We’ve set it before and there’s no good reason to stop now. As a Thoroughbred racing event, the Breeders’ Cup never fails to fire. Off the top…
HORSE OF THE YEAR
Had to put my first instinct on pause and review the past performances. If the Horse of the Year can be anything–which is how the late, great Joe Hirsch put it back in the day; who is more worthy, Authentic or Monomoy Girl?
On paper, Authentic has the most coveted wins in America, a Kentucky Derby, and a comprehensive win over older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Haskell was just a warm-up act. Authentic is the favorite in the clubhouse. But…
The mare’s 2020 resume into the Distaff, the Ruffian and La Troienne may not be as imposing, but what of the intangibles? She did go 4-for-4 this season and defended her Distaff and Eclipse titles, with a mere 18-month gap in between after dealing with colic and a subsequent gluteal strain.
The year started with Johnny Velazquez parting ways with long-time mentor, friend, father figure and agent, Angel Cordero Jr., which was unfathomable at the time.
Then for the rider to go on to win the Derby and Classic, finishing ahead of now Cordero-guided Manny Franco is, some might say, a cold dish served. But we all know better; it’s just horse racing.
Who cannot be happy for a classy Hall of Famer, a 46-year-old family man who happens to be the highest purse-earning rider of all time, getting the prize he’d been “chasing” for 19 years?
TIZ THE LAW, WHAT WAS THAT?
One can argue with some certitude that the race was lost into the lower first turn. After having broken sharply away from the barrier, the colt’s pilot was passive in not seeking a wider path into the bend and getting some separation to that he eventually could take back and get to the outside of his Derby nemesis.
Instead, Tiz the Law got surrounded inside, filled with pent-up energy and nowhere to set it free. It was a tactical error that seriously compromised his chances. When he reappears, it might be with a different partner.
Through the lane, however, Tiz the Law must accept some of the blame. Considering how he was training; how could he offer so little? The only surmise left is that he was an early developer who peaked and had not developed further. Time will tell.
But Tiz the Law is better than this; maybe not as good as the promising signals of winter and spring, a time when he might have won the Derby and perhaps the whole damn thing in June. But 2020 had different plans.
The good news is that he gets to atone for these disappointments at 4. It would be good if Authentic returned, too. Wouldn’t it be nice if Saratoga’s Whitney were circled on both their calendars?
“After what she had been through…?” What? Did the filly inject herself? Twice?
The remark was embarrassing, withering moment of the weekend and as another Hall of Famer, Jerry Bailey, noted on the NBC broadcast, Gamine’s Hall of Fame trainer should have addressed the positives issue sooner. Good call.
As for the Filly and Mare Sprint itself, it was more like ‘poor-rest-of-the-field’. Johnny was both pilot and passenger aboard Gamine, which is french for nasty. Can’t speak for her temperament but she’s wickedly fast.
Meanwhile, thank you Serengeti Empress for some unforgettable career moments. You are at once very fast and uncommonly brave.
IS BRAD COX FOR REAL?
Until proven otherwise, apparently so. His work with Monomoy Girl is reminiscent of Chad Brown’s healing powers and training prowess that enabled the great Lady Eli to return to the highest levels off a similarly long layoff.
As everyone knows, horses mature significantly from 2 to 3 and from 3 to 4. In making his first start in this outfit after a relatively successful three-year-old season that was aborted due to a physical issue, Knicks Go made progress.
Cox was able to find approximately 2 lengths in the colt’s 4-year-old debut, which is fairly routine, improving from a ‘4’ to a ‘3’ on the Thoro-Graph scale. Eight months later he found about another 10 lengths, going from a lifetime best ‘3’ to a negative-4. Not so common.
In the Dirt Mile, not only did he not regress but returned with a freakishly fast performance. He went out licking in 21.98, 44.40, 1:08.25 and went right on ticking, stopping the timer in 1:33.85, “geared down,” according to the official chart. Yes, the surface was lightning fast. But still…
Knicks Go was one of four Cox winners over two days of Breeders’ Cup.
WHO HAD A BETTER WEEK, PIERRE-CHARLES BOUDOT OR STEVE KORNACKI?
I’m just going to come right out and say it, Audarya and Order of Australia were the two greatest pickup mounts on a single card in the history of the Thoroughbred world.
We’ve been following international racing a bit more in 2020 and in doing our Breeders’ Cup video work we made a mental note that this relatively new guy Boudot could ride a little bit. But I was wrong. He can ride a lot.
With 73-1 Order of Australia from post 14, Boudot recovered following a slow start, showed confidence while aggressively seeking an attending position and got it. too. He then sat, moved slowly but deliberately into contention at headstretch and staved off the closers after taking the lead in the Mile.
In doing so, the Frenchman helped an Irish legend, Aidan O’Brien, get off the Mile duck in a big way by also finishing second with Circus Maximus and third with outsider Lope Y Fernandez. The 50-Cent O’Brien trifecta, the old 15-1-3, returned a worthy $4,393.
An hour earlier, Boudot’s ride on Audarya was time capsule stuff. After breaking alertly, he guided his filly into the three path, securing cover briefly, then, after seeing an opportunity, darted to the rail seizing the day and the race by securing a perfect ground-saving turf journey.
Boudot tipped his filly out into the 3-path into the lane and drove her home for the win, grinding by a very game Rushing Fall, who herself withstood the hard-charging Harvey’s Lil Goil for place.
The only unfortunate race note was that remarkable Starship Jubilee lost any chance after stumbling at the start, unseating Florent Geroux who would later return to ride Monomoy Girl.
The Canadian-based 7-year-old ‘Starship’ never got a chance to improve on her remarkable (38) 19-5-3 lifetime slate. Not a bad claim, eh?
If you don’t understand the Kornacki reference, the assumption is you did not watch election returns on the same family of networks that hosted the Breeders’ Cup.
FEEL GOOD STORY WHITMORE, BUT WHAT IF NASHVILLE HAD RUN?
There’s no denying Whitmore’s class and try, not given a lifetime mark of (37) 14-11-3 with over $3.2 million in earnings. The fourth time proved the charm for gelded Pleasantly Perfect 7-year-old. Whitmore, a picture in the paddock, is conditioned by Ron Moquett and was expertly ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.
But class matters, of course, and even Moquett admitted that this was not the deepest of Sprint fields. So the question becomes whether lightly raced Nashville would have replicated his Perryville form in the G1 Sprint which took 1:08.61 to complete.
Nashville won a listed event by a geared down 3-1/2 lengths in 1:07.89, like breaking so many sticks. And it’s not only a question of class. There is the matter of 13 older, grittier and battle-proven rivals, as compared to a half-dozen lighter-raced sophomores. Long term, Nashville’s connections probably made the correct call.
Tuesday looking back at European participation and Future Stars Friday