Ladies Day was unqualified success. It’s what happens when some of the world’s best race horses assemble in one place for the purpose of deciding who’s best.
For all the tweaking and for all the missteps along the way, it about the horses and what happens between the fences. It always is.
In the opener, Ventura spotted her rivals a head start and Trevor Denman, whose particular brand of race calling expertise nailed it. He picked up Ventura approaching the turn for home and virtually called her a winner with a quarter mile left run.
The cliché is that race horses makes liars of us all. Not yesterday. Not in the Filly & Mare Sprint. In gear under Garrett Gomez, her late run was relentless, leaving little doubt as to which was the best female sprinter in this land or any other.
It was riveting. Gomez, who has a ride in every Breeders’ Cup race, took the possibility of a shutout off the table.
Things like this are odds-on to happen in this game: Trainer Chad Brown, making his debut Breeders’ Cup and keeping faith with his young rider, rising star Jose Lezcano, watched his filly run down the pacesetter and keep Heart Shaped at bay, winning the race of his young career on the same day his grandfather was buried.
Angels ride on shoulders and sometimes figure in results. A great finish. Brown’s mentor, Bobby Frankel, won the Breeders’ Cup 25 lid-lifter. The student completed the early Breeders’ Cup double.
Chris Paasch, who is calling it a training career next year and finally named a horse just right, watched Stardom Bound circle the field like some hoop on a barrel, her run as relentless of Ventura’s.
There could not have been a dry eye in that winner’s circle. And Mike Smith, who no one ever things of when the names of great riders are conjured up, won another big race in a career full of big races. Stardom Bound: Juvenile Champion 2008.
In case you didn’t know, too much knowledge can be as damaging as too little. Everyone was worried that the sweltering heat would wilt the Europeans. But what chance did Forever Together have?
She had the look of a miler, not a 10-furlong filly, not in this company, anyway, and she’s a non-sweater, the kind of horse you ship away from heat for more moderate climes.
But here she comes, beneath the young American turf ace via France, Julien Leparoux, who simply hand urged his filly to the lead and an Eclipse title, beating former champion Wait A While and two-time Canadian champion Sealy Hill. So deep the field that the North of the Border heroine was sent away at 48-1.
And they saved the best for last, another newly crowned champion who won her title by coming from last early. Another disdainful victory by Zenyatta, a perfect 9-for-9, Smith now 2-for-2 on the day with fillies who come from the clouds.
A colleague said it best when he mentioned how he disagreed with those who said she deserved to run on a Saturday, not Friday. “She deserved her own day in the spotlight.”
And now maybe she’ll begin getting her due. She needs four more to catch Personal Ensign, who also saved her best effort for the Breeders’ Cup, rolling a perfect 13.
Pacific time: 10:10 AM today. Can’t wait.