Aidan and a Bettin'


OK, so who’s the Eclipse Award-winning trainer this year? The usual names  – Baffert, Asmussen, Pletcher, or Mott, all of whom had terrific years? Or perhaps Graham Motion or Dale Romans, who both had career years and won classics? Before deciding, voters should pay close attention to Aidan O’Brien, who could become the first foreign-based trainer to take home the award, just as the Coolmore gang – Mrs. And Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith, and Michael Tabor – could walk off with the leading owner award.

In a groundbreaking year, O’Brien, who trains out of the famed Ballydoyle training center in Cashel, Ireland, won seven grade I stakes in this country in 2011 with five different horses. He sent his 2010 Irish Derby winner Cape Blanco to the States on three separate occasions to win the Man o’War Stakes in July, Arlington Million in August, and Joe Hirsch Invitational Turf Classic in October. The 4-year-old had become the first horse in history to make three transatlantic flights to America in one year and win three grade I stakes. O’Brien also sent his 2011 Irish Derby winner Treasure Beach to Arlington to win the Secretariat Stakes, Together to Keeneland to win the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (one week after finishing second in the grade I First Lady Stakes at Keeneland), and Wrote and St Nicholas Abbey to Churchill Downs to capture the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf, respectively.

But that wasn’t his only involvement in North America. In addition to Together finishing second in the First Lady, Misty For Me finished a fast-closing third in the grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, beaten only three-quarters of a length; Treasure Beach finished third in the grade I Pattison Canadian International Championship at Woodbine; Up finished fourth in the grade II Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf; Master of Hounds finished fifth, beaten 5 ½ lengths, in the Kentucky Derby; and So You Think finished sixth, beaten only 3 1/4 lengths, in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

In all, O’Brien’s horses earned a total of $4,105,315 in North America in 2011. His average earnings per starter was $293,237. No foreign trainer and owner have supported American racing like O’Brien and Coolmore, and perhaps it’s time they were rewarded with a well-deserved Eclipse Award.

By comparison, Baffert won nine grade I stakes with eight different horses; Romans won six with five different horses; Pletcher won five with five different horses; Motion won four with four different horses; Mott won four with three different horses; and Asmussen won three with two different horses. Most of these trainers have hundreds of horses each. So, for an Irish-based trainer to come here with only 14 horses during the year and win seven grade I stakes with five different horses is pretty remarkable.

Goldi’s gift

Having watched the head-on of the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) several times, it is hard to believe that the Churchill Downs stewards honestly felt there was no cause for Goldikova’s disqualification. And it is even harder to believe that there was no stewards’ inquiry. The explanation given for the decision made little or no sense, as if they had to come up with something, regardless of how lame it might sound.

With that said, however, I am going to ashamedly say I’m glad they didn’t disqualify her and place her last, which is where she would have had to been placed if this were any other race. Let’s just admit it. This was a gift and a “Thank you” for all she contributed to the Breeders’ Cup over the past four years. Although the rules of logic and observation were stretched to the limit, probably going beyond that, it would have been an ignominious and terribly disappointing conclusion to one of the great careers and streaks anyone has ever seen. Olivier Peslier, although guilty of careless riding, had to do what he did. There was no way he could have allowed Goldikova to get trapped behind horses, costing her any chance to win the race with so much at stake. He had to get her out of there at all cost and roll the dice.

Was the stewards’ decision fair to the victims – equine and human – who may have lost out from a financial (purse winnings and wagering) standpoint, not to mention the prestige and black-type status? Probably not. But I can only speak from a personal standpoint when I say, although the stewards got it wrong, whatever their thinking was, I’m OK with it. And I’m not alone. What I’m not OK with was the explanation that Byword was equally to blame and that Courageous Cat was wiped out as a result of two horses going for the same hole. Uh, not quite. They should have gone into their book of rhetoric and hollow catch phrases and come up with something better than that.

The incident is over and done, and thank goodness we had no public outcries spilling over for months as we did last year. Opinions were expressed and that was it. So, farewell, Goldikova. To the people of France, although this doesn’t rival the Statue of Liberty or your naval support during the War of Independence, please accept this gift from America as a token of our thanks.

Track woes

Another department at Churchill Downs that came under some criticism was track maintenance, due to the dirt surface’s uncharacteristically slow drying out process following a day of rain that turned the track wet and very sticky on Friday and to a lesser extent Saturday. Some used the comparison to peanut butter, others molasses and even oatmeal. Photographers had a tough time trudging their way across the track and many of those walking from the barn area with their horses had their shoes sucked right into the quagmire like quicksand.

According to several trainers and owners, clay was added to the track right before the Breeders’ Cup. But track superintendant Butch Lehr adamantly denies that.

What made this so surprising is that Churchill is regarded as the fastest-drying track in the country, and has been known to turn fast in a matter of hours following a drenching. That, however, is the case in the spring and not fall, according to Lehr. The track dried out very little on Friday and still had large patches of water on Saturday, despite bright sunshine for half of Friday and all of Saturday.

Lehr explained the situation. “First off, we added nothing to the track from 2010 to 2011. If I add clay to this track, then the times get too fast. I’m not going to make any excuses other than weather. We went for six months without any rain. All that time we didn’t have a single sloppy track. We had a good rain on Thursday, which came at the worst possible time for us. We had a little wind, but not a lot and there were still a lot of leaves on the trees, which made for many areas of shade. On top of that, we had heavy frost at night. They also built this huge tent on the backside for the Breeders’ Cup owners and trainers to have breakfast and that caused even more shade. Even on Saturday, there was a lot of shade in the stretch because of the shadows from the two grandstand structures on each side of the Twin Spires. As a result of all this, there was still moisture in those shaded areas.

“The track got a good soaking way down. Ever since Eight Belles, we’ve worked to keep this track as safe as possible and we take it seriously. Even if I wanted to close the track for training I couldn’t, because we have an agreement with Breeders’ Cup where we have to let them train. I would have liked to see the track different on Friday, but all in all, I thought the track was playing pretty fair, especially on Saturday. Believe me, this track is the same as it’s always been. We just had bad luck with the weather.”

Lehr also had his share of controversy on Thursday morning when he refused to allow the horses, mainly the Europeans, to train on the grass.

“Some people thought we had a vendetta against Michael Stoute for scratching Workforce the morning of last year’s Breeders’ Cup because the course was too hard,” Lehr said. “That wasn’t true at all. What he didn’t tell anyone was that (Workforce) had a bad foot and wasn’t 100 percent. The Europeans had been on the grass twice that week, and I contacted Adrian Beaumont (of the International Racing Bureau) and told him I would have to close the turf course for training if the weather didn’t cooperate. We were running a stakes on the grass that afternoon and I wasn’t about to compromise any horse’s chances who was running in the stakes. I had to protect the course as best as I could.

“I mentioned the situation to Adrian and he said he didn’t think there would be a problem and I took him at his word. Once it started raining, I couldn’t just change the rules and I didn’t want to risk tearing up the grass with a stakes being run that day. I assure you there was no vendetta.”

Photos of Aidan O'Brien and Goldikova are by Steve Haskin.


Aidan O'Brien confers with son Joseph


Aidan O'Brien and Derrick Smith celebrating victory in BC Turf


Goldikova heads to the track for the last time


A number of horses didn't handle the wet, heavy track. Afleet Again (left) was one who did; Meeznah (right) did not
Photo by Rick Samuels

70 Comments

Leave a Comment:

mca1895

I don't know why Lehr is saying there was 6 month's with no rain.  Was he talking about this year or last year?  The grass is still green in places in the Bluegrass.  If there was no rain for 6 months, then the grass would be brown in August.

16 Nov 2011 10:06 PM
WinnahPickah

Too many excuses. CD has never had an even surface for ANY of the last three B.C. held there. It's time for them to go up on the shelf for a good long while. Anything before 2017 would be too soon, IMO.

Goldikova should've come down! I love her and I had her singled all over the place. It doesn't matter. The betting public must be protected. Once again, Kentucky stewards are trying to take the title from California stewards for the "distinction" of being the worst stewards in North America!

16 Nov 2011 10:17 PM
Storm Catwoman

Steve,

I saw you bring up the idea of Aidan O'Brien as trainer of the year on "And They're Off" and I think it's brilliant. Not only does he keep his horses fit, he knows where to place them to win. That's a great trainer. He keeps coming back to the Breeders Cup year after year with his A team and let's not forget he was among the first--if not the first--foreign trainers to say he was coming to Belmont after 9/11. It would not only be a grand gesture to give him the Eclipse Award but a deserving one as well. And as for the Coolmore gang, they too deserve some credit for supporting the Breeders Cup and American racing. Remember, they were also the ones (possibly minus Mrs. Magnier) who gave us one of the greatest Triple Crown races when Rags to Riches defeated Curlin in the Belmont and started the Filly Frenzy that has gripped US racing for the last four years. Do you think the Eclipse voters can think outside the box and go for this? Nah!!!!!! But it's a nice thought :)

16 Nov 2011 10:23 PM
Abigail Anderson

Gee, are we BOTH burning the midnight oil? Because there are no other comments posted....presumably, Stable Boy is NOT staying up late, I guess. (I always think of him as your "Official Post-er Boy.") I really enjoyed your focus on Aidan O'Brien. He deserves to be acknowledged & I heartily agree that Coolmore and O'Brien have been great patrons of North American racing. I was glad to read your take on Goldi. When I watched the race in real time I also felt there was cause to penalize her jockey, but then wondered if I was seeing things! Glad to hear that I'm not alone in noticing the potential for her to be disqualified. And I MUST tell you that I love the recent addition of photos. I hope you continue weaving them in whenever you can because you are a WONDERFUL photographer!!!

16 Nov 2011 11:33 PM
Cassandra.Says

I'm glad to see you're calling it like it was with Goldikova's fouling of most of the Mile field, but it would take a strange mind to think it was a favor to Goldikova herself to look the other way.

She was lucky not to have been struck from behind, like Animal Kingdom and Barbaro.

17 Nov 2011 1:19 AM
CharlieCigar

Great angle having Obrien as trainer of the year. His accomplishments are remarkable considering all of the shipping involved and the caliber of races he entered.  Also interesting to see Goldi had 300k to show on her, while the others only had 50 to 80k.  Hmmm I wonder whose Bacon got saved on that non-call.

17 Nov 2011 1:24 AM
Steve Haskin

Cassandra, it was meant to be facetious...or was it? :)

17 Nov 2011 1:25 AM
Lorrie

I love that last photograph but it's not a good advert for the track is it? Sticky and muddy to say the least.

Maybe Aiden O'Brien is a great trainer but having the Coolmore machine behind him is certainly a great benefit. Didn't we have this argument last year about o/s horses winning Eclipse Awards? If it's a North American award and they have a stable full of horses based here then by all means they should be considered but last time I looked at a map Ballydoyle was still in Ireland.

I'm certainly not convinced that O'Brien is a great trainer after seeing SYT run since leaving Australia. This horse is capable of so much more and should have been entered in one of the turf races instead of the Classic. My hope with him is that they get it right finally and don't just retire him to stud. Racing needs the SYT's, Frankels and Goldikovas. We need to think about breeding for stamina here instead of retiring them to stud, a la Uncle Mo. Now there's a good horse wasted IMO.

I must be in a bad mood this morning so forgive my bitching Steve. I'm just tired of seeing great young horses sent off to make money for already rich owners.

Another great column as usual Steve.

17 Nov 2011 4:01 AM
Deltalady

Steve, you always provide the grist for the mill as well as the facts with your opinions, and that is what distinguishes you from many turf writers, I think.  You don't just pound on a position and defend it at all costs, you often take a stand, and then I've seen you poke holes in your own conclusions!  Case in point is the Goldikova non-penalty.

I would love to see you apply your laser-sharp skills to making a case for Blind Luck as either Older Female or Horse of the Year.  I re-read your columns in July on the running of the Del' Cap in which you recite BL's long list of accomplishments, and while her 15-month whirlwind campaign spilled over in to last year and this, surely there is some way for the industry to honor this great filly (she's still only 4, which is hard to believe given all that she achieved!).

Ditto, Abigail!  Love the photos. You are an excellent photographer, but, as I recall, you have been interspersing your columns with photos ever since I started following you. I'm guessing the reasons you don't use more would be the matter of clearances on others' photos, and sometimes you just aren't there in person to take pictures at some events!

Thanks for another great perspective.

17 Nov 2011 8:07 AM
TerriZ

What about a special category Eclipse award for Goldi and her owners and team? The girl surely deserves it as well as her owners who regularly ship over their horses to the Breeders Cup.

17 Nov 2011 9:13 AM
datflippinrabbit

Yes i agree Goldi did cause interference when she came out,but what a splended mare she has been,it's very likely in our lifetime we shall not see another with a career like her's,she has her place in history and so sorry to see her go.

17 Nov 2011 10:03 AM
ChalkBuster

I like your take on awarding the Eclipse for Trainer of the Year to Aiden O'Brien. His ability to target North American races from afar and deliver winners at the rate he did this year is amazing. It's a stark contrast to Pletcher who seems to accomplish very little with the abundant resources he has.

I can't imagine Pletcher sending horses to Europe and winning their big races.

Regarding the non disqualification of Goldikova, I completely and respectfully disagree with your opinion on the matter.

I believe that rewarding a contestant for reasons other than actual accomplishment in the event, in any sport, undermines the integrity of the event.

The Goldikova incident is a big embarrassment to the Breeders Cup. Decisions like this rank right up there with judges on Dancing With the Stars, American Idol, Olympic Figure Skating and Pro Wrestling.  

17 Nov 2011 11:17 AM
Jacklyn

Steve, great article as usual!  Would love a follow-up to Goldikova as to where she's stabled & who she will be bred to. Think she's the greatest race mare since Ruffian!  She sure had "cojones" to push through that wall of horses and try to win.  I believe the #1 hole ruined her chance and knew all the others would be blocking her in.  Haven't been that nervous for a horse to win since Rachel in the Woodward. Great mare!!

17 Nov 2011 11:53 AM
Fran Loszynski

As always love the pic of Afleet Again dirt on his face doesn't bother him he was running home for Butch Reid. I like Mr. O'Brien but I have to elect Tim Ritchey for Elite Alex and Butch Reid for their determination that they were training Alex's kids. Give any of Afleet Alex's kids dirt in the face, rain on the track, 11 horses in front of them and they still will fight to come home to the people they love.

17 Nov 2011 1:13 PM
Slew

I have to agree that Aiden O'Brien deserves recognition for the superlative job he has done.  He's one of the most ardent supporters of the BC, and always comes with a stellar field.  

As to So You Think...I still think he's a champion.  I do not question his training as much as I would question some of the rides he has received by jockeys who could have done much better.

As for Goldikova, yes she did cause interference but..she was really boxed in on that rail.  She wasn't getting out unless she forced her way out.  Yes, any other horse would have been DQ'd, BUT she's come here for 4 years straight.  This was her final race on the world stage.  Not DQ'ing her did great service in diplomacy and international relations.  I still remember when the French stewards DQ'd Dar Re Mi for nothing, and almost caused an international incident.  Don't forget, we still want to keep these races international. and attract the best in the world.  It's unfortunate we cannot accept that after all Goldikova has given to us, we couldn't give her a small gift in return.  I don't think the non DQ hurt the BC at all.

In fact, I think we should adopt a Dubai policy where they reward the stable and grooms for the best turned out horse in each race.  In Dubai, the dapples on those horses were practically blinding.

Great photos, Steve.  Odd that even the high point of the BC was Joseph O'Brien winning for his Dad on St Nicholas Abby.  

17 Nov 2011 2:27 PM
steve from st louis

Politics poisons. Leaving Goldikova placed third was an injustice to humanity. Like Joe Palmer, I have a hatred of state stewards and those who water down whiskey. I guess we can chalk it up to John Veitch having a bad decade. Think how angry I could get if I actually had a bet on the race!

17 Nov 2011 2:49 PM
Slew

I should have added that I do have one question of the BC stewards.  Was Goldikova's jockey fined for his interferring ride?  No one seems to have asked or answered that one question.  

Steve from SL..."an injustice to humanity..." ?? Sounds a bit overboard to me.  Maybe your whiskey needs to be watered down because your priorities seem askew.

Genocide in Africa is a injustice to humanity. Child molestation is an affront to our humanity.  It may be time for you to back away from your TV, put down the remote, and call your local Salvation Army and make a donation.  

17 Nov 2011 5:54 PM
sceptre

Hi Steve,

Very interesting piece...I'm inclined to accept Lehr's explanations.-and not only do they produce more shadows, but those new structures ruin the look of Churchill... Agree with your position on Goldikova, but I think we returned the favor to France during WWII...This So You Think is a true great, and a beauty. A shame he wasn't able to win the BCC and be placed on the pedestal he deserves...There shouldn't be an Eclipse Award for trainers-just too many variables to integrate.

17 Nov 2011 6:52 PM
Footlick

I think the accomplishments that Mr O'Brien achieved this year at least deserves a nomination.  As far as Goldikova is concerned, the center of the debate seems to be whether Courageous Cat was already spent.  Many feel she should have come down, but just as many say Courageous Cat was already retreating when the incident happened. I remember when Dr Fager was dq'd in the Jersey Derby for "herding" the field on the first turn.  He was tons the best horse that day.  That might have been the most ridiculous dq that I have ever seen.

17 Nov 2011 7:39 PM
NASCAR PRO

I think your right he deserves being in running for the award.His year might not be repeated by a trainer based elsewhere, for a long time if ever.Has a foriegn based trainer ever had a comparable year?

17 Nov 2011 8:06 PM
Alex'sBigFan

ROI's catching a flight back to

Churchill this weekend.  He's going to retrieve his favorite pair of shoes that are still stuck in the peanut butter somewhere on the track!  I was expecting the track to be "cuppy" not "Skippy."

17 Nov 2011 9:35 PM
davidr

You make a convincing case for Aidan O'Brien. I am convinced that he should win the Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer!

17 Nov 2011 11:57 PM
Matthew W

Steve, Churchill Downs has had three Breeders Cups in a row with questional track surface issues! The Street Sense  two year old year, it was the rail trippers who won every race--last year it was cuppy and this year it seemed like they were labouring through the lane--hopefully Santa Anita will have the answer this year, and, I wish, for years to come, as I am partial to the Great Race Place! There is something hallowed about that green monster, something that seethes with Hall Of Fame lore, under those San Gabriels, the statue of Seabiscuit and Shoe, they got that right, where I saw Spectacular Bid, around the far turn, after a 1:32 4/5 mile, leaning into the turn, as if not even fatuiged, then draw off in The Strub over one hell of a horse! Very sorry about the retirement of Uncle Mo, he was so very talented, and, for me, I wanted/needed to see more--especially with his fade in The Classic--that alone was/is reason to run him, and I hoped it would've been in this year's Strub Series--too bad, dissapointing, in fact! Mr Repole was outspoken of him, it seemed like continuing with him was a given--Steve, I just wish The Breeders Cup would be contested over only one day, and the advent of the two year old sprint and the dirt mile--that has changed the complexion of both the juvy dirt/ Classic! I'm glad they tried with Uncle Mo, very Quality Road like, in the end--I wanted to see more...I know he was a really good horse, I loved Indian Charlie on the track, think he'll make a  real good sire...and, yes, the no dq on Goldikova was just a joke--nobody will change their opinion of the horse--you're old enough to remember this, did Cougar II's Woodward dq make you remember him a little more, and respect him, as well? The Goldikova no-call was a missplaced pr move--you never mess with the checks and balances of any sport--especially one that involves legalized wagering! Let the guys in the know/and gals, they're called stewards--let them do their jobs--and if they can say they called it like they saw it I would make a case for removal per incompitence!

18 Nov 2011 12:03 AM
rorschach1992

Agreed on O'Brien, though I usually tend to favor our hometeam vs. the foreign contingent when it comes to Eclipse Awards and other such matters, I'm with you on this one. O'Brien is most definitely deserving, he had many runners come over and win or place in many big races here. Although I'd be completely satisfied as long as its anyone but Pletcher, he may win some of the preliminary big races, but when it comes to the major races, such as the BC or Triple Crown races, he comes up with nothing. I was beyond disappointed that he took it home last year, for a fluke Derby win.

Personally I'm not OK with the non-DQ. Sure not taking her down didn't tarnish her rep, but when people watch this a few years from now, people I'm sure will bring that fact up, that tidbit will always be there just as a DQ would have been had she been DQ'd. Plus its totally unfair to the betting public who had tickets foiled because of that infraction. I'd also like to know if Peslier was fined. Plus it shouldn't be "OK" for her to cause that much interference and get away with it when all throughout the year there were far lesser infractions that resulted in DQ's, see Amazombie's unfortunate, and preposterous, DQ in the Los Angeles Handicap for one. Yes the BC races should be kept international, but this was a legit DQ not a nothing "infraction" like Dar Re Mi, they should be judged fairly.

18 Nov 2011 12:50 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Alex'sBigFan

  He won't find his shoe on the track. It's somewhere in a jar of family size Skippy. Whoever buys that jar will have good luck unless they aren't watching what they're doing and break a tooth on a peanut butter and horseshoe sandwich.

18 Nov 2011 1:19 AM
200 lb. Jockey

They should create a new eclipse award for O'Brien: Best Cherry Picker. What he did with Cape Blanco alone should have him in the running, but 7 G1's with 14 horses is as good as it gets. I'd have to question the integrity of the Eclipse Awards if he did not win it this year, he's earned it. As far as HOY goes, I'm not sure anyone deserves it right out. Cape Blanco?

18 Nov 2011 2:05 AM
Rachel NH

OK, so BB has 9 grade 1'a out of his hundreds of horses...like AO'B doesn't have hundreds to pick from to bring here?

18 Nov 2011 7:30 AM
steve from st louis

Slew: It must be dark in here for you failed to see the smirk on my face and hear the snark in my "voice". We're good.

18 Nov 2011 10:02 AM
Smoking Baby

 I'm thinking if Secretariat got DQ'd for brushing Stop The Music on his way past than Goldikova certainly should've been taken down for wiping out a third of the field.  Just saying.

18 Nov 2011 1:04 PM
Smoking Baby

 Mathew W.  Were you there the day they unveiled the John Henry statue?  That sucker looks like it's going to walk through the tunnel and join the post parade.  Pincay's always been a personal hero of mine and I wanted to shake his hand as I was right in front at the unveiling but I chickened out.

18 Nov 2011 1:06 PM
smarie

I absolutely agree on Aidan O'Brien being given the chance to win the Eclipse award as leading trainer. He and his owners have been wonderful supporters of American racing and the Breeder's Cup. Their horses come to America and perform well. I am always glad to see the Euros do well here. That means that they should come back. It is hard to have a World Championship series of none of the rest of the world participates, baseball notwithstanding.

As to Goldikova, I am in agreement with you there as well. Her not being disqualified was a gift. To have her placed last in her very last race would have left a very sour taste in many people's mouths. She is truly one of the greats and I am glad that her last race didn't end the way it could have, here in this country.

I think it is time the Breeder's Cup moved on to more a more horse/people friendly track than Churchill Downs. The management there is less than helpful when you try to pre-purchase tickets. The famed southern hospitality is seriously lacking there. Also, the track conditions were terrible. Surely they can do better than that? It's time to give other tracks a chance again and let CD try to clean up their act.

Wonderful blog, Mr. Haskin.

18 Nov 2011 1:13 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, ITA in every respect with all your comments. Aidan O'Brien deserves the Eclipse for trainer hands down. His support of North American racing is exceptional. I think there should be flexibility every now and then, and this is one of them. He might as well be a North American trainer imo. As for Goldikova, she deserved to be kept where she was. This is a horse who added life to a lackluster BC series. She is a legend in her own lifetime. To have her go out in last place would have been horrible after all her connections had done to bring her here. I am sorry for the bettors and the purists, but sometimes you have to do things that are outside the box for the sake of the sport and the horses. Rigid thinking isn't a plus. I don't think years from now this incident will be on anyone's radar. Her contribution to the sport will be. The fact that no one said anything publicly about the decision confirms that everyone involved pretty much agreed it wasn't worth it to tarnish her reputation. Loved your allusions to French naval support in the Revolutionary War and the Statue of Liberty! They should name her foal Lafayette. As to the comment that we repaid France in WW II, make that WW I and WW II. But that is another argument. As for the surface, I heard it referred to as "peanut butter." Nuff said. I think there were issues with the surface at last year's BCC at Churchill if I recall correctly. Kent Desormeaux said he had never seen it like that before (last year). I think it compounded Zenyatta's issues with the surface early on in the running. Time to move the BC series.

18 Nov 2011 2:33 PM
Paula Higgins

smarie, as a southerner for 33 years, we don't think Kentucky is really the south. Just like my friend from Louisiana says NATIVES of Atlanta, Georgia are "Yankees" LOL. All things are relative. Churchill is probably run by northern transplants.

18 Nov 2011 2:39 PM
Slew

Paula, you cut me to the quick.  Northern hospitality may not be famous, but it still abounds.  

My daughter tells me that a Northern transplant in Louisiana is called a "damn Yankee" no matter how long they reside there.  

18 Nov 2011 4:03 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Paula Higgins

    The only true southerners are the penguins in Antartica. Everyone else is Yankee transplants. If you want some true southern hospitality, go hang out with penguins. The food isn't that good but the hospitality and friendship is extraordinary. I wonder how many people in the South that call themselves southerners are related to Aidan O'Brien? A whole heap of a lot I would presume. Eclipse awards are like the Nobel Peace prize has become. Sometimes they get it right but sometimes it's totally political nonsense. I'll take a Triple Crown win or a BC win over an award anyday. Let the games begin !!!!!

18 Nov 2011 4:06 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Steve forgot to mention that the title of this article is really clever!  O'Brien seems like the candidate for the award to me too.

Interesting that you mentioned the phrase that in referencing our trainers that "they have hundreds of horses each."  I wonder when it becomes too much and the trainers stop accepting new owners and horses?  How can they possibly be hands-on and know what is going on with so many?  Someone is going to be slighted somewhere or mostly have the assistant trainers doing the training.  When does it become too much horseflesh to train I wonder?  Sounds to me like our assistant trainers are the "unsung heroes" stepping up in many cases probably for the "absent" trainers who cannot possibly be everywhere and at every race their entrants are in.  

Glad you mentioned Animal Kingdom for 3 yr. old honors.  This is a tough one to figure.  AK or Caleb's Posse right now?  But how does one slight Shackleford after all he's done and done it straight through the TC trail to the BC races, whew!  Then if ROI wins the Clark, then what, he did the TC trail, Haskell too, and beyond.  Right now I see the 3 yr. old award as a 3-way tie, the Derby winner, the Preakness winner, and the Belmont winner AK, Shack, and ROI.

18 Nov 2011 6:21 PM
Paula Higgins

I see my southern comments have created controversy. Oh yes Slew, I can hear it now "damn Yankee." I am a transplant from Massachusetts myself. In the old days they called us carpetbaggers. Dr Drunkinbum, they have penguins on most continents LOL. But having lived here for a while I can tell you that there is such a species as a true southerner. A friend from Macon, Ga. once told me that they didn't lose the civil war, they're just waiting for reinforcements. On another note, Drosselmeyer is retired. Another one gone.

18 Nov 2011 9:22 PM
John from Seattle

Goldikova not being disqualified.  No excuse. It's called integrity. Or lack of.  Sorry, but sentiment does not play a part.  If Cougar II can be DQ'd in the Woodward despite winning the race by 5 lengths, then Goldikova can be DQ'd as well.

18 Nov 2011 10:23 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Just reading that Rapid Redux will be going for win #20!!!  Say he wins it?  Poor thing is a gelding and can never go into breeding so why not HOY for him?  I'm still torn between Havre, Rapid Redux, or Zenyatta retains HOY title because no one has excelled this year.  

18 Nov 2011 11:23 PM
The Deacon

Goldikova should have come down that simple in my opinion. What about the betters, who protects them. Last year it was the Life at Ten incident where she should have been scratched, cost the public millions, this year Goldy wipes out much of the field and nothing happens. Another black eye for racing. To reward a wrong creates a double wrong, sends the wrong message. Goldikova is an awesome mare, she is an instant classic but this decision was wrong.

Don't like the Breeders Cup at Churchill Downs, just don't. That track belongs to the Derby, the Breeders Cup should rotate between Santa Anita and Belmont Park......

Brilliantly written blog Steve, you are the writer of the year.....

HOTY in my opinion should go to Cape Blanco........

19 Nov 2011 4:18 AM
Slew

Paula...again.  It's the War of Northern Aggression according to the South's history books, even though the Confederacy fired the first shots at Fort Sumter, an incomplete structure built to guard the SC coast against the British.  This past year there were rabid discussions on NOLA.com when celebrations were slated to honor the start of the Civil War.  Few seemed to be aware that the war actually did end.  The blogs reminded me of the past 2 years of the RA/Zen War.  

Dr. D: There are penguins in New Orleans.  They were evacuated for Katrina to the NW, but returned to the NO Aquarium after it was refurbished, and received the royal treatment, getting to walk the purple carpet on their return.  My daughter adopted one, and was invited to spend a day with her adoptee.  Unfortunately, conversation was limited as he was an African penguin. (Otherwise known as the jack-ass penguin because of his terrible squawk.) My daughter, however, had a great time playing with him.  (She also adopted a gator, but I hope she doesn't try to play with him.)

19 Nov 2011 10:02 AM
Linda in Texas

Dr. Drunkinbum - i will never look at another jar of peanut butter that i won't think of looking for a horseshoe and your comment. I have one hanging in my garage and i see it every time i back out hoping it brings me good luck when i drive and that it brings good luck to my home. But now PB takes on a whole new meaning as i keep a jar on my counter always. Too funny.

Now 'southerners and northerners and penguins' is a another whole different subject.  

19 Nov 2011 10:36 AM
calico cat

Speaking of penguins:

www.youtube.com/watch_popup

What other wild animals let hordes of scientists and photographers get this close to them and their youngs? That's hospitality!!! Dr. D. had it right. :)

19 Nov 2011 11:41 AM
Jennifer in Columbia

Steve, great article that really made me think about the trainer Eclipse in a different way. Aidan O'Brien does deserve careful consideration for this award.

As far as the Goldikova thing goes, I really don't understand something: she was deliberately trapped on the rail because of a bad post-position draw. Why is it unethical for her jockey to try to get out and actually win the race? The race is not truly run if the best horse doesn't win because she was targeted and trapped by the other jockeys. If her jockey didn't try to get her out and win, people would be screaming and rending their garments because he "threw the race" or "didn't try to win."

From my perspective, his actions were the result of the unethical actions of the other jockeys who were trying to take Goldi out of the race. If it is legal to trap a horse so they can't run, but illegal for a trapped horse to try to get out, that race is tampered with.

I understand the danger of what happened, and why this is illegal, but it seems a double-standard to me.

On a side, note, I would like to thank Goldikova and her connections for the wonderful memories. She is such a fantastic race horse and her presence in the Breeders' Cup will be sorely missed.

19 Nov 2011 1:12 PM
plodderman

I play quite often at the track and am amazed at how the stewards percieve the on track incidents. If a horse is going by and is surely a winner, but bumps hard into the horse who finishes second, they are left up most of the time. It used to be that if you bumped a horse, or impeded or took a crooked course ...YOU CAME DOWN! Now the norm seem sto be that the atewards "look" at the race and if the horse that interferes would have won anyway, they tuen a blind eye. It is a joke. i had a horse push my horse a good 40 feet across the track by bearing out the last 150 yards, and when "my horse" finally stopped getting leaned upon, he came straight and nudged the eventual winner. THANKS FOR CALLING IT INCEDENTAL BUMPING, YOU BLIND, STUPID, 4 TO 5 FAVORING CALDER STEWARDS!!!!!!!

19 Nov 2011 2:10 PM
Linda in Texas

There you are Zookeeper, doing what you do best, bringing special thoughts and in this case a precious video of an animal that i have always been in awe of. Their antics, their unique markings and most of all their ability to survive in such a frozen environment mystifies me.

What a wonderful sense of humor their creator must have had. Cannot forget that with all things if truth be told.

Thanks Zookeeper that was a treat.

19 Nov 2011 3:14 PM
Swale1984

Perhaps the stewards weren't giving a gift to Goldikova......if you look of footage from the steward's room, you see another reason for the no-call.....they were watching COLLEGE FOOTBALL! (no joke....one of the screens was tuned to a football game!)

19 Nov 2011 5:04 PM
Paula Higgins

Slew, let me tell you about the time my father brought out both of my great great grandfather's civil war discharge papers, which were framed, and hung them on the wall -in Atlanta. I told him he was being a little insensitive LOL. But there they hung. Personally, I love penguins. Well said Jennifer in Columbia. A horse should be able to get out of a trap. We could litigate the Goldi thing forever. Lets not and just be grateful that she came here people.

19 Nov 2011 8:29 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

What's Baffert feeding his horses? Peanut butter and horseshoe sandwiches? Euroears, The Factor, Drill, etc etc. Yikes !!! I mean Game On Dude can handle eating that stuff. He's tough as nails, but Baffert better soften up the diet for the other guys. Got Derby fever? I saw the penguins in the stands at Delta Downs. You're right they're everywhere. It's strange I never noticed before.

19 Nov 2011 11:59 PM
Coldfacts

Mr. O’Brien certainly deserves the award. However, I have serious doubts this will based on what might be perceived as him having an advantage. It can be argued that all Mr. Obrien victories were achieved on turf. This is a surface on which the Europeans have dominated their US counterparts. If Mr. Obrien’s victories were achieved on dirt the playing field would be considered level as the majority of graded races in the US are contested on dirt.  It has been proven repeatedly that even second stringers from Europe can beat the best the US have to offer on the surface.  The fact that these European horses have to ship in is not seen as enough of an equalizer.

Since Mr. Obrien will not receive the eclipse award he should at least be given one for exemplary achievements. There have been many such achievements as highlighted by the moderator. There was special mentioned Cape Blanco’s three trips that resulted in three victories and the seven days between starts associated with Together’s Queen Elizabeth II victory. I happen to think that those feats are superseded by what was achieved feat with Master Of Hound although he did not secure a win.

Master Of Hound contested the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf on (11/06/2010). He made his 3YO debut four months and 20 days later (03/26/2011) in Dubai on a synthetic track in the Gll UAE Derby and lost by a nose. His next start six week later was in the Kentucky Derby (Dirt) and as highlighted finished a creditable 5th. There is no US based trainer that I can think of that would ship a quality colt to a foreign country to contest a 9 1/2 race that represented its first start in almost 5 months.  I can think of no US based trainer in the modern era that would be prepared to start a horse in the Kentucky Derby with only one start in 6 1/2 months.  Master Of Hound was an undeserving looser of the UAE Derby and his5th place finish in the Derby was remarkable considering it was his second start as a 3YO start in 6 1/2 months.

US based trainers can state with some justification that in Mr. Obrien’s seven Gl victories he had a surface advantage. However, no US based trainer can deny that he has eclipsed them all with what was achieved with Master Of Hounds in two start in 6 ½ months in two different countries and on two different surfaces. Trainers that have eclipsed their counterparts deserve eclipse awards.

20 Nov 2011 1:20 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Part of the purse money at all tracks should to go to the steward's optometry fund so they can have free vision care and get new glasses.

20 Nov 2011 10:15 AM
calico cat

Hi Linda in Texas! Glad you enjoyed the penguin video.

Paula Higgins, my heart agrees with you on Goldikova's non-DQ but my head says she should have been taken down. "Mixed feelings" is a condition I often suffer from, especially in horse racing. :)

20 Nov 2011 11:02 AM
smarie

You are right, Paula Higgins. Northern or Southern - it is all relative. We had a pastor from Kentucky once while living in Indiana. He prided himself on being Southern. I certainly meant no offense to Southerners. They are wonderful folks.

20 Nov 2011 1:12 PM
Slew

Dr. D: he feeds them....penguins!  Makes them klutzes on land, but bewitching rockets in the water.  Oh wait..they really don't run that well in the slop.  I guess we'll just never know.  Hand me another Guinness please...and pass one over to my buddy, Drill too.

20 Nov 2011 1:13 PM
Matthew Martini

Thank you for discussing the track conditions at Churchill over BC weekend. Although the weather was beautiful on the Saturday that I was there, you could see the moisture in the main track up close, at least on the stretch going into the clubhouse turn, which was where I was located. That section of the track never dried.

I think that they also should have let the Europeans train over the turf on that prior Thursday. It was a time for compromise, whether it was running on the outer-most portion of the course or whatever.

If I remember correctly, I think that Strong Suit (trained by Richard Hannon) was one of the horses that was scheduled to work out on that Thursday. His previous race at Newmarket was a 7f straight. I think a workout over the Churchill turf (and a turn) may have helped him on that Saturday. He came a long way for the race, but I did not think that he was in a position in terms of training where we were going to see his best, without a brief workout over that track.

I'm hoping for good weather at Santa Anita next year. I'm hoping that European trainers come back with their horses. The Breeders' Cup races are special.

And Aidan O’Brien is most worthy of an Eclipse this year. It would be great to see.

21 Nov 2011 1:01 PM
Paula Higgins

smarie, we agree :). Zookeeper, I understand the conflicting feelings. When my heart and head don't agree, I often go with my heart. It would have broken many hearts to see Goldikova DQ'd, mine included. She deserved better than to go out like that. Yes, I know money was involved with the betting public, but when you bet, you better be prepared to lose because that is often what happens. I am not going to shed one tear for anyone who lost money over her not being DQ'd. This was a very special case in the annals of racing and required people to lead with their hearts. The stewards made the right decision. To DQ her would have been a very poor call respective to her connections as well. They did a gutsy thing to bring her here 4 times in a row. No way would I slap them in the face with a DQ.

21 Nov 2011 10:20 PM
The Deacon

Steve:  Want to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. It has been an honor to be part of all these blogs the past few years. With all the ups and downs, ins and out of this great sport we all manage to naintain our sense of humor and stay grounded. A Happy Thanksgiving as well to all your loyal subjects. May 2012 bring peace to all.......

22 Nov 2011 1:56 AM
Linda in Texas

Rapid Redux victorious in his quest to win 20 without a loss. i cannot think of a nicer horse to have reached that goal. Nor a nicer owner and trainer and Deshawn Parker, great ride. And to his groom, walker and caregivers, take a bow.

What a nice way to start the week of Thanksgiving.  

Rapid Redux has been very special to keep up with and watch. I think it is simply grand as i am an old claimer myself and i respect not only him, but those who had faith in him. Wire to wire was simply icing on the cake.  

22 Nov 2011 8:32 AM
Linda in Texas

I failed to mention Needler in Virginia, i hope things are easing for you Needler. Please let us know you are okay.

And a ditto to Deacon's well wishes

for a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

And thanks a million Steve. I have never enjoyed anything more than i have in reading your wonderful articles and meeting so many super folks on your blog.

22 Nov 2011 10:14 AM
Wendy.lou

20 wins, 12 months, over every surface and length imaginable. David Wells and Rapid Redux, period!Just cause they don't have the "big" bucks, doesn't mean they shouldn't at least be considered, think about it.

22 Nov 2011 10:52 AM
Pedigree Ann

All you folks out, Rapid Redux is now 18 for 18 in 2011. This is the sort of campaign that our best horses used to have. Citation won 19 of 20 at 3. Equipoise won 10 of 14 at 4. Stymie averaged 23 races a year from 2 to 6 on his way to the Hall of Fame. Kelso averaged 11 races a year from 3 to 7. Affirmed and Alydar each averaged 10/year at 2 and 3, and so did 'Bid; the sounder Affirmed and Bid had similar campaigns at 4. Even just a decade or so ago, a proper campaign for any age was 8-10 races. Anything can and often does happen in a single race; that is why it is the body of work, not a single race, that should determine champions. And that is why no horse who makes a single start in the US deserves a championship. That is why I still consider Tuscan Evening champion turf mare of 2010, Eclipse voters not withstanding.

Racing is not like pro football or college basketball (and every other sport team but football) with a tournament set up. It is more like golf, tennis, motor racing, etc.: there are some events that are more important than others (The Masters, The Open, The Daytona 500, Indy 500, etc.) but it is body of work throughout the year that determines the champions.

22 Nov 2011 10:57 AM
Smoking Baby

Linda in Texas, do you know whether Rapid Redux has been in the same barn this whole time.  Many of these $5,000 horses change hands often.  I was thinking earlier today if he's accomplished this under several different shedrows it's even that much more impressive.

22 Nov 2011 11:15 AM
Karen in Texas

I haven't commented on this particular blog thread so far because I don't really have a strong opinion on trainer Aidan O'Brien and the Eclipse award, but....

I do want to join LiT in congratulating Rapid Redux and his team on last night's 20th victory at Mountaineer! Apparently the field started at 11 and dwindled rapidly throughout the day--was it the wet track? The few times I have seen him run he appears very professional. I wish him and his group future success as he continues to race (according to the HRTV people).

Also, hello to Zookeeper, and a happy and safe Thanksgiving to everyone!

22 Nov 2011 11:38 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

The Deacon

   Thanks for the Happy Thanksgiving wishes, same to you, and Steve and family, and to all of the rest of the Haskinites and other assorted loyal subjects and families. We've been grounded alright but hoping the next Triple Crown run will have us soaring to great heights. Bah Humbug, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, a partridge in a pear tree, Derby Fever takes over and all that jazz.

22 Nov 2011 2:49 PM
JAJ

Sorry, much as I love Goldikova, she should have come down.  To not was dishonest and does little for the integrity of the sport.  Would you be so forgiving if one of the horses she bowled over had fallen and a horse or jockey injured or killed?  Bad, bad call by the stewards.

22 Nov 2011 4:53 PM
Steve Haskin

Linda in Texas and Dr. D., thank you and Happy Thanksgiving to you and all the other members of our little family. I can't thank you all enough for your participation and support.

22 Nov 2011 7:37 PM
Linda in Texas

We all love you Steve Haskin and are so thankful you pulled through your little setback earlier. I am thankful for a lot of things but we all are thankful you made it through a rough time in good shape.

Smoking Baby - July 26, 2008, "Rapid Redux made his stakes debut in the tyro at Monmouth after breaking his maiden there."

"Rapid Redux was bred in Kentucky by Fortress Pacific Equine and is out of the Storm Cat mare Thiscatsforcaryl. He was an $85.000 purchase for the original owners, K & G Stables at The Keeneland September 2007 yearling sale. He was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, Agent.

"He was claimed for $6,250 October 2010, according to his owner, Mr. Robert Cole, Jr. David Wells his trainer said he improved to 25-1-1 in 39 lifetime starts and earnings of $332,544." "During his streak he has run at 7 different racetracks and distances from 5 furlongs to a mile and 1/8th.

Mr. Cole said "he has owned over one thousand horses, and you dream about horses like Rapid Redux." He also stated that "Rapid Redux has a big heart and wants to win," frankly Mr. Cole, i think you have pretty good heart yourself. You know it takes on to know one. And I love Rapid Redux.

Smoking Baby, i believe i am correct in stating that Rapid Redux has an invitation from The Kentucky Horse Park to spend his life there. I believe i read that in an article here lately beside the one i just quoted from. I hope i got the name of the farm who has invited him right.

Got to start cooking tomorrow, going to San Antonio to break a turkey leg with my sister in law.

She doesn't cook turkey and dressing,can only make salads and ordeuerves (sp?) big fancy word for my vocabulary.So if i want to eat i have to cook. No rabbit food, as my dad called them, salads on Thanksgiving! :)

Happy Turkey day everyone. Drive safely if you are traveling. We need everyone back at their posts.

Thanks Steve, and best wishes to your family also.

22 Nov 2011 11:31 PM
Smoking Baby

 Thank you Linda in Texas.  What an intriguing story with this gelding named Rapid Redux.  I have nothing to back this up but something tells me that he's a joy to be around at the barn.

24 Nov 2011 11:48 AM
Pedigree Ann

Linda - Good phonetic try. FYI 'hors-d'oeuvres'. 'Hors' meaning 'outside of' and 'oeuvre' meaning the work or production, so food outside of a main meal. French is a bizarre language when it comes to spelling, almost as bizarre as English. Also, we English speakers have a tradition of reversing the 'vr' construction, in pronunciation, as how 'Favre' became 'Farve.'

25 Nov 2011 9:21 AM
Linda in Texas

 Hors D'oeuvres - this is the correct spelling in case you need to use it and not have to look it up.

Disposablepleasure fell darn near on her beautiful face as the gate opened. She was last most of the way. She gathered herself and won anyway. I think that is so telling when a horse has that kind of heart to win. That is facing adversity straight on for starters then was stopped again during the race. Race 6 at Aqueduct. You need to watch it if you missed it. A photo finish. She is gray and 2 years old.

Musketier - 9 years old won at Calder, Race 10 on Turf. Amazing win. Big German Bred fella. Owner advised trainer, "if he is happy, run him at 10." Amen. That is the spirit i like to hear. His stablemate Simmard was right behind him coming in second. That is togetherness in my book, just like Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty in their last race.  

Daisy Devine - daisies were my dad's favorite flowers, mine also. So i find her win special and follow her races. Fair Grounds on Saturday, race 9.

Awesome Feather and O'Prado Again.

Good for her on her return to win the race and O'Prado Again, i am prejudiced for 2 reasons, his sire and his color and his racing prowess is not too shabby either. Watch Race 7 at Aqueduct. Didn't look like he was going to make it but he did with almost a length to spare. I love all the races and all the tracks. They each and every one are special to me for the slightest of reasons. I look for the positive in all of them and never cease to be disappointed.  

And Buena Vista winning today in Japan after last year's DQ. She put her little right hoof out in front at the right time. She is 5 years old. Good for you Buena Vista.

27 Nov 2011 1:05 PM

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