Category Archives: Breeders’ Cup

Thank You, Mr. Bush

Thank You, Sincerely, Mr. Bush

Alysheba, 1987 KY Derby Winner, 88 Breeders Cup Classic winner, will return to the US.

Alysheba, 1987 KY Derby Winner, '88 Breeders' Cup Classic winner, will return to the US.

 

I thank Mr. Bush every day, believe it or not.  Usually, it is for some dumb thing the government has done, or for the latest war fatality.  But today I learned something that I must sincerely, no joke, thank Mr. Bush for his involvement.

First, some background:

In 2000, ALYSHEBA, ’87 KY Derby and ’88 BC Classic champion , an iron horse of the 80s, was sold to Saudi Arabia to stand at stud.  While his many fans were sad to see him go, it was a quiet journey to a mysterious land.  Not many updates came out of Saudi Arabia, but fans were content that he was getting the best care. 

In 2002, news shocked the racing world that the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand had been murdered in a Japanese slaughterhouse.  The horse was also a Breeders’ Cup classic winner and fan favorite.  No one had been notified that the big red son of Nijinski II (the 1970 English TC winner) had completed his sire career.  Nobody knew that he had been sold for mere pennies to the kill buyers.  His American owners were outraged that they had not been given the opportunity to bring Ferdinand back to the states for a proper retirement.

Fans immediately began checking in with their favorite classic winners standing overseas.  Most of them were doing fine, and the foreign stud farms were put ON NOTICE that any American horse had BETTER be returned to the US.

Many such champions were returned, like Gato Del Sol, or the stable full who have been retired to Old Friends.  But still no word from Alysheba.

Yesterday’s top story was that finally, ALYSHEBA is coming home!!!

And it is all due to President Bush’s state visit to the Middle East.  According to the article linked above, Bush visited King Abdullah’s stables and was shown Alysheba.  Surprisingly, Bush recognized the horse’s name and accomplishment. 

Bush presented the king with an ornate western saddle, which inspired his Highness to return the favor.  It is an awesome gift, and a tribute to all of the fans and friends of the horse. 

Oh yeah, Alysheba will live out his days at the KENTUCKY HORSE PARK, in John Henry’s old stall.

Alysheba broke old John’s earnings record with his ’88 BC Classic win, and he was ridden by Chris McCarron. 

The ’88 Classic was the 2nd one in which Alysheba competed.  He was 2nd in the 1987 Classic as a 3yo – the older horse who beat him was Ferdinand.

Thank you, Mr. Bush.

Leave a comment

Filed under Breeders' Cup, retirements

Favorite BC Race #4: A SILVERBULLETDAY

Silverbulletday in the Winners Circle after the 1998 BC Juvenile Fillies.  Photo by Barbara Livingston.

Silverbulletday in the Winners' Circle after the 1998 BC Juvenile Fillies. Photo by Barbara Livingston.

I cannot stress how much I love Silverbulletday.  She won practically every time she raced with style and speed.  Bob Baffert trained her, and in those days Bob could do no wrong in my eyes.  I had a SBD hat, decorated my binders with her photos (cropped from the covers of my new Bloodhorse subscription).  To this day I insist that it is her image in the NTRA logo(like we all know it is Jerry West in the NBA version).

 Her 1998 BC Juvenile Fillies win clinched an Eclipse for her and set her up for an awesome 3yo campaign.

In this race, Miss Bullet stalked a quick Confessional into the final turn, then, in her trademark move, blew past her rivals to snatch the lead.  She held off her fast-closing stablemate Excellent Meeting to win by three quarters of a length.  The chestnut filly Three Ring ran 3rd.  I was elated. 

This race was a preview of the ’99 three year old season.  That year, Silverbulletday went undefeated against her class, winning the KY Oaks, Black-Eyed Susan, Alabama and Gazelle, among others. 

Excellent Meeting was a big, rangy filly, and after her narrow defeat in the BC, she went on a 4-race win streak, taking the Hollywood Starlet, Las Virgenes, Santa Anita Oaks and the Fantasy Stakes at (my hometrack) Oaklawn Park.  Baffert, in all his wisdom, decided to run EM in the ’99 KY Derby.  She ran as part of an entry with the gelding General Challenge.  Three Ring also contested the Derby after dominating performances in the Davona Dale and Bonnie Miss stakes.

The “Demolition Derby” of 1999 was one of the slowest, messiest traffic jams in the history of the race.  Excellent Meeting was jostled around terribly but still managed to run 5th, far ahead of General Challenge.  Three Ring’s saddle slipped during the bumper cars and retreated to last of 19.

The other TC races also featured these top 2 fillies:  Excellent Meeting contested the Preakness but was pulled up.  Baffert then sent his star, Miss Bullet, to the Belmont.  I was not totally on board with Bob’s decision – yes, my devotion was tested!  But I believed in Silverbulletday!  She didn’t disappoint, setting the quick early pace in the Belmont that cooked Charismatic.  The Derby winner injured his leg long after Lemon Drop Kid and Vision and Verse passed him. 

Silverbulletday returned to the distaff division after the Belmont and won 2 stakes before finally meeting her match in Beautiful Pleasure in the Beldame and BC Distaff.   She was awarded the Eclipse for Champion 3yo filly by a unanimous vote, the first time I had ever heard of that happening. 

Excellent Meeting placed in a few stakes at 4.  EM was bred to Storm Cat and produced 2 foals by him before her death in 2004. 

After her disasterous Derby, Three Ring won the 1999 Acorn by a neck over Better Than Honor, the future Blue Hen mare.  She was in the Belmont saddling area before the Mother Goose Stakes when she suddenly reared and flipped over, striking her head on the ground.  Her injury was so severe that vets could not save her.  It was a tragic end for a beautiful and talented filly. 

Silverbulletday now lives at Hill and Dale farm, where she has produced foals by AP Indy, Storm Cat and Vindication.  So far, none of them have been as brilliant as their mom.

Leave a comment

Filed under Breeders' Cup, favorite races, Underrated Racehorses

Favorite Breeders’ Cup Race #5: GREATEST COMBACK SINCE LAZARUS

DA HOSS(right) held off Hawksley Hill by a head in the biggest comback since Elvis in 68, the 1998 BC Mile.

DA HOSS(right) held off Hawksley Hill by a head in the biggest comback since Elvis in '68, the 1998 BC Mile.

The first time I watched the Breeders’ Cup was the 1996 edition, when the championships were held at Woodbine in Canada.  I was excited to see the legendary Cigar try and repeat in the Classic.  Cigar would fail in his quest, to a grey horse named Alphabet Soup and the Preakness winner Louis Quatorze, but a plain brown horse named DA HOSS would be the one to leave a lasting imprint on my memory.  That was still when I picked horses off their names, and who wouldn’t go for a horse named HOSS?

DA HOSS won the Breeders’ Cup Mile easily in ’96 with Gary Stevens up for trainer John “The Genius” Dickinson.  Dickinson is a master turf trainer.  He even invented a tool to determine a grass course’s exact condition (firm/yielding/soft/etc) and also developed a type of synthetic racing surface, named after his Maryland farm, Tapeta.  But Dickinson’s genius would not be fully realized until the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Shortly after the ’96 Mile, Da Hoss was out of training due to a chronic foot injury.  He was out for the entire year in 1997, and spent most of 1998 recuperating as well.  But Dickinson recognized the competitive fire still burning within the then 6yo Da Hoss.  He brought the horse back slowly, entering him in one allowance prep 30 days before the Breeders’ Cup, held at Churchill Downs that year.

I was tuned in to the ’98 BC for Skip Away’s attempt to be the first dual Classic winner, and prove to the world that he was Cigar’s equal, if not superior.  What I got instead was a heckuva blast from the past: DA HOSS, on da LEAD, in da MILE…and then a gritty duel with Hawksley Hill in deep stretch…DA HOSS looked beaten…but then the old gelding, who had only ONE START in TWO YEARS surged to put his nose in front at the WIRE!  Race caller Tom Durkin called it “The greatest comback since Lazarus!”

Da Hoss was also SuperJock John Velasquez’s first BC winner.  Johnny V would go on to ride 5 more BC winners, most recently English Channel in the 2007 Turf.

Today, Da Hoss resides in luxury at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Hall of CHampions, where he gets to stick out his tongue at Cigar and say, “Neener neener, *I* won TWO Breeders’ Cups!”

Alas, the iron horse Skip Away could not capture a 2nd Classic, either.  It would take a national tragedy, a beloved veteran jockey and a lame ex-champ with nothing but grit to do that.  But that is for another story.

1 Comment

Filed under Breeders' Cup, favorite races, Turf racing, Underrated Racehorses

CURLIN is IN!

THANK YOU Jess and Steve!!!

The Golden Warrior is pre-entered to defend his title in the Classic!  But seriously, who is surprised?  Curlin is already in Cali, why not just go ahead and race him? 

Unless he totally flops on the pro-ride surface, Curlin will be the second 2-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner.  He’s got HOTY sewn up, too, and will join an elite list of 2-time Champions.

In other news today, NYRA announced its steroid ban will go into effect Jan. 1, 2009.  This means that all 3 Triple Crown races will be unjuiced next year.  Big Brown will be the poster child for steroid use in racehorses, despite the fact many trainers use them with no backlash.  Curlin also partook of the needle up until his trip to Dubai, where juicing is illegal.  Both horses have supposedly been off those meds since May. 

This is but a first step toward cleaning up racing’s image.  SInce Eight Belles’s demise, people have clamored for a return to “pure” sport.  The factions are finally beginning to realize their petty disagreements have been holding them back and turning people off from this spectacular sport.  They’re getting off their asses, finally, to change for the better. 

GO CURLIN!

Leave a comment

Filed under Breeders' Cup, curlin

NO DUEL in CLASSIC: BIG BROWN INJURED/RETIRED

Big Brown suffered this career-ending hoof injury Monday morning during a workout.  Photo from DRF.com

The Crack Heard 'Round the Track: Big Brown suffered this career-ending hoof injury Monday morning during a workout. Photo from DRF.com

Breaking news that I am not surprised about but still hoped I wouldn’t hear :

BIG BROWN was injured during a turf workout at Belmont and will not race in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. 

Now the big showdown for Horse of the Year is shot and I won’t be surprised if Curlin opts out, too.  Of course, I hope J Jackson and S Asmussen go ahead and run the champ, since he is already out there in Cali.  Curlin also worked beautifully on the Pro-Ride this afternoon. 

With Brown out, the race takes a differnet turn pace-wise.  There are no quick early speed ponies definite for the race, except for maybe Casino Drive.  CD won his first start in Japan wire-to-wire, but in his subsequent 2 starts has settled off the pace.  Bobby Frankel hasn’t committed Mast Track to the classic, but he may change his mind after today.  Well Armed, winner of the Goodwood, could go in classic as well and would be a pace setter, and could be a dangerous one if he gets an easy lead.  Pace makes the race is what the old fogies like to harp, but it really is important for those deep closing horses like Tiago, who I was liking as a 2nd choice for my exactas. 

Go Between will have home track advantage as well and recently posted a nice workout.  The pre-entries come out thursday, so I will have a better grasp of who to expect by then.  Until then, let’s take a moment to remember the career of BIG BROWN!

I attended this year’s Kentucky Derby, and here is what I wrote back then, on May 4, on myspace:

First Up: BIG BROWN.  I said it all month long to anyone who’d listen: He’s either a freak or a flop, and he declared his membership in the FREAK Fraternity with his authoritative victory.  He started from the grandstand and took back just off the easy pace set by Bob Black Jack & Cowboy Cal, then unleashed a furious rally off the final turn, streaking by Eight Belles to win by 4.5.  From the Infield backstretch, I didn’t see him at all when the field stampeded past.  I caught a brief glimpse of the colt when the horses warmed up before the post.  They galloped around to the backside for a minute or two, and through my binocs I saw him, Eight Belles, Monba, Colonel John & Adriano.  Big Brown was impressive in scope and size even from my horrible vantage point.  He has outrun his experience and pedigree this far, so I am excited to see what his fate will be in the rest of the Triple Crown. 

Big Brown caused a sensation this spring the likes of which I won’t soon forget, from his trash-talking trainer to the UPS sponsorship.  It is only a shame that we won’t be able to see him race as an older horse.  If he was sound, he would have been incredible – can you see him at the Dubai World Cup?  In the Jockey Club Gold Cup?  IEAH thinks big & Brown actually liked the grass- if he was sound, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see them get a little closer to the Arc than other horses herewith unnamed;-) 

But that is the other side of things.  Big Brown will not retire sound & battled hoof problems his entire brief career.  Is that really a trait we want passed along?

1 Comment

Filed under Big Brown, Breeders' Cup, Kentucky Derby, retirements

COWBOY CAL SURVIVES INQUIRY

Cowboy Cal (inside) wins the Bryan Station via DQ of Seaspeak (outside).

Cowboy Cal (inside) wins the Bryan Station via DQ of Seaspeak (outside).

Cowboy Cal

, making his first start since running up the track in the Kentucky Derby, won the steward’s inquiry in the Bryan Station stakes today at Keeneland.  The son of Giant’s Causeway looked unbeatable coming off the final turn, but longshot Seaspeak hooked up with him in deep stretch.  The two dark bay colts slugged it out in the final furlong, with Cal on the inside bearing the brunt of Seaspeak’s jabs.  The longshot put a head in front of COwboy Cal at the wire.  Stewards spent 5 minutes reviewing the tape before DQing Seaspeak to 2nd.  It was a great return for Cowboy Cal.  It may be too late for him to make the Breeders’ Cup field, but this victory will set him up for a great winter campaign.

CASINO DRIVE, the mysterious chestnut from Japan, won an allowance prep at Oak Tree today.  The half-brother to Rags to Riches turned in an effortless performance against 5 others, proving he could handle the Pro-Ride surface and that his minor hoof problems were behind him.  Casino Drive will be a live longshot in the BC Classic.  He could be the next Arcangues.  However, there are a few Euros who may have a stronger case for victory in the Classic.  Duke of Marmalade, winner of 5 Group I races in 2008, is pointing for the BC, as well as Henry the Navigator and Soldier of Fortune (that sounds like the 3 horses of the apocalypse).  Casino Drive has only run in 3 races in his entire life, and though he has won all 3, he has never faced the quality of competition lining up for the Classic.  That’s not even mentioning the American contingent, who I’ll delve into later this week.

In OMG WTF news, CATO pulled the biggest upset I’ve ever witnessed today at Louisiana Downs:  the colt went off at odds of 182.60-1!!!   The winning payoff was $367.20/$134.20/$53.20 with a $1418 EX and $11,938 TRI !!!

1 Comment

Filed under Breeders' Cup, Keeneland, polytrack, results, Santa Anita, Turf racing

Autumn

As the year winds down and the temps turn cooler, I get excited about the Breeders’ Cup and the year-end awards, the opening of Keeneland and Churchill and Oak Tree.  But this is also the time to remember the horses who have thrilled me in the past, the great champions in the autumn of their lives.  Two of those legends left this life on Tuesday, PRINCESS ROONEY and COZZENE.

Back in 1984, when they called it the BC DISTAFF, Princess Rooney won the inaugural filly/mare

Princess Rooney triumphs in the first Breeders Cup Distaff at Hollywood Park in 1984.  Photo by Tony Leonard/The Bloodhorse

Princess Rooney triumphs in the first Breeders' Cup Distaff at Hollywood Park in 1984. Photo by Tony Leonard/The Bloodhorse

championship at Hollywood Park by 7 lengths.  The race was run at the 1.25 mile distance at that time, the same as the Classic.  The grey mare covered the DIstaff distance in 2:02.2/5, a full second faster than the boys ran the Classic the same year.  Princess Rooney was expertly conditioned by trainer Neil Drysdale for owner Paula Tucker.  She was voted Eclispe champion older mare for 1984, over Life’s Magic.

The Eclipse was a well-deserved trophy for the multiple-graded stakes winner, who also won the 1983 Kentucky Oaks.  Though she was a terror on the track, her progeny couldn’t live up to her golden standard.

Princess Rooney was diagnosed with EPM earlier this summer, and though she was given the best care at Rood&Riddle, her condition didn’t improve.  She will be missed.

Cozzene and Gainesway.  Photo from Thoroughbred Times

Cozzene and Gainesway. Photo from Thoroughbred Times

The year after Princess Rooney’s romp in the Distaff, COZZENE won the second Breeders’ Cup MILE.  I always like watching this race because halfway through, the huge flock of birds engulfs the screen, and the camera angle warps your perspective, and it appears as though the horses have taken flight.  It’s awesome.  At his retirement, Cozzene became a prominent sire of stakes winners, including a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner.  The grey horse by Caro was owned by the potentate of the turf, John Nerud, and trained by his son, Jan.

Cozzene sired Alphabet Soup, winner of the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic, as well as Tikkanen, ’94 Turf winner, and 81 other stakes winners.  Cozzene stood at Gainesway Farm in KY his entire stud career.   

This weekend, 2 of my watch horses run at Keeneland: LICKETY LEMON in the QEII Cup and COWBOY CAL in the Bryan Station Stakes.  Lemon is a big longshot; they didn’t even mention her in the write-up at BloodHorse.com!  But for loyal readers of The Infield, this filly is a wonder on poly, especially the longer distances.  Storm Mesa will try to recapture her west coast form here.  BH likes Ariege.

Cowboy Cal hasn’t run since the Derby, but after a long break, he’s back!  He’s been working a lot, so I hope he’s ready for this.  There’s a security guard I know who’s rooting for him.

One last thing:  I am always looking for more awesome things to do for this blog (I haven’t forgotten the Infield Experience photos…those will be coming up soon) and I think I have hit the motherlode: BREEDERS’ CUP LIVE BLOG!!  Tell your friends!

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogroll, Breeders' Cup, live blogging, obituary, Underrated Racehorses