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
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
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!