Breeders' Cup joy and pain

November, 12, 2010
LOUISVILLE, KY -- I haven't sat on a horse since I sat on Blame in the Churchill Downs winner's circle after the Breeders' Cup Classic.

People say, "Oh, poor Garrett, you hurt your shoulder!"

But it's kind of funny. I never have time to really take a huge victory in, it's always on to the next step, let's go, let's go, let's go. The fact that I haven't been able to ride another race since we beat Zenyatta gives me a chance to relive that thrill, to let it sink it. I always appreciate my victories, but this is one you want to really enjoy.

Going into this race, I was very confident in my runner. I wrote that I thought I had a horse that could beat Zenyatta, if any horse could. But we didn't know if that was possible, and you can't be overly-confident and talk yourself into a hole. You want to have faith in the team you're on and the horse you're on, but actions speak louder than words. You have to let the horse do it and let him prove himself, and that's what happened.

When we got to the wire, I thought I won. Then I looked across and I thought, 'Man, she's so big! She's so far away from me! I think I might have won, but …' I didn't want to look like an idiot by celebrating if I didn't win. Galloping out, Mike said, 'Did you win?' I said, 'I think so …' and when he asked me, it got me second-guessing some more, because she's so huge and you couldn't tell how far ahead her stride was reaching out, and where exactly was the wire. So I just waited, and waited, and then I heard Trevor Denman in the background saying, " … and second was Zenyatta," and I finally got a chance to get excited.

People will have all sorts of comments about Horse of the Year. Here's the only one I'll write. How can you discount Blame? She'd never been beaten. He's the only one to beat her. When you look at her, the only name you'll ever see in front of her is his. They met one time, and he beat her. And this horse is a special horse. We talked about him all year -- you read everything I had to say about him.

Just a word about Al Stall Jr., who is an unbelievable horseman: everything he told me about this horse was dead-on. He knows his runners inside and out, and it's been a pleasure to work with him. It's also special for Claiborne Farm to have a horse like this on their 100th anniversary. They have so much history over there, so it's very gratifying to win for somebody that's been a part of racing -- great racing -- and part of the Thoroughbred world for so long.

Now don't take any of that as a knock against Zenyatta. I wouldn't be afraid to go get my picture taken with her. She's a champion, the best mare seen in years. They kept her around as a 6-year-old, which was great for racing, and even though I beat her, do you know how many times I've seen her go by me? It makes me appreciate how hard it was to beat her even more. This time I got to stay in front.

Seven days ago, if you'd asked me, "How do you like your chances in the Breeders' Cup?" I wouldn't have even known how to answer. I was on a horse going into the turn, business as usual for a Thursday afternoon at Churchill Downs. I'd started to squeeze her a little, getting ready to make our move. I got her to switch leads and then about three jumps after, it was just "POW!" It surprised me, totally caught me off guard. She was perfectly sound and then gone. When she fell, I was thrown about five or 10 yards in front of her, and she rolled and landed on my right shoulder. How she didn't do more damage, I don't know. But thank God she got off me fairly quickly. And off to the hospital I went.

Nothing was broken, so on Friday I rode one before the Breeders' Cup races. I'll be honest with you, I was in a lot of pain. I'd had different instructions from different doctors -- one said "Whirlpool!" and one said, "Ice!" So I was going ice, ice, ice, heat, ice, heat, back and forth. I won the Juvenile Fillies Turf with More Than Real, and all-in-all I thought, "This isn't going to be so bad."

The second day it was worse. I was sore, things were hurting. I pumped a lot of Aspirin, but after I won the Juvenile Turf with Pluck, I was struggling badly. Luckily, I had four races to figure something out, so I worked on it, stretching it out, maneuvering, messing with it. I iced it for two hours and threw some kind of spray freeze on it before I rode the Classic, which made it feel more like when I started the day.

It reminded me of when I rode one year and fell at the old Sportsman's Park in Chicago. These horses fell in front of me and I was on a horse that was last. He propped when he saw the spill, just stuck them in the ground and stopped like a cutting horse. I went flying and landed on my shoulder. I thought I was okay and I rode the rest of the day, but when I went home that night it was still hurting badly. I'd fractured my shoulder, and when I went to the doctor they told me I'd be out a month. I said, "I can't be out a month!" I rode the whole meet like that and tried not to move it that much. I couldn't pick my arm up to hit a horse right-handed, so I hit everything left-handed the whole meet and ended up second-leading rider, making up ground on Mark Guidry.

Today I'm going to have my shoulder looked at by an orthopedic specialist in Los Angeles. I've had some difficulties over the past few days getting my arm past my hip -- I really can only lift it about as high as my waist. It hurts to move it forward, so we'll have him take a look and see what kind of treatment we can pursue to make it better.

In spite of it all, the past week has been one of the best weeks I've ever had. I get to spend time with my wife and kids. I've got some great, promising runners for the future. And last Saturday, I was a part of history. What could be better than that?



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