Breeders' Cup Feature


NOVEMBER 8, 2012

Breeders' Cup afterglow

by John Mucciolo

Money Rider -- Mike Smith was disappointed after his runner-up aboard Mucho Macho Man in the Classic, but the Hall of Famer has plenty to smile about when reflecting upon this year's two-day Breeders' Cup. "Money" became the all-time leading rider in Breeders' Cup history on Friday, guiding Royal Delta to her second consecutive victory in the Ladies' Classic, and padded his record win total Saturday when capturing the Turf Sprint aboard Mizdirection. The 47-year-old journeyman also placed in the Juvenile Sprint, posting a highly respectable 2-1-1 mark from eight Breeders' Cup mounts this year. Smith may have come up a little short in the Classic, but he's in the midst of an incredible run in the 1 1/4-mile contest, finishing first in 2009 (Zenyatta), second in 2010 (Zenyatta), first in 2011 (Drosselmeyer) and second this year. That's a lot of loot in America's richest race!

Magnificent training jobs -- I commend the training jobs by Mike Puype and Graham Motion, who both had horses run "out of their skin" following long absences. For Puype, he got downhill supremo Mizdirection ready to roll in the Turf Sprint off a break of more than five months, which is no easy feat. Equally or more difficult is the job accomplished by Motion, who got 2011 Kentucky Derby hero Animal Kingdom ready to run a sensational second in the deep Breeders' Cup Mile. Unraced since an allowance win in January, with only one start in the past 17 months, the son of Leroidesanimaux was last behind a fairly average opening half-mile before motoring home in the lane, passing some standout performers along the way while encountering a bit of traffic. While each horse is surely responsible for running so big in each of those races, the training job by each sharp conditioner can't be understated.

More on Animal Kingdom -- The four-year-old has proven capable of running on anything, virtually anywhere, and we can only hope this colt stays healthy to put together a full campaign in 2013, and possibly beyond that. The Team Valor color bearer runs for connections that think "out of the box" as to when and/or where they will run, so it will not be surprising to see this Kentucky-bred racing here and abroad on a variety of surfaces. Animal Kingdom is one of the more exciting horses to follow next season.

Venue -- I'm a bit of a homer for Belmont Park and would also prefer to see the Breeders' Cup hit a lot more sites from year-to-year, but Santa Anita really is a sensational venue for the event. The wonderful race track can hold a big crowd of fans, in front of the most picturesque setting in Thoroughbred racing, and the surrounding area makes accommodations viable along with plenty of exciting alternatives to do post-races. Oh, and it's always sunny and warm out here! Makes for a nice "race-cation" for the Thoroughbred racing fan.

A Look Ahead

There is a lot of reason for optimism and excitement as we look forward to the racing season of 2013, as many of the top performers are expected back.

Classic star Fort Larned, second-place finisher Mucho Macho Man and the aforementioned Animal Kingdom could make the handicap division as good as it has been in some time. And Classic third-placer Flat Out and fourth-placer Ron the Greek, as well as beaten favorite Game on Dude, will all reportedly remain in training. With the winners of the Breeders' Cup Classic, Whitney Handicap, Stephen Foster, Santa Anita Handicap, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Suburban Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Awesome Again Stakes all possibly returning for a title defense in 2013, it is a fantastic thing for the marketing of our sport.

Two-time Ladies' Classic heroine Royal Delta will reportedly be kept in training for a five-year-old season, and the superb filly is obviously one to track as her last two races could have been arguably been her best to date. The Bill Mott pupil can run all day, showed how versatile she can be in leading wire to wire on Friday, and is proven on a variety of ovals. And the Classic could be her goal in 2013. The future Hall of Fame inductee is a gem!

The one-two finishers of the Turf, Little Mike and Point of Entry, proved that the Euros are no cinch in the race that they have dominated in recent years, and since neither is the most coveted to stand at stud in the Bluegrass State, one can fully expect both to show up in 2013.

The Sprint top two are sophomores, Trinniberg and The Lumber Guy, and both are logical returnees for the 2013 season. They ran arguably their best races while shipping out west.

Mile hero and likely Horse of the Year Wise Dan is a gelding, so stud duty is not an option, and the Charles Lopresti trainee could easily be regarded as the top miler in the world next season now that Frankel is retired. He's as versatile as they come, compiling impressive graded stakes wins on dirt and synthetic as well, and I'd love to see the son of Wiseman's Ferry journey to Europe to prove his class outside of North America. The five-year-old seems up to the task.

Shanghai Bobby looked cooked in the stretch once taking the lead in the Juvenile, but the son of Harlan's Holiday was all heart and re-rallied once he met a challenger. The unbeaten, soon-to-be Eclipse Award winner is the clubhouse leader for favoritism for the 2013 Kentucky Derby, and his development has been a pleasure to watch.

The top pair of the Juvenile Fillies, Beholder and Executiveprivilege, should also renew their rivalry on the left coast into their three-year-old campaigns. The latter owns a 2-1 edge in the head-to-head battle so far, but little appears to separate the duo.

Mizdirection and rapidly improving sophomore Unbridled's Note, one-two in the Turf Sprint, have every right to return, especially with the Breeders' Cup returning to the sunny confines of Santa Anita Park.

Did I mention how excited I am about the prospects for the 2013 racing season?