“We sat and heard in silence. What other expression had we that was not meant for such an awful universe of battle?” – Lt Frank Haskell – Gettysburg, PA – July 3, 1863
It’s hard to believe that the 2010 Breeders’ Cup is already a historical memory. With so much anticipation and build-up, I’m surprised each year as the races rattle off and the weekend winds down just how quickly the whole affair can happen. This year, like all others before, was filled with memories; some of them favorable, some of them far more disconcerting. On the plus side, attendance and betting handle were up from 2009. On the downside the races didn’t quite end in the story-book fashion many were hoping for. As we wind down from the weekend that was, I thought we might take a quick look back at 10 memories that will stay with us from the Breeders’ Cup 2010.
- Jockey Fight 2010:
It’s a shame, but you sort of have to begin here. Things got off to a strange start in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup when Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano exchanged blows following the running of the Breeders’ Cup Marathon. The moment was captured live on ESPN and instantly went viral – becoming the first sustained memory of the championship weekend. From Castellano’s seemingly stunning left jab to the enraged look in Borel’s eyes as he was held back and then removed from the scene.
The entire ordeal was both bizarre and absurd. This couldn’t have been the start the organizers of the Breeders’ Cup were hoping for, but there’s a line of thinking that suggests any exposure is good exposure, and if nothing else the novelty of two height-challenged individuals resorting to fisticuffs in the winner’s circle certainly attracted the attention of folks who would otherwise would not have cared. The real tragedy was the number of times throughout the continuing racing coverage that “jockeyfight” was harped upon. Additionally, the high drama surrounding the entire affair should’ve given us a clue as to the proper hunch play for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint the following day.
- The Big 10 can’t play defense:
Sadly, horse racing fans have to be acutely aware of this fact, but any who didn’t already know that the teams of the Big 10 have a ways to go as far as being able to actually prevent opposing offenses from scoring at will got a healthy reality check about midway through the racing action on Saturday afternoon. Just as ESPN was switching it’s coverage from ESPN2 to it’s main channel, fans were greeted with a stunning Overtime battle between Illinois and Michigan.
Yes, those two powerhouses fighting for middle-of-the-pack status within the conference wound up going through 3 OT periods before a winner was decided. During that time racing fans the world over began to form organized resistance as it appeared we would not be able to see the running of the Juvenile. Thankfully the heavens parted, Michigan sealed the game, and we wound up getting to see Uncle Mo’s brilliant performance (more on that in a moment) in stunning HD quality…and there was much rejoicing.
- Rough Sailing breaking down:
Probably the saddest of all memories from the past weekend was the injury suffered by longshot Rough Sailing in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. The horse fell, dropping Napravnk from the saddle and then had to be taken away in an ambulance. Not long afterwards came word that the horse was euthanized. Ironically, the winning horse in the race, Tam Valour’s Pluck, was very near Rough Sailing when he fell, and jockey Garrett Gomez deserves credit for steering Pluck away from what seemed to be a collision in the making once Napravnik was on the ground. A scary moment that could’ve turned out even worse if not for some quick thinking and reflexes. Sadly, as far as Rough Sailing is concerned, there was no silver lining. RIP.
- Bet the longshots!
Right out of the gate we were greeted with a glimpse of what was to come when Eldaafer scored in the Marathon and returned $23.20 to win. The only favorite that won on the first day was Awesome Feather, who still managed to return $10.40 worth of value to her supporters. By the time the weekend was through we had witnessed More Than Real scoring at $29.20 in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Dangerous Midge at $19.00 in the Turf, and bank breakers Dakota Phone ($77.40) and Shared Account ($94.00) in the Dirt Mile and Filly & Mare Turf, respectively.
Shared Account’s victory in particular being memorable as it came over the highly regarded and heavily favored Midday – and may have ultimately led to the decision of Arc winner Workforce being scratched from the BC Turf. Suffice to say, if you played value horses over the favorites throughout the weekend, chances are you were highly rewarded. Personally I didn’t catch either of the whoppers, and the victory by Dakota Phone bounced me from the Late Pick 4 on Saturday.
- Uncle Mo exploding in the stretch to win the Juvenile:
The question everyone wants answered with the yearly running of the Juvenile is whether a 2-year-old exists that is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the competition in the division. While it’s still a long way to go until the “First Saturday in May”, many folks will no doubt be looking back to Saturday’s performance from Uncle Mo as an early indication of a potential 2011 Kentucky Derby favorite. Mo’ exploded in the stretch when asked by jockey John Velazquez and stopped the clock on the 1 1/16 mile race at 1:42.60, good enough for a 108 Beyer Speed Figure for the son of Indian Charlie.
Only time will tell if Mo is able to continue his form cycle into next season, but it’s interesting to note that the last horse use the race as a stepping stone to a victorious Derby campaign the following season, Street Sense, also won the Juvenile over the main track at Churchill. Admittedly there may have been a speed bias favoring the rail during Street Sense’s06 Juvenile score, but for Uncle Mo it seemed like a simple case of being the far superior horse in the field.
- Dakota Phone noses out Morning Line:
The score that essentially crushed my Pick 4 dreams in the final races of the championship weekend, the 37/1 victory by Dakota Phone was undboutedly a key component to a memorable weekend for those lucky enough to have covered him in the exotics. The son of Zavata got up just in time to nose out the tepid early favorite, aptly named Morning Line, by a nose in the photo finish.
Personally, I had spread 6 horses deep to cover this race on my tickets, and like many folks I was reminded that in contentious Breeders’ Cup races, sometimes going 6 deep just isn’t enough. I suppose it’s a bit of a handicapping lesson; if you’ve got no real opinion in a race and are covering that many runners, keep in mind that “anything can happen”, and in the case of the Breeders’ Cup, “anything” probably will happen. Hats off to anyone that used this horse.
- Unrivaled Belle best of the ladies:
In a race that featured the 3 biggest names of the division other than Zenyatta (Blind Luck, Life At Ten, and Havre De Grace), Unrivalled Belle may have been somewhat under the radar to many folks. While clearly capable on her best stuff, it was assumed by most that one of the more highly touted runners would be able to reel her in during the stretch run. Several handicappers did select Belle, however, most notably (in my opinion) the much adored Christina Olivares of TVG.
Wish I would’ve paid that selection more attention, but in truth by the time I caught this on the DVR I was a bit “opinioned out” and essentially not listening to anything more being said. Big mistake. The daughter of Unrivaled Song took command as the field entered the turn and then pulled away to a convincing 1 3/4 length score. Blind Luck showed the heart of a champion but could not make up the ground that separated the two.
- Life At Ten – the scratch that should’ve been:
As the field headed to post in the 2010 Ladies’ Classic, it was clear that something was wrong with Life at Ten. A blind man could’ve seen it. How this horse went to post is beyond me. She was the surest toss of the entire weekend once she was observed in the post parade. Of course, that was little comfort to those of us who had confidently wagered on her in the multi-race exotics. Todd Pletcher had himself a pretty good Breeders’ Cup weekend, but Life At Ten’s debacle is likely the memory that will haunt him the most.
Thankfully she appears to be okay and not seriously injured, but had something even more disastrous occurred I don’t think the game would’ve been able to avoid the proverbial backlash. When folks who have never seen a horse race in their lives are asking questions like “why are they letting that horse run?” you know things aren’t going well.
- Goldikova makes it 3 in a row:
One has to wonder if somewhere in the back of her mind Goldikova wasn’t tired of playing second fiddle on the center stage for Breeders’ Cup 2010? The champion proved she was every bit the super horse that we’ve made her out to be in earning her unprecedented 3rd consecutive Breeders’ Cup victory in the TVG Mile. For a while it seemed like she may be in a bad spot, and turning for home I remember thinking “this is going to take everything you have.” And yet, it didn’t, as the daughter o Anabaa pulled away to a clear 1 3/4 length victory over her primary foe, the Eclipse Award winning Gio Ponti.
For his part, Gio Ponti can now claim that if not for two of the greatest mares the sport has had in recent memory running the races of their lives, it might be he we are fawning over for consecutive Breeders’ Cup victories. It was Gio, after all, who trailed the great Zenyatta during her 2010 Classic score. The big question everyone is hoping for a positive answer to is whether Goldikova now tries to make it 4 in a row in 2011? Considering she’s now won over 10% of the Turf Mile events ever run at the Breeders’ Cup, I’d expect it may still be a possibility.
- Blame over Zenyatta in a Breeders’ Cup Classic photo finish
I’m torn on this moment and a bit confused as to what my proper feelings should be. On the one hand I’ve liked Blame all year and thought he may be the only horse capable of holding off Zenyatta in deep stertch. In fact, I even went so far as to predict a photo finish between the two in our pre-race handicapping selections. On the other hand, despite the valiant effort, I’d be kidding if I claimed to not be a bit heart broken.
There was a feeling in the air, even as Zenyatta went to post amidst the roar of the crowd and began her patented “dancing” routine, that things were going to be desperate. Early on in the race I thought she looked like she was not enjoying herself. She’s always in the back of the pack but she was so far back I worried that she may wind up being pulled up. Turning for home it seemed as if once again the great mare was going to find a way to thunder down the center of the track and into the history books. She would have – if not for an equally game contender in Blame. Someone must’ve forget to tell Blame that he was supposed to play 2nd fiddle to the great one, and he simply did what he knows to do best in holding off a living legend at the wire for the score.
Deflating for Zenyatta lovers? Sure. Indicative that Zenyatta is not the super horse of legend we’ve made her out to be? Hardly. In fact, I’d argue that the 2010 Classic was one of Zenyatta’s best performances given how absolutely out of it she seemed as the field entered the final turn. A mile into the race she was in 11th position. At the top of the stretch she was already in 3rd and rolling. She may have lost the head bob, but she gained so much more in terms of respect and appreciation. We learned that we don’t need perfection – as who amongst us can claim to be perfect in anything – in order to appreciate greatness.