Breeders' Cup - Initial Reflections

 By Alex Waldrop, President and CEO of the NTRA 

Breeders' Cup 2009 was outstanding.  Competitive from top to bottom. Inclusive of many of the best horses from around the world. Maddeningly hard to predict for even the most skilled horse player. Life changing for the single winner of the $1.8 million BC Pick Six. And thrilling to the very end.

Was it the best of all time?  I'll leave that kind of comparison to the historians.  Nonetheless, it was indeed an event worthy of its ambitious, perhaps even aspirational title as the "World Championships. "

Many of the details of the two-day, 14-race extravaganza already escape my memory.  What is left are indelible impressions left by magnificent winning performances by the likes of Life is Sweet, Goldikova and Conduit. Equally stellar efforts were turned in in defeat by Lookin at Lucky and Presious Passion, among others. But the impression that is most deeply etched in my memory from the event is the electricity surrounding the final race. Not since Smarty Jones made his heroic bid for equine immortality at the Belmont in 2004 have I witnessed a crowd so completely engaged by an equine athlete and so utterly aware of the gravity of the moment.

I am of course refering to the Champion Mare Zenyatta and her quest to be the first female horse to win North America's richest horse race - the Breeders' Cup Classic.  It is rare that any of us actually watch history in the making or recognize an experience for what it will become with the passage of time, but when the horse known to many in California racing as "The Big Mare" entered that magnificent Santa Anita paddock, the excitement was palpable.

Forget that many pundits had counted her out and begun to doubt her ability to win at the classic mile-and-a-quarter distance. She had a crowd of almost 60,000 on their feet in anticipation.  She had the people squarely in her camp. Signs thoughout the facility exclaiming "Girl Power" captured the mood of many in attendance.  On track, across the country and even around the world, fans hoped for a storybook ending.

When she delivered, there were shouts of praise and adulation - louder than any I have ever heard at a racetrack. But what struck me most were the tears of joy. We had just witnessed a star performer competing in the biggest race, against the best male athletes, at the biggest venue, before the largest international audience - and winning. It was a stunning accomplishment that left us in awe of an amazing animal, her talented jockey, Mike Smith, and, of course, trainer John Shirreffs, who swept the two biggest races of the weekend.

Saturday, before millions of fans watching in the U.S. and around the globe, Zenyatta showed the world why horse racing is still one of the greatest sports on the planet. Let me know your thoughts on this year's Breeders' Cup.

Recent Posts

More Blogs