This year would be my first ever, live Breeders' Cup and as the weekend of November 4/5, 2011 approached I could not help but let my hopes and expectations soar to the sky. The only track I had ever been to was Delaware Park, my home track, and a beautiful track, but this was Churchill Downs…this was the Breeders Cup, it was a whole different ball game. Instead of only one or two great horses there would be droves of them. Instead of one or two big races you had a day filled with action packed, star studded fields. It was my first Breeders Cup and I was going to let my expectations soar.
The races did not disappoint. Friday was definitely chilly, that was until the sun finally peeked out for a couple of hours, only to disappear after a few short hours, leaving the fans craving hot apple cider and tasty hot chocolate…not an ice cold beer. However, braving the cold was worth it all. I got to see a star in the making, My Miss Aurelia ran her rivals right off their feet, ending her campaign a perfect four for four. Royal Delta also asserted her dominance when she easily overtook It’s Tricky and drew away effortlessly. The last highlight of Friday was the sunset. You had to be there, but if you were, as you looked westward you saw one of the most visually stunning and beautiful sunsets that could be.
Saturday promised to be even better, and it was. As our national anthem sounded through the air, fans could look up and see the Golden Knights floating down, one by one, out of the sky. The feeling during that moment was almost surreal. Even with the losses of Goldikova and Uncle Mo, I still say that the day brought as much excitement as a Breeders Cup can. My two favorite races from Saturday were the Dirt Mile and the Juvenile. In the Dirt Mile there was not one person that thought Shackleford didn’t have the race won at the eighth pole, that was until Caleb’s Posse found an overdrive gear that left the entire field looking like they were all tied to the fence. The Juvenile was a formful as could be asked with the top three colts in the nation finishing one, two, three. It was the first two, however, that put on the real show as the unbeaten and untested Hansen held off the late onslaught of the also unbeaten, New York sensation, Union Rags.
After all was said and done, I believe that in some ways the Breeders Cup will crown several unanimous champions, while at the same time it will throw a huge wrench into the sport’s biggest year end award, Horse of the Year. Coming out of the Classic I see Game on Dude and Havre de Grace being the front two, but the picture is still too foggy to give an accurate guess. I would not be surprised to see some come back and try the Clark Handicap. On the flip side I think championships belong to Caleb’s Posse (Sprint), My Miss Aurelia (Juvenile Filly), Hansen (Juvenile Colt), and Royal Delta (Three-Year Old Filly).
Before I sign off, I would like to give a huge thanks to Managing Editor Brian Zipse and founders Mike Shutty and Mark Midland for making it possible for me to attend and meet so many new and wonderful people. These are the type of people who our sport needs to promote, those who care not just about themselves, but about the sport as a whole and realize that everyone has a part to play. I only wish that one day I will be able to give another the same joy they allowed me, the joy that is our sport, horse racing.