Week of November 5, 2012
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

This year’s Breeders’ Cup offered a bevy of heart-warming stories, surprise results and satisfying moments. Since those on the ground have already provided an excellent recap of each race, I’d like to highlight my personal favorite moments (in no particular order) – how do your favorites stack up to mine?

How great was it to see D. Wayne Lukas back in the Breeders’ Cup winner circle? He and Rajiv Maragh teamed up to give us the weekend’s first upset, when 15-1 maiden Hightail (Mineshaft) captured the Juvenile Sprint (chart). For the 77-year-old Hall of Fame trainer, it was his 19th Breeders’ Cup winner – and the first since 2005, when Folklore won the Juvenile Fillies. Remember, back in early June, Lukas was hospitalized after being kicked in the head by Hamazing Destiny (who finished 11th in the Sprint). What a way to end an eventful year!

The surprises kept on coming when the Marathon (chart) was won by Calidoscopio, a 9-year-old Grade 1-winning Argentinean horse sired by the American-bred, European-raced Luhuk (Forty Niner). Early on, he was so far back it looked improbable that he would even finish the race, but it was all by design and his typical running style – closing in one sustained rush late. Not bad for an odd-ball horse whose distinctive bareback daily workout made him a morning standout at Santa Anita. For runner-up Grassy, his first ever dirt attempt was a success, but unfortunately the same could not be said for the two Europeans, Sense of Purpose and Fame and Glory, as both were eased out of the race. It begs the question, what the hell were their connections thinking? Third-place in the Marathon went to 3-year-old Atigun, an Istan colt whose third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes and narrow fourth in the Grade 1 Travers bodes well for his future as a stayer.

As expected, the Europeans captured the juvenile turf races, with the French-bred Flotilla (Mizzen Mast) surprising in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (chart), and English Group 1-placed George Vancouver (Henrythenavigator) a clear winner in the Juvenile Turf (chart). Still, the American entries certainly outperformed expectations, and it was Chad Brown has stood out among all trainers on Friday. His filly Watsdachances (Diamond Green) finished second in the Juvenile Filly Turf, while in the Juvenile Turf (chart) he trained both the second and third-place finishers, Noble Tune (Unbridled’s Song) and Balance the Books (Lemon Drop Kid). Although his Awesome Feather disappointed in the Ladies’ Classic (chart), the Saratoga-native topped his Breeders’ Cup experience with Zagora winning the Filly & Mare Turf (chart). On the flip side, what a horrible Breeders’ Cup for Bob Baffert! Not a single winner, and among his 10 starters, only Juvenile Fillies runner-up Executiveprivilege (First Samurai) hit the board.

Royal Delta’s repeat in the Ladies’ Classic (chart) – somewhat surprisingly in wire-to-wire fashion – solidified her as a Horse of the Year candidate in my book. For jockey Mike Smith, it was a record-setting ride, as his 16th Breeders’ Cup victory surpassed Jerry Bailey (he added a 17th win on Saturday, with talk show host Jim Rome’s Mizdirection in the Turf Sprint) (chart). Although pulled up and vanned off, Questing reportedly suffered no injury. The game My Miss Aurelia put in a strong effort, running second – perhaps better than to be expected off that tough Cotillion win, and local filly Include Me Out came on well for third. How refreshing to hear that Royal Delta will be once again aimed at the Dubai World Cup in 2013.

After her win in the Filly & Mare Sprint (chart), Groupie Doll also must be considered for Horse of the Year honors. Although she only raced against males once this year (in a non-stakes event at Gulfstream back in January), she has posted three Grade 1 victories in 2012 – one more than Royal Delta. The modestly-bred Bowman’s Band filly is also riding a 5-race win streak in which she’s dominated each time. She was the second Breeders’ Cup winner this year for Rajiv Maragh – he won on two of his four BC mounts. Not sure why her connections didn’t consider entering her in the open-company 6-furlong Sprint (chart), other than the difference in distance (the Filly & Mare Sprint is 7 furlongs).

Groupie Doll was also one of only four post-time favorites to win during the two-day event, joining Royal Delta, Shanghai Bobby and Wise Dan as those who fulfilled horseplayers’ high expectations. Personally, I thought the Juvenile (chart) was a bit messy, with horses greenly staggering all across the track in the stretch and a bit more whipping than necessary, but it’s hard not to respect an undefeated youngster like Shanghai Bobby who, when it looked like he was finished, dug in and fought back to defeat He’s Had Enough. For Rosie Napravnik it was another landmark moment, becoming only the second female jockey (after Julie Krone) to win a Breeders’ Cup flat race. Who cares that, on a track that played fast all day, this Juvenile turned out to be the third-slowest ever run at that distance? The Kentucky Derby hype has begun…

Another “little guy” homebred, Little Mike shocked in winning the Turf (chart) – but in a good way! Riding a five-race win streak (including three straight Grade 1 events), fellow American Point of Entry went off the favorite, but he had to settle for second behind the Dale Romans-trained Spanish Steps gelding. His wire-to-wire victory in the Grade 1 Arlington Million didn’t impress handicappers, who sent Little Mike postward at odds just over 17-1, but he obviously liked the firm turf, setting a new stakes record and essentially tying the track record. Returning Breeders’ Cup Turf champion St. Nicholas Abbey got up for third, while the “bratty” Japanese import Trailblazer held on for fourth against the game mare Shareta. His performance definitely puts Little Mike in the Horse of the Year discussion.

So too does the track record-setting turf Mile (chart) victory of another homebred, Wise Dan. It was by far the fastest Breeders’ Cup Mile ever contested (1:31.78), and a dynamic race to boot, with gutsy Animal Kingdom making a valiant late-charge only to fall short, finishing second. The Irish-bred, American-raced Obviously got third ahead of the much-ballyhooed Aidan O’Brien trainee Excelebration.

Personally, I enjoyed 3-year-old Trinniberg’s win in the Sprint (chart), if for no other reason than I loved his gutsy, oft-run sire Teuflesberg. Named for his trainer/owners’ native country of Trinidad, Trinniberg was ridden to victory by Willie Martinez, once the regular rider of hard-knocking, fan favorite Brass Hat. It was also thrilling to see the fillies best the boys in the Turf Sprint, with Mizdirection and Reneesgotzip bookending the trifecta, with favored Unbridled’s Note in second. As a long time fan of Australian racing, I hoped veteran Starspangledbanner would hang in there after taking the early lead, but the 6-1/2 furlong distance may have been just a tad too far, as he weakened to finish 10th. For a failed stud, he looks to be right back on track, though, for a stellar return in 2013.

Of all the Breeders’ Cup races, the Classic (chart) actually surprised me the most, as it turned out to be a far better contest than anticipated. Well, not if you were a fan of Game On Dude, but otherwise Grade 1 Whitney Handicap victor Fort Larned and Grade 1 Woodward runner-up Mucho Macho Man gave us a thrilling race! Yet another homebred victor, Fort Larned gave both his trainer Ian Wilkes and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. their first Breeders’ Cup wins – what a birthday present! Fort Larned also filled some big shoes, as his second dam is the great two-time Distaff winner Bayakoa.

With the Breeders’ Cup over, our attention turns to the sales, including the Fasig-Tipton November Sale on Monday night which you can view online here. Among the potential broodmare standouts: 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, Filly & Mare Turf victress Zagora, and last year’s Eclipse-winning female sprinter Musical Romance. The list is extensive, not surprising given how dominant female runners have become in recent years.

Also on Monday night, at 11:00 p.m. EST, the 2-mile Melbourne Cup will be contested for the 151st time. You can watch it live online here or here. While hardly favored, two American-raced horses are among the 24 entries: multiple-Grade 1 winner Winchester, and Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup victor Unusual Suspect. The past two winners, Americain and Dunaden are also back. For more information on how to approach handicapping Australian turf race, consult our primer Australian racing.

As 2012 winds down, the Weekly Roundup is going to the paddock, as they say. We’ll briefly return for a post-Thanksgiving weekend roundup with end-of-the-year shout-outs. In the meantime, Hello Race Fans! will be planning some exciting things for 2013, not the least of which is our Derby Prep reports, so stay tuned!

Keep up with all the racing commentary and news at Raceday 360 Wire!

Last Week’s Races

2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint Replay
Hightail gives trainer D. Wayne Lukas his record-breaking 19th Breeders’ Cup win.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Breeders’ Cup Marathon Replay
Calidoscopio becomes the oldest Breeders’ Cup winner.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf Replay
Flotilla rallies for the win.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Replay
Beholder gets the best of Executive Privilege.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf Replay
Zagora boxes in the favorite and charges home.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic Replay
Royal Delta takes them all the way for her second win in the Ladies Classic.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Replay
George Vancouvers springs the upset.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Replay
Groupie Doll crushes.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Replay
Tapizar puts his two-turn experience to good use.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint Replay
The smart money was on Mizdirection.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Replay
Shanghai Bobby guts it out

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf Replay
Little Mike pulls a shocker, again!

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Breeders’ Cup Sprint Replay
Trinniberg and The Lumber Guy remind us that not ALL the good 3-year-olds have retired.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile Replay
Wise Dan campaigns hard for Horse of the Year.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic Replay
Fort Larned repels Mucho Macho Man in a thrilling rendition of the Classic.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

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