Winter racing is off and running at Aqueduct, Hollywood, Turfway Park and the Fair Grounds, tracks that die hard racing fans and horseplayers will follow over the coming months. It’s as good a time as any to look back at the best moments of the second half of the year through the eyes of this turf writer.
While there was no race with as big a purse as the Breeders’ Cup Classic, I just can’t find a way to put it in the top five moments of the second half of 2012. So here goes….
1. The dead heat in the Travers. While it wasn’t the most competitive field that the Midsummer Derby has produced over its historic past, the second dead heat (the first was in 1874) produced some great racing drama that is rarely captured with a national television audience tuning in on NBC. It was a superb moment for thoroughbred racing. The story was compelling with the long shot Golden Ticket (33-1) hitting the wire simultaneously with race favorite Alpha.
2. Jim Rome winning a Breeders’ Cup race. A proponent of racing since he started owning horses under the Jungle Stables moniker, this could be one of the bigger moments of the racing year. His filly, Mizdirection, rolled down the hill to victory at Santa Anita in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on day two of this year’s championship weekend. He spent no less than two hours talking about racing on his national television show the following Monday.
3. Dullahan rolling home in the Pacific Classic. In a major upset, Dullahan closed late to win the Pacific Classic at Del Mar defeating older horses such as Game On Dude and Richard’s Kid on the polytrack where the surf meets the turf. It gave the 3-year-old crop a little more street cred after most of the year’s stars had fallen by the wayside via injury after the Triple Crown trail wrapped up.
4. The thrilling finish to the Cigar Mile. In a photo finish that was decided by a head bob, Stay Thirsty showed his versatility in nipping Groupie Doll at the wire. Groupie Doll was attempting to become the first filly to win the Cigar. You have to give trainer Buff Bradley props for his sporting try to win the one turn mile at Aqueduct last weekend. Stay Thirsty had never run at the mile distance in 16 career races and added a valuable Grade 1 to his resume before heading off to the breeding shed.
5. Havre de Grace brings $10 million at Fasig-Tipton sale. In a classic “Just get the bread, Fred” moment, and 30 bids later, the daughter of Saint Liam garnered a cool $10 million in the sales ring at the Fasig-Tipton sale in November. The sales price was the third highest price for a broodmare in a public auction. The 2011 Horse of the Year was purchased by Whisper Hill Farm and sold by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm. She had nine wins from 16 career starts and $2,586,175 in earnings.
The second half of the year produced some great racing moments and clearly turned the corner from the hangover related to the unfortunate ending to the Triple Crown season.