Classy Racing – Breeders Cup while Sport Horse Competition Sinks Under Covid

Keenland in Kentucky – This year’s host for the Breeders Cup Series

While the protagonists continue their squalid arguments over who should be the President of The Dis-united States on January 20th 2021, in the republican state of Kentucky, the Breeder’s Cup series of races continued unabated this Friday and Saturday. In the sport horse world, the Bordeaux leg of the World Cup dressage and showjumping succumbed to the covid pandemic leaving only one World Cup event left – Leipzig in Germany – should it go ahead in January. There are now no more 5 star events for either dressage or showjumping for the rest of 2020. Something quite unheard since the inception of the 5 star system!

On Friday, three days after the USA election and still with no result, the juvenile races for colts and fillies gave the world a little relief from the ennui of life. Unlike the septuagenarian race for the White House, there were four Group 1 races for two year olds. Two for fillies only and two for colts and geldings only.

The first of the colts’ races was over a mile on the turf – The Breeders Cup Juvenile presented by Coolmore America saw 14 go to post for the colt’s 1 mile contest. Fire At Will won easily by three lengths, the outsider trained by Michael Maker form the USA. An American bred colt by Declaration of War out of a mare by Kittens Joy. The winner beat home one of the many O’Brien runners over the two day meeting, Battleground the favourite, another USA bred colt, who just squeezed home ahead of Outadore trained by Wesley Ward.

The second Breeders Cup Juvenile was for fillies over 1 mile ½ a furlong, this time on the dirt when 7 runners went to post. With no runners from Europe, the winning connections were bound to be home bred and trained. Vequist, trained by Robert Reid, won by two lengths after tracking the leading Dayoutoftheoffice until the two furlong marker, when she was eased into the lead. Girl Daddy took third who just could not outpace second home, losing by a nose.

The fillies retained the stage for the third race, this time on the turf over a mile with 14 runners taking part. Brad Cox trained the first home Aunt Pearl, who won from pillar to post. Following the clear winner, Mother Earth, trained in Ireland by Aidan O’Brien, ran the race mostly at the rear, but in the final furlong, woke up and made a very strong run for the line beating Miss Amulet by a neck. The first four home were all Irish bred.

The final serving for the day was the colts Breeders Cup Juvenile over 1 mile ½ furlong on the dirt track sponsored by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. Again, with no European interest, the 14 runner affair was an all USA one. Essential Quality took the honours trained by Brad Cox. The horse ran mid field for most of the race before taking the lead in the final furlong by ¾  of a length. In second was Hot Rod Charlie, who in turn comfortably beat Keepmeinmind. All the 14 runners were American bred.

As Friday turned into Saturday, and the race for The White House was called for Democrat Joe Biden while Donald Trump sat in a golf course spending the day sulking and refusing to concede, giving the world some amusement –  at Keenland the main nine Group 1 races of the weekend looked an exciting prospect.

With a mixture of both turf and dirt races, the first was the Breeders Cup Fillies and Mares Sprint over 7 furlongs on the dirt. Again there were no Europeans taking part in the 8 runner race, and again there were none bred in Europe either. Bob Baffert opened his weekend account with the three year old Gamine by a massive six lengths after taking off two furlongs from home. Serengeti Empress was second by a squeak from Bell’s The One.

The  Breeders Cup Sprint over 5 ½ furlongs o the turf, was the race to open the account for the European contingent with Glass Slippers taking the race for Kevin Ryan and breeder/ owners Bearstone Stud. In a blanket finish, Wet Your Whistle was second for the USA as was third home Leinster, the colt sent off favourite, also trained in the USA. There were 14 runners.

In the Big Ass Breeders Cup Dirt Mile, there were 12 runners, and this was again an all American affair. The 4 year old, Knicks Go made all to take the race comfortably by 3 lengths ahead of Jesus’ Team and Sharp Samurai in third. The winner was trained by Brad Cox.

In a doubling of prize money for the next group of races to nearly £800,000 per race, The Fillies Turf Mile sponsored by Maker’s Mark was won unexpectedly by the UK James Fanshawe trained 4 year old Audarya to lead in the final 50 yards from the Chad Brown trained Rushing Fall. In third was another American filly, 3 year old Harvey’s Lil Goil. Most of the European interest was out with the washing, including some well-respected horses this side of the pond – Peaceful and Terebellum who were in the last few home.

The Breeders Cup Sprint over six furlongs on the dirt attracted 14 runners, all from The USA. The winner was Whitmore, who ran mid division until the final furlong or so when he pushed forward and took the race by a comfortable 3 lengths. The seven year old gelding is trained by Ronald Moquett. Second home was C Z Rocket trained by Peter Miller another older horse at six and third was Firenze Fire.

Aiden OBrian – has first three home in the Turf 

Aidan O’Brien made the next race his own by winning it and having the second and third to boot. The Fan Duel Breeders Cup Mile on the turf. There were again 14 runners. Aidan had three runners in the line up with plenty of other competition from  other European trainers. This year’s Newmarket 2000 Guineas winner, Kameko was having his last start for Andrew Balding before being packed off to stud. Siskin was another decent European miler of 2020 lining up. In the event, Order of Australia took a strong hold and the lead, which was his job as the pace maker for Circus Maximus and Lope Y Fernandez, Aidan’s two other runners. However, the pace maker just kept going and at 40/1 took the race with his two stable mates coming in second and third. An extraordinary result for the Irish maestro – even if the horses came in different places from their predicted slots! Neither Kameko nor Siskin showed anything much and were well out the back of the field.

In the Longines Breeders Cup Distaff over 1 mile 1 furlong for fillies and mares, and on the dirt, once again there was no European interest within the 10 runner line up.  Monomoy Girl took the honours by a length for Brad Cox with Vakiance in second and Dunbar Road third.

The final two races of the series are the two main events. The first run over 1 ½ miles, The Longines Breeders Cup Turf saw European interest in Aidan O’Brien’s Magical, such a prolific winner this term, but who has had a long season and Mogul, who has rather disappointed this year, Dermot Weld had Tarnawa, a rather fresher filly and unbeaten this term, and John Gosden sent over both Lord North and Meydaayih for a crack at the £1 ½ million first prize. There were ten runners, all of which received prize money wherever they came, such is the value of the race. William Mott’s Channel Maker took the lead and maintained it until the final furlong when Tarnawa, always held up in the rear came through to take the lead quickly challenged by Magical, who was always in touch. It was Tarnawa who triumphed ahead of Magical by a length. The race leader Channel Maker was third.

The final race of the day, the most prestigious worth over £2.3 million to the winner also had ten runners, all of which were American trained for the 1 mile 2 furlong Longine Breeders Cup Classic on dirt. Bob Baffert had three in the race and saw two of them take the win and second places. Authentic, another prolific scorer in the USA in 2020, took the lead from the start and was not to be denied his glory. Improbable was second having always been kept handy, but had not got the legs to challenge the winner. The third home, also was run near the pace was Global Campaign. The warm favourite and another prolific winner of the year, Tiz The Law ran far to freshly and blew his chances early on.

In a foot note to the top class racing, The auctioneers, Fasig Tipton held their ‘Night of the Stars’ sale. Fresh from her victory, a day earlier in the Breeders Cup Distaff was Monomoy Girl. Obviously she attracted plenty of world interest and was eventually sold for $9.5 million to Spenthrift Farms. The sale saw some extraordinary prices from the 142 individuals going under the hammer with 22 of them selling for over $1 million. The average was in excess of half million dollars and the median was $200,000

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