By Gene Kershner
The dust has settled, the Breeders’ Cup is in the books after a successful weekend under the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs. The Cup moves to the west coast in 2012, where it will be held at beautiful Santa Anita Park marking the 29th anniversary of the championship races. It will be the sixth time that the races will be held at the Great Race Place with the gorgeous San Gabriel Mountains in the background.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves discussing next year’s Cup, let’s take a quick look back at Breeders’ Cup 2011:
• Friday’s races were more formful, as three of the six race favorites emerged victorious. Thanks to Musical Romance and Perfect Shirl, the average mutuel win payout on Friday was $21.60.
• Saturday’s races were pretty wide open with only two favorites winning the nine races and four favorites missed the board totally. The average win mutuel on Saturday was a whopping $38.36.
• Every turf race, except the Turf Sprint, was won by a closer that was no closer than fifth place at the second call.
• Eight of the 15 favorites missed the board completely over the weekend.
• The trifecta was lucrative all weekend long. The average $2 tri paid well over $2,800. With a $0.50 minimum bet available, making more combinations possible, the $0.50 tri average payout translated to over $700.
• While attendance was down when compared to the 2011 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill, the total 2-day attendance of 105,820 was the second highest all-time.
• Brad Free of the Daily Racing Form reported today that trainer Bob Baffert was disappointed in the track conditions and cited it as the reason several of his horses didn’t “fire” over the weekend. This is consistent with a conversation I had with trainer Kiaran McLaughlin on Sunday morning, where he called the track “tiring.” He had the post time favorite Trappe Shot in the Sprint and Rattlesnake Bridge in the Classic.
• Caleb’s Posse’s effort was the most visually appealing to me over the weekend. He could steal the 3-year old division honors on the heels of his Grade 1 wins in the King’s Bishop and BC Dirt Mile. He raced at six different tracks during the year and also picked up graded wins in the Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga and the Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown.
• The Horse of the Year honors are wide open and voting in the biggest award of the year could be all over the board. The filly Havre de Grace had an ambitious campaign and sports a win over the boys in the Woodward. Game On Dude, runner-up in the Classic, has three big Grade 1 wins in the Big Cap, the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Goodwood, which should generate serious consideration.
• I admire the gritty effort by Hansen, hanging on desperately at the wire to defeat the heavy favorite Union Rags in the BC Juvenile. It was a thrilling race that saw Rags drift out in deep stretch before Javier Castellano righted him in the final drive. The sport could use a big rivalry and if they both stay healthy the Derby trail could get very interesting should these two meet again.
There are still a few big races remaining during 2011, including the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct and the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill.