As the dust settled Sunday on racing’s biggest stage following the
sixth presentation of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa
Anita amidst the spectacular backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains, the
buzz on the backside was: Who’s going to be Horse of the Year?
Since the “leader in the clubhouse,” Game On Dude, fumbled the
ball in the red zone by finishing seventh as the 13-10 favorite in the
Classic, it opened the door for Wise Dan, who set a turf course record
at Santa Anita, winning the Mile by a length and a half in 1:31.78,
breaking the mark of 1:31.89 set by Atticus in 1997.
Said respected private clocker Gary Young, whose opinions are
rarely under wraps, “Wise Dan over (the filly) Royal Delta. It’s that
kind of year. Game On Dude dropped the ball. Wise Dan’s appearance in
the paddock was unbelievable. He took on Europe’s second-best horse
(Excelebration) and blew him off the race track (fourth by two
Added former top jock and one of racing’s all-time good guys,
Richard Migliore, now lending his expertise on HRTV, “It’s a good
question, but I guess I would have to say Wise Dan. He’s run on turf,
dirt, synthetic and his performance yesterday was amazing, breaking the
track record. Yeah, I guess I’d have to go with Wise Dan.”
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert made the rounds at Clockers’
Corner as usual Sunday morning, facing the music despite a remarkable
turn of events that saw none of his nine Breeders’ Cup starters win,
among them Game On Dude.
There was levity in defeat, however.
Ron McAnally, who delights in using Baffert as a verbal punching
bag, called over a reporter to ask whether he had seen a white-haired
man (Baffert) on top of Mt. Baldy who was ready to jump--without a
With 55,123 fans on hand at Santa Anita Saturday and total
wagering approaching the $100 million mark, all seemed right with the
Sport of Kings. As the late, great philosopher Will Rogers once wrote:
“A man that don’t love a horse, there is something the matter with him.”