Recognizing the best of the rest from the Breeders' Cup

November 13, 2018 08:58am

After each edition, we celebrate the winners of the Breeders' Cup. It's what we do, because America loves a champion. Of course, they can't all finish first. As has become tradition on these pages, I would like to recognize the horses who may not have won earlier this month at Churchill Downs but nonetheless ran huge.

Let's start with what I believe was the biggest performance of all among non-winners.
Magical has always been a solid filly running middle distances in Europe, but since Aidan O'Brien stretched her out to 12 furlongs, she has taken things up to a new and exciting level. After a decent run in the Arc, all the 3-year-old daughter of Galileo has done in the last month has been sensational. She was electrifying winning on Champions Day at Ascot, but in America, she was even better.

Magical stormed between horses in the Breeders' Cup Turf and ran her heart out all the way to the Churchill Downs wire. It should have been enough to win, but alas, there was Enable. She gave the great one all she wanted, but it was not quite enough to pull of the upset. You will note, however, that Magical finished a full nine lengths ahead of third-place finisher, Sadler's Joy, in the 13-horse field.

Speaking of the turf, how about a shoutout to perhaps the most unlucky loser of all. Uncle Benny turned in a huge performance in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. With only a pair of sprints as experience, the Jason Servis charge just missed in his stretch out to a mile over a drying out Churchill Downs turf course. The margin of victory was one thing, but a look at the running line speaks volumes to how well he ran. Bobbled at the break, steadied hard, carried out, and bumped again were all part of his trip. Finally, Benny got no love from the stewards. At least his future looks bright.

Of course, the biggest race of all at the Breeders' Cup is the Classic. It was a race in which Accelerate proved once and for all that he is America's best dirt horse. Behind him, though, there were several strong performances. The most notable came from the runner-up,
Gunnevera. While it's true that the 4-year-old son of Dialed In has still never won the big one, he continues to run strong races, and this year's Classic may have been his best yet.

Coming off a wide trip, when second in the Grade 1 Woodward in his most recent start, the Antonio Sano-trained chestnut found a different route this time. Bumped hard at the break, he settled into his usual position near the back of the pack early. Weaving through traffic, Gunnevera began to pick things up on the far turn, and by the stretch he was really rolling. The winner was resolute, but the wire just came a little too early for the longshot late runner.

On the female side of things,
Wow Cat also shined on Breeders' Cup Saturday. A superstar down in Chile, the daughter of Lookin At Lucky looked good, but not great in her first two starts in the U.S., both of which came at Saratoga. In her last two, though, it seems like the South American filly has begun to find her best stride. A rousing winner of the Grade 1 Beldame in her final prep, she flew home from way back in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. She only got within a length of the champion Monomoy Girl on the wire, but going from 11th and last to second in the final three furlongs was enough to know that this import is for real.

Demonstrating that you don't have to finish second to make this list,
Marley's Freedom also deserves mention. That might seem odd, considering she ran fourth as a big favorite in the Filly & Mare Sprint, but I thought the performance was strong. She broke a little slow and was thus farther back than ever before in the big field. When she did come running, it was widest of all, losing key ground to her competition. Marley's Freedom kept coming, ultimately falling just a half-length short of winning on the wire. I believed she was the best female sprinter going in, and nothing I saw that Saturday changed my mind.

Another sprinter who ran a bang-up race in defeat on Saturday was
World of Trouble. Giving away gobs of experience to the defending champion of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, the pair threw down in a memorable stretch battle. In the end, Stormy Liberal proved too tough to deny once again, but how about the race run by the colt on his inside? The speed ratings came back big, and the rest of the field was left in their wake. In only three starts on the grass, this speedy son of Kantharos has proven to be as talented a turf sprinter as we've seen this year.

Finally, let's close this out with
Wild Illusion. Clearly one of the best 3-year-old turf fillies in the world made a winning move in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Unfortunately for her, it was ultimately denied in the final strides by a superlative run by the older mare, Sistercharlie. On what turned out to be a great day for the European fillies, Wild Illusion may have been lost in the excitement, but she came across the pond and ran her race in front of an appreciative American crowd.

These were my favorite performances among all those defeated at the Breeders' Cup, but surely there were many more who earned honorable mention at the World Championships. What were your favorite performances in defeat?


comments powered by Disqus

Related Pages

ZATT's Star of the Week

Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

Best of the Blogs

Top Stories