Big Hits from Little Guys … Breeders’ Cup 2010 Day 1

Whoda thunk the most action of the first day of BC 2010 would be in the MARATHON?  The race so boring people wish they’d cancel it was the scene of some crazy riding and major dumb-assery.

At the top of the stretch in the 1 3/4 mile Marathon, Javier Castellano, riding Prince Will, I Am spied a tiny space that just so happened to be in front of Martin Garcia on Romp.  Castellano steered his horse into that hole, cutting off Garcia and causing Romp to clip heels with Prince Will I Am.  Romp nearly went down, and Garcia flew completely out of the saddle.  Only by his sheer athleticism (I’d like for the guys who claim jocks aren’t athletes to watch this race & try to make their argument again…) did Garcia manage to not get killed.  Unfortunately, when Romp stumbled, he took out Calvin Borel’s horse, A. U. Miner.  Borel & A. U. Miner weren’t hurt but they lost all chance at the race, in which A. U. Miner was one of the favorites.  Meanwhile, Castellano on Prince Will I Am made it out of the pack and challenged Eldaafer in the homestretch.  Eldaafer drew off to win with Prince Will I Am second.  If the drama on the track wasn’t enough, the thrills and spills continued in the winner’s circle.

As Eldaafer got his wreath of flowers and IEAH got their trophy, a scuffle broke out.  Borel went after Castellano like a wildman.  The two jocks got to scrappin’ right on ESPN!  Two or three security guys pried Borel off of Castellano, but the ragin’ Cajun nearly broke free and went at it again!  Finally, security was able to get Borel out of the winner’s circle and into the jock’s room.  At that point, the press was kept from the area, so we can only guess what went down behind closed doors.  As viewers of Jockeys know, all the jocks share the same room (the ladies have their own area), so it’s like all the players of every NFL team sharing a locker room at the same time.  As Borel was dragged away, he flashed some damn-scary looks at Castellano.  The rest of the day, Borel was accompanied by guards.

This was either the final nail in the coffin of the Marathon, or its saving grace.  While I hate when dumb stuff gets press over the horses, this type of behavior is not uncommon among other sports players.  For a game that continues to distance itself from the average Joe ESPN watcher,  this incident will be broadcast all over SportsCenter for years to come, and someone, maybe even some of those “jockeys aren’t athletes” folks, may tune in next time to see just what gets these guys so hyped up.

The most unfortunate part of the post-race antics is that they overshadowed the accomplishment of Diane Alvarado, the 31 year old trainer who becomes only the 4th woman to condition a BC winner.  Alvarado joins Jenine Sahadi, Laura de Seroux and Carla Gaines with BC winners.

Castellano was rightfully DQ’ed from 2nd in the Marathon, and he should face serious riding penalties, possibly even suspension for the careless, dangerous actions.  Borel will likely face fines and possibly suspension for the fight.  The resident regulator I watched the race with said Castellano would have harsher penalties than Borel, because his actions affected the outcome of the race & threatened lives.

 

The other incident on BC Day 1 was the Life At Ten fiasco.  It highlights the pitfalls of such a fragmented sport – who gets to scratch a horse and what is cause for a scratch?  I sat in the RTIP office watching with concern as jockey John Velazquez told ESPN viewers that his horse was not acting right.  Why he didn’t signal to a vet that something was amiss is beyond me.  Why didn’t a vet watching the action on-track scratch the horse?  Why wasn’t a steward watching the ESPN broadcast and scratch the horse?  Obviously, the on-track patrons, who contribute the most of each of their wagers to the sport, were completely in the dark as to the condition of one of the top fillies in the race.  Everyone watching at OTBs or playing from home got the opportunity to cancel their wagers before the lackluster performance by Life At Ten.

Then there’s the issue of the pre-race exam: she passed the vet check in the morning, so there wasn’t any reason for Pletcher to scratch early.  Though he said she was unusually calm in the paddock, what reason could he have given to stewards to scratch her there?  The filly had passed the vet check.

To prevent this from happening again, and also prove the sport really does care about the health of its athletes, the rules should make it easy for trainers to scratch in times like this.  It’s common knowledge that bettors do not like late scratches, but I am sure they would like a horse scratched rather than what happened today.  At least with a scratch they have an opportunity for a refund.  Instead, a favorite ran last and put the integrity of the entire sport under serious scrutiny.

I’m also sure that Life At Ten’s owners would much rather have their horse out of the race than severely injured.  Thankfully that didn’t happen – Velazquez didn’t ride her past the first few strides- but think of the consequences of the opposite outcome.

All in all, I enjoyed Day 1 of BC 2010.  My favorite winner is Awesome Feather, the Juvenile Fillies winner from Florida.  Her sire stands at Legend Farm in Oklahoma for $1750!

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