As the great race mare Goldikova enters the final race of her remarkable career when she seeks an unprecedented fourth consecutive TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) victory, trainer Freddy Head has mixed emotions.
“I’m happy she’s finishing that way, but sad because it has been part of my life for five years now,” the trainer said Nov. 2 following the 6-year-old mare’s return from her morning exercise at Churchill Downs. “But that’s it. We move on. I will miss her a lot.”
A homebred racing for Gerard and Alain Wertheimer, Goldikova has won or placed in 25 of 26 career starts. The daughter of Anabaa-Born Gold, by Blushing Groom, has 17 wins, six seconds, and two thirds to her credit, with earnings of $6,978,551.
For Head, who is emotional when he discusses Goldikova, the mare has been one of a kind.
“I have known some good horses, maybe some as good as her,” the trainer said. “But one that can do so much over the years? I have never seen one. It’s something special. It’s very easy to train a horse like that.”
While she has won many top grade races during her five seasons of competition, none of her achievements could quite match her record three consecutive Breeders’ Cup wins. The significance of that feat is not lost on Head, who said the goal this year was definitely for Goldikova to peak in time for the Breeders’ Cup.
The French-based mare began her 2011 campaign with a victory in the Prix d’Ispahan (Fr-I), followed by a second in the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) at Britain’s Ascot racecourse. Another win came in the Prix Rothschild (Fr-I) and second in the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Jacques le Marois (Fr-I).
In order to get her cranked for the Breeders’ Cup, Head rested Goldikova from Aug. 15 until Oct. 2 when she returned to finish a good second, beaten a head by Dream Ahead in the Qatar Prix de la Foret (Fr-I).
“Maybe she wasn’t at her best that moment,” Head said of that last race. “That was truly a great, great race; a record breaking race. The winner, on his best day, is a very good horse.
“That was a very good effort. We aimed for the Breeders’ Cup. There is no doubt about it that is the race we wanted to win. I couldn’t have her better.”
Head realizes that another Mile victory could be a challenge, considering the caliber of horses Goldikova will face.
“Gio Ponti is a top class horse and the French horse, Byword, is a very good horse,” Head said, “and so is the English horse of Richard Hannon (Strong Suit). So it is going to be a very tough race for us to win.
“I know it’s her last race so all I want is (for her) to finish in a good way. Winning or losing I want her to have a good run.”