Meyer On Fire...Again

(Originally published in the November 12, 2011 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)

People often take different paths to reach the same destination, but once there the celebration is universal. At Churchill Downs Nov. 5, everyone watched Elliott Walden, president, CEO, and racing manager of WinStar Farm; trainer Bill Mott; and jockey Mike Smith celebrate Drosselmeyer’s upset victory at 14-1 in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). Miles away, WinStar’s newly hired general manager Chris Baker and his wife, Diana, celebrated in a much quieter manner.

Walden is a deeply religious person, to the extent that he attributes a good part of the success of WinStar to a higher source as well as to a dedicated management team.

Earlier in the day Walden was visited in his suite by evangelist Regis Andrews, who is a horse owner from Florida. Andrews was determined to give Walden an important chore to perform later that afternoon.

“He came up to the suite to pray for us and Drosselmeyer and Sidney’s Candy (a starter in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile, gr. IT). He told me, ‘Elliott, before their races make sure you touch the horses and say, “The glory of God.” ’ I was hesitant to do it. So, with Sidney’s Candy I forgot (the horse would finish sixth). Then, I’m in the paddock before the Classic and I’m waiting there and I thought, ‘You know, I can’t believe this would make that much difference, but I better go do that because I’m a God-fearing man.’ So I went over and touched Drosselmeyer just before he went out and said ‘The glory of God.’ Sure enough, you saw what happened.

“We (WinStar) have been blessed. I really believe it’s a blessing from God. We have a great management team, where every manager we have is very committed to succeed. They work hard to be successful and that makes a big difference. Yes, we had some changes last year (the departures of co-owner Bill Casner and president Doug Cauthen), but Bill and Doug are still very close to the farm, and Doug consults with us on our foals and on our maidens.”

It was Walden who convinced WinStar owner Kenny Troutt, who was unable to attend the Breeders’ Cup, to put up the $150,000 entry fee for the Classic.

“I have to give Elliott credit,” Mott said. “A lot of it was his choice. I was concerned about the entry fee, but they were willing to take a gamble and Kenny had to make the final decision.”

“It’s a bad bet, so you have to believe,” added Walden, who spoke to Troutt on the phone after the race and said, “Congratulations; do you believe now?”

For Mott, 2011 started off with failure and frustration, and it began to wear on the Hall of Fame trainer, who had such great expectations going into the year, especially with his exciting Triple Crown hopeful To Honor and Serve and his top 4-year-old Drosselmeyer, who hadn’t run since his victory in the 2010 Belmont Stakes 
(gr. I).

Following the Classic, Mott discussed the nature of the business and how it translates to life with Walden, reflecting on the sport’s many twists and turns.

“Maybe it’s all about life and we just think it’s our business,” Mott said to Walden. He then thought back to those winter months and said, “Early in the year we couldn’t win. The horses were running poorly in Florida, and Elliott called one day and asked me, ‘Are you OK?’ He was concerned because I’m sure he knew we were trying, but things just weren’t going well; everything was going wrong, like To Honor and Serve running two disappointing races and then having to be put on the shelf. But, again, this business, like life, just turns around and here we are winning two of biggest races of the year (the Classic and the grade I Ladies’ Classic with Royal Delta) in the same weekend.”

One year ago Mike Smith sat on the same podium where he was now sitting following Drosselmeyer’s victory, but for different reasons. He had attempted then to control his emotions when discussing Zenyatta’s heartbreaking defeat in the Classic, her only loss in 20 career starts. This time there were no tears of regret and the agony of what might have been, just amazement at how he came to return to this same spot to celebrate a Classic victory aboard a horse he had only ridden once before, in the Belmont Stakes—two rides and two victories in two of the country’s most prestigious events.

And by winning the Classic, he had equaled Jerry Bailey’s record of 15 Breeders’ Cup victories.

“Last year I sat here just devastated,” Smith said. “I thought my life was over. Just to come back and have a day like I did today and to win the race that I got beat by a head in last year is amazing. Thank God. Last year will always hurt, but this sure helps; it really does. As soon as I found out I was riding Drosselmeyer in the Classic, I kept praying about it and thinking, ‘Wow, this could really help take the sting away.’ And it did.”

For Chris and Diana Baker, WinStar has provided them and their daughter, Emma, with a new life, following the unexpected death this year of Edward P. Evans, owner of Spring Hill Farm, where Chris Baker was farm manager since 1999. Now, they are in the process of selling and saying goodbye to all the horses that have been a major part of their lives for so many years.

“It’s nice to have somebody to root for in the Classic,” Baker said before the Breeders’ Cup. “Of course it can’t compare to the depth of attachment to the Spring Hill horses, but it’s a lot of fun just the same. I’ll be highly involved in the matings and to support Elliott on the farm and to back up Elliott in a supporting role at the races and sales. From what I hear from Elliott, Mott says Drosselmeyer is as good as can be, and Mott doesn’t run them for practice.”

Diana added, “We’re looking forward to the next chapter in our lives and thrilled that Chris will be joining the WinStar team. We have both known Elliott for a long time, and I actually worked on Distorted Humor (Drosselmeyer’s sire) for Elliott one summer in Saratoga. It will be very hard to say goodbye to Spring Hill Farm.

“I think we’re all ready for a change after a really difficult 18 months. I am dreading the November sale. Selling the Spring Hill horses will be like selling my family members. Our new life will be good, but different, and right now it would be very exciting if one of the WinStar horses won a Breeders’ Cup race.”

So, a wide variety of emotions accompanied Drosselmeyer to the post in the Classic. But from the public’s standpoint, Drosselmeyer was not much more than an afterthought, a horse who for the better part of the summer and fall was being pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (gr. III) after a disappointing 4-year-old campaign that saw him win only an overnight stakes at Belmont in six starts. But when the colt, who is out of the Moscow Ballet mare Golden Ballet, finished a fast-closing second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I), it was decided to change course and point for the Classic.

Most of the focus surrounding the Classic was on Uncle Mo and the filly Havre de Grace. The big concern with Uncle Mo was whether he’d be able to get the mile and a quarter off only seven-furlong and one-mile races, especially having been sidelined for four months with a serious liver ailment that caused him to lose 150 pounds. Havre de Grace had already beaten the boys in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) and was one victory away from becoming the third consecutive female Horse of the Year.
Havre de Grace had been turned over to Larry Jones this year, and Jones realized that by running a filly a mile and an quarter against the boys he would have to relive the nightmare of Eight Belles, who had to be euthanized after breaking down while pulling up after the 2008 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

“I know I’m never going to escape that and I’m OK with it, because of all the changes for the good that came out of it, such as padded whips and medication rules, including steroids,” Jones said. “We’ve survived it and we’re looking forward to running Havre de Grace in the Classic.”

Also adding interest to the Classic was Flat Out, who had provided his 70-year-old trainer, Charles “Scooter” Dickey, with the first graded stakes winner of his career in the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) and first grade I victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Receiving the most public and media attention among the personalities was jockey Chantal Sutherland, rider of Game On Dude, on whom she had won the grade I Santa Anita Handicap and Goodwood Stakes this year. Sutherland has been a recognizable figure through her modeling and her past engagement to Smith, which was a main storyline on the Animal Planet television series “Jockeys.” Sutherland was attempting to become the first female rider to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic and had her legion of fans throughout the grandstand.

The Classic field also included a pair of Belmont Stakes winners (Ruler On Ice and Drosselmeyer) and a Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner (Stay Thirsty), as well as the Irish-trained So You Think, who had been purchased by Coolmore following a legendary career in Australia, where he became the first horse in history to win the prestigious Cox Plate as a 3-year-old and 4-year-old. At Ballydoyle, he was known simply as “The Big Black,” while the word most often-used to describe him by the British media was “beast.”

So You Think was trainer Aidan O’Brien’s biggest hope in the Breeders’ Cup, for which he pre-entered 12 horses, topping all other trainers. But by the time the Classic rolled around, O’Brien still was sky high from the emotional victory of St Nicholas Abbey in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT), in which the colt was ridden by O’Brien’s 18-year-old son, Joseph, who became the youngest jockey ever to ride a Breeders’ Cup winner.

The bettors made Flat Out the lukewarm favorite at 7-2, followed by Havre de Grace at 4-1 and Uncle Mo and So You Think at 5-1.

Ignored at odds of 14-1 when he won the Belmont Stakes, Drosselmeyer went into the Classic as Mott’s supposed second stringer behind To Honor and Serve, who had been highly regarded at 2 when he won the Remsen Stakes (gr. II) and then bounced back into form at 3 with a record-equaling performance in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II). Most of the questions directed at Mott prior to the Classic were about To Honor and Serve.

What made the son of Bernardini so unique to those around him early on was the fact that his dam, Pilfer, gave birth to him standing up.

“The mare was young and didn’t know what was going on,” said co-breeder Randy Gullatt of Twin Creeks Farm. “She just stood there and started pushing, and once the foal started coming out, you had to just stand there and wait to catch him. It’s very unusual. You don’t see those things very often.”

Before the race, Bob Baffert and co-owner Bernie Schiappa assured that Game On Dude would be on the lead. This hard-nosed 4-year-old gelding was a tenacious fighter who wanted to go fast and get in a skirmish with any horse who had the audacity to try to run with him.

As expected, Game On Dude went to the front over a sticky track labeled fast but which still had a good deal of moisture in it from nearly an inch of rain that fell two days earlier. Uncle Mo, breaking from post 11, went right up to challenge and got to within a half-length after an opening quarter in :23.61. Stay Thirsty was in the hunt, along with To Honor and Serve, as So You Think settled in fourth along the rail. Havre de Grace was being leaned on by longshot Headache but also was in contention in sixth, only three lengths off the lead. Smith, meanwhile, had Drosselmeyer in ninth, about 10 lengths back.

As they headed down the backstretch, Game On Dude opened his lead to a length, the half in :47.84. Uncle Mo was still giving chase but didn’t seem to be moving comfortably, exhibiting a good deal of head movement. To Honor and Serve was moving strongly and ranged up alongside So You Think, who was looking for an escape route, which he likely would need once the real running began. Flat Out was down on the inside in eighth, but only five lengths from the lead, and Havre de Grace also had every chance, with only three lengths to make up.

After three-quarters in 1:12.82, Game On Dude began to get pressure from Uncle Mo. “Johnny (Velazquez on Uncle Mo) was pushing on us; he really gave us a run,” Sutherland said. But the real danger looked to come from To Honor and Serve, who had moved into third and seemed ready to pounce on the top two. So You Think still was right there and waiting for a hole to open up along the inside.

Game On Dude turned back the challenge of Uncle Mo, who began a steady retreat and then turned aside To Honor and Serve. He still led by a length at the eighth pole, as So You Think tried to close in through a narrow opening on the rail, but had gotten stuck on his left lead and wasn’t able to make up any ground on Game On Dude. Just when it appeared Game On Dude had everyone measured, here came Drosselmeyer from way out in the middle of the track. Game On Dude was tiring from his earlier efforts but was still digging in gamely. Havre de Grace, So You Think, and Flat Out were still right there, but no longer a danger to Game On Dude.

Just when Sutherland thought she was home free she saw a flash of white (the WinStar silks) way on the outside. “I thought, ‘(Smith) sure is smart; he didn’t come near me,’ ” she said. “This horse fights so hard.”

One constant theme in the “Jockeys” series was Smith constantly getting the better of Sutherland on the racetrack. If there was any animosity that existed between them following their breakup, it was exacerbated by an incident in this year’s Los Angeles Handicap (gr. III), in which Smith blamed Sutherland, aboard M One Rifle, for causing the disqualification from first of his mount Amazombie. Smith was incensed and no doubt gained a good deal of satisfaction beating Sutherland again in their widely publicized match race at Del Mar, dubbed “The Battle of the Exes.” Now, he gained the ultimate revenge by costing Sutherland a Breeders’ Cup Classic victory, a place in the history books, and possible Horse of the Year honors for Game On Dude.

When pressed on several occasions after the race about beating Sutherland, Smith said, “I turned that page a long time ago. I wish everyone else would. I congratulated her walking back. She should hold her head up. She did a great job and finished second in the Classic the first time riding in it. I think it’s incredible and she should be proud.”

A disappointed Baffert paid tribute to his horse and to Sutherland. “He never got to see Drosselmeyer,” he said. “He thought he had everybody beat. My horses didn’t pick up their feet today, but he ran great. (Chantal) rode a great race and the horse thinks he won. I’m proud of her and the way the horse ran. What are you going to do? The track has been really heavy.”

Ruler On Ice, who rallied along the inside, kept coming in the final furlong and got up for third over Havre de Grace, with Flat Out fifth, So You Think sixth, To Honor and Serve seventh, and Ice Box eighth. The third- to eighth-place finishers were separated by only 11⁄2 lengths. Although they came home slowly, Drosselmeyer did close his final quarter in a solid :243⁄5.

“He just felt confident the whole way,” Smith said. “He was in a great rhythm and doing everything I asked him to do. Going into the far turn he took a deep breath and I knew he was loaded again. Like Bill said, he likes to run a mile and a half, so I went ahead and went wide so he thought it was a mile and a half.”

It has been an odd journey for Drosselmeyer, who was bred in Kentucky by Aaron and Marie Jones and purchased by WinStar for $600,000 at the 2008 Keene-land September yearling sale. It has taken him most of the year to get back to this level of competition.

“There was a lot of luck involved,” Mott said. “We backed off after the Belmont last year and gave him a lot of time. When we brought him back at the beginning of the year, he was fat and didn’t get in any kind of rhythm the first two or three races. As the year progressed, he seemed to keep getting a little better with each race. After we ran him in the Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes (gr. IT), it was like somebody had flipped a switch and he just turned around.”

Mott sent him to Churchill Downs early and was able to get three works in him, all of which indicated his sharpness and affinity for the surface.

Mott has always been a dedicated family man and very close to his sons, Brady and Riley, and daughter, Olivia. Riley and Olivia were there to share in the celebration.

“I can’t even describe what I’m feeling right now,” Riley said. “My dad was in his prime in the ’90s and I wasn’t really into the horses, so I don’t recall much from that time. Since I’ve gotten into the horses, I’ve always dreamed of what it would be like to win a Breeders’ Cup Classic or even be in contention in the stretch, and for that to happen is just indescribable. With Royal Delta’s win it’s been a dream weekend, and I’m just so proud of my dad. If anyone deserves this, it’s him. His hard work paid off. People kind of shut this horse out this year and didn’t think much of him, but he’s been training superbly on this track.”

Olivia was brief, but said all there is to say about her father: “I’m really proud of my dad,” she said. “He works really hard, he’s a really good guy and a really good trainer, and I respect him a lot.”

Troutt wasn’t present for Drosselmeyer’s Belmont victory or his Classic triumph, but was represented on both occasions by his wife, Lisa.

“We’re beyond thankful and kind of surprised,” she said. “But I shouldn’t say that, because I know a lot of people are not surprised. We’re just very sad that Kenny is not here for this one.”

It would be an understatement to say Mott’s fortunes have improved dramatically from the early part of the year.

“You can never rule anybody out if he’s shown good races in the past,” Mott said. “That’s the exciting part of this game.”

He was talking about Drosselmeyer in the Classic, but could have just as easily been talking about himself.


Leave a Comment:

steve from st louis

Oh, Elliott, I have a hard time believing your God was doubling down on Drosselmeyer because you were praying on the No. 3 horse! If that were the case, I think I would race him next year. God will map out his campaign. He could sire Pegasus on the side. After all, nothing is too great for "your" God. My G-d is far too busy and too compassionate to care about only one horse in a race.

08 Nov 2011 2:59 PM

My only hope for next year is that the Breeders Cup can remove the milers from the Classic. I'm so sick and tired of seeing horses 'take a shot'. The classic is a championship race at 1 1/4.

NO MILERS in 2012!

08 Nov 2011 3:53 PM

I don't get it. Why does God hate Game On Dude? For that matter, why does God care what wins a horse race?

Have we ever had a human interest story where the losing owner, trainer or rider vows to sin no more after listening to a winning rider, pointing to the sky, claim "I owe it all to HIM"?

Do those who feel indebted to God for his partisanship ever wonder whether God's favor might really have been won by a favorite son with a live Pick 6?

08 Nov 2011 4:38 PM
Rachel NH

The "Sports" writers will keep on ad nauseum about MS and Chantal, even though we don't like it.

No love for Emma Jayne, who got a second on Excaper? I like her.

08 Nov 2011 5:02 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

So God beat G.O.D and Mike Smith beat "was almost a Smith" Chantal. It seemed to me that after the race when Chantal said, "Oh, that Mikey makes me so mad," that she looked a little bit like Alfred E. Neuman. When Mike Smith was told of Chantal's reaction he smiled and said, "What me worry?" Tune in next year folks for the continuing saga of Mike vs. Chantal or as better known in some circles Ex-Spy vs. Ex-Spy.

08 Nov 2011 5:03 PM

Thanks Steve.  Nicely done.  I feel inspired.

08 Nov 2011 5:03 PM

That was an exceptionally weak running of the Classic. Drosselmeyer should be congratulated and he came home strong(he did sit way back on moderate fractions so he should have) but the rest of the field was walking the last 4F and crawling the last two. I didn't see a legitimate Grade 1 10F race run by any horse in this field. Drossel is 12F grinder who picked up the pieces on a weak field.

08 Nov 2011 5:26 PM

Thanks, Steve!  I've been waiting for your wrap-up of the BC races and as always, you did not disappoint.  As the racing has tapered off these past couple of days, I felt I still needed something more so I'm re-reading Tales From The Triple Crown.  Thank you for that also.  No one can relate the behind the scenes details as you can!  As for Drosselmeyer, I loved him all of last year and kept hoping he would be able to pull another one out the hat.  I would love to see them keep him going next year, but I'm afraid that is most likely wishful thinking.

08 Nov 2011 6:01 PM

In a time when we see so much animosity in our nation, and little faith, it is wonderful to read such an inspirational blog. Thank you Steve, well done as usual.

08 Nov 2011 6:06 PM

I was glad to see the Belmont winners run first and third in the Classic.  Sometimes I think that Belmont winners don't get enough respect.  I think the best is yet to come for ROI.

08 Nov 2011 6:13 PM

I think the fact that not even Steve Haskin  (a writer who has moved me to tears and inspired me countless times with his intelligent, insightful and passionate writing), can make this year's BC interesting.

08 Nov 2011 6:49 PM
Mister Frisky

Hey Steve,The sooner we put this years BC in the rear view mirror the better.Can we get a derby dozen?

08 Nov 2011 7:17 PM

GOD was whipped soundly by Acclamation.All GOD could do was half heartly chase himself into defeat.No horse that ran in the classic should be HOY unless they want recepients to run in probably the slowest classic ever.Congrats to the connections of Dross but he is a plodder and game on dude had the whole race his way and was caught at the wire.

08 Nov 2011 7:24 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, nice blog. I think it was tough to make this Classic interesting but you did just that. Drosselmeyer wasn't even on my radar. But I was thrilled for Mike Smith and his two wins! It was the highlight of the whole series for me to see Mike come back so brilliantly. Also, I would never criticize someone asking for GOD'S blessing on their horse. Good for Elliot Walden. If that were me I would be lighting candles, saying the Rosary and hanging medals on the horse. Not only to win, but to get him/her home safe.

08 Nov 2011 10:41 PM

The thing I like about Steve Haskin is that no matter how far he misses on his predictions, he always finds a way to make the winner seem worthy or heroic.  When other people are making excuses for their predictions failing, or just standing there scratching their heads at the outcome, he looks for the story that makes you feel good about who won.  Even when the outcome is a huge disappointment to us all (Smarty Jones' Triple Crown or Zenyatta's '10 BC Classic) he tries to take the sting out of it by telling us why the victor was worthy.  I find myself still disappointed, but at least giving some grudging respect to the spoiler.  I was drawn to horse racing as a fan by the stories behind the horses and it is those stories that keep me following the sport.  There is no better story teller in the industry than Steve and he is probably the reason I'm still a fan.

08 Nov 2011 11:17 PM

Great article and BC recap Steve.  Wow, Drosselmeyer got blessed, I like it.  Poor Sidney's Candy did not get the touch or blessing.  I kind of like the idea of ALL the horses getting blessed prior to a race, they should have a priest, or minister, or rabbi, or pastor,  or whoever on hand at all races like the "Blessing of the Animals" day that some churches have.  

I certainly did not pick Drosselmeyer, the only person I heard get it right was Christina Olivares of TVG, she nailed it with Mott's horses in the Ladies Classic and the BC Classic.  

A lot of my choices hit the board but not in the order I wanted, like Farraaj got 3rd instead of 1st, Shack got 2nd instead of 1st, Royal Delta got 1st and I had her 2nd, Union Rags got 2nd instead of 1st, and Goldikova got 3rd instead of 1st, ROI got where I thought 3rd, etc.  It seems like it was a very tiring, sticky track.  The BC races were exciting but I would have preferred different outcomes.  I think Goldikova and Hansen and Union Rags ran the best.

For Goldikova to have had the rail post, run on the off sticky track, and get herself hooked out of the traffic jam was amazing in itself.  The traffic cost her the usual momemtum she builds in her stretch run, so therefore aside from what the analysts think I feel the one post was not the best one for her to get.

So now the BC is over, now what do we all do, await HOY and the other awards, await the births of the new foals and Rachel's and Zen's, and wait for the 2 yr. olds to gear it up and they're off to a great start!

08 Nov 2011 11:26 PM

Does anyone know why Stay Thirsty performed so poorly? It was so uncharactertistic of him. Is there a chance he wanted to stick with his stablemate Uncle Mo? Poor Mo, he shouldn't have been run in the Classic, being so close on the heels of a serious illness. He might have done well in the Dirt Mile. For HOY, I think Havre de Grace should be considered, in spite of her 4th place Classic finish.

08 Nov 2011 11:53 PM
Steve Haskin

Thanks, Secretation. I really appreciate that. It's all about storytelling. As Poormansracehorse points out in a blunt manner, sometimes you it's really hard to make foie gras out of chopped liver. I told Drosselmeyer's story last year in the Belmont and there wasnt too much more to add. Thank goodness at least for the ethereal, whether you buy it or not. When it comes to a story you use anything you can get. Also, we're all a bit spoiled after the last two Classics. I will have my overall BC thoughts in my next column.

09 Nov 2011 12:01 AM
Steve Haskin

Oh, Secretation, regarding my predictions, ever since picking Volponi and trying to find another  one like him every year I've been way off base in the BC.

09 Nov 2011 12:03 AM

Thanks for the great article, Steve. I know someday we will have a BC where the surface isn't the issue, but the last three sure have had that issue put the results in question. Anthony Katzenberg and others thought there was a rally wide bias this year on the dirt. Hopefully Santa Anita can provide a surface fair to inside and outside horses, front runners and closers and everything in between.

09 Nov 2011 2:28 AM

Good blog Steve; especially considering it wasn't a particularly good or interesting Breeder's Cup.  Track conditions seem to have played a big part.  Whoever said "no milers in 2012" should keep in mind that you don't know whether or not a horse will go 1-1/4 miles until you try.  Keep in mind that there were horses proven at the distance that finished up the track.  Even that is somewhat inaccurate because the entire field was separated by only 7 or 8 lengths. Very unusual for this distance, especially on a dirt track.  All in all it was a very strange race.  Thanks Steve for trying to make sense of it.

09 Nov 2011 2:57 AM

I don't really believe God will "carry" your horse to the finish line to win, but I do believe He will look after them and spare them from harm if you pray for it. There's nothing wrong with asking God to protect your loved ones, even if they are animals. It's wrong to ask God for anything along the lines of financial gain in my eyes, but that's just how I feel.

09 Nov 2011 3:58 AM

As always Steve a great recap with interesting inside bits that so make this sport so intriguing.

Motts comment on how it mirrors life is the best, Things have a way of turning out for the better. You just have to BELIEVE.

09 Nov 2011 5:53 AM
Zenyatta John

Wow, It's hard to believe people are taking shots at Elliot for his belief in God and the power of prayer. Let the man have his day, after all, his horse just won the 2nd largest anticipated race behind the Derby in wonderful fashion. Thank you Steve for your way of bringing the story to life.

09 Nov 2011 6:04 AM
Karen in Indiana

Steve, you weren't the only one way off on this Classic - I thought So You Think was going to be mopping up the rest of the field. Uncle Mo's position kind of proved what a lot of people thought: either he couldn't get the distance or he didn't have the foundation for that distance at this point in time. We'll never know which now. As far as God caring who wins a horse race, the God in the Bible is big enough to create and sustain the universe AND know all the hairs on everyone's head. Awesome!

Congrats to Drosselmeyer and the Winstar team, it could not have happened to a nicer bunch. I look forward to reading your wrap-up on this one.

09 Nov 2011 7:23 AM

Cute story.

I didn't talk to God about Drosselmeyer but had him to win all week(The DRF guys were extremely impressed with all of Mott's horses, I listened).

Thanks Mr. Walden for taking the time to make sure it happened.

09 Nov 2011 7:24 AM

Steve, any particular reason why Trout misses the biggest of races for his horses?  Curious.  Also, do you think Flat Out might have pushed it a little too hard on his last couple of works to not run better?

I really hope, after Eskendereya's misfortune last year, Uncle Mo & To Honor and Serve's bad turn of events this year, that Union Rags can get an unimpeded path to a shot at the Triple Crown in 2012.  He's a great looking horse.  To make up what he did and lose by a nose to Hansen was tremendous.  

My heart is broken for Uncle Mo.  He is a brilliant horse.  I hate to see it end for him this way.  I'd vote for getting his health to optimum, and promoting a "last hurrah" race before retiring, just to see him finish on top.  I felt the same way for Rachel.

I hate the way The Factor's year turned out.  He's also  a brilliant horse when raced to where his gifts are.  I really thought Wilburn was going establish himself in that race.

Great job by Caleb's Posse.  I had high hopes for Caracortado and Trappe Shot.  Big wow on My Miss Aurelia and Union Rags!  I thought Miss Netta might show better in the Juvenile Fillies.

I went long in the Classic with Rattlesnake Bridge, Ruler On Ice, and Drosselmeyer.  Ended up saving face with Dross and Hansen.

I think I'd give a slight edge to Cape Blanco for HOY but battling with Blind Luck the way HDG did, and beating the boys, makes her very deserving.

09 Nov 2011 7:56 AM

Steve, so funny the show you guys were doing when Lenny's cell phone went off!  Your facial expression was priceless!

09 Nov 2011 7:58 AM

Great story, Steve, just as we've come to expect from you...intimate details etched into the fabric of the race.

I hope you see fit to finally print the responses to your 2 longshots columns, as my thoughts were all there.

As to the results...yes I'm disappointed So You Think did not bury this crowd.  But lasix AND blinkers? running in the cuppiest part of the track?  He had no problem with the dirt.  Ryan Moore stopped riding him the second Dross crossed the finished line.  I do belive his competitive fire was totally hindered by the lasix and blinkers.  Just my opinion.

Dr D: I guess you won't have to eat that chocolate hat after all...but it would have been very tasty, especially with the Grand Marnier.

If I had a horse in the race, I'd have absolutely no qualms about asking God's blessing...not necessarily to win, just to come home whole, healthy, and happy.  And, as we discovered, Game On Dude is NOT  God.

I was thrilled for Mike Smith, and my wise guy horse was the Dross...because he's had a habit of upsetting my favorites in the big the Fair Grounds, at Belmont, and now the Classic.  He was always Lafit Pincay III's pick on HRTV.

I have to say, owners and trainers of the Euros, who never use Lasix at home, should know better than to use it in America just because it's available.  I think it cost Meeznah and Dynaslew (USA)who both suffered from exhaustion.  I think it cost SYT his fire. It may have helped ST Nicholas Abbey, since his 3 year old campaign has waned after his brilliance at 2...or perhaps he could have done as well without....he was the ONLY calm Euro in the field, and I think that was due to his jockey's great handling.

Overall, please let the big networks learn how to cover these races better.  I want to know sires.  I want to know the full order of finish right after the race.  And I DON'T WANT those crazy camera angles that made me lose track of my favorites in every race.  What can I see under their hooves?  Did one of the horses steal Kim's engagement ring?  Just give us the CD track feed.  It was much better that ESPN's crazy quilt.  Under the hooves, in the sky, never knowing which part of the track they were on...really!  And changing stations all the time?  Terrible mismanagement of an awesome event.

09 Nov 2011 8:55 AM
Steve Haskin

BigTex, my wife told me this morning that they said on TV Kenny Troutt has been ill. There was no mention of that at the post-race interview.

09 Nov 2011 9:11 AM
Sam Santschi

Mucho Macho Man returns today!

Yes, Bring on the Derby Dozen!

Seriously though, I need a recommendation (help) with betting strategy. Any books you could recommend? I made zero money over the weekend despite liking Shumoos, Country Day, St Nicholas Abbey, Sea Moon, Drosselmeyer, Game on Dude. Yeah, I'm boring everyone now. Two many 2nds and 3rds.  Only exotic I hit was Sprint exacta. I forget to bet WPS on longshots I like instead of just using them in exotics.  Grossest example: Hitting the Mott Classic double and failing to straight bet Dross in classic. Thanks for letting me vent.  Love your columns.

09 Nov 2011 9:16 AM

As always, great article Steve. Bill Mott is probably the best trainer in the country. It was wonderful to see him win this race. I must say this though. Todd Pletcher is without a doubt the most overrated trainer ever. In last yr.s classic  his Quality Road ran dead last and this yr his two horse's ran 10th and 11th in a 12 horse field. Sidneys Candy was a a good horse on the west coast, but has gone backwards since  Pletcher has taken him over.

09 Nov 2011 9:20 AM


09 Nov 2011 10:19 AM
Karen in Indiana

Slew, Lafit said if he ever has a boy, he wants to name him Smittymeyer Pincay. LOL!

09 Nov 2011 10:34 AM
Mister Frisky

Slew I and so many others agree with you on the TV coverage.Racing deserves better and it had to take Disneys offer to cover the BC.I'm sure it's just a matter of time before NBC has it's viewers switch to Versus when the horses in the Derby reach the 1/4 pole.Maybe one day Fox can step up and give these big days the proper coverage.Also,with one swoop it would get rid of that cast on ESPN that is unwatchable.

09 Nov 2011 10:39 AM
Pedigree Ann

One shouldn't have to wait for the BC Classic to find out if your horse can run 10f. At least 3yos still have the Travers, although they lost the Super Derby, which has become not-so-super at 9f. Older horses on the East Coast have been sabotaged by the tracks, which have shortened or eliminated their 10f graded races. A 4yo campaign shouldn't be like preparing for the Derby in the Spring of the 3yo year. These mature horses are able to run 10f all year long; test them early!

09 Nov 2011 10:43 AM
Abigail Anderson

STEVE: What I loved most about this article is the way you captured the drama and sub-plots of this particular BC Classic. It was a brilliant take by a wonderful narrator of the sport on what was a kind of mediocre event for me. (I am a So You Think fan and it was his presence in the Classic that made me negotiate the tricky Canadian television scheduling of the Breeders' Cup.) You have given me a story that will hold my memories of the BC Classic 2011 in place. Thank you!

09 Nov 2011 10:48 AM
Abigail Anderson

SLEW: I SO AGREE WITH YOU REGARDING THE MEDIA COVERAGE ! If you REALLY want to go over the deep end, try Canadian racing non-coverage. Even coverage of races like the Queen's Plate here is absolutely shameful! But in the case of the BC, Canadian TSN cuts out pretty regularly on the Saturday for football, so you need a streaming channel on your computer to see anything at all. How I mourn the "good old days" when the BC was on for the whole Saturday on the mainstream channel!!!!

09 Nov 2011 10:53 AM

Mike Smith is a great rider. To feel shame for last year is silly.  The best horse of the day won that day.  Win or lose, Mike Smith, you will always be a great rider.  

09 Nov 2011 10:56 AM

Steve, I have always enjoyed your articles and analysis. I have never felt the need to post a comment until now. Your comment to Secretation, how your predications have been of base since Volponi, you’re wrong Steve, it’s not only the win, but second, third and fourth for those of us who play the tri’s and super’s.

I had my radar on Dullahan and Indy; I also had Union, Hansen and Creative Cause.  It was your article on the Keeneland Kiddies about Dullahan that cinched it for me. What an impressive performance from last to fourth.  I would like to know your thoughts about him going forward.  

Thanks for the tri Steve, I would have had the super, just didn’t key Hansen for the win.

Congratulations on your award couldn’t have gone to a better man.

Kind Regards,


09 Nov 2011 11:00 AM

Sorry Steve, All my life I've lectured about the importance of being brief, and sometimes that takes hold at inappropriate times.

I really do love your work.

09 Nov 2011 11:17 AM

I always felt that the races are more and exciting if you win, unless you are watching a  historic race ie Zenyatta. It seems as if the only people complaining about the BC are the ones who only bet the chalk or the obvious contenders. The challenge is to read between the lines and to see what others do not.

09 Nov 2011 11:26 AM

I always pray for the safety of the horses and the humans before watching a race. There is no reason to criticize Elliot because of his beliefs. That is rather petty. As to the races this year, not one of my picks won. Good thing I didn't do any actual betting...

I have no idea who should be HOY. I really don't think there is one. Rapid Redux comes to mind, as he has a 19 race win streak going. He shows up at every race and wins. He doesn't know he isn't running in "graded" races. Only humans care about that. He just wants to win and he does!

The BC race coverage was so-so again. At least they didn't do the endless celebrity pandering to as they do every year at the Kentucky Derby. Kenny Mayne managed to rein himself in this year. I don't understand why the announcers never know the sex of the horses running in filly or mare competitions. They continually call the girls "him," or "he." When they are even more confused, they rely on that old standby, "it."

09 Nov 2011 11:52 AM
Fran Loszynski

Great article Steve and I thought this Breeder's Cup was super exciting, always liked the Drossel and not interesting ? Come on folks, the big white beautiful Afleet Again came on like gangbusters on the final stretch and Cornelio rode him so well in the Marathon. Afleet Again deserved that Breeder's blanket and Butch Reid -awesome trainer. Afleet Again plodded that dirt like he was planting a garden. He loves Butch, you can see it when he prances up to him and-Of course God had everything to do with Drosselmeyer, yes there is a rail in heaven and God gets the Bloodhorse magazine regularly.

09 Nov 2011 12:07 PM
Karen in Texas

Beautifully written story on the Classic, Steve, with your characteristic "grace of expression"! Saying a prayer for Drosselmeyer or any other horse in any race seems perfectly appropriate to me. God is omnipotent and omniscient and able to listen to all communications that come His way. Asking for a horse's safety seems a fairly basic request to me.

The Classic outcome was a surprise to most, but some posters are saying that the entire BC was boring or uninteresting. I think the track surface was producing some slower times, but the surprises are what make racing what it is--a gamble. There were many interesting/exciting moments over the two day span. My Miss Aurelia stayed perfect, Amazombie looked great, Caleb's Posse came home lights-out, Shack gave his all as always, and how could anyone not think the BCJ was breathtaking? Hansen showed them his white tail all the way from gate to wire, first time on (sticky) dirt, only his third start, on a day when speed was not holding--with Union Rags bearing down outside! Perhaps some people are not happy because they lost bets, but I thought this BC was pretty inspiring. We have three or four juveniles who look quite promising as we approach the year's end.

I do wish ESPN had posted the complete order of finish for each race, and I don't remember hearing/seeing the final times, but maybe I just missed those.

09 Nov 2011 12:08 PM
Danny UK

Never mind the classic, you're all missing the important thing here...

St Nicholas Abbey kicked it!! Oh yeah!! I've been trying to tell you all for 2 years that he was coming. Do you see what I mean now?

Hope someone listened to my rants.

P.s Watch the last furlong of the BC Turf - that's classy.

09 Nov 2011 12:15 PM

Sure hope the new owners of Royal Delta keep Bill Mott as her trainer.  Please dont send her to Pletcher.

09 Nov 2011 1:10 PM
Paula Higgins

Pedigree Ann, I don't disagree at all with yur idea of running horses earlier on at 10F. A really good point. But I think with Uncle Mo, his conditon this year was so dicey they weren't going to do that or much else. Clearly, he has to be retired. Whenever he is stressed with a big race his liver enzymes elevate. Not good. He has a liver problem that may be congenital, and if so, it isn't going to get appreciably better if they continue to race him. If it isn't congenital, the horse needs a solid year off of no racing. They do need to retire him. Steve, even if the horses racing aren't the second coming of Secretariat or Zenyatta, they almost always have stories. Secretation said it well. You are an amazing story teller. ksweatman9, I don't think they are praying for money, they are praying for victory and safety. People like Elliot don't pray for money. What abt the Amazombie story? Talk about a Cinderella/Cinderfella story!

09 Nov 2011 1:59 PM

well first the CLASSIC excpet for firt quater was DOG SLOW anbd ojne worst classi EVER.

DROSSY always has the stamina and grinding run look  loke was flying home but in reality everybody else was dead.   i myself bet RULER on ICE  who ithought do what winner did.

so proud of MOTT as i got few horse with a former working with him BRENDA HILL.

Steve we need to talk about few other horses  from CUP, one GIO PONTI  who its ashame they never tried REAL DIRT with orse after doing all he could do on turf.  would love to seen him in the CLARK  latet this month then rire him.

as far as JUVY go,  UNION RAGS awful ride first turn JAVIER had easy throttle back get over but he chose not to,  he been able then run on up been great postion. horse in race i think could be big shot in DEGBY  TAKE CHARGE INDY who still green and i like to see him in Rremsen or at Delta Downs before year out.  needs more perience, but was also gave bad ride way to far out of it and made up a ton ground not wanting to switch leads.

in closing NEXT SEASON all bout ANIMAL KINGDOM domnating his division and ROYAL DELTA hers and then these 2 meet hople last season in NY  GOLD CUP  and for sure CLASSIC.

09 Nov 2011 2:37 PM
The Deacon

Steve:  Nice writing Steve, a couple months ago you could some time off (well deserved). My turn now, this sport and these past 2 days of Breeders Cup races has left me speechless. Our beloved has hit rock bottom in my opinion. Drosselmeyer wins what 2 races in 2 years and it's the Belmont Stakes and the Breeders Cup Classic. Just look at the ridiculous upsets, who could any of these. Our breeding is terrible, we retire our horses way to soon and it seems that most of our top runners are hurt every season. I would say only Our Miss Aurelia and Royal Delta were the only 2 winners that made any sense to me. So discouraging, time to just walk away.

09 Nov 2011 2:46 PM

Mucho Macho Man had a very good return to the races today.  Hopefully he is back on his game, will stay healthy and have a great year next year.

09 Nov 2011 4:51 PM

Mike Smith only rode Drosselmeyer once before in last year's Belmont, yet he knew the horse didn't like to slow down, liked to get going and keep going.  How did he get to know that?  It fascinates me how jockeys find the key to success with horses they don't know well.

09 Nov 2011 9:18 PM

Abigail Anderson: I think I might shrivel up and die without HRTV.  The lack of coverage on mainstream channels is abhorrent. At least this year, NBC via Espn, Versus, and ABC did cover the Triple Crown, Saratoga, Keeneland and the BC.  That's much more coverage than we've had in many moons.

10 Nov 2011 7:18 AM

By the way, has anyone figured out was 5stardayy was trying to say?  or is it just peanut butter on his keyboard?

10 Nov 2011 6:51 PM

Bellwether made an interesting comment about Game On Dude and Zenyatta thinking that they won but they "forgot to stop at the winner's circle". Certainly not the case for Cigar when he lost after winning 16 in a row. Cigar tried to bull his way over to the winner's circle. The horse was so distraught that day he even refused his treats. Perhaps Cigar was as intelligent as he was talented. What a shame he couldn't have passed his bloodline on.

11 Nov 2011 2:00 AM

It is a shame that people need to denigrate someone's faith in God as part of the story of Drosselmeyer and his connections. God builds our faith in victory and sustains us in loss. I think it great that Steve dared to include that aspect of the story in this time of PC. Also the aspect of the closing of Springhill Farm and Chris and Diana Baker moving to Winstar was interesting. It the fleshing out of these subtexts of racing that make it so interesting and a "real" world. I so much appreciate Steve's ability to do this!

Mike Smith is a truly talented, hard working & a great jockey, AND shows so much class. He's a gift to the sport. Also is there any doubt who is Trainer of the Year? Bill Mott. Why don't the other trainers have the common sense to come early to the track to accustom their horses to this particular track surface?

As much as I admire O'Brien's training skills, even he falls short on this respect. I think So You Think, a great horse, would have preformed so much better! He only had one brief exposure to the track after coming out of the quarantine barn. Plus it has been a long time since running on dirt in Australia. What was he thinking?

12 Nov 2011 2:30 PM
Linda in Texas

ABF - i bet if anyone who frequents this blog is saying, i hope that woman was not watching The Long Island Grade III Race No. 8 at Aqueduct today. But i was!:) A super mare named Hit It Rich ridden by Castellano, trained by Mr. McGaughey and owned by Mr. Stewart Janey III won it.

Watch the race and see her pick up speed and haul to the wire. I know haul isn't a horse racing term, but she did haul you know what!!

She hauled it all! I so often watch horses lead the races and set the pace only to tire and be beaten, this time it did not happen. Nice win. Oh yes, she is a Gray!!! She is 3 years old and it was a mile and a half on turf.

12 Nov 2011 4:41 PM


Your statements below are not strongly support the 14-1 at which Drosselmeyer left the gates.

“But from the public’s standpoint, Drosselmeyer was not much more than an afterthought, a horse who for the better part of the summer and fall was being pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (gr. III) after a disappointing 4-year-old campaign that saw him win only an overnight stakes at Belmont in six starts.”

In your blog titled “Countdown to the Cup: Think Twice About Classic Rankings” you listed 12 likely contender in the BCC. Drosselmeyer was listed at #12. The fact that he made your list is an indication that you were not the part of that public perception. I certainly was not! Listed below is an extract from initial post on the aforementioned blog:


“If there is an upset in the BCC this will be the horse assuming he is entered. He was force out of training for 9 months after his Belmont win. He must now be as tough as nails. His performance in JCGC reflects and almost 3 seconds improvement over his previous effort at the distance. He must be sitting on a big race.”

I followed up that post with another below:


“Drosselmeyer is too slow for the Classic”

My dear colleague you have just deflated my long shot balloon with your statement above. Drosselmeyer is the horse I intend place a substantial wager on in BCC. In fact, he will be in all my exotics as I am very confident he will be right there with the more fancied contenders. Why I am I confident this 4YO will perform creditably?  Well a number of indicators, some historic and others recent performance.

Firstly, 4YOs lead with 11 victories it he BCC the most by any age group.  In the last five BCC, four of the top four finishers excited the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Bernardini won the 2006 JCGC and finished 2nd to Invasor. Curlin won the 2007 JCGC and went on to win the 2007 BCC. Curlin won the 2008 JCGC and went on to finish 4th in the BCC. Blame finished 2nd in the 2010 JCGC and went on to win the 2010 BCC. Drosselmeye broke his maiden at CD and worked the fastest of the Mott contingent. He rarely works a half mile in 47 and this could be an indicator that he loves the track. His performance in the 2011 JCGC is a lot better than it appeared as the Belmont track on that day did not favor closers. He will stay 10F better than all in the field. He has made two starts at the distance of 1 1/4M. In his first on a 3+ track he won in a time of 2:06.27. The second was the JCGC and he got beat by 2 plus lengths in 2:03.07. His time on his second attempt at the distance he improved about his time by about 2.5 seconds. His JCGC effort was the fastest of his career for any distance. He then works 47 for half mile. Watch out he is a live long shot.

I followed through with my plan and made a substantial amount recover losses on his stable mate THS and the flop Alpha. The 14-1 was irresistible.  

NB: Never count out horses from the Raise A Native sire line when they establish dominance in a race.

Alysheba (1988); Unbridled (1990); Black Tie Affair (1991); Volponi (2002); Curlin (2007); Raven Pass (2008) Zenyatta (2009) Drosselmeyer (2011)

Of the 28 BCC contested to date RAN line horses have won 8 (28.57%)

13 Nov 2011 6:20 AM

Thanks Steve for another great article, taking us right into the story, painting a beautiful mosaic of the winners and their feelings.  It was good to see you on the backside at CD at the Breeders' Cup.

Tuesday we'll be touring WinStar as part of the prize for winning Road To The Roses in 2010.  

13 Nov 2011 11:18 PM

If it's not Rapid Redux, I still think it's Animal Kingdom.

It's British, but then I'm Canadian. I think the Horse of the Year is the one that would beat all the others on his best day. (Real best day, not imaginary, like Mo's.)

Nothing all year shook the belief that Eskendereya was the best of his crop, but he didn't ratify that impression in a major race. Animal Kingdom did. His Derby was excellent (last half in 47 & 1), his Preakness confirmatory (Shackleford wanted it more), and the move he made in the Belmont on a fractured hock was unforgettable. (Or so I thought.)

The door was open for something to have a great back half and erase that impression, but nothing has.

17 Nov 2011 3:32 AM

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