Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Breeders' Cup Wrap: Day Two (Beautiful Bluegrass: Day Four)

Afleet Again
Photo by Mary Cage

Day one of the Breeders’ Cup was over. It was Saturday and nine more championship races would be run. The Marathon kicked off Breeders’ Cup Saturday as 41-1 shot Afleet Again upset the mile and three-quarters race. I stood at the rim of the winner’s circle as the gray son of Afleet Alex entered the winner’s circle, snapping my pictures before the four-year-old gelding headed back to the barns.
After watching the Irish-bred Wrote cross the wire victoriously in the Juvenile Turf, I took a picture of the strikingly beautiful colt in the winner’s circle. Though the colt’s win was spectacular, my mind (and heart) was set on the next race.
Though I want to have a career in the racing business, I am a fan and horse lover first. I care more about the safety of and affection for the horse than anything. In the upcoming race, the Sprint, was one of my personal favorites, Euroears. However, it was not Euroears' day. Rather, the California-bred Amazombie came away with the win.

Photo by Mary Cage

The sting of Euroears finishing last was eased slightly by the fact that my favorite jockey, Mike Smith, had pulled off the victory. His win in the Sprint gave him his fourteenth Breeders’ Cup triumph, which put him in second behind Jerry Bailey for the number of Breeders’ Cup wins.
The Turf Sprint, run in a final time of 56.48 for a distance of five furlongs, was won by Regally Ready. He became the only favorite to win on Saturday and gave jockey Corey Nakatani his second Breeders’ Cup victory of the weekend. Again, I stood alongside the winner’s circle as Regally Ready entered the winner’s circle, draped in a purple and gold blanket of flowers.
Next up was one of the Breeders’ Cup races I anticipated the most: the Dirt Mile. Shackleford, a colt I had followed since his maiden, fascinated me as he moved energetically through the post parade. Yet it was the very talented Caleb’s Posse that came away with the win, crossing the finish line four lengths ahead. I recorded him entering the winner’s circle prior to snapping pictures of him inside the winner’s enclosure.

A lily from St. Nicholas
Abbey's blanket of
Photo by Mary Cage
Then it was time for the Turf, which ended up being one of the most entertaining Breeders’ Cup races. Aidan O’Brien’s son, Joseph O’Brien, became the youngest jockey to ever be victorious in a Breeders’ Cup race when he won by over two lengths aboard St. Nicholas Abbey. At 5’11”, Joseph likely does not have much time left to ride flat races, but no matter how abbreviated his career, he will always have a Breeders’ Cup win under his belt. The race, which was already special, became even more special when I received a white lily that had fallen off of St. Nicholas Abbey’s blanket of flowers. Someday I hope to win an entire Breeders’ Cup blanket of flowers, but I can always look back and remember that I received a flower from one of those blankets.
Photo by Mary Cage

When I look back on the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, I smile and chuckle. At the same time, I get an earache. As the horses loaded into the starting gate, a large group of people appeared between our seats and the winner’s circle, standing just behind me. They screamed at the top of their lungs the entire race and by obtaining bits and pieces of their conversation, I realized they were cheering for Hansen. In a thrilling stretch duel, Hansen held off a drifting-out Union Rags. I was slightly upset that the Michael Matz trainee had not gotten up in time, in part because I had met Matz and received his autograph earlier that day, but the joy of the people around me wore off on me. Come to find out, they were part of Hansen’s connections.
As the next race approached, tension rose. Goldikova was going for her fourth straight Mile win. However, it was not meant to be. Court Vision narrowly pulled off a huge upset at 64-1, defeating Turallure by a slim nose. Goldikova crossed the wire in third, but an objection by Patrick Valenzuela aboard Courageous Cat was lodged against Olivier Peslier aboard the great mare. The stewards decided to make no change. The decision must have angered many bettors and connections, but when it was announced that no change would be made, a cheer went up from the crowd. Goldikova had already lost; her fans did not want to see her taken down.
As the sun sank lower and lower, the Classic horses made their way to the saddling paddock. Classy horse after classy horse passed me. My eyes locked on Havre de Grace, Uncle Mo, Flat Out, and Drosselmeyer. I began feeling extremely excited. I was seeking redemption from the year before, when I had witnessed with devastation Zenyatta fall short in the Classic.

Photo: Terri Cage
It worked out beautifully. Drosselmeyer, who I had picked off of looks and class, swept by everyone in late stretch to win. As soon as the striking chestnut finished ahead of every horse, I pumped my fist in the air. I was trembling with bliss. Drosselmeyer had won! Redemption had come for not just me, but for Mike Smith as well. One year after Zenyatta’s heartbreaking loss, Drosselmeyer captured the $5 million race to give Mike Smith and many Zenyatta fans, including me, some consolation. Not only did the copper-colored Thoroughbred gallop into the history books, he galloped into my heart and ran a race that I will never forget and will always hold dear to my heart.

Drosselmeyer and Mike Smith after winning the Classic
Video by Mary Cage

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