A thought-provoking Cup
Special to ESPN.com
With my 20/20 hindsight vision, I'm cashing the Pick 6 ticket and am now in
route to Tahiti for a few days.
In reality I sit at the computer relishing the moments and opining about
scenarios that made this Breeders' Cup special.
Now that Bobby Frankel has won a Breeders' Cup, there goes the annual "0-fer"
story. And weren't we all in 100 percent agreement that if he did win only
one race it would be with that cinch Squirtle Squirt in the Sprint?
Not only can Frankel spot a talented runner; he knows how to pick a baseball
card. About a dozen years ago he started collecting them. His prized
possession is a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle valued at $32,000, which he paid $23,000
for. There is no truth to the theory he left Brooklyn for Los Angeles
shortly after the Dodgers to be near his favorite team. But his eyes light
up much the same as a big win when he recalls playing a high school baseball
game in Ebbets Field. Frankel was a star outfielder for Rockaway High. I
forgot to ask but I'll bet he has a Duke Snider card.
Take the subjectivity out of Horse of the Year
Continuing with the baseball theme, a good friend who rarely ventures beyond
the ESPN.com sites of football, baseball and basketball is curious why the
Breeders' Cup Classic winner isn't the Horse of the Year automatically. He
uses a logical analogy that if it's based on the course of the season, not a
definitive race or playoff, the Mariners should be the World Series champs.
Eventually racing must find a point system somewhere between NASCAR and the
BCS to make it easier for everyone to keep up. A few voters shouldn't
determine champions in the big time sports world. Enough said before my
friend asks if "Ichiro Pegasus" is still racing.
Classic horses make humans look good
Jay Robbins won't win the Eclipse for Trainer of the Year, but for a single
job of training one horse he should get a special mention. Tiznow had a
strikingly similar performance to last year, as he became -- by a neck, then a
nose -- the only back-to-back winner of the Classic, beating European stars
both times. And he was .13 faster this year. This after some (blush) thought
he might not have it after the Woodward and Goodwood, sending him off at over
And what was Godolphin thinking? We know it's close to impossible to expect
the Arc de Triomphe winner to come back in a mere twenty days and run a
spectacular race his first time on the dirt. This is a plus for the real
stars of the sport not being able to read. Sakhee also had no comment after
almost pulling off that Arc/Classic double.
Tiznow will get some nods for Horse of the Year, even though Point Given will
be too busy with his new dates at the breeding shed to be there to accept his Eclipse Award as the
Will Xtra Heat finally get some respect?
Speaking of voting though, will many consider Xtra Heat for 3-year-old
filly of the year? How about Sprint champ? Her gutsy seasonal efforts were
no fluke as we saw Breeders' Cup day.
A patriotic moment ... for the Irish
It was one of the most patriotic scenes -- unabashed flag waving and
cheering -- in sports this year as Johannesburg won the
Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Where did they get all those Irish flags?
Watching crusty veteran Michael Kinane fighting back tears as countrymen and
Irish-Americans cheered wildly from the rails just past the winner's circle
was a true moment when all is right with sports.
Juvenile champ: Johannesburg?
Back to voting. It's happened when a European horse wins a Breeders' Cup grass
race and been elected a Turf champ in his only U.S. appearance. Will that
apply to Johannesburg this year with his unbeaten record and dirt race debut
win to become the 2-year-old champ instead of Officer?
A sickening reminder
Didn't you also get that sick-to-your-stomach, 1990-Belmont-Park-flashback
feeling when Exogenous fell on her way to the track? At the time of this
writing, trainer Randy Schulhofer says she is in a crucial phase. It was in
this trying time that the community spirit of racing was heightened. Everyone who had to return to the paddock awaiting the Distaff had that look
of a concerned family member. Jockey Javier Castellano comforting her while
she struggled on the ground was a moving and chilling scene.
The scarlet "S"
Frankie Dettori is overcoming the "S" word. It was three or four minutes
after his flying dismount from Fantastic Light in the winner's circle before
I heard anyone mention Swain.
Sue McPeek's own cheering section
New Yorkers are the best at rooting for those who beat the odds. I had
never, ever, heard a trainer's wife cheered until Sue McPeek and her husband
Kenny were leaving the paddock with juvenile filly Take Charge Lady. "Way to
go Sue McPeek, you're looking great," they shouted. Sue has overcome her
battle with cancer.
Juddmonte joins Frankel in breaking Cup maiden
Dr. John Chandler, racing representative for Juddmonte Farms after the Filly
& Mare Turf win by Banks Hill: "It had been written that there were two
maidens coming into this year's Cup, Bobby Frankel and Juddmonte. That's
over." Coming into Belmont Park, Juddmonte was 0-30 as owner/breeder of Cup
horses. A better scenario would've been a victory by Aptitude to overcome
their streaks together.
Is it the last name?
A prediction, the next female to train a Breeders' Cup winner will be Linda
Rice (no relation).
Lukas still the King of the Cup
The successful, multiple-Eclipse winners Frankel and Bob Baffert have three
Breeders' Cup wins between them. That's no knock, it just makes D. Wayne
Lukas' accomplishments more remarkable. He missed adding to his record 16
Breeders' Cup wins when Spain was headed by Unbridled Elaine, trained by
Lukas protegee Dallas Stewart. Lukas' total is more than twice that of any
Just like the boss
Speaking of protegees, former Baffert assistant Eoin Harty score of the
Exacta with Tempera and Imperial Gesture in the Juvenile Fillies was last
achieved in that race by his old boss when Silverbulletday and Excellent
Meeting ran one-two at Churchill Downs in '98.
Day and Bailey in their own private race
Which brings up other feats of note. Pat Day was aboard the Distaff winner
for his 12th Breeders' Cup win. Just three races later, Jerry Bailey tied him
with 12th Cup win when Squirtle Squirt took the Sprint. Just behind them is
Chris McCarron, who got his 9th career win aboard Tiznow.
'Albert' goes out great
Once more Classic note, just when almost everyone thought he didn't have it
anymore, Albert The Great had a terrific effort for third in the Classic.
Val Royal in need of an agent?
It's been said actor and horse racing enthusiast John Forsythe would rather
win an Eclipse than an Oscar. Writer/producer David Milch is having the best
of both. Val Royal's win in the Mile gives owner Milch two Breeders' Cup wins
to go along with his four Emmy Awards. Look closely during any OTB scenes
coming up on the Milch created " NYPD Blue." When his Gilded Time won the
'92 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, the horse had a cameo on a TV monitor in a
'Kona' still golden to Headley
Finishing Breeders' Cup day, I saw Bruce Headley having dinner in the Garden
City Hotel. He was disappointed naturally about Kona Gold's seventh-place finish
in the Sprint. But just the mention of the horse's great career had Headley
Memories are nice to have and to hold. To the eight winners those are easy to
come by. To everyone else remember how special it was on the road to getting
there. This year's Cup was close to full.