Highs and lows at the 2012 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita:
He not only had to beat an exceptional European horse in Excelebration, but also a Kentucky Derby winner in Animal Kingdom in the Mile. He did so with style, winning the $2 million race and likely grabbing the Horse of the Year title in the process.
Worst (Good) Horse: Awesome Feather
An undefeated horse, a champion, a Breeders' Cup winner, and she didn't run a step, finishing sixth in the Ladies' Classic.
Best Trip: Hightail
By getting back in the Breeders' Cup winner's circle for the first time since 2005, trainer Wayne Lukas was a big story in the Juvenile Sprint. But Lukas couldn't have gotten it done without a perfect ride from Rajiv Maragh. The horse, a maiden coming, never left the fence, closing up a hole on the rail to kick off Breeders' Cup 29.
Worst Trip: Animal Kingdom
Watch the race. As good as Wise Dan was, Animal Kingdom wins the Mile if he doesn't have a horrible trip. If this horse stays healthy, he is going to have a huge, huge, huge 2013.
Best Ride: Mike Smith in the Ladies' Classic
He rode Royal Delta like he knew she was tons the best, even in this loaded field, and he was right. Rather than letting someone else take charge, he took her right to the front and dared anyone to catch him.
Worst Ride: Pat Valenzuela on Merit Man
In the Juvenile Sprint, P-Val broke like a rocket and could have immediately opened up on the field. Instead, he gathered his horse up and let just about everyone catch up to him, throwing away what was a big advantage. Then he opened the rail for Hightail, gift-wrapping the victory for him.
Best Race: The Ladies' Classic
Three Breeders' Cup winners, three champions, two undefeated horses, serious Grade I types who went off at double-digit odds and a great performance from Royal Delta.
Worst Race: The Juvenile Sprint
Five horses, one of whom was a $20,000 claimer. The winner was a maiden. They can't pull the plug on this fiasco soon enough.
Best Training Job: Richard Mandella
The crafty Hall of Famer made a risky decision, opting for the Juvenile Fillies for Beholder, when she would have been 1-99 in the Juvenile Sprint. Obviously, he knew what he was doing when he went for the prestige and the big bucks. And he got a fast horse who had never gone a distance to handle the move to a mile and a sixteenth with ease.
Worst Training Job: Bob Baffert
It just goes to show you that even the great ones can have a bad few days. Baffert sent out eight horses, all of them very live on paper. Only one (Executivepriviledge) hit the board.
Best Handicapping Job: Pick Six Players
The people who came up with Tapizar, Little Mike and Trinniberg to nail the Pick Six deserve every penny of the $419,254 they won.
Worst Handicapping Job: Amazombie Fans
Last year, Amazombie won the Ancient Title and was sent off at 7-1 before winning the Sprint. This year, he was a dud in the same race but was bet down to 7-2 favoritism in the Sprint. He finished eighth.
Best Touch: Tony Bennett
Having Bennett serenade the crowd as the field was coming on the track for the Classic. Very nice.
Worst Touch: Nothing
Santa Anita is a great place to host the Breeders' Cup, and it was two days of great racing amid perfect weather.
Best Kentucky Derby Prospect: Shanghai Bobby
That's easy. He'll enter next year as an undefeated champion and proved in the Juvenile that he's a fighter, too. But let's make He's Had Enough a close second. In his first career start on dirt, he had a brutal trip under Mario Gutierriez and lost by just a head. Looks like the team of Doug O'Neill, Paul Reddam and Gutierriez has another serious Derby contender.
Worst Kentucky Derby Prospect: Title Contender
Took the lead in the Juvenile and collapsed. Doesn't look like a mile and a quarter will be his game.
Best Person To Write Nothing But Nice Things About: Carlo Vaccarezza
Vaccarezza is the breeder of Turf winner Little Mike, and the horse is owned by his wife, Priscilla. Vaccarezza was once the driver for John Gotti. Mr. Vaccarezza ... congratulations on a great victory by this great horse, and I am certain he never would have amounted to anything if not for your immense skills as a breeder. And if he doesn't win an Eclipse Award, it wasn't me who voted against him.