Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
By Tom Pedulla
In celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Tom Pedulla of America’s Best Racing cites the races he remembers most from each edition of the event. Here is the final installment, a look back from 2004 through last year:
Twenty-first running, Oct. 30, 2004, Lone Star Park
Race to remember: Distaff. Favored Ashado provided trainer Todd Pletcher with his first Breeders’ Cup victory. The setting meant everything to the Dallas native since the breakthrough win came at Lone Star Park. “It’s particularly gratifying because I have a lot of family here,” Pletcher said after Ashado clinched 3-year-old honors in winning by 1 ¼ lengths against Storm Flag Flying.
Twenty-second running, Oct. 29, 2005, Belmont Park
Race to remember: Filly and Mare Turf. Intercontinental, under a brilliantly measured ride by Rafael Bejarano, wired the field in upsetting Ouija Board, the defending champion and the top choice in the event. The late trainer Bobby Frankel, who could be slow to praise, said of Bejarano: “He couldn’t have ridden a better race.”
Twenty-third running, Nov. 4, 2006, Churchill Downs
Race to remember: Filly and Mare Turf. Ouija Board redeemed herself with her second victory in three tries in this event as a convincing 2 ¼-length winner for Frankie Dettori in the final start of her distinguished career. Lord Derby, her jubilant owner, said, “This mare has quite literally changed the lives of all of the connections. We’ve traveled the world with this horse a few times over, and I think she deserves the opportunity to retire.”
Twenty-fourth running, Oct. 26 and 27, 2007, Monmouth Park
Race to remember: Classic. The race brought together the top three finishers in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in Kentucky Derby champion Street Sense, Preakness victor Curlin and hard-knocking Hard Spun. Curlin, perhaps hurt by lack of seasoning earlier in the year, displayed his brilliance and class in splashing home by 4 ½ lengths against Hard Spun on a sloppy track. There was no disputing proud owner Jess Jackson when he proclaimed Curlin “a champion of champions.”
Twenty-fifth running, Oct. 24 and 25, 2008, Santa Anita Park
Race to remember: Classic. Raven’s Pass, at 13-1, became the second foreign horse to win the centerpiece contest. He finished 1 ¾ lengths ahead of Henrythenavigator in giving Europeans a one-two finish on a Pro-Ride surface. “I’m too happy,” declared winning rider Frankie Dettori. Trainer Steve Asmussen pointed to the synthetic track in explaining heavily-favored Curlin’s fourth-place showing.
Twenty-sixth running, Nov. 6 and 7, 2009, Santa Anita Park
Race to remember: Classic. In what surely ranks among the most dramatic moments in Breeders’ Cup history, Zenyatta launched one of her prolonged, breathtaking rallies to nail Gio Ponti by one length and make history as the first female to win the Classic. “She’s sent from God,” said awe-struck Mike Smith, her ecstatic jockey. “It’s his filly.” The Classic extended Zenyatta’s perfection to 14 for 14.
Twenty-seventh running, Nov. 5 and 6, 2010, Churchill Downs
Race to remember: Mile. Goldikova, who possessed rare quality, bested the great Gio Ponti by 1 ¾ lengths to become the first to win three Breeders’ Cup races. “She has everything an athlete can have,” said trainer Freddie Head.
Twenty-eighth running, Nov. 4 and 5, 2011, Churchill Downs
Race to remember: Mile. There would be no fourth consecutive victory for Goldikova. Court Vision, an improbable victor sent off at 65-1, made certain of that in fending off a late charge by Turallure to pull a shocking upset for trainer Dale Romans. The win payoff was the second-highest in Cup history.
Twenty-ninth running, Nov. 2 and 3, 2012, Santa Anita Park
Race to remember: Ladies’ Classic. Royal Delta demonstrated her speed and staying power in leading almost every step of the way to successfully defend her title in this race. As trainer Bill Mott said, “She kept going and ran them off their feet.” My Miss Aurelia was second best. Awesome Feather was dealt her first defeat in 11 starts.