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