JC / Railbird


Breeders’ Cup Scenes

Photos from the first half of Breeders’ Cup 2011 week at Churchill Downs …

Gio Ponti takes in the early morning track activity.

Midday (center) and company return from galloping.

Turallure pauses at the top of the chute.

Goldikova heads to the track.

Goldikova kicks up her feet a little. Harmonious is at right.

Trainer Freddy Heads talks to the press after Goldikova comes off the track. He confirmed that the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Mile would be her final race. Asked what he hoped for on Saturday, he replied, “I want her to get a good run.”

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, outside his barn with retired Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day, reminisces about Breeders’ Cup races past.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile contender Creative Cause plays around during his bath.

Flat Out in his stall. He looks sweet, doesn’t he? As though he’d like you to come over and give him a pat. I would have, but was warned off — apparently he’s a biter. Even trainer Scooter Dickey gets nipped by the big horse.

“Go Scooter! Go Scooter!” Well wishes for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Havre de Grace gets a mint from owner Rick Porter.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile favorite Union Rags, out to graze.

Game on Dude exits the track after galloping.

Outside Bob Baffert’s Churchill Downs barn.

And for a little fun! The Breeders’ Cup Classic contender cartoons.

Goldikova: That’s It?

While recognizing that once Triple Crown season is over, it’s the handicap horses that take up the Glamour Division mantle, I think Vic Zast is being a little dismissive of Goldikova as a story for promoting the Breeders’ Cup:

It would be fun to be a bug on the wall in the Breeders’ Cup offices. Having a star to promote your event provides you a leg up. But, right now, at least, there doesn’t seem to be any available. If you think the three-year-old division, the main source of Breeders’ Cup promotional currency, is weak, then you probably believe the handicap division is bankrupt. If the Breeders’ Cup was smart it would send representatives to England today to talk the owners and trainers of Royal Ascot runners to plan ahead for Louisville this November. The unbeaten Frankel, of course, would serve ideally to sub for Zenyatta as publicity fodder. As of now, nonetheless, what the Breeders’ Cup has is Goldikova — that’s it.

Not “that’s it,” but “that’s it!” A globe-trotting champion and three-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner on track for a fourth consecutive victory, she’s a huge story, with a terrific international hook. She’s a gift, not an also-ran.

(Disclosure: I’m working with the Breeders’ Cup on a BC Classic website, set to launch early in July. The opinions here are my own.)

Plans for Goldikova

Trainer Freddie Head, at Meydan for Dubai World Cup day, outlined a likely campaign for the 6-year-old champion mare:

“We will try and run in the same races as last year, starting off in the Prix d’Ispahan and then the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot.

“One of the big plans is the Jacques Le Marois again and the Breeders’ Cup.

“If she wins the Breeders’ Cup she could go for the Hong Kong Mile as she will not run next year.”

It’s going to be quite a valedictory world tour.

The Week That Was

A few photos and videos from Breeders’ Cup week at Churchill Downs …

The sun rose late each morning at Churchill Downs. Here’s Filly and Mare Turf contender Harmonious, going out for exercise in a dark and chilly hour.

Unrivaled Belle at Churchill Downs
Ladies’ Classic winner Unrivaled Belle, with jockey Kent Desormeaux up, before working four furlongs at Churchill on Monday morning.

Big Drama
Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Big Drama on the track Tuesday morning.

Blind Luck paddock schooling
Ladies’ Classic favorite Blind Luck schooling in the Churchill paddock.

Boys at Tosconova
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Boys at Tosconova on the Churchill track.

Trainer Rick Dutrow watching BAT gallop
Trainer Rick Dutrow watching Boys at Tosconova gallop.

Goldikova returning to the barn.

Trainer Freddie Head talking with the media
Trainer Freddie Head talking with reporters outside Goldikova’s Churchill barn on Wednesday. “I’m very confident,” said Head of the mare’s chances to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile again.

Paco Boy
Breeders’ Cup Mile contender Paco Boy out for training on Friday.

Workforce walking the turf course on Friday. The Arc winner was a late scratch from the Breeders’ Cup Turf on Saturday due to trainer Michael Stoute’s concerns about the condition of the surface.

Zenyatta, in the Churchill Downs chute on Thursday morning, walks by with her pony. This may be my favorite 10 seconds of video, ever.

Zenyatta coming off the track on Thursday.

Andrew Rosen and Frankie Dettori
Andrew Rosen, owner of Theyskens’ Theory, and rider Frankie Dettori before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Friday. The filly, sent off as the 5-1 second favorite, finished sixth. Dettori won the Breeders’ Cup Turf on Saturday with trainer Brian Meehan’s Dangerous Midge.

Goldikova, garlanded, paraded, and cheered after winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile for a historic third time. View from the press box balcony.

Breeders' Cup Classic
The Breeders’ Cup Classic field going to post. Tense moments watching.

From Chantilly

Honestly, these French.” Honestly, have I mentioned lately how much I enjoy reading Chris McGrath’s Independent columns? Today’s piece comes from Goldikova’s barn, where trainer Freddie Head took questions about the 5-year-old mare who may beat Zenyatta to the punch as the first horse to win three consecutive Breeders’ Cup races. Not that anything is to be assumed. “Gio Ponti, if he runs, will be the one to beat this year I suppose,” Head told the Racing Post, speculating on possible challengers in the Mile.

Awards Trivia

Goldikova has surpassed Canford Cliffs in the running for this year’s Cartier Awards Horse of the Year. A record third win in the Breeders’ Cup Mile will clinch it, just as a second straight win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic will assure Zenyatta of the Eclipse Awards Horse of the Year title. If both win, it’ll be the first time in the 20 years that the European and American awards have existed concurrently that mares are named HOTY in the same year. It’ll also be the second time in three years for both the Cartier and Eclipse awards that a female horse is named Horse of the Year. Not quite two years after Foolish Pleasure dubbed 2008 the first “Year of the Chick,” distaffers are still on a roll.

What It’s All About

1) Zenyatta running her record to a perfect 19 in the G1 Lady’s Secret Stakes. “Everything was a blur to me,” trainer John Shirreffs told Steve Andersen after the race. “Where’s the wire? You’re looking at her, looking at the wire. I can’t begin to describe it.” Much like the 2009 Clement Hirsch at Del Mar, the Lady’s Secret looked lost in the final yards. Until it wasn’t.

2) Goldikova winning her eleventh Group/Grade 1 race in the Prix de la Foret. Challenged by Paco Boy and Dick Turpin in the stretch, she gamely dominated going over soft ground. She’s now headed to the Breeders’ Cup, where she’ll attempt to win the Mile for an unprecedented third time.

We are living in a small ‘golden age’ — let’s call it a gilded age,” writes Steve Dennis. “We had Zarkava, Sea The Stars, Rachel Alexandra. We have Zenyatta and Goldikova. These are true champions, these horses who win again and again, beating the best around.” Let’s enjoy.

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