The racing gods work in mysterious ways.

Twenty years ago, in what remains a controversial decision most observers feel is in

question to this day, following a stewards’ inquiry, The Wicked North was disqualified from first to fourth in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap “for interference in upper stretch” after winning by a length and a half.

Saturday, in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, Bayern won by a nose and a neck over Toast of New York and California Chrome, with 5-2 favorite Shared Belief finishing fourth, 3 ½ lengths behind California Chrome. Following a stewards’ inquiry, the order of finish remained unchanged, to the disbelief of most who saw the race.

Shared Belief had an excuse in suffering his first loss. The official chart of the race says, “Bayern broke inward bumping Shared Belief and also forcing that rival into Moreno . . . .”

Less than a week before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Saturday, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert lost what he felt was his best chance to win that race when American Pharoah came down with a minor injury.

Saturday, Bayern gave Baffert his first Breeders’ Cup Classic victory, not only earning $2,750,000 for owner Kaleem Shah, but thrusting himself clearly into the picture for Horse of the Year and Male 3-Year-Old of the Year.

At Santa Anita on an otherwise picturesque Sunday morning with sunshine dominating mostly blue skies, Jerry Hollendorfer sat by himself in the grandstand, staring blankly into the vast expanse of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Alone with thoughts of perhaps what might have been, Hollendorfer offered only that Shared Belief came out of the race OK but had “no comment” when asked if the stewards made the right or wrong call, or if he thought Shared Belief still deserved to be Horse of the Year.

Baffert, understandably, had a different take.

“Losing American Pharoah for the Juvenile was devastating for me, the barn, and the owners,” Baffert said of the impressive winner of the FrontRunner Stakes on Sept. 27. “I was looking forward so much to see what he can do, because he’s an amazing animal. Thankfully, he’s OK now and we’ll get him ready for the spring.

“But Bayern showed what he can really do on a big day. He put it together. Shared Belief didn’t break. He broke a stutter-step slow (the chart says he bobbled) and Bayern was gone. I thought the nine (Toast of New York) swooped down on Shared Belief.”

The chart says Toast of New York “angled over soon after the break putting Shared Belief in close quarters and bumping Moreno (the other expected speed horse, who finished 14th and last, 22 ¼ lengths behind next-to-last Majestic Harbor and more than 35 lengths behind Bayern).

“The incident detracted from Bayern’s win somewhat, and it’s too bad because any rider would try to keep an undefeated horse unbeaten, but you need racing luck. He didn’t have it and that’s what this game is all about. You talk to half the people who ran horses this week, some had racing luck, and if you don’t have it, it doesn’t happen.

“I deal with it and when it happens to me, like it did with Game On Dude in the Breeders’ Cup (losing three times in the Classic), I just suck it up.”

With an obvious vested interest in Bayern’s chances for Horse of the Year, Baffert said, “He proved he’s worthy yesterday, but I’ve seen voters who, when they can’t make a justifiable case for the horse they want to win, punish the competition that beats their horse.

“But I don’t have a say in the voting and it is what it is. All I know is Bayern won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and some big, major races. He did it on the big stage and he ran hard and he wasn’t going to let that horse (Toast of New York) past him.”

Private clocker Gary Young, always candid and forthright with his valued opinions, gathered his thoughts before saying:

“Historically in California, and I don’t necessarily agree with it, you pretty much have to knock someone off their horse to get taken down coming out of the gate. Do I agree with that? No. Would I have voted to disqualify Bayern yesterday? Yeah. I’m not sure the incident at the start cost Shared Belief the win, but that shouldn’t enter into the decision.

“When I got to my car after the race, I turned on the Santa Anita app, and (former jockey Richard) Migliore was just going nuts. When Trevor (Denman) made the announcement on the stewards’ decision, I think his words were, ‘The incident, though significant, did not affect the original order of finish.’ Are you kidding me?

“Migliore said, ‘Now let me get this straight. If I’m on a speed horse and there’s two other speed horses in the race, does that mean on the first step I get to come over and waylay him as hard as I want to and not get taken down? Is that what that means?”

The stewards issued this statement Saturday night: “Following the running of the 12th race today (Breeders’ Cup Classic), we posted the inquiry sign to examine an incident at the start (Dirt 1 ¼ miles). Involved in the incident were the winner #7 Bayern (M. Garcia) and several horses to his inside–#6 Shared Belief (M. Smith), causing a chain reaction with several other horses to his inside, including #4 Moreno (J. Castellano), who also broke out slightly.

“#6 Shared Belief finished fourth, 3 ½ lengths behind the third place finisher while #4 Moreno finished far behind the leaders. After speaking with the patrol judges and riders involved, it was our unanimous decision that pursuant to CHRB rule 1699, that incident occurred in a part of the race where the horses interfered with were not cost the opportunity to place where they were reasonably expected to finish.”

The stewards held a press conference at Santa Anita Sunday morning, addressing further questions from the media.

As for Horse of the Year 2014, Bayern, California Chrome, Shared Belief, Untapable and Wise Dan appear to have credentials worthy of consideration.

“You can’t help but love Wise Dan, but he didn’t do enough,” Young said. “All Chrome had to do was win the race and there wouldn’t be any controversy as huge as it is today for Horse of the Year.

“I thought California Chrome was the winner from the half-mile pole home yesterday, but he didn’t get there. I could kind of see Untapable, California Chrome and Bayern winning Horse of the Year. Those are the only three I’d consider. Shared Belief? You can’t drop the ball like that on Breeders’ Cup day and be Horse of the Year.”

So the beat goes on and will not stop in the foreseeable future. As a rabbi once told a grieving family whose daughter had died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 19, “The wound will heal, but the scar will never go away.”

 Watch the Press Conference here.


            Propelled by five top-three finishes, including a victory in the $3 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf on Flaxman Holding’s Main Sequence, two-time Eclipse champion jockey John Velazquez won his third Bill Shoemaker Award as the most outstanding jockey of the 31st edition of the event.

In addition to his aforementioned victory, the 42-year-old native of Carolina, Puerto Rico, was second in the $2 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stables’ Carpe Diem and the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf on Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Stephanie’s Kitten, while also third in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Wes Welker’s Undrafted and the $1 million DraftKings Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on the Ramseys Thank You Marylou.

The victory on Main Sequence was his 13th Breeders’ Cup win. The Hall of Famer’s 26-point total edged Javier Castellano and Rosie Napravnik by six points in a 10-5-3-1 scoring system based on the first- through fourth-place finishes in the 13 Breeders’ Cup races.

The Bill Shoemaker Award is named in honor of one of the greatest jockeys in the history of Thoroughbred racing.  Shoemaker, a winner of the Kentucky Derby four times, won more than 8,800 races in a career that spanned more than 40 years. In 1987, at 56, Shoemaker won the Breeders’ Cup Classic aboard Ferdinand.

Previous winners were Alex Solis (2003), John Velazquez (2004 and 2011), Garrett Gomez (2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010), Frankie Dettori (2006), Julien Leparoux (2009), and Mike Smith (2012 and 2013).


FINISH LINES: After a three-day Pick Six carryover, there is a mandatory payout of $1,335,505.37 on today’s closing-day card . . . Santa Anita’s jocks’ room overflowed for the Breeders’ Cup races, but assistant Clerk of Scales Charlie McCaul made do. “We had 60 riders in the room,” he said. “If it’s not a record, it should be.”


(Current Through Saturday, Nov. 1)
Jockey Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% Money Won
Rafael Bejarano 132 27 22 27 20% $2,045,384
Joseph Talamo 133 22 20 19 17% $1,581,894
Tyler Baze 152 18 24 14 12% $885,714
Elvis Trujillo 120 18 15 13 15% $1,069,412
Drayden Van Dyke 119 14 14 15 12% $554,022
Mike Smith 77 13 12 8 17% $2,268,258
Martin Pedroza 78 12 6 15 15% $521,020
Martin Garcia 73 8 8 7 11% $3,570,038
Edwin Maldonado 56 7 8 3 13% $298,558
Victor Espinoza 45 7 6 7 16% $2,263,480
Mario Gutierrez 53 7 3 6 13% $362,728
Fernando Perez 91 6 8 13 7% $315,374
Agapito Delgadillo 51 5 7 2 10% $173,890
Alonso Quinonez 62 5 5 7 8% $198,864
Rosie Napravnik 11 5 2 0 45% $2,021,550
Corey Nakatani 80 4 12 16 5% $720,886
William Antongeorgi III 46 4 8 3 9% $140,220
Tiago Pereira 64 4 5 9 6% $164,650
Kent Desormeaux 28 4 3 4 14% $1,374,100
Trainer Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% Money Won
Jerry Hollendorfer 65 13 11 9 20% $1,200,864
Leandro Mora 47 12 6 2 26% $1,013,190
Bob Baffert 57 11 6 4 19% $3,835,256
John Sadler 58 9 10 8 16% $780,970
Peter Miller 69 9 9 6 13% $464,112
Philip D’Amato 52 7 6 11 13% $414,424
Kristin Mulhall 25 6 3 4 24% $197,350
Mike Puype 43 6 2 2 14% $175,148
George Papaprodromou 38 5 7 5 13% $194,930
James Cassidy 30 5 2 4 17% $258,782
Peter Eurton 37 5 1 5 14% $240,710
Mark Glatt 36 4 6 6 11% $246,968
Jeff Mullins 26 4 3 5 15% $151,984
Simon Callaghan 18 4 2 4 22% $180,350
Robert Hess, Jr. 24 4 2 4 17% $142,870
Richard Mandella 18 4 0 0 22% $262,150