Tag Archives: favorite BC races

FAVORITE BC RACE #2: LIKE A ROCK – or a DOME

Domedriver turned in one of the biggest upsets in BC Mile history when he defeated Rock of Gibraltar in 2002.  Today, he lives in luxury at a stud in France.

Domedriver turned in one of the biggest upsets in BC Mile history when he defeated Rock of Gibraltar in 2002. Today, he lives in luxury at a stud in France.

There’s just something about those big Breeders’ Cup upsets!  Volponi, Arcangues, Adoration…but my 2nd favorite Breeders’ Cup race is once again a Europe vs America mile on turf.  The 2002 BC was held at Arlington Park that year, and the talk of the track was Rock of Gibraltar, the top miler in Europe, winner of 7 Group 1s in a row & undefeated in 2002.  The Breeders’ Cup Mile was to be his coronation and farewell race. 

Thirteen other top milers lined up to challenge him, including Landseer, Beat Hollow, Forbidden Apple and Aldebaran (stretching out from 7f to 8).  At the start, Boston Common set a speedy pace on the yielding turf.  The rest of the field followed close behind, with The Rock in dead last. 

Boston Common gave way after 5f and was passed by Good Journey, but The Rock was still way back.  In the final turn, Landseer tragically took a bad step and broke down, sending the field swerving to avoid the stricken horse.  Rock had to check, as well as several others. 

In the stretch, Good Journey looked to have the whole thing in the bag, but Rock of Gibraltar had regained his momentum and was barreling down the center of the track.  On the rail, Domedriver had found his stride as well, and he slid up beside Good Journey, who battled fiercely to maintain his lead.  In the final strides, Domedriver got ahead of Good Journey, but The Rock was still coming on like a freight train…and just couldn’t make it! 

Domedriver dove under the wire a length and a half in front.  The Rock was defeated! 

His jockey, Mick Kinane, took a lot of flack for waiting so long and for dropping so far back in this race, but Landseer’s breakdown happened in The Rock’s direct path to glory.  Any lesser horse would not have been able to recover from such a sharp check let alone finish second driving.  Domedriver ran a helluva race, though.  He stayed on the rail the whole time and took advantage of a tiny opening.  It was an incredible upset, and one of my favorite BC races, despite Landseer.

Domedriver paid $54.00 to win, making him one of the biggest longshots in the Mile.

Today, he resides in France, at Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard.  Judging by his conformation photo, he looks like he’s enjoying life.

The Rock is at stud in Ireland at Coolmore.  He sired Eagle Mountain, who will race in the BC Turf on Saturday.

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FAVORITE BC RACE #3: JINX-BREAKER

Street Sense wins the BC Juvenile in 2006.  Meanwhile, I was freezing my butt off in the paddock watching it on a realy big TV.

Street Sense wins the BC Juvenile in 2006. Meanwhile, I was freezing my butt off in the paddock watching it on a realy big TV.

My favorite BC Juvenile is the one I actually got to see in person.  Or close to it.  I attended the 2006 BC at Churchill Downs, where it was cold but sunny, and Bernardini got his ass handed to him by INVASOR.  In true Infield fashion (or close to it, since the actual Infield was not open on BC day), I got up at the crack of dawn and stood in line an hour to snag a prime spot on the rail of the paddock.  I even got a bench!  Wooot!  All day long, I stood on the bench, leaned on the back of it, even balanced precipitously on its very top to take slightly blurry photos of the contenders as they walked around the ring. 

Before the 2nd race, I spied Carl Nafzger in the paddock, waayy over to the side in the #1 saddling box.  I snapped a quick picture of him getting Street Sense ready and then turned my attention to Great Hunter, who I was rooting for after his win in the Keeneland Lane’s End Futurity.  Somewhere in all my scads of pictures I have the one of Carl. 

I stood on the bench as the horses went to post, and watched (the paddock jumbotron)  with glee as the horse from the #1 hole galloped away with the whole thing.  Street Sense had won so easily, Calvin Borel loved him so much, I just fell in love with the colt, too!  Great Hunter remained a favorite of mine, despite his 3rd place finish, but I vowed to return to Churchill the next spring to watch Street Sense try and break the Juvy Jinx.

I kept my promise, and 6 months after his rail-skimming Juvy victory, Street Sense repeated that trip in the Kentucky Derby, in front of 150,000+ people, me in the infield, and the Queen in the grandstand.  It was awesome.  I cashed a nice ticket with him, too.

Street Sense tried to break another jinx as well, the BC Juvy-BC Classic jinx, but he faltered last fall, running 4th to Curlin in the slop at Monmouth.  He now resides at Darley in Lexington KY.  One of these days I’ll get around to see him again, and tell him I was there for his 2 best trips around Churchill Downs!

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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.

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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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