Eleven Key Takeaways from the 2019 Breeders’ Cup

Owners William Lawrence (left) and Seth Klarman lead Bricks and Mortar and Irad Ortiz Jr. to the winner’s circle after the horse won the Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 2. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Editor's note: Like all of you, we’ve been trying to process the devastating loss of Mongolian Groom in the Breeders' Cup Classic. America’s Best Racing is deeply saddened by his passing, and our heartfelt condolences extend to Mongolian Groom’s owners, trainer, grooms, jockey, his fans, and the entire team involved in raising and caring for him.

Tom Pedulla presents 11 key takeaways from the 36th Breeders’ Cup World Championships Nov. 1-2 at Santa Anita Park:

SIMPLY THE BEST: When Bricks and Mortar took the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 2 to win for the sixth time in as many races this year at six different tracks, it went a long way toward ensuring that the unflinching 5-year-old will be Horse of the Year and that his remarkable trainer, Chad Brown, will walk off with his fourth consecutive Eclipse Award. Brown already was on a good course for number four. If he needed to bolster his case, he did so with three victories this weekend. Structor won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Presented by Coolmore America on Nov. 1, and the mare Uni closed fast to take the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile the following day before well-traveled Bricks and Mortar closed his perfect season.

Irad Ortiz and Vino Rosso. (Eclipse Sportswire)

GREAT FIT: When John Velazquez chose to ride 3-year-old Code of Honor over 4-year-old Vino Rosso in the Sept. 28 Jockey Club Gold Cup, trainer Todd Pletcher had no choice but to find a replacement. He selected wisely in assigning the mount to Irad Ortiz Jr. “There is some chemistry there, and the horse seemed to respond really well to Irad and the horse seemed to run for him,” Pletcher said. Ortiz Jr. closely followed the pre-race strategy set out for him by the trainer for the Nov. 2 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic. “It was one of those times where pretty much the race unfolded exactly like we had discussed beforehand,” Pletcher said. The Classic capped a big weekend for Ortiz Jr., who won three other Breeders’ Cup races and earned the Bill Shoemaker Award for his riding excellence.

RARE DOUBLE: Mitole became the first horse since Gulch in 1988 to win the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap, better known as the Met Mile, and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in the same year when he swept past front-running Shancelot by 1 ¼ lengths in the talent-laden Sprint. Even his trainer, Steve Amussen, was in awe of the 4-year-old son of Eskendereya. “For him to get the Met Mile and perform the way he did against that field on that stage, stretched out, and then for him in a matter of months to re-track, to reset, to be the fastest horse in the world over three quarters of a mile, good luck to anybody trying it,” Asmussen said. Mitole ran for the final time and will stand at stud at Spendthrift Farm.

UPSETTING TRIPS: Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith did not get the trip he wanted with either of his two hefty favorites, Midnight Bisou in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Omaha Beach in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, and could do no better than finish second each time. In both instances, he found himself needing to make up a lot of acreage on a track that simply was not playing that way. “It’s just hard to come back and catch them on this track,” Smith said after the Distaff derailed Midnight Bisou’s Horse of the Year chances.

Baffert at Santa Anita. (Eclipse Sportswire)

SECOND BEST: Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was hardly surprised when his McKinzie was second best to Vino Rosso in the Classic. “I told my wife (Jill) all week that Vino Rosso was the horse to beat,” he said. “My horse showed up and I was proud of him. McKinzie ran his race. We just got beat.” Although Baffert paces all Breeders’ Cup trainers in earnings, he did not have his usual horsepower this year and came away empty at his home track, Santa Anita.

PEDIGREE PUZZLE: Trainer Peter Eurton may face interesting long-term decisions after Storm the Court pulled a monumental upset in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Storm the Court’s sire, Court Vision, began his career on dirt before eventually thriving when switched to turf. During 2008-10, Court Vision rattled off Grade 1 victories on the grass in the Hollywood Derby, Shadwell Turf Mile, Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, and Woodbine Mile, and after a dry spell capped his success by taking the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Mile. Eurton is, of course, keenly aware of that history. “With his breeding, I think he’ll run farther. His father did, although he was primarily a grass horse. There might be grass racing in his future, but it would be hard to do that right now,” Eurton said. Make that impossible.

British Idiom (Eclipse Sportswire)

RISING STAR: The rapidly-rising fortunes of trainer Brad Cox are reflected in his stable’s Breeders’ Cup performance since he saddled his first starter, Carve, to a sixth-place finish in the 2014 Dirt Mile. Now, he has become very much a conditioner to watch. Monomoy Girl provided him with a breakthrough victory in last year’s Longines Distaff before British Idiom (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies) and Covfefe (Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint) doubled his pleasure this year. Cox grew up a few blocks from Churchill Downs. In discussing his passion for racing, he quoted a friend who told him, “You are not in the horse business. The horse business is in you.”

Joseph O'Brien and Iridessa. (Eclipse Sportswire)

ANOTHER O’BRIEN: Aidan O’Brien is well-known Breeders’ Cup fans since he ranks second in victories and earnings at the championship event. Now, his son Joseph, 26, has come along as a young trainer who already has arrived. The young O’Brien joined Freddie Head as the only persons to ride and train a Cup winner. O’Brien reached the winner’s circle with his first Cup mount, St Nicholas Abbey in the 2011 Longines Turf. He enjoyed his first success as a trainer when Iridessa gamely fought off Vasilika in the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Friday's scene at Santa Anita. (Eclipse Sportswire)

FUTURE STARS: Breeders’ Cup officials have to be encouraged after using the Future Stars Friday theme for the second consecutive year. All-sources handle for the 10-race program – half of them devoted to 2-year-olds – hit a record $56,517,228, a 5.4 percent increase over last November. A crowd of 41,243 produced an on-track handle of $6,340,351. The Breeders’ Cup expanded to its current two-day format in 2007.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: Blue Chipper became the first representative of South Korea and acquitted himself well. The 4-year-old gelded son of Tiznow was in contention throughout the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile before taking home third-place money. Here’s hoping he returns as a major player next year….In a training feat that should not go unnoticed, Without Parole, a 4-year-old son of Frankel, made an auspicious North American debut by nabbing third in the TVG Mile for Chad Brown. Without Parole had not run since May 18 in England. 

PROTECTING RACEHORSES IS PARAMOUNT: The death of Mongolian Groom in the Breeders’ Cup Classic was devastating. The Thoroughbred industry must continue to explore all avenues that lead to the safest environment for horses from the moment they are born until they take their last breath.

The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation is a leading, non-profit charitable organization that exists to help all horses by funding excellent and significant veterinary research at universities throughout North America and beyond and is committed to the advancement of horses of all breeds. Organizations like the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance are vital to the Thoroughbred industry, but we must consider every additional avenue that leads to the safest possible environment for our racehorses.

Editor's Note: We have considered feedback on our social media channels and have amended the original article to include this final takeaway.

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