Going into the 2012
Breeders’ Cup there was so much talk about the poor performance of the eastern-based
horses when the Cup is held on the west coast. There was good reason for all
that talk because historically the horses from the east have not faired well at
Hollywood Park or on Santa Anita’s dirt or artificial surfaces.
This Breeders’ Cup turned
out to be the year when the horses from the east would finally prove that they
could win in the west. Win is what they did. In total horses from the east were
victorious in 10 out of 15 races including both the Ladies Classic with Royal Delta and the Classic with Fort Larned.
On Saturday the eastern-based
runners took seven out of nine races including the final five marqee events:
the Juvenile, the Turf, the Sprint, the Mile, and the Classic. The final count
had the east winning 10, while the west and the Europeans could only find the
winner’s circle twice each. A South American based horse, Calidiscopio, won for the first time in Breeders’ Cup history in
The dominance of the
horses from the east seemed unlikely when Hurricane Sandy made it very
difficult for the horses to even get to Santa Anita. The storm delayed some of the final workouts and caused many of the
horses to arrive as late as Wednesday.
The poor performance of
the horses from the west fell squarely on the shoulders of trainer Bob Baffert.
He entered the Breeders’ Cup with a barn the appeared to be loaded with
contenders, many of which were sent off as betting favorites. Yet only Executiveprivilege performed well,
taking second in the Juvenile Fillies, which was won by a westcoaster, Beholder.
Baffert was full of blame
and excuses. He talked about poor starts, bad luck, and blamed jockeys. “They
all got beat in the first quarter-mile. It was all about position. If you don’t
get position, you are in trouble. And none of my horses seemed to get that.”
The star of the stable, Game On Dude, ended up in a field that
was filled with top-notch runners and Baffert said, “I was looking at all those
other horses and they knocked me out. And there were some really serious horses
in that field; some really good lookers and some really good runners. That Fort
Larned and Mucho Macho Man, they’re good horses. Game On Dude hasn’t been
running against horses like that.” That is what the Classic is all about: winning
against the best horses in the world.
Why was this the year when the
horses from the east finally did so well?
The new dirt track at Santa Anita was very hard and speed favoring and
provided conditions of which the easterners were very familiar. I remember jockey
Mike Smith making a comment, after Royal Delta had won the Beldame at Belmont
Park, that turned out to be rather insightful. He said that the new surface at
Santa Anita was very sandy and quite similar to the track at Belmont.
All in all it appears that
the domination of the east in the Breeders’ Cup is going to lead to a lot of
Eclipse Awards with Wise Dan leading
the way as Horse of the Year.