Tag Archives: Breeders’ Cup

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.

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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!

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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?

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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 !!!

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

BIG BROWN VICTORIOUS! + MUSIC NOTE & PROUD SPELL!!

By now most Infield readers know that Big Brown won on Saturday, holding off Proudinsky in a thriller stretch drive (I think that must be my favorite phrase, seriously).  The Derby Winner has passed the “beat older” test with winning colors…now on to synthetic and CURLIN! 

There is no way now for Curlin to repeat as HOTY without running in the Classic. Brown has done everything except win the Belmont (and how many others have that blemish on their resume).  Brown draws record crowds to see him run in non-graded stakes.  Brown has a major corporate sponsor (almost like NASCAR).  Curlin has the hardware (’07 HOTY), the earnings (over $9mil) and the key to Saratoga.  But unless his owner (who has been a tremendous sportsman so far just by running the Golden Warrior at 4) gives in and enters the defending BCC winner on SA’s poly, his chances for a repeat HOTY are slim and none.  If he enters and Brown beats him, he’s out, but the questions will be answered.  If he runs and wins, he’ll go down as one of our greatest champions.  There have only been a handful of 2-time HOTY champs in history, an enormous achievement.  The last back-to-back HOTY was Cigar in ’95/’96.  Even he couldn’t capture 2 Classics. 

If neither Brown or Curlin win the Classic, then things get more tricky.  It’s safe to say Go Between, love him as I do, will not be HOTY if he springs the big-ass upset.  I say Curlin would still be HOTY if both colts run up the track.  Curlin deserves the honor, after racing around the world in Dubai, and in all Gr1 events here in the states.  He has beaten a host of Gr1 winners and millionaires.  He’s also run faster than Brown (112 BSF in the Woodward).  It could also be a wake-up call to owners who retire their 3yos.  Curlin has run an (sort-of) old-fashioned campaign this year, hitting all the top Gr1s and taking on all comers.  I like Curlin better than Brown because of this-he is the last big name from the legendary 2007 Triple Crown Class.  All of those colts (and filly) were amazing athletes, game, fast and turned up every time.  To get to see even one of them for another year is a privlege that we won’t have next year.  Big Brown will be at Three Chimneys swapping TC war stories with Point Given (though PG will always win with his *I* won the Belmont by 11…). 

OTHER Stuff:  MUSIC NOTE waltzed away with the Gazelle after Country Star flipped in the gate and had to scratch.  The daughter of AP Indy is a tremendous runner in a year of Top Class Fillies.  Aside from Brown, 2008 has been the YEAR OF THE FILLY — The Distaff is the headliner race for the BC this year with Zenyatta, Ginger Punch, Hystericaladay, Music Note, Tough Tiz’s Sis, and now Proud SPell is back on the BC list.  Then Indian Blessing, Intangaroo, and Dearest Trickski have the F/M Sprint locked down.  Too bad Rags got hurt. 

Thursday I leave for an InfieldTrip to the heart of horse country.  Complete blogging and photos and such will be forthcoming…

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Filed under Big Brown, Breeders' Cup, curlin, Graded Stakes, results, Santa Anita