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2013 Breeders’ Cup Review: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

This past weekend, horse racing fans from around the world were treated to one of the biggest weekends in Thoroughbred racing, the 2013 Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. The event took place on November 1-2, 2013 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia California. Over the two days, 13 Championship races, starting with the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (won by London Bridge), and ending with the Breeders’ Cup Classic (won by Mucho Macho Man) were run under the beautiful Southern California skies.

Before I continue with the blog, I want to offer my condolences to those affected by the shooting at the L.A Airport on that Friday. My thoughts and prayers are with that TSA worker who was killed. It was a tragedy, and it is very sad that such a thing would happen. I do hope justice is served, and I hope that steps are taken, so something like this never happens again. Once again, my prayers are with those affected.

Let’s discuss what was good about the two day event, and the broadcast done by NBCSPORTS, and by NBC, and there was some. We also will get to what was NOT so good, and there was sadly, quite a bit. No event goes perfectly well. We all know that. No event is a total disaster either, unless you are at a Jacksonville Jaquars game. Alright. Alright. That’s a subject for another blog.

Seriously though, the whole event was a mixed bag, at best. I will be discussing what I liked, and what I didn’t like by using my favorite device: Good, Bad, and Ugly. You know the drill. I hope you’ll enjoy this.

THE GOOD:

Repeat Champions: Groupie Doll, MizDirection, and defending Horse of the Year, Wise Dan successfully defended their respective Breeders’ Cup Championships.

During the year, there were some horses who had some questions to answer in the Breeders’ Cup. One was an awesome mare named Groupie Doll. In 2012, she was unstoppable. She virtually won everything in sight, including the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

This year, after a layoff, she appeared to be a bit off. She won a couple of races, but finished second to her rival, Judy the Beauty last time out, at Keeneland. Some had jumped off her bandwagon. Many had doubts, going into the Breeders’ Cup, that the “Doll” was the same horse.

The same phenomenon happened to MizDirection, and defending Horse of the Year Wise Dan. MizDirection went East to try those tracks, but wasn’t successful, so she took time off in the summer, and was coming into the Breeders’ Cup on a 5 month layoff.

Wise Dan was on fire in 2013. No one could beat him. “Dan” was kept to Mile (turf) races, and his connections were criticized on how they campaigned their horse. I say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” When “Dan” finished 2nd on a wet polytrack at Keeneland to Silver Max in October, people were starting to question whether Dan was a step slow.

Well, not to worry. Wise Dan, in an amazing performance, won the Breeders’ Cup Mile. MizDirection, who was undefeated on that Santa Anita Turf course, stayed undefeated as she defended her Turf Sprint title. Groupie Doll rocked the house by successfully defending her Filly & Mare Sprint.

This was awesome.

Trainer Kathy Ritvo becomes the First woman trainer to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

This was a tearjerker. Mucho Macho Man held off the on-charging Will Take Charge to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic by a nose. Mucho Macho Man has had an up and down career. He finished 3rd in the 2011 Kentucky Derby, but it was the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes in early October, 2013, when Mucho Macho Man, at age 5, won his first Grade 1 race.

Mucho Macho Man was 2nd in last year’s Classic. His trainer, Kathy Ritvo, a heart transplant recipient, always believed in her horse, when many people, especially the handicappers on Twitter, did not. Ms.Ritvo has every reason to be proud of Mucho Macho Man, and of herself.

The Elder Statesmen, Gary Stevens (aged 50) and Mike Smith (aged 48) dominate the Breeders’ Cup

As jockey Mike Smith said during the broadcast, he and fellow rider, and best friend Gary Stevens, he (Smith) and Stevens are called “the Geritol boys” by the younger riders. Well, Smith and Stevens showed those young whipper snappers how it was done.

Mike Smith and Gary Stevens won several of the Breeders’ Cup races. Smith won the Turf Sprint (on MizDirection), the Marathon (on London Bridge), and one other. Gary Stevens, who is putting on a show, and is in the midst of one of the greatest comebacks in sports, won the Breeders’ Cup Classic (on Mucho Macho Man), the Distaff (on Beholder), and another. It was an amazing day for two amazing men.

Paynter Won at Life:

I want to say that the wonderful Paynter completed the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It was awesome that with all that this wonder horse has been through (illnesses, fight for life), he was able to triumph, and win at the game of life. It didn’t matter that he finished 7th in the race. It was an amazing achievement that Paynter was able to be in that starting gate at that Breeders’ Cup Classic at all.

Paynter is now at Winstar Farms in Versailles, KY. His fee is $25,000, and I am sure he will be well taken care of. He deserves it. Paynter has been an inspiration to a lot of people, including me. The lesson we all can learn is: don’t quit, and never give up. Thank You Paynter.

The Bad:

The Overall Broadcast:

I knew that on the NBCSPORTS and the NBC Network, they were going to have the puff pieces, but this was horrid. I did NOT expect the broadcast to be turned into a 10 hour version of “Access Hollywood.” My Goodness, the interviewers were interviewing celebrity after celebrity.

I know that folks like Chef Bobby Flay, and NFL star Wes Welker own horses, but enough already. They interviewed Richie Sambora, former guitarist for Bon Jovi. They had celebrities assist with the trophy presentation. I know they were at Santa Anita, but give me a break. This was bad.

Breeders’ Cup Must Return to Track Rotation:

When the Breeders’ Cup was originally created, the IDEA of the event was to have different tracks host the event. After all, there is different racing jurisdictions all over the place. It started out like that, but in recent years, the event started going between Churchill Downs, in Louisville, KY, and Santa Anita. Now, I am not familiar with ALL the reasons, and the politics behind the scenes, so even though I have heard some stuff, I am not going to comment.

Regardless, since 2012, the event has been run at Santa Anita. It will be run there in 2014. I have nothing against the track. I have nothing against the state of California. I was at Wrestlemania 21, which took place in Los Angeles, so this is not an anti-Santa Anita complaint. I loved L.A.

My point is that the idea of the event rotating is that horses from all over the world should be running on DIFFERENT surfaces. The speed bias at Santa Anita was ridiculous, in speaking of surfaces. Running on different surfaces challenges both horses and jockeys. Also, not everyone can afford to fly out to California.

The Ugly:

The Track Surface:

As I was watching the race, I thought the horses were supposed to decide who got Eclipse Awards, not the track superintendent. This track, on both days, had an incredible speed bias. Only one horse, London Bridge, came out of the clouds to win. This was awful. The kick back was nasty, per several of the jockeys. This is another reason why the event should go back to rotating between tracks. The track looked like a hard floor just covered up with a couple of inches of light sand. It didn’t look deep enough for the horses’ safety, or the riders’ safety.

Injuries to Horses and a Hall of Fame Rider:

I want to preface this by saying that there are risks in anything you do. I mean, anything. It can be something simple like walking across the street. Some drunk could be speeding and hit you. It applies to every sport. Every athlete, whether human or equine takes a risk of life and limb when they go out there for our entertainment, doing what they love to do.

That being said, a couple of horses got hurt in the Breeders’ Cup Event, one being CentralIntelligence. CentralIntelligence came out of his race with a condylar fracture, but was able to be saved. Whether it is career ending, is still up in the air. I hate seeing that. It really stinks when the horse, who lays down its life to run, comes out of a race injured at all.

Sadly, there have been horses who not only get injured, but they are so badly hurt that they have to be euthanized. This one of the sad parts of the sport. It has happened in many races, and also in past Breeders’ Cups. One notorious Breeders’ Cup race where this happened was the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Distaff where in the midst of a head and head battle in deep stretch with the defending champion, Bayakoa, the great filly Go For Wand broke her right front ankle, and had to be put down.

This year, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Secret Compass, trained by Bob Baffert, broke down. Secret Compass was badly injured, and was euthanized. Her jockey, Hall of Famer John Velasquez, was taken to the hospital. Just as he was about to be released, internal bleeding was detected, and he had to have his spleen removed.

It was a very sad thing to happen. When Baffert was interviewed when one of his other horses, Secret Cirle won later in the day, he nearly broke down in tears when speaking about Secret Compass. He mentioned how “sweet” she was. No matter how some folks think about the man, he definitely cares about his horses.

What I also hated, was that the network showed the replay of breakdown. Great job introducing new fans, NBCSports. I also didn’t like that the race was shown during the preview of the pre-show of some Notre Dame game. I only caught the race by chance. I know Notre Dame has a contract, but I am sure the pre-show could have been put on at an earlier time.

Overall, it was just an average event for me.

Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/giopontifan

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Terri

Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/giopontifan

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