October 28, 2009

Breeders' Cup Buzz

They’re almost here. 14 races. More than a hundred and fifty of the finest runners the world has to offer will congregate for a two-day celebration of the race. Thoroughbred horse racing is the most beautiful sport in the world and the main participants are the most honest, humble, and hardest trying athletes that you will ever find. The Breeders’ Cup is the greatest of all horse racing celebrations, as it brings together more of the world’s best than any other set of races, anywhere. Zipse at the Track illustrates the majesty and beauty of the sport through the written word, therefore thoughts of who will not be there or why the Breeders’ Cup is back for a consecutive year at Santa Anita are merely dust in the wind. This is Breeders’ Cup and I love it.

Aidan O’Brien’s recent announcement that Mastercraftsman would most likely run in the Dirt Mile rather than the Classic promises major ramifications for both races. In the Dirt Mile, Mastercraftsman moves right to the top of my list. He is a world class performer with experience over a synthetic surface and outstanding performances at the flat mile distance. In a race full of question marks, Mastercraftsman may be the horse with the fewest questions. If he travels well to California, he should be a major force. Meanwhile, in the biggest of all Breeders’ Cup races, the Classic, O’Brien has suggested a huge vote of confidence in his charge, Rip Van Winkle. Separating the two horses is risky business, as both horses would have a shot in the Classic, a race O’Brien has come very close to winning, but never has. By splitting them, he brazenly displays his confidence in Rip and looks to win the lesser affair with his other solid horse. Trainers are known to be wrong as often as they are correct, but dismiss Rip Van Winkle at your own peril.

Will she or won’t she? That is the question that so many of us are eagerly awaiting. Whether Zenyatta runs in the Classic or the Ladies Classic, she is sure to bring that special brand of excitement that only she can. She clearly has something to gain and something to lose in either race. If she runs in the Ladies Classic, she has a better chance to keep her amazing undefeated record intact, but she also could fall greatly in stature by losing a race that she would be expected to win. If Zenyatta takes the plunge and enters the Classic, she would have more to win…a place in immortality, and less to lose if she were beaten in a race that she would be only one of many with a chance to win. The danger of course in the Classic would be putting her chance of the undefeated career in major jeopardy. An interesting decision from every angle…will she or won’t she?

Todd Pletcher has refilled the cupboards and will make a strong play for Breeders’ Cup glory. His strongest suit will come in the races for 2-year-olds, where he should have at least one card to play in all four races. In the Juvenile, Pletcher will have two well bred, good looking colts in Aikenite and Eskendereya. They are developing quickly and could trump the favored Lookin at Lucky. I am most impressed with his son of Broken Vow, Interactif, who is the likely favorite in the Juvenile Turf. Interactif needs only to repeat his first two turf tries at Saratoga and Keeneland to become a BC winner. Pletcher will also be well represented with the undefeated Devil May Care in the Juvenile Fillies and Rose Catherine and Dad’s Crazy in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Look for Todd Pletcher and his string of youngsters to make a great deal of noise in Santa Anita.

Breeders’ Cup Flashback --- 25 years ago the inaugural BC was run at Hollywood Park. In the first ever Classic, Slew O’ Gold was supposed to rule the roost. He had dominated the handicap division from his New York base, where he was in full flight for Horse-of-the-Year. In opposition that day was the quirky colt from the Jack Van Berg barn, Gate Dancer. The hooded wonder was trying to beat the heavily favored son of Seattle Slew, while trying to supplant another son of Seattle Slew, Swale, for the three-year-old championship. At 31-1, little attention was paid to the well traveled 4-year-old, Wild Again. It would be a race for the ages. Wild Again beat off the early competition and, despite the testing fractions, would brace for the challenge of both superstars. First Slew O’ Gold on the far turn and then Gate Dancer outside the eighth pole would throw everything but the kitchen sink at the longshot son of Icecapade. The three horses came together as they battled head and head and chest to chest. Wild Again on the rail, Gate Dancer with his white hood on the outside and Slew O’ Gold in between. It was a Hollywood script kind of finish that day at Hollywood. In what may be his greatest ever ride, Pat Day, the master of getting that little bit extra out of his pace setters, pumped and drove Wild Again to a narrow and heart-stopping victory. A long inquiry would only reverse 2nd and 3rd place results. It may have been the very first Breeders’ Cup Classic, but it was wild, Wild Again.


Celeste said...

Great blog, Brian! Hard to believe the BC is so close and the excitement is building day by day. Your description of the inaugural Classic was wonderful - felt like I could visualize that stretch run in my head - thanks!

Brian Zipse said...

Thanks as always Celeste! Yes we are just days away now, isn't it exciting??? By the way, you can see the '84 BC Classic on my Video of the Day.

joani said...

Brian, I just finished watching the Wild Again win in the video. As wild a finish as that was, your vivid description gave me as big a thrill!! Rock on!

Brian Zipse said...

Zipse at the Track as a rock star...interesting.

LDP said...

Nice. For the mile I like Crown of Thorns and the Master. I have narrowed the Classic to four that I like, CJ, SB, RVW, and QR. Now I need to figure out my winner, lol.

Luvbarbaro said...

Hay- it's great to see you have more posts, other than myself and LDP. : )

I'm going to have to read this more thoroughly tomorrow - bed time. I agree with Celeste though, time sure flies.

I do think Zen will race in the Ladies Classic though, time will tell I suppose.

Heather said...

very nice!!!!! wish i could be there this year, for BC.