Last week’s Breeders’ Cup came and went as advertised, a thrill ride like no other in horse racing. So many highs and lows that it would take a book to fully chronicle.
Here are some of the main talking points for me:
— Wise Dan, winner of the Mile, will be the Horse of the Year. I wrote last week that he, Game On Dude and Princess of Sylmar were the top contenders. When those two lost and Wise Dan won the Mile, it was game, set and match.
— I expect a movie to be made on Mucho Macho Man after his victory in the Classic. A screenplay about a trainer (Kathy Ritvo) who had a heart transplant five years ago and a Hall of Fame jockey (Gary Stevens) coming out of a seven-year retirement would have been rejected as too hokey before the race. Well, it happened.
— After five wins, four on turf, the European contingent should grow for the 2014 Breeders’ Cup. Outstrip, Chriselliam, Dank and Magician were overpowering grass winners. London Bridge was easily the best in the Marathon, and Declaration of War was a game third in the Classic.
— It was good to see repeat winners in Groupie Doll, Mizdirection and Wise Dan. It’s healthy for the sport when champions stay in training versus rushing off to the breeding shed. Also, Beholder has won in back-to-back years but in different races.
— I thought the best training job, and maybe the most important, was done by Mike Pupye with Turf Sprint winner Mizdirection. The defending champ was a mare facing males, hadn’t raced in five months and carried the weight of owner Jim Rome’s clones on her broad shoulders.
Years ago, Rome, a popular sports talk show host, loathed horse racing. Now he loves it. And why not? He bought Mizdirection for $50,000, she earned $1.7 million lifetime and was just sold at Fasig-Tipton as a broodmare prospect for $2.7 million. You do the math.
— The Santa Anita main track bias between last Friday and Saturday was like night and day. On Friday, it was a paved highway that favored early speed. On Saturday, it was fair to all, which is the way it should be.
The Friday bias was a big detriment to Princess of Sylmar in the Distaff. She never had a chance to rally into a strong speed bias. If Princess of Sylmar had stayed home after winning the Beldame, she would be favored to win two Eclipse Awards — for 3-year-old Filly and older Filly and Mare. Now she is in danger of losing both titles to Distaff winner Beholder.
— Finally, congratulations to Martin Garcia for winning his first two Breeders’ Cup races, with New Year’s Day (Juvenile) and Secret Circle (Sprint), both for trainer Bob Baffert. Garcia works scores of top horses for Baffert, most of whom he doesn’t get to ride. Thus, it was poetic justice that Baffert’s only two Breeders’ Cup winners were piloted by Garcia.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.