The Breeders’ Cup has always been a showcase for talent. These year-end World Thoroughbred Championships oftentimes tells us just how strong a runner really is. At the 2023 event, there were three runners in particular that performed a pose down.
Cody’s Wish came to Santa Anita as the defending champion in the Dirt Mile. As a real fan favorite, this son of Curlin was thought to be perhaps the biggest slam dunk on the card. Having won seven of his past eight starts, this Bill Mott trainee faced seven others on a surface that was favoring frontrunners. Preakness champion National Treasure broke immediately to the lead and Cody’s Wish settled at the back of the pack through a swift opening quarter mile (22.51). As the half-mile time softened a bit (46.02) Cody began to launch a bid in an effort to close the gap. Turning for home, the heavy favorite had work still to do as National Treasure proved to be very game. In a fight to the wire, a determined Cody’s Wish got up by slightly more than a nose. The going in this one was not easy and the salt in his veins was on full display as this Champ refused to lose.
Goodnight Olive made her way to the Great Race Place after capturing the Filly and Mare Sprint in 2022. This daughter of Ghostzapper had been beaten twice in 2023 with one of those times being due to traffic trouble in the stretch. With eight others in the race and considering how the track was playing positioning was of the utmost importance for this Chad Brown-trainee. Settling just off a torrid early pace (22.29 opening quarter mile 44.36 half mile), jockey Irad Ortiz Jr was simply biding his time with three-eighths of a mile remaining. At the top of the stretch, this long-striding granddaughter of Smart Strike unleashed her beast. Rolling past the competition with ground-gobbling strides, Goodnight Olive defended her Cup title with authority.
Elite Power was the Sprint winner in 2022 and returned to the Cup with eyes on a repeat. His eight-race win streak had been snapped in his last start, but this son of Curlin was still considered the class of a solid eight-horse field. As we are well aware, the 39-year history of this event has been littered with fallen favorites. As the nightcap for this two-day event, it was showtime for this Bill Mott trainee. A flying Speed Boat Beach bolted to the lead and threw down some early sizzle ( 21.99 opening quarter mile, 44.35 half mile) in this six-furlong event. Cruising just off the Beach, at the top of the stretch it was time to display some Power. Seizing command of the race like a boss, Elite Power won by a geared-down length and a quarter.
As is the case with every Breeders’ Cup, the strong running survives. This fortieth edition was no different, especially for three that defended their dirt.