On April 12, 2016, the four major Kentucky Derby prep winners were Florida Derby winner Nyquist, Santa Anita Derby winner Exaggerator, Blue Grass Stakes winner Brody’s Cause, and Wood Memorial winner Outwork.
Following three straight defeats, Nyquist was retired after a sixth-place finish in the Sept. 24 Pennsylvania Derby, Exaggerator was retired after a seventh-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby, Brody’s Cause was retired after a sixth-place finish in the June 11 Belmont Stakes, and Outwork was retired after a 14th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Creator, who would win the Arkansas Derby, was retired after a seventh-place finish in the Travers Stakes.
The crop of 2013 appeared destined for failure and a sure thing to fade quickly into obscurity, making little impact on the sport.
The only winner of a major Derby prep that was still around by the fall was Louisiana Derby winner Gun Runner, but back on April 12 there were major questions about the No. 8 ranked 3-year-old on Derby Dozen. As I wrote, “Gun Runner is another who has looked impressive visually in his two stakes victories at Fair Grounds, but he’s been running slow speed figures and beating questionable competition, so we really have no idea how good this colt is.”
That was the Derby picture on April 12 and what would become of the crop’s five major stars, none of whom made it past September.
Then on April 17, there was maiden race run at Los Alamitos. No one paid much attention to it, as there did not appear to be any potential standouts in the field. The winner, Westbrook, would win only one more race in his career for a $50,000 claiming tag.
Finishing second in that maiden race was a first time starter named Accelerate. Finishing a neck farther back in third was another first time starter named Arrogate.
There was no way anyone could have foreseen that Arrogate, Gun Runner, and Accelerate would go on to win the next three runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The crop that seemed doomed to failure after the decline and early retirement of its biggest stars became the first crop ever to produce three Breeders’ Cup Classic winners, with Arrogate, Gun Runner, and Accelerate earning an astronomical $39.2 million, and Arrogate and Gun Runner each winning the richest race in the world, and Arrogate adding the second richest race in the world.
Accelerate, with his victory in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, put his crop into the history books and ended the longest winless Breeder Cup streak by a trainer, as he enabled John Sadler to finally reach the winner’s circle after 44 consecutive defeats.
It seems that most every year, people at some point criticize the 3-year-old crop without knowing what history has in store for it and what gems lie hidden beneath the surface. If any crop seemed destined for anonymity and being deemed inconsequential it was the crop of 2013, the crop that has now written its own chapter in the annals of the sport.
While on the same subject, many have already criticized this year’s crop of 3-year-olds following the Breeders’ Cup Classic failures of Travers winner Catholic Boy, Pennsylvania Derby winner McKinzie, and Pennylvania Derby runner-up Axelrod. But what was lost on Breeders’ Cup day was the sensational comeback performance by Florida Derby and Holy Bull winner and Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Audible in the Cherokee Run Stakes and the solid third-place finish of Preakness and Haskell runner-up and Travers third-place finisher Bravazo against older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, run in a blistering 1:33 4/5, three-fifths off the track record. Finishing behind him were the undefeated 4-year-old California Cruiser and the 5-year-old Isotherm, who had just finished 2 3/4 lengths behind Accelerate in the grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes.
And in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, no one can fault Mendelssohn’s fifth-place finish, beaten only four lengths, after again setting wicked fractions of :22 3/5, :46 2/5, an 1:10 3/5. No one, especially a 3-year-old competing against older horses, can be expected to withstand the fractions he set in the Classic and in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. And this is a horse who was making his sixth transatlantic trip to the United States, five this year alone, totaling 45,000 miles.
All three of the aforementioned horses competed in the Kentucky Derby, as did Firenze Fire, the fourth-place finisher in the BC Dirt Mile after racing way too close to the early pace set by the winner.
So, despite the inexplicably poor performances by Catholic Boy and McKinzie, the Kentucky Derby starters acquitted themselves very well on Breeders’ Cup day.
And on the grass front, 3-year-old Analyze It ran the race of his life to be beaten a half-length and a neck in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Congratulations to trainer Antonio Sano, who saw his $16,000 yearling purchase, Gunnevera, increase his lifetime earnings to over $4.1 million.
And congratulations to trainer Peter Miller and co-owners Rockingham Ranch and David Bernsen for winning both the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and Turf Sprint in back-to-back years with the same two horses, Roy H and Stormy Liberal, and doing it in California and Kentucky, and in the aftermath of the devastating San Luis Rey Downs fire, where Miller trains his horses.
And, finally, congratulations to the sensational Enable, the first horse to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Breeders’ Cup Turf in the same year, and truly one of the great fillies of all time. Juddmonte Farms has now won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Turf, and Mile in the past three years, and with three different trainers.
Even in defeat, Aidan O’Brien never ceases to astound us, as does the resilience of his horses. The 3-year-old filly Magical ran such a game race in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, pushing Enable to a dramatic, hard-earned victory, despite having raced in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Oct. 7 and the Champions Fillies Stakes at Ascot on Oct. 20, then coming back in two weeks for the Breeders’ Cup for her third race in less than a month…in three different countries, all at a mile and a half, and on firm, soft, and good ground.
For anyone who became caught up in Pennsylvania’s glory days with Pennsylvania owned, bred, and trained Smarty Jones and Pennsylvania-owned Afleet Alex in 2004 and 2005, it was great to see the uniting of the two camps, with Smarty’s trainer John Servis and Afleet Alex’s owner Cash is King Stable hook up to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with the brilliant Jaywalk, who crushed a talented field by 5 1/2 lengths.
To once again reiterate the remarkable sire line influence of Fappiano, who was owned and bred by John Nerud and helped build Nerud’s estate on Long Island, as he liked to say, both Breeders’ Cup 2-year-old winners on dirt, Game Winner and Jaywalk, are from the Fappiano sire line. Game Winner’s sire Candy Ride is a great grandson of Fappiano through Cryptoclearance and Ride the Rails, and Jaywalk’s sire Cross Traffic is a great grandson of Fappiano through Unbridled and Unbridled’s Song.
To further demonstrate the influence of the Fappiano sire line, others who trace to him are American Pharoah (through Unbridled, Empire Maker, and Pioneer of the Nile), Arrogate (through Unbridled and Unbridled’s Song), Gun Runner (through Cryptoclearance, Ride the Rails, and Candy Ride), Always Dreaming (through Unbridled. Empire Maker, and Bodemeister), and Shared Belief (through Cryptoclearance, Ride the Rails and Candy Ride). Also with Fappiano in her sire’s pedigree is Monomoy Girl through his great-great grandson Tapit and Tapit’s son Tapizar.