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Breeders’ Cup Wrap-up, 2009

While Zenyatta’s historic win in the Classic seems to eclipse the rest of the two-day event, there were many other interesting storylines – each race stood out in its own way this year.

What a fascinating result – nine-year-old Cloudy’s Knight very nearly got there to be the oldest Breeders’ Cup winner on record (and jockey Rosemary Homeister, Jr. would have been only the second female jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup race), but he was run down by three-year-old Man of Iron. The Aiden O’Brien trainee was actually sold just before the race and will be moving to Luca Cumani’s barn, but he proved yet again that like his half-siblings, Rags to Riches and Jazil, his dam’s offspring like to run as long as possible. He will aim for the Dubai Carnival races next. Last year’s winner, Muhannak, was no factor this year, but he also changed hands and will remain in California under the tutelage of Ben Cecil. Man of Iron was the only Ballydoyle horse who ran on Lasix – and their only winner this year.

Juvenile Fillies Turf
Tapitsfly rewarded her backers, professionally taking on Rose Catherine in the stretch. Favored Lillie Langtry came out of the race with a slab fracture, but she should be back after some minor surgery and time off. Tapitsfly gave trainer Dale Romans his first Breeders’ Cup victory – and so far American-based runners are two-for-two in this turf event.

Juvenile Fillies
She Be Wild proved she enjoys running on synthetics, but she and the other top two finishes, Beautician and Blind Luck, will all be aiming for the Kentucky Oaks on conventional dirt. Both the runner-up and third-place finishers had some bad luck during the race, as did wiseguy favorite Biofuel, who got pretty knocked around – luckily, all seemed to have only minor complaints and a few of them may run again before the year is out.

Filly & Mare Turf
Legendary trainer Henry Cecil scored his first Breeders’ Cup win when Midday took the Filly & Mare Turf – and perhaps she will be back to defend her title, as the plan is for her to remain in training next year. It’s an exciting possibility.

Filly & Mare Sprint
Informed Decision gave jockey Julien Leparoux his second Breeders’ Cup weekend win; as expected, it came down to a dogfight between the winner and top-class mare Ventura. We should see Informed Decision next year as well.

Filly & Mare Classic
Without stablemate Zenyatta to waltz past her in the closing strides, Life is Sweet finally had a chance to demonstrate her class – and trainer John Shirreffs plenty of confidence going in to Saturday’s races.

Juvenile Turf
The first Breeders’ Cup race on Saturday’s card went to Pounced; the American-bred, European-based colt had the always-welcome piloting services of Frankie Dettori. Trainer John Gosden (who was based at Santa Anita for many years) snagged his second victory in this race, having won last year with Donativum.

Turf Sprint
California Flag, who had given himself an impromptu workout before the race, proved he suffered from no ill-effects from his adventure. Joe Talamo secured his first Breeders’ Cup win aboard the California-bred speedball, with ‘other’ filly Gotta Have Her getting up for second (the well-traveled Diamondrella didn’t fire on Saturday).

Dancing in Silks scored a major upset – and made trainer Carla Gaines the third woman to train a Breeders’ Cup winner in the process. All the ‘big names’ finished off the board, with Gayego getting closest in fourth. Favorites Zensational and Fatal Bullet finished near each other in fifth and sixth, and global star Fleeting Spirit did not seem to take to the surface. It was a fantastic race for longshot bettors!

Upset winner Vale of York gave up-and-coming Godolphin jockey Ahmed Ajtebi his first Breeders’ Cup win. The horse may be pointed to the Kentucky Derby, but he’d be working against history by prepping in Dubai. Bob Baffert trainee Lookin at Lucky was not terribly lucky in the race, but he still finished a respectable second – and seems a more likely Derby contender.

Goldikova continued to display her brilliance – matching the great Miesque’s back-to-back Mile wins, and she did so by overcoming a difficult post position and not the easiest trip in this year’s installment. It caps a year in which she’s been (mostly) beating up on the world’s best milers and it means she now has seven G1 wins. The suggestion that she could come back next year to aim for a third Mile win was not immediately ruled out – let’s hope it happens. For those who may grumble that it seems unfair to give an Eclipse award to a horse who has made a single US appearance this year, I’d say that’s true – unless it’s Goldikova.

Dirt Mile
Mastercraftsman was billed as unbeatable, but obviously no one told longshot Furthest Land. Followed closely on by perpetual maiden Ready’s Echo and Midshipman, Furthest Land gave Julien Leparoux his third win for this year’s Breeders’ Cup. And Mastercraftsman? He’s retired.

Another repeat – Conduit did it again. What was perhaps almost as exciting was Presious Passion’s gutsy effort for second in the race – running off like a sprinter at the beginning, yet still managing to get a big slice of the purse. Dar Re Mi also ran a good race for third (overcoming some considerable traffic trouble), and we could see her again next year. Conduit will now retire to stud in Japan, and it’s possible Presious Passion may also head to Asia – but in his case he’d be going to Hong Kong for the Hong Kong Vase.

Did Rip Van Winkle’s feet bother him? Perhaps. But even if he had been in top form, it’s difficult to imagine anyone having beaten Zenyatta on the day, as she was perfection incarnate. It’s easy to overlook the quality efforts put in by both Gio Ponti in second and Twice Over in third, but neither had any sort of chance against the giant mare. Poor Einstein had to check behind the slowing Rip Van Winkle, which essentially took him out of the race, and Summer Bird did not have the best luck but still managed to be a closing fourth. But it was really all Zenyatta – and while the Horse of the Year discussions will go on, they really don’t matter; she’s one of the greatest, and that’s all anyone will remember.

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