HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, November 14, 2021 — We’re finally getting around to our assessment of the 2021 Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar. We say it every year, and will reiterate here: As an event, the Breeders’ Cup never fails to fire.
It wins the day on every level, official screwups notwithstanding, but that of course has nothing to do with the racing. The event delivers what it promises.
As a traditionalist, it is irksome that races like the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Champagne and others are referenced as “Breeders’ Cup preps.” It stings because it diminishes the prestige of those races.
Prestigious Fall events no longer are championship defining, they now are now the means to an end. But not always. Witness Letruska. Her defeat last Saturday in no way tarnishes her Eclipse credentials as the country’s champion race mare of 2021.
But, say, in the Juvenile categories, results of Future Stars Friday, whenever they were run and whatever they were called, invariably produce divisional champions. That will be the case again this year.
Echo Zulu proved to everyone that she is indeed special; a second turn could not diminish her achievements this year. In fact, her tour de force score enhanced them.
And, no, fans of every stripe did not get to see who was better, Jack Christopher or Corniche. Indeed, both are special colts but as to which would succeed in heads-up battle will have to wait.
All must wait, likely until the 2022 Kentucky Derby, to find out — and only if Corniche is switched to another horseman, which is a different story for a different day.
Post-race, winning owner Peter Fluor said he and partner K.C. Weiner never considered moving Corniche to a different trainer and referred to their great friendship and loyalty on the NBC coverage, but also said “we’re enjoying the moment and down the road we’ll focus on that.”
Speaking of Derby focus, when will the Kentucky Racing Commission finally decide who officially won this year’s Derby? Its inaction thus far makes Merritt Garland look like some reckless adjudicator.
The connections of Medina Spirit and the next three finishers deserve an answer, sooner rather than later. We understand there are always testing and legal issues to consider, but it’s been six months.
Speaking of rules, enhanced safety and medication protocols worked. It’s like any job that requires judgment or execution: When things are done correctly, no one notices.
The exception is the stewards who, upon further review, fined three jockeys for mis-use of the whip per California Racing Rule 1688: two for overuse and one for employing an overhand strike. It was not apparent that the whip rule adversely affected the results.
If it did, this would not be on California, but rather the lack of one authority that would standardize international racing rules. A good place to start are the riding crop regulations. The second? How about no legal medication within 48 hours of post time?
Safer, cleaner, is better for perception and reality.
It is hoped that perhaps, at next month’s Global Racing Symposium, the world could agree on universal standards for whip use everywhere. This no longer can be a different-strokes-for-different-folks sport.
HRI’s standout Breeders’ Cup moments, race by race, were these:
Twilight Gleaming making the start for the rest of the Juvenile Turf Sprint runners look bad, and Derrynane deserved better luck than she had.
Echo Zulu, as above, a true champion and star, but Juju’s Map is better than that. The word to describe the overall performance of most Brad Cox horses? Spotty.
Jose Ortiz’s jockey cam provided the best footage we’ve seen in context. Flawless, and fortunate, execution. Christophe Clement, thanks to a very good Pizza Bianca, is now a Breeders’ Cup winning trainer. Could sweep him into Hall of Fame in his second ballot. Hall worthy, indeed.
Corniche’s Juvenile, as above, and Pappacap finished nicely, as did show finisher Giant Game. But with better trip, Commandperformance might have proven second best. Looking forward to his sophomore campaign.
The Modern Games issue has been sliced and diced by everyone, including HRI. Let’s look forward, re-write the rule, sooner rather than later.
Two things: Should that scenario repeat itself, reload and race, pending veterinary approval obviously. Alternative? Make it an ALL race, no one is punished, lower payouts notwithstanding, and every live sequential wager wins. No bettor I know likes the post-time favorite rule.
It wasn’t the lack of a prep race or even the pace duel that beat Gamine. She is simply not the same filly, for whatever reason. Ce Ce deserved to win one of these and victory secured trainer Michael McCarthy’s position among the game’s elite.
Golden Pal is an extremely fast and classy turf sprinter. Wesley Ward certainly knows how to do this.
Life Is Good might ultimately be returned to as Life Is Great. In the discussion for America’s most talented three-year-old. See what we did there? He was most impressive taking the Dirt Mile; Silver State was terrible.
Julien Leparoux was either overanxious or overconfident but his move aboard War Like Goddess was a move-to-soon classic, setting the table for a last run winner. But Loves Only You, Japan’s maiden breaking Cup victor, is absolutely top class and a most deserving winner.
I don’t know what beat Jackie’s Warrior; the long and arduous campaign, the inside draw, the extraordinary mid-race pace pressure—which he’s managed before—or the six furlong trip; we think he’s a tad better at seven-eighths.
Dr. Schivel ran very well but Aloha West was an inch the best. Generally underrated, don’t believe that will happen again. As was the case with Letruska, I will recognize ‘Jackie’s’ body of work over his Sprint defeat.
Space Blues was much-the-best winning the Mile. Like Loves Only You, he’s top world class and we’re looking forward to his 2022 season. We cannot remember a more successful foreign invasion than that waged by Godolphin and Charles Appleby-and they’ve been doing it for six months.
Speaking of Letruska, 21.84 and 44.97 around the first turn going nine furlongs; whose idea was that? Actually half the jockeys in the race. And so, the five turned out to be the first five at the end.
Meanwhile, the winning Marche Lorraine earned Yoshito Yahagi HRI’s informal title of “Trainer of Breeders’ Cup 38.” Getting the filly ready for her first start in six months going nine furlongs at this level? Seriously?
Dunbar Road was unlucky to lose the Distaff, Malathaat a little less so, and the same goes for Clairiere who loomed a winner with her very-wide charge down the center but stayed one-paced in the final strides. Shedaresthedevil, close to the hot pace, stayed gamely despite the heat.
Yibir is one talented three-year-old turf runner and will deservedly point to Europe biggest races next season. Strong, long-striding colt got there under perfectly executed William Buck handling. Buick and the Ortiz brothers, in our view, were the riding stars of the 2022 Breeders’ Cup.
The best horse in American all year was Knicks Go, and the best horse won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and with it the 2021 Horse of the Year title. Medina Spirit was very good and was second best, Essential Quality was third best. Hot Rod Charlie, and especially Max Player, were no shows.