Monday, November 7, 2011

Breeders' Cup Wrap: Day One (Beautiful Bluegrass: Day Three)

The track was very wet as the horses exercised over it early in the morning, jogging clockwise and galloping counter-clockwise. The Twin Spires loomed nearby as Breeders’ Cup horses made their final preparations over the track on Friday morning. I watched in awe of the famous Thoroughbreds until it was time to leave.
We weren’t going very far, though. We were soon in the Kentucky Derby Museum for the Zenyatta Luncheon. My excitement grew as I waited for the great mare’s connections to arrive and before long, I turned to see my favorite jockey, Mike Smith, standing just a few yards away. Finally, I would get to meet him in person.
I walked up to him, two Blood-Horse magazines with Zenyatta on the cover and a Sharpie in hand. After snapping a picture for him and his grandmother, he signed my magazines and I gave him a big hug, a gigantic grin stretching across my face and tears of joys filling my eyes. I never imagined I would get to receive an autograph and hug from Mike Smith.
My autographed Blood-Horse magazines
Photo by Mary Cage
Not long after I met Mike Smith, trainer John Shirreffs appeared. He kindly signed my Blood-Horse magazines and when I complimented him on Zenyatta, he simply said, “She’s just amazing, isn’t she?”
I later received autographs from Ann and Jerry Moss, as well as from Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs. I was breathless the entire time. I’d dreamed of meeting Zenyatta’s connections, but I never imagined it would happen. Needless to say, I was on cloud nine.
Then it was time for the race card on the first day of Breeders’ Cup 2011 to get underway. My family and I headed to our seats, ready to watch some incredible racing. As we emerged from under the grandstand, I caught my breath. Straight across from me was the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle and just to my left was the main winner’s circle. As we were seated, I glanced behind me and looked up, only to be left even more breathless. It was one of the best views I’d ever seen. The Twin Spires were just above me.
After four non-Breeders’ Cup races, it was time for the Breeders’ Cup to begin. The first race of the world championships was one I was looking forward to the most: the inaugural running of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint. The heavy favorite in the race was my favorite two-year-old, Secret Circle.

Secret Circle in the
post parade for
the Juvenile Sprint
Photo by Mary Cage

I had followed the colt since his maiden (Juvenile Spotlight: Secret Circle) and was looking forward to seeing him in person. Despite not handling the track that was labeled ‘good’ very well, Secret Circle defeated Shumoos by a length. I stood along the rail for the race, as well as while the bay colt entered the winner’s circle. It was thrilling to be so close to my favorite colt as he won the first Breeders’ Cup race of 2011.
In the next race, talented turf fillies took the stage in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. In that race, Stephanie’s Kitten got up in late stretch under John Velazquez to pass Stopshoppingmaria. I again watched from the edge of the winner’s circle, smiling as I saw the joyous celebration of the winning filly’s connections.
As the upcoming race, the Filly & Mare Sprint, approached, many thought it would be Turbulent Descent’s for the taking. However, it was Musical Romance that received the blanket of flowers. I had considered picking the Calder-based filly, but I guess the star potential of the other fillies got to me. Though it was surprising that Turbulent Descent finished fifth, it didn’t shock me at all that the 20-1 shot pulled off the upset.
With the next race came the appearance of a superstar. My Miss Aurelia, a filly I had followed since before her maiden race, defeated a talented field by three lengths. I already knew My Miss Aurelia would make a big impression, but after watching her win the Juvenile Fillies, I felt that she will become something very special.
The Filly & Mare Turf was quite similar to last year, resulting in a longshot taking the race. Perfect Shirl, under John Velazquez, held off several other females as the horses headed towards the wire to score the upset.

Royal Delta winning the Ladies' Classic
Photo: Terri Cage

Then it was time for Friday’s headliner. As the sun sank beyond the horizon and the bright lights shone down on Churchill, the field for the Ladies’ Classic headed towards the paddock. I stood along the rail, just a few feet from the classy fillies and mares that passed by me: Miss Match, Pachattack, It’s Tricky, Satans Quick Chick, Ask the Moon, Royal Delta, Ultra Blend, Plum Pretty, and Super Espresso.

In one of the most incredible racing moments I’ve witnessed in person, I stood along the rail near the finish line as Royal Delta easily swept past the other fillies and mares to win by 2 ½ lengths. It was one of the most effortless races of the weekend. I continued to stand at my spot along the rail, watching as the classy filly entered the winner’s circle just a few feet from me. Like many of the moments I had spent in Kentucky, the experience of being so close to Royal Delta before, during, and after the race was breathtaking.
Royal Delta after winning the Ladies' Classic
Video by Mary Cage

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1 comment:

  1. You are so lucky...I am so envious!! I hope to meet Team Zenyatta some day!! Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful experience!!