- BREEDERS’ CUP NO. 33 IS ONE FOR THE AGES
- ESPINOZA PONDERS WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
- CONGRATULATIONS TO PAPA JOE TALAMO
MEMORABLE BREEDERS’ CUP AT SANTA ANITA
And so it came to pass that in the 77th year of racing at the storied venue known as Santa Anita Park, on the occasion of the 33rd Breeders’ Cup World Championships occurring for an unprecedented ninth time at The Great Race Place, there was a Race for the Ages, not once, but twice.
Friday, Nov. 4, 4:42 p.m.: Beholder and Songbird, together champions four times over, waged a stretch-long battle that at the end of nine furlongs was separated by a scant nose, the photo finish picture making it appear even slimmer than it did live, with the six-year-old and three-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder under 53-year-old Gary Stevens handing the two-year-old female champion of 2015 Songbird her first defeat after 11 straight dominating victories under 51-year-old Mike Smith.
Saturday, Nov. 5, 5:45 p.m.: the reigning alpha male, California Chrome, and Arrogate, the “Now Horse,” in a deep-stretch dogfight won by Arrogate, who was a half-length in front after a mile and a quarter in the $6 million Classic. (Arrogate earned a Beyer Speed figure of 120, while Chrome got a career-high 119).
Arrogate and Songbird have their futures ahead of them. They will race again next year. For Beholder and Chrome, their future is their past. The breeding farm awaits both.
This was racing. This was the Breeders’ Cup. This was Santa Anita. This was the Sport of Kings. This was Doc Strub, Shoemaker, Longden, Arcaro and George Woolf. It was Whittingham, McAnally, Lukas, Frankel and Farrell Jones.
It was Seabiscuit, Round Table, Affirmed and Spectacular Bid. It was John Henry, Best Pal, Winning Colors and Swaps.
It was the joy of victory for Arrogate’s trainer Bob Baffert after the Classic, and the agony of defeat for Chrome’s trainer Art Sherman.
Baffert, winning his third straight Breeders’ Cup Classic, was magnanimous in victory, crediting Chrome and his multitude of fanatics for attracting a crowd of 72,811 to Santa Anita on Saturday, the highest single-day attendance for a Breeders’ Cup since the event switched to a two-day format.
He was right, of course. Chrome was the magnet, the headliner, the marquee performer, the horse that packed the house.
But it was the Distaff and the Classic that lived up to pre-race billing and beyond. For Beholder in victory and California Chrome in defeat, their stature will only grow.
As Tolkien wrote in Lord of the Rings, “History became legend. Legend became myth.”
Richard Mandella said Beholder came out of Friday’s memorable Distaff triumph fine, “she’ll have a few days to settle down, then we’ll send her to the farm (of owner B. Wayne Hughes) in Kentucky.”
Asked if he had a time agenda, Mandella, hoping to savor every last minute with his thrice champion mare, said, “I’ll take all the time I can. I’ll be like the guy in prison waiting for the Governor to call with a reprieve.”
Jerry Hollendorfer reported that Songbird, who suffered her first defeat by an excruciating nose to Beholder in the Distaff, “will get a little break now. She’ll go to Kentucky at WinStar for 30 to 45 days, then come back and get ready for next year.”
David Hofmans, back on the beat Sunday morning with assistant and nephew Brent Fabbri and son Grant Hofmans, visiting from Kentucky, said Melatonin came out of his fifth-place finish in the Classic “good, but very tired,” after his first race in more than four months. “He had a good mile in him and that was about it.
“He ran hard, tried, but couldn’t catch those monsters (Arrogate and California Chrome, who were 10 ¾ lengths in front of third-place Keen Ice in the mile and a quarter Classic). Now I have two horses to duck. Melatonin will have a little teeny breather but we’ll stay here and run at Santa Anita for the Winter Meet.”
Addressing the blockbuster Breeders’ Cup spectacular which attracted 118,574 fans on track over the two days, Hofmans said, “I thought it was terrific, great days, great venue, Santa Anita did a really good job. I thought the fans were terrific. The whole thing was great.”
Martin Garcia and his agent, Tony Matos, endured a frustratingly disappointing meet with only one win from 46 rides through 22 days, thanks in large part to a separation mandate meted out for several months by Bob Baffert.
The drought ended with a bang Saturday when Garcia guided Baffert trainee Drefong to a 1 ¼-length victory over favored Masochistic in the $1.5 million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Garcia’s other win this meet also was for Baffert, aboard Air Pocket, who was dropping from a maiden allowance race into a $25,000 claimer on Oct.20, returning $4.20 as the favorite.
“We’re very grateful to Bob for letting us back in his barn,” an appreciative Matos said. “Hopefully, it will last forever.”
Gary Stevens was not a happy camper after being fined $500 by California Horse Racing Board stewards for not honoring his 10th race commitment Friday on Mr. Roary. The Hall of Fame rider was fulfilling a prior obligation, that of holding a Breeders’ Cup media conference following his Distaff victory on Beholder in the previous race.
In the nine Breeders’ Cup races run yesterday, only one American-born jockey won, Mike Smith aboard Finest City in the Filly & Mare Sprint and on Arrogate in the Classic.
Smith extended his lead for all-time Breeders’ Cup victories to 25 with three wins over the weekend. His mounts earned $5,345,345 elevating his record total to $34,280,605, more than $11 million over his closest pursuer, John Velazquez.
Smith also won his third Bill Shoemaker Award presented to the most outstanding jockey in the Breeders’ Cup Championships. He previously won in 2012 and 2013, also at Santa Anita.
There were six winning Pick 6 tickets Saturday, each worth $292,423.20, thanks to a two-day carryover of $511,261 and an influx of $4,053,425 in fresh money on Saturday.
ESPINOZA PONDERS WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
Victor Espinoza was back on the beat at Santa Anita Sunday morning after having the chance to sleep on California Chrome’s harrowing half-length defeat by Arrogate in the Classic. Immediately after the race, while still astride California Chrome, he told an on-track interviewer that perhaps he should have moved sooner on America’s Horse.
Sunday morning, he had second thoughts.
“When you lose, you think too much, going over in your mind what you might have done differently,” he said. “I could have done that, I could have done this, but at the end of the day, if I moved early, I still might have lost. Then I’m thinking, no, maybe I should have waited longer.
“It’s one of those things; Chrome ran a big race. You can’t think too much about the fact that he got beat.
“The crowd was awesome, all the Chromies were here to see him and support him. The most important thing is he came out of the race safe and sound and we’ll go for the next one.”
Noted 84-year-old Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally on Espinoza’s post-race interview: “It was the only time I ever saw Victor not smiling.”
All in all, however, Espinoza took it in stride, and perhaps channeled his “inner Yogi Berra,” saying, “When you lose, you can’t win.”
FINISH LINES: Joe Talamo took off his scheduled mounts today to spend time at Huntington Memorial Hospital with his wife, Elizabeth, who gave birth to a son, Vincent James, at 10:20 Sunday morning. The bouncing baby boy weighed in at seven pounds, seven ounces and was 20 inches long . . . Today’s fourth race is named the Happy Trails Junior Hungerford in honor of Hungerford retiring after 42 years on the starting gate crew . . . Rafael Bejarano has been suspended three racing days (Nov. 13, 17 and 18) for causing interference on Kona Dream in the first race on Oct. 30 . . . Former trainer Paco Gonzalez was a visitor during Breeders’ Cup weekend.
PHOTO COURTESY OF BREEDERS’ CUP / ECLIPSE SPORTSWIRE
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Friday, Nov. 4)|
|Norberto Arroyo, Jr.||98||18||14||14||18%||47%||$763,758|
|Robert Hess, Jr.||20||4||2||4||20%||50%||$141,755|