones.

Having given this some thought, it seems to me that great finishes are much easier to produce when horses are finishing strongly - when all their amazing power is applied when closing down the stretch. I don't know whether or not synthetics aids in this or not but it certainly seemed to produce some good ones this time. For my money, this is far more compelling than dirt racing where the horse which is slowing the least tends to win. This isn't to say there aren't great finishes produced on dirt - but I'd like to hear what people's thoughts are on whether one surface or the other more consistently produces them.

Final completely unrelated point which will, no doubt, put the fox in the hen house! The best horse on the planet (recently retired) is Zarkava! She not only spanked Goldikova at a mile without breaking a sweat - she then went on and hammered the best males in Europe over a mile and a half in the Arc. Unfortunately, I can't refer you to watch her on YouTube because someone has yanked all the videos (but that's a rant for another time).

29 Oct 2008 8:44 PM
Turnback the Alarm

Steve, You are the best writer in horseracing!!!! I have made lots of money just betting who you said had the best coats and the best showings for their works before the big races. The funny thing is, I only bet about 10 times a year.

Having given you your props, please pass the love to Richie Migliore.  I loved your article about him and Desert Code.  I didn't win a dime on that race but it was by far the happiest I was for the two days.  NO ONE deserves a big win more than the MIG.  He is a class guy and someone that everyone can respect. May he remain healthy and his family happy for the rest of his life!

29 Oct 2008 9:19 PM
Bill

Rock, I agree with you insofar as the Brits taking all the worst of it and still giving us a beating.  Hats off to them.  I still wonder what would have happened if these same horses met at Belmont.  Maybe, the same results would happen, but I've got to think Grand Couturier was compromised by the firm turf.  He wasn't going to beat Contour anyway.  The Europeans are simply better than us on grass.  It's their game.  I am not so sure that Raven's Pass and Henry would have run one-two at Belmont.  Even Gosden admitted he wouldn't have been in the Classic if it had been run on dirt.

Millreef: Zarkava was special and it hurts all of us to see her retired so young.  As you say, she beat Goldikova and that's all you need to know about her.  What a loss to racing!

29 Oct 2008 9:20 PM
LDP

This is just a question, a lot of people like to say that we don't get a lot of international attention because the BCC is on dirt, and we primarily race on turf. My question is why does dubai get more global attention than us, when it's biggest race, the DWC is run on dirt, and is suppose to crown horse of the world? Does it have to do with it being steroid free, because they have the same basic races for their series, the world cup is equal to our Classic, they have a sprint, a mile, a turf for males and females, a distaff, and two races for young up and coming three year olds, which is sort of like our juvenile, only they race at three. Their set up is the same as ours, yet they get more attention and stock put into who wins. Why is this, they don't race primarily on turf, but they were steroid free before us. I also know their purses are worth more but, our classic is only one million behind, to day in racing thats not all that much. Any ideas?

29 Oct 2008 9:42 PM
Flyinhome

MIKE M:

Curlin worked fast for curlin... Steve's horses are NEVER known for their fast times. He works on endurance and mind-set with the horses. These works reminded me a lot of his Dubai works. he OWNED the track when he ran. BUT, i think his training and working only a couple of furlongs really hurt his chance in the Classic. Difference: one was pro-ride, and one dirt. Steve can train an awesome dirt horse. He has had almost absolutely no luck with synthetic (with the exception of Zanjero=)...i think it has to do with that he doesn't know the quirks of having to train them on teh surface...but that part is only my opinion. i respect him as a trainer..and a great horseman.

29 Oct 2008 11:31 PM
Flyinhome

THE ROCK:

Steve does know his horse...better than you give him credit for. If you remember correctly, the orginal plan was to race in teh Gold Cup, then in Japan. the BC wasn't even in the equation BECAUSE of the Synthetic surface. i respected both trainer and owner for not racing because the surface. I mean, the DIRT mile, was run on synthetic....which runs like turf. that kind of makes me upset, because you might as well had have them race on the turf...

Back on track...What changed their minds is when he won the race, and all of his fans wanted him to race in the BC SOOOO bad. it wasn't fame, fortune or greed. they showed great sportsmanship going into the race....BLind...last minute choice to race. almost not time for any training change!

Hats off to Steve A. and Jess Jackson...

29 Oct 2008 11:38 PM
David

NBC's coverage of the first 23 Breeders' Cups were far superior than anything produced by ESPN over the past two years. Being on track and seeing so many great horses and connections was worth the price of admission - and then some. Most impressive were Zenyatta, Goldikova, Midnight Lute, Conduit and Raven's Pass. Could not believe Conduit was let got at 5 to 1 and Eagle Mountain ignored at 11 to 1! My nice $10 exacta box returned almost $1,600! Can't wait 'til next near!

30 Oct 2008 1:11 AM
Hawkeye

First I would like to say that I agree with Karen2 to a great extent.  I don't care for the politics surrounding the Breeder's Cup.  In 2007 we had many good 3 year olds.  Was Curlin voted Horse of the Year just because he won the Classic?  I hate to think that a horse will get HOY dependant on a Breeder's cup win.  As many wonderful horses as we have this year, it really looks like it would be more correct to look at accomplishments and throw out the Breeder's cup for those who were unable to attend.  So many ran all over the country and did well.  It seems that is not even taken into consideration.  Perhaps Pepper's Pride should be HOY if we are talking undefeated horses.  I will not be watching the Breeder's cup next year.  As you can tell, I do not subscribe to the way in which HOY is decided.  Like our taxes it won't go away either.

30 Oct 2008 6:55 AM
rich loughrey

Two Euros who had never raced beyond a mile and never over a surface other than grass ran one-two in the Classic! The Breeders Cup Classic is a race at the Classic distance of one mile and a quarter on DIRT. The result is a fiasco, travesty and WORSE: a Handicappers nightmare. (I still appreciate you Steve.)

30 Oct 2008 9:05 AM
Karen in Texas

Flyinhome,  You are exactly right in your assessment of Curlin, Steve A., Mr. Jackson, and how the BC entry came to be after months of saying it would not happen. Don't you know that they are just sick?

Hawkeye,  Most of the time the Turf Writers give weight to a horse's entire year of work. In fairly recent history, there was Cigar, who lost his second BC but went over the earnings record that year, and was named HOY. (Of course, he was a horse who couldn't run a step on turf, only dirt.) Then, the year Skip Away won the BC and set a record, he did not get HOY. Many thought this was a travesty. He finished out of the money in his second BC, but did receive HOY honors that year. I always thought the Writers realized they had made a mistake before. Anyway, these hard campaigners are usually recognized for all they have done. (Go, Curlin!)

30 Oct 2008 11:36 AM
da3hoss

Turnback the alarm...I couldn't believe they were letting Desert Code go off at 36:1...that was my big coup of the day!

The Rock, i wasn't mentioning the 140' heat as an excuse for Curlin, because you are right they all ran on the same track...a synthetic track...I was wondering what 140' does to a synthetic track...up until the 5th race (I think) they were telling the track temp each race, then I didn't hear anymore...

if they watered the track to cool it, then what does a watered synthetic track run like?

Seriously, I would really like to know how a hot or watered track runs ..and would appreciate someone here who's around it all the time helping me understand.

30 Oct 2008 11:54 AM
THE ROCK

LDP,

The reason why the DWC is such a big hit is b/c Sheikh Mohammed foots the bill for all participants to the World Cup (Airfare, Hotel). This is something I brought up to Steve Haskin about last week on how the Breeders Cup can assist in these participants from around the world who have to pay a good amount for not only the aformentioned but the pricey entry fees as well. He stated that it would cut into the profit of the BC and it was highly likely that they'd do it.  I read an article last week on DRF that the BC is looking into sponsorships that would be able to front the costs for Airfare/Hotel for the BC participants, which would be an absolutely huge accomplishment in bringing the very best that Europe and America has to offer. It's bad enough that these guys have to pay for everything knowing that even if they run fifth in any race on the BC card it wouldn't make up for all of the expenses. Maybe the BC can redistribute the purses a bit to make it a little beneficial for everyone participating. Spread the Wealth as the Republicans are proclaiming the Democrats will do if they're elected! lol. But back to the original point, that's why the DWC is such a great event to attend. Money is just an afterthought to the Sheikh, so he can go all out. I'll tell ya, it'd be great if the BC can present itself the way that the DWC does. Problem is that most tracks are way too small and to have all of the festivities displays nearby the barns would just rattle all of the horses prior to running. I'm sure the rest of the horses in Dubai are clear from that. And remember they do the racing at night. Hell, I get up in the early morning here on the west coast just to watch the Carnival. Let the BC go primetime with the Ladies day on Friday as opposed to the day when everyone's at work. Santa Anita can get some lights installed by next November I think....?

30 Oct 2008 11:55 AM
LDP

Thx Rock

  My point, and i'm just making a statment, nothing more, is that the Dubia World Cup still gets mor international attention than the Breeders Cup. Sure this year we got some of the Euro's, but that was because the synthetics, nothing else. The WC is on dirt and they still get people from all over the place, Australia, Europe, Japan, Africa, and more. We got a couple of very good Euros and a few from a few other countries, but not like Dubia. You can't sit there and call yourself the world's greatest stage, or the world's biggest proving ground, when your not. That is why when Curlin won in Dubai he became HOW because he beat the world. In the Classic Curlin wasn't beaten by the world, he was beaten by a couple of Europe's best turf super stars, i emphisize TURF. In Dubia Curlin won on dirt and beat the world's best on dirt. So as of now he is still on dirt HOW.

03 Nov 2008 6:09 PM
Kate

The Rock: agreed, Curlin on Dubai World Cup night was awesome. Though my heart was with Asiatic Boy, it did sink when I saw Curlin walking round the ring before the race. He strode round, looking all over a winner, and so it proved. I wonder if, looking back once he has gone to stud, we won't say that Dubai was his high point, the pinnacle of his career?

Several of the comments have been critical of the between-race commentary of ESPN at the BC meeting. Agreed! I'm from South Africa and the BC is the only time I tune in to a full-scale whole-meeting USA commentary a.o.t. a single big race. So here's how it seemed to one outsider, coming from a different culture.

Two things struck me about the between-race commentary: one was that the commentators seemed to have been given orders never to so much as whisper the wicked word "Dubai" or mention that they also held a "world cup" meeting. It was intensely irritating to be told every one and a half minutes that this was "THE" World Cup, and that Curlin was running in "The Race of the Year!!! for Horse of the Year!!! (blast of trumpets and roll of drums ....) It was almost enough to put you off Curlin himself, though it's not the fault of the horse, the hype that thunders around his head. Still, one almost hoped he'd lose, just to shut them up.

The second irritation was that most of the commentary team seemed awfully ignorant about horses, trainers and jocks from outside the USA (not Trevor Denman, to his credit). I had to grin behind my hand when they had some Englishman join their panel as a guest before the Turf was run. He noted with surprise that they had hardly mentioned Eagle Mountain as a betting prospect, though in his last race he had run the Rowley Mile at Newmarket, England (where the 2000 Guineas is run) in course record time, even though he isn't a miler. As for Mike de Kock (EM's trainer), it was obvious they had never heard of him at all.

After this commendation for Eagle Mountain, one of the commentators immediately added EM to his bet structure and did very nicely on it I believe. But this change of heart came too late for most punters watching the show. How can these guys advise bets when they clearly haven't done their homework? I know they aren't legally liable, and a punter should do his/her own research, but at these big meetings there's many a small occasional punter who could really do with some informed advice. Or maybe they had done their homework and had discounted MdK as a racing force to be reckoned with - bit arrogant, that, if it was the case.

(A few days later the RSA racing channel Tellytrack, picked up this little playlet in a magazine program and had a merry chortle over it, not much to the credit of American commentators.)

13 Nov 2008 4:21 AM

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