Moments in Time - By Evan Hammonds

 (Originally published in the November 20, 2010 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.

By Evan Hammonds  

By Evan Hammonds

Though we don’t begrudge the continued, passionate interest in the outcome of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) or the ongoing, sometimes vitriolic debate over who should be Horse of the Year, the other Breeders’ Cup races Nov. 5-6 produced some fine—and not so fine—moments.

Goldikova proved once again the best things sometimes come in plain brown wrappers. The world’s top miler doesn’t have the Amazon good looks or size of Zenyatta, but she’s just as relentless. Her kick in the stretch is reminiscent of the late flurry of punches delivered by Muhammad Ali following several rounds of his patented “Rope-a-dope.”

Juveniles also accounted for some memorable victories. Few 2-year-old colts in recent years have impressed as much as Uncle Mo, with his bounding, effortless stride. Uncle Mo’s emphatic racing style matches the big personality of his owner, Michael Repole, the New York entrepreneur and one of racing’s Young Turks, several of whom scored big on racing’s biggest days. Since teaming up with trainer Todd Pletcher, Repole reckons to be a force on the racing scene.

Like Repole, celebrity chef Bobby Flay has paid his racing dues and finally reached the top with More Than Real in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT). Flay’s excitement in winning a Breeders’ Cup race nearly matched Repole’s, though the red-headed New Yorker stopped short of hugging the trainer, who happens to be the same Pletcher whom Repole clasped in a bear hug after the Juvenile. Recently elected to the Breeders’ Cup board and no stranger to the yearling sales, Flay is enamored with racing and obviously can participate at a meaningful level.

Kevin Plank, another of racing’s Young Turks, watched his Shared Account pull a shocker in the Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT). The founder of the ultra-popular Under Armour clothing line and his family had their own jubilant winner’s circle celebration, where they figure to show up more frequently in the future. Plank’s victory, along with his purchase three years ago of historic Sagamore Farm in Maryland, means he is in the game for the long term.

Racing people often decry the lack of mainstream media attention. But one incident received plenty of coverage—the nationally televised fisticuffs between jockeys Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano after the Marathon (gr. III). The jockeys were fined for “conduct unbecoming” and Castellano was suspended for careless riding. While some argue the angry confrontation had no place at racing’s biggest event, others wonder if it didn’t show racing’s human side and its very real dangers.

Some other danger spots from the Breeders’ Cup:

• Since when does a $3 million purse draw a collective yawn? In what we hope is not a downward trend, the field for the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) for the last two years has been light on talent and lighter on entries.

The defection of the lone legitimate star, Workforce, the day before this year’s race didn’t help matters, but one horse does not a Breeders’ Cup race make. The non-exotic mutuel pool for the Turf, an anemic $3.46 million, topped only the first three BC races on the Saturday program.

Perhaps the Hong Kong Jockey Club and its early December International Races program does a better job of recruiting horsemen in Europe than does the Breeders’ Cup. Here’s hoping the racing team at the Breeders’ Cup will be able to round up a full gate next year.

• Unfortunately, the Breeders’ Cup was marred by the death of Rough Sailing following the running of the Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT). The colt slipped on the turf course, and the subsequent discovery of a broken shoulder resulted in his being euthanized. Our condolences go out to Jack Smith and his partnership group, trainer Mike Stidham, and jockey Rosie Napravnik, who thankfully was uninjured.

•The lowest point came at the end of the first night’s program.

A lot of things didn’t add up in the Life At Ten debacle prior to, and during, the running of the Ladies’ Classic (gr. I). The race’s second choice was clearly not herself in the paddock, in the post parade, or during the warm-up. Jockey John Velazquez told a national television audience she wasn’t warming up well but apparently said nothing to the state vet. Breaking from the rail, Life At Ten obviously had no interest in running and was eased after a half-mile.

The racing public—especially those who bet her down to  7-2—should demand nothing short of the truth...but that might not happen based on the fact she wasn’t administered a post-race drug test.

25 Comments

Leave a Comment:

txhorsefan

Thank you!  You've reminded us of some of the high points of the days, which I truly relished seeing Bobby Flay's excitement and Mike Repole's enthusiasm, along with Mr. Plank.  Yes, racing needs these young owners who get excited about their horses.  The low points no one can argue with you on those, it's sad at any time a horse breaks down, but when our sport finally has a national audience, it doesn't show racing in a good light.  My continuing hope is that authorities are relentless in searching for answers regarding Life At Ten.  Sitting at home watching the tv, even I could tell that poor filly did not need to go in that starting gate.  What a shame!

16 Nov 2010 5:43 PM
Flynne

I was scared when the gates opened for the Ladies Classic because I didn't want to see anything happen to Life At Ten. I'm so glad she didn't try to run and potentially unintentionally injuring herself even more (because at the time no one knew why she wasn't doing well). During the warmup on ESPN Life At Ten clearly didn't look comfortable, and even after only minor jogging to warm up her sides were heaving, resembling cramps. I'm just glad she came home fine. The last thing the horse or the sport needs is for a situation like that to end in disaster. Imagine the bad press had she not been alright!

16 Nov 2010 5:54 PM
Richie D

Nice observations.

I agree Goldikova is an absolute  monster!!!

I think that all four 2 year old races were exciting and identified some bonified stars of the future.  

I wasn't that impressed with Repole, while I do enjoy seeing an excited owner, the statement he made at the end of his interview about getting drunk that night was a little bit "bush league" to me.  Wrong place and wrong audience.  He came off sounding like a frat boy.

The BC turf was a joke, arguable not even a Grade 1 bunch.

The fight and the Life at Ten debacle tied for low point.  Both were black eyes for racing.  I can't believe that there was not a blood test done on Life at Ten after that performance, especially due to the fact that both trainer and jockey both said she wasn't "right" and the public had a couple of million dollars "stolen" from us!!!!

16 Nov 2010 5:55 PM
Mike Relva

EVAN

Stong punishment need to be taken to BOTH the trainer and rider of LAT.

16 Nov 2010 6:08 PM
sherpa

Evan, I've yet to see anyone congratulate Bret Calhoun and Jamie Theriot, pairing up for their remarkable two-fer with Chamberlain Bridge and Dubai Majesty in their respective sprints.  So here's a shout-out to them: WAY TO BRING 'EM, YOU GUYS!! :-)

16 Nov 2010 7:28 PM
gammyp6

I am just very confused about the Life At Ten as you correctly say debacle. I understood that Jerry Bailey mentioned the conversation about LAT to the track stewards after talking to Johnny V. on air. An example of "something" needs to be made out of this situation.

16 Nov 2010 8:31 PM
Bill Daly

I see where Goldikova just won the Cartier Horse of the Year award.  What a great mare she is!  I am in awe of this animal.  She has travelled all over Europe and the U.S. and beaten the best milers both continents have to offer. Her threepeat is mind-boggling and the prospect of a fourpeat is beyond the imagination.  And very few if any people outside of racing here in the U.S. have ever heard of her.  She ought to be in the forefront of marketing campaigns to bring public awareness to our sport. Her accomplishments may never be duplicated. Zenyatta thrills me, but this mare absolutely leaves me speechless!

16 Nov 2010 9:36 PM
Denmark

Words escape me.  I just learned of Rough Sailing demise.  That is just too sad.  Pletcher's persona was probably a reason for Velazaquez's not asking for a vet check, what does that say for the safety of horses and betters.  And, why wasn't she administered a pre-check - did Pletcher refuse it?  Horse racing is in trouble and actions like these do not help.

16 Nov 2010 10:04 PM
stevebiscuit

If I had to bet my life's savings on either Goldikova or Zenyatta in a mile and an eighth race on any surface, I'd take Zenyatta in a second.

16 Nov 2010 11:22 PM
Cris

There should be grounds for some sort of class action suit by the gambling public about Life At Ten. There are checks in place that were not used for this horse. The fact that the trainer and jockey all noticed that this horse was unfit to race and was not scratched is huge.

If Jerry Bailey can notice from his position in the broadcast booth and nothing is done should leave little to prove that the gambling public as well as the horse were left up for grabs.

17 Nov 2010 5:49 AM
PLUCKSTER

I can understand writing about Uncle Mo but not mentioning the race PLUCK ran after putting his nose in the turf, dodging the fall horse and making up 15 to 20 lengths is very surprising. Especially when you mention More Than Real.

17 Nov 2010 7:43 AM
BlueHen

I find it very strange Life At Ten wasn't administered a post-race drug test.  I always figured that on the Breeders' Cup level, testing every horse would be automatic, esp. one who was so clearly not herself.  Who knew?

17 Nov 2010 7:57 AM
Barbara W

RIP Rough Sailing, Pine Island, George Washington, Eight Belles, Buddy's Saint, and so many others that we have loved.

I hope they do their job to make sure that the Life at Ten incident does not happen in the future in any race.

17 Nov 2010 8:40 AM
P. Van

This is a first-class analysis from start to finish. Very interesting and insightful. TBH readers want to hear more from you, Mr. Hammonds. Keep firing.

17 Nov 2010 9:24 AM
Peteski13

After what happened to Eight Belles how could Velazquez even think about pushing Life at Ten. the vets said the horse was sound, but members of the broadcast team could see she wasn't moving right. I thought she was kind of paddling and I'm no expert. Rough Sailing going down was strange. I've never seen a horse's legs just go out from under it like in that race.  

17 Nov 2010 10:13 AM
Slew

Concerning the Life At Ten saga, it seems to be that stewards were notified by ESPN about the jockey's doubts.  Why stand on protocol when a mare's life is at stake?  Why didn't they jockey dismount, as was his right?  Why no inquiry? Too much buckpassing on this scene if you ask me.

The Classic was most memorable, but I found Pluck's run from last to first really blew me away, along with the electrifying Goldikova.  All of the races were exciting.  My only disappointment came from the loss of Rough Sailing.

My irritation however was exacerbated by ESPN showing the jockey fight every 15 minutes for 2 days.  That was almost as bad as the crunching sound heard over and over when Joe Theisman's legs were broken in an NFL game.  In both cases...puhleeze..once is quite enough.

17 Nov 2010 11:01 AM
Zenyatta101

I think this was one of the strangest yet one of the most exciring Breeders Cup World Championships we have all seen... for a while at least. How many just a quick question think that Blind Luck could win the B.C. Classic?

17 Nov 2010 11:15 AM
Goober

Agree about Uncle Mo! I haven't been this excited about a 2yr. old colt in many years!

17 Nov 2010 12:03 PM
will

Speaking of Life at Ten's  connections,  has anyone looked into why Quality Road ran so poorly?

17 Nov 2010 8:27 PM
SecretTriple

 As an owner/trainer I was quite surprised that neither scratched Life At Ten ! As for the riders fight, I know some of these guys, and at certain times, especially in races of this magnitude, tempers will flare.TV coverage was way overboard, didn't have too see it over and over.No words can describe Zs loss,but many for her greatness, not liking the track for the first 6F., and finishing as she did, amazing. Goldikova IS, the best miler on grass, and proves it , what else can you say. The only thing that bothers me the most in my industry, is its lack of ADVERTISING !! Sure you're goig too see it a few wks. before the Derby, and the Triple Crown possibility, Breeders Cup, etc., but look at the other sports that adv. day in, and day out, ALLLL yr.ESPN covers the Breeders Cup, and when you go too they're website, you have too click on the more button, too get to Horse Racing. Hell, now Nascar has specials on Showtime, what a joke.

17 Nov 2010 8:36 PM
Brielle

Will,

I think he couldn't do the distance. Weren't there doubts about if he could make the classic distance?

19 Nov 2010 6:26 PM
John T

There is always a ''Feel Good'' about every Breeders Cup and this years ''Feel Good'' was Goldikova winning the Breeders Cup Turf Mile for a third year running,truly a remarkable performance.Good luck to her winning it for a fourth time as we now know she will be kept in training.

19 Nov 2010 9:49 PM
Daniel

Barbaro should have been scratched,as he was pulling his head only to the right,a sign of pain.Life at Ten was ill,everyone watching was told.We need an outrcry then  follow the money.

20 Nov 2010 12:50 AM
-Keelerman

Life At Ten..........she was not scratched because of GREED.........

All concerned were worried about

what it was going to cost them, money-wise.....

20 Nov 2010 9:15 AM
Kim Miner

Having been at the Cup, it was truly amazing when Goldi turned for home and came from nowhere!  And not only her but so many others!  Loved Pluck, was right where the gates opened and saw him go to his knees and then was nowhere to be found until he shot like a rocket on the turn!  That was exciting!! Also, other than seeing the Beatles when I was in fourth grade (oh my) I have never felt the shaking of an arena or the din of the crowd that was as ear-shattering!  Being a Blame fan (don't get me wrong, I adore Z and had the thrill of seeing her live in the Apple Blossom and was as loud as the rest of the crowd cheering her on!) since I was at Louisiana Downs where I watched him finish second to Regal Ransom but knew he was a special horse and having followed his career with vigor, I said before the race, if anyone beat her I hoped it was him. Honest horseracing, I'm sorry!

And if anyone wanted more excitement, Nobles Promise was fantastic in the Jimmy V and Apart was just as exciting in the Ack Ack!!  Watch out for him! Can't wait for next year and all that's in between!!

22 Nov 2010 3:20 PM

Recent Posts

More Blogs

Archives