35TH BREEDERS’ CUP FULL OF HIGHLIGHTS
The 35th running of the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park on November 1 and 2 was once again a showcase for the magnificence encompassed in the game. But of course that is what we have come to expect as these “World Championships “ of Thoroughbred racing is a showcase for the best of the best in every division. Without further ado, let’s take a look-see at just a few of the many horsey highlights.
MILLER-TIME THREEPEAT SPECIAL FOR MANY REASONS
Should the Turf Sprint be re-named “the Peter Miller Fescue Flight” ? For the third consecutive year it was Miller-time in the winner’s circle as the California-born conditioner saddled the winner in this dash on the grass. In 2017 and 2018 it was Stormy Liberal that found the finish line first. The 2019 race saw a brilliant front-running score by Belvoir Bay as she lead the boys gate to wire. That’s right…we said “she” as gender made no difference in this race as four-legged speed was simply four-legged speed. Of course, motoring out front of the males was magnificent, but some of the underlying facts about Belvoir Bay makes this score even more heart-warming. Two years ago a wildfire engulfed the San Luis Rey Downs training track where the Bay was stabled. She was missing for several days and had a three week hospital stay after being found. Full of fight, the British-born speedster battled back. She ran five times in 2018 and had five races in 2019 before the Cup. Feeling she was ready for the challenge, Miller cut her loose in the Cup Turf Sprint and was rewarded for his hard work and care in becoming the first three-peat winning trainer in a Breeders’ Cup race.
“Belvoir Bay is just a very, very special horse for many reasons,” says Miller. “I’ve got the best team on the West coast and they are all just tremendous. I have to thank guys like (owner) Gary Barber for letting me do my job. We’ve really had a lot of fun and being able to do something like this in the Breeders’ Cup is a dream come true.”
STORM THE COURT PROVES WHY YOU RUN’EM
On paper, the Cup’s Juvenile race looked like a two-horse tango. Favored Dennis’ Moment was coming from the East and the Bob Baffert trained Eight Rings was top dog on the West Coast. With both near and below even money on the tote-board, why would the others even waste their time? Two-time Kentucky Derby winner Carl Nafzger was proven right once again in the November 1 run. Entering the starting gates at odds of 45 to 1, Storm The Court broke alertly and got involved very early. Assuming the lead as the Dale Romans trained Moment stumbled badly coming out of the gates , the Peter Eurton trained colt ran strongly on the front end. Settling in with solid fractions under jockey Flavian Prat, the Storm continued to rage as he rolled into the stretch. Dennis’ Moment was done after the break. Eight Rings came along side the Court, but quickly faded as Prat hit the gas pedal. Challenged in the stretch by fellow long shots Anneau d’Oro (28-1) and Wrecking Crew (39-1), Storm The Court responded and rewarded his team with one of the biggest wins of their lives.
“His last race was a third place finish but he flashed some talent that told me he can compete at this level,” says Eurton. “We knew he had yet to put it all together in a race but I think now we know he can be capable of great things. I give a lot of credit to Flavian for his input. He is one of the best to put two legs over a horse.”
Storm The Court became the longest shot to ever win the Juvenile and interestingly enough joins his father Court Vision (longest shot to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile at 63-1) as testaments to the Nafzger theory. That theory…odds can never decide the outcome of a horse race…because horses can’t read!
BRICKS AND MORTAR SOLID AS EVER
Obviously, there were many superstars at this year’s Cup. Some of the four-legged ones had failed to deliver in some of the earlier races. Going into the next to last race of the event we had to wonder if the star on this stage could come up with a sturdy performance. But wait a minute… this was Bricks and Mortar…how could he not be solid? Trained by turf titan Chad Brown and boasting a perfect 5 for 5 record on the year, the only question was the mile and a half distance he had never run at. And of course this is the Breeders’ Cup where ALL the participants are good and as we found out time and again anything can happen. The gates opened and we got our answer. Languishing in mid-pack most of the race while long shots Acclimate and United guided the field through moderate fractions, we had to wonder if Brown’s charge would throw up a Brick here. Fifth with a quarter mile to go, the Mortar had to go if he wanted to build on an impressive win streak. And go he did. Using an incredible turn of foot as he has in most of his wins, the big late kick down the lane allowed him to get up by a nose and net another win against top company. The victory should cement Horse of the Year honors for Bricks and Mortar, but not without a few anxious moments from his conditioner.
“Turf racing can feature a big late kick from the winner and that is what he does,” says Brown. “But that does not mean there aren’t some white knuckles and a few choice words. He is a tremendous horse that has found a way to answer the call every time this year.”