Big Breeders’ Cup For Kentucky

Bayern with Martin Garcia and Toast of New York, lead the first time by after a rough start in the $5 Million Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Bayern with Martin Garcia and Toast of New York, lead the first time by after a rough start in the $5 Million Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Sure, the 31st Breeders’ Cup (referred to as #BC14 from this point) ended on a controversial note following a running of the $5 million Classic that bore a more than passing resemblance to, take your choice:

A) The magic instant when rolling bowling ball is meets pins;

B) The opening of department store doors for “Black Friday” shoppers.

C) An evening with the Derby City Rollergirls.

If this had been NASCAR, we could have seen a Jeff Gordon vs. Brad Kesolowski-type throwdown after the front-running Bayern crossed the finish line narrowly in front of British invader Toast of New York and resurgent Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome.

Decorum prevailed at Santa Anita, although there were grumblings aplenty at the track and, especially, on social media over the no-call by Santa Anita stewards following their inquiry into the victorious Bayern’s left turn from the starting gate that unquestionably changed the nature of the race. With a tip of the hat to victorious Bayern’s courage in the stretch and beyond – no horse that finished behind him managed to pass him during the gallop-out past the wire – it remains an unsatisfying climax to an interesting two days of Breeders’ Cup competition.

There will be no comment – positive, negative or pick-’em – on the Breeders’ Cup brouhaha and stewards’ call from this corner.  What will be offered is a reason to smile, and it is this:

The marvelous 3-year-olds that finished in positions 1-6 in the Classic – Bayern, Toast of New York, California Chrome, previously unbeaten Shared Belief, Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Tonalist and Candy Boy – will apparently be back to compete as 4-year-olds in 2015.  Throw the improving Tapiture – runner-up to the one-turn wizard Goldencents in the BC14 Dirt Mile – into that group and there is ample reason to look ahead to what could happen after New Year’s Day 2015.

And let me offer my annual reminder that although the 2014 Breeders’ Cup is now history, the racing year is far from over.  There are races to be run – including the Grade I $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare at Churchill Downs on Friday, Nov. 28 – that could have an impact on Eclipse Award races.

Last year’s Clark put the exclamation point on the championship season of Will Take Charge, and there is some potential for that to happen again.  Other remaining races that could have an impact on Eclipse award seasons including the Golden Rod for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs and the Grade I Malibu at Santa Anita, a race for 3-year-olds run in the waning days of the year.

To borrow from the oft-quoted Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” We’ll be watching developments over the next three weeks to see which BC14 heroes could be heading to Churchill Downs for the Fall Meet’s Thanksgiving Weekend finale.

Now, let’s salute the heroes of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup that are either based in Kentucky or raced within the Commonwealth’s borders during the year.

Oaks winners Untapable and Rosie Napravnik returned to the winners circle after capturing the Longines Distaff.

Oaks winners Untapable and Rosie Napravnik returned to the winners circle after capturing the Longines Distaff.

Best of the Best: Winchell Thoroughbred’s Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable, who is the clearest of champions in 2014, following her triumph in the Longines Distaff that underscored the dominance of her 3-year-old campaign. Every move she makes is a study in elegance, and there’s a very good chance that she’ll improve for trainer Steve Asmussen as he guides her into a 2015 campaign.

A thousand reasons to love her: Don’t Tell Sophia launched a furious rally to finish second to Untapable in the Distaff, completing a brief campaign that included wins in Keeneland’s Grade I Spinster and Churchill Downs Locust Grove. Trainer and co-owner Phil Sims purchased her for $1,000 at Keeneland and her Breeders’ Cup run pushed her earnings to $1,339,295. Don’t Tell Sophia is a horse for the dreamer in all of us.

The living – and growing – Lukas legend: How many times have we seen Hall of Fame legend D. Wayne Lukas come out smiling after putting one of his horses in what might seem to be an unlikely spot? Take Charge Brandi added another glorious chapter to that legacy when she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in a 61-1 front-running shocker. Willis Horton’s Giant’s Causeway filly could come back to run in the Golden Rod for the 79-year-old Lukas, who can never, ever be ruled out when he has a horse in the starting gate in a big race.

Congratulations also to trainer Al Stall Jr. for a runner-up finish by the late-running Top Decile, who finished in the same spot in her previous race in Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity. The 2015 Kentucky Oaks is fewer than six months away and Top Decile is my early favorite to win that one.

And don’t forget that Classic winner Bayern made an eventful spring appearance in Kentucky. He finished first in a rough-and-tumble three-horse photo in Churchill Downs’ Grade III Derby Trial. Bayern was disqualified and placed second for interfering with runner-up Embellishing Bob, making him 1-for-2 in in the stewards room in 2014.

Other BC14 winners that were either Kentucky-based or raced include:

  • California Chrome, Candy Boy and Tapiture – all three competed in the Kentucky Derby and the latter won Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn in his first post-Derby start;
  • Juvenile runner-up Carpe Diem won Keeneland’s Grade I Breeders’ Futurity.
  • Dayatthespa – the winner of the Filly & Mare Turf took Keeneland’s Grade I First Lady and runner-up Stephanie’s Kitten took the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (GII);
  • Filly & Mare Sprint winner Judy the Beauty won Keeneland’s Grade I Madison and finished fourth in Churchill Downs’ Grade I Humana Distaff;
  • Turf Sprint winner Bobby’s Kitten finished 12th in the Toyota Blue Grass, runner-up No Nay Never won Keeneland’s Grade III Woodford and third-place Undrafted was runner-up in the Churchill Downs Turf Sprint on Kentucky Oaks Day for NFLl star and owner Wes Welker, who reportedly had a memorable weekend in Louisville.
  • Illinois-bred Work All Week won Keeneland’s Grade III Phoenix prior to his win in the BC14 Sprint;
  • Juvenile Turf winner Hootenanny launched his career with an April win at Keeneland and runner-up Luck of the Kitten was the runner-up in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile.

The Breeders’ Cup baton is now handed to Keeneland, which will be a first-time host of the two-day event on Oct. 30-31, 2015.

Photos by AMBER CHALFIN | Contributing Photographer