Bobby Flay cheers in the Breeders' Cup (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire).
Happy Breeders’ Cup Friday, everyone! Once again I woke up to absolutely perfect weather here in Arcadia, California and as I headed out to the track at dawn, I was filled with giddy anticipation for the whole Breeders’ Cup scene that lay ahead of me.
When I arrived at Clocker’s Corner, there were still hoards of people milling around enjoying the early-morning beauty of the racetrack.
Even though the races weren’t scheduled to begin until bout 10:40 AM, there was press everywhere, interviewing celebrities, staging photoshoots and just preparing for the day ahead.
After attending the photographers’ meeting, where we went over the rules for being on-track for the races, I decided to take the opportunity to wander around Santa Anita and experience the (relative) calm before the storm.
One thing I love about Santa Anita is the collection of beautiful sculptures here commemorating the best horses to have ever run at this track. Zenyatta waited by the entrance to welcome fans to the Breeders’ Cup.
Even Seabiscuit had his party clothes on for the occasion:
The third horse immortalized in sculpture form is John Henry, one of the grittiest, most hard-knocking horses to run. He was surrounded by frenetic activity as vendors hustled to get set up before the gates opened.
But there was one sculpture that really made the reality that Breeders’ Cup was finally here hit home:
There were treats galore waiting for fans upon their arrival: delicious food and cocktails were set up and ready for Breeders’ Cup attendees.
And if you forgot your hat, Christine Moore (the official milliner for the Breeders’ Cup) has you covered – literally! These hats are really so amazingly constructed and I would absolutely love to wear one; however, my absolute terror that the wind would blow a hat into the path of oncoming horses is too debilitating for me to even consider it! What can I say, I’m a bit paranoid – and frankly, these horses are worth a lot more money than I am!
Now that I have fashion on the brain, I have to point out that Breeders’ Cup attendees brought their A-game to Friday’s races! Here are some of the awesome styles I saw being flaunted at Santa Anita today:
Of course, the most stylish girl at the track was my old friend Lexi. She’s the ruler of the roost at Santa Anita Park, but she’s definitely a benevolent overlord!
Another very cool thing that happened today is that the Grayson-Jockey Club, the charitable arm of the Jockey Club, donated $10,000 to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys’ Fund. That’s an organization that assists riders that have been forced to curtail their careers due to injury, and it was heartwarming to see the entire Breeders’ Cup jockey colony come out to accept the donation.
It was great to have a chance to wander around and see all of the sights at Santa Anita, but soon enough it was time for the big races to begin. As the Breeders’ Cup likes to remind us: the best was yet to come!
The first Breeders’ Cup race on the program was the Marathon. This is a 1 ¾ test for horses three years old and up run on the dirt, and this year’s edition had attracted ten participants.
When all was said and done, it was London Bridge who bested the group to take home the lion’s share of the $500,000 prize money. I have to say, I was happy to see him win: I thought he was so beautiful when I saw him training in the morning, and I’m a sucker for a pretty horse!
Jockey Mike Smith was on board to steer London Bridge to victory, which I always love because he has the best reactions. His face perfectly conveys the pure joy of winning, and one can’t help but grin along with him as he heads into the Winner’s Circle.
Up next was the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, and wouldn’t you know it? Mike Smith won again! Outstrip was his horse, and he really impressed me in his gritty determination to fend off second-place finisher Giovanni Boldini.
And once again, Mike wasn’t afraid to get excited about his victory! He makes taking pictures of him so much fun.
The next big event was the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. I’m not ashamed to say that I was rooting for my boy Goldencents – if you read my blog from yesterday, you’ll remember that we’re Twitter buddies; plus, I got to visit him in his barn! So I was thrilled when he proved his mettle and won in determined fashion.
Looking good in that winner’s garland of flowers, buddy!
It was also very cool to see actor John Ortiz there to present the Dirt Mile trophy: he’s a new Breeders’ Cup Ambassador, plus he’s a huge fan of horse racing and an all-around awesome guy.
Up next was the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, which had attracted a full field of fourteen two-year-old females. I always love when a giant group of horses surges out of the starting gate at once; it’s a breathtaking sight, and I know it gets my blood pumping every time I see it happen.
After a mile trip around the track, it was Chriselliam who took the victory. She’s an Irish horse, meaning that aside from Goldencents all of the Breeders’ Cup races had been won by European invaders. America, we really need to step up our game tomorrow.
After the Juvenile Fillies Turf, it was time for the big show: the Breeders’ Cup Distaff! This is the sister race to tomorrow’s Classic, and it attracted six strong contenders to vie for the $2 million purse. As race time drew near, the grandstand filled with fans eager to see the top fillies and mares in the world face off in the setting sun.
A team of all-star buglers summoned the horses to the racetrack as a palpable air of excitement settled over the assembled crowd.
With that, the six Distaff contenders made their way from the paddock to the racetrack to run in the biggest race of their careers.
It really is amazing to think of all of that talent assembled in one small field; in the below photo alone, there’s Royal Delta, Close Hatches and Beholder. Those are some amazing horses in one small group!
Finally, it was race time! As the horses went out of the starting gate, poor Princess Of Sylmar decided to go left instead of straight, costing her precious seconds as jockey Javier Castellano endeavored to get her on the right path.
Going into the first turn, reigning champ Royal Delta contended with Close Hatches and Authenticity to claim the early lead, with Authenticity becoming the frontrunner as they rounded the track into the backstretch.
What a year it’s been for Gary Stevens! Since his return to racing early this year he’s scored some major victories, and his ride in this year’s Distaff just serves as more proof that he’s still at the top of the game. Thumbs-up, indeed, Gary. Thumbs-up, indeed.
Also, Beholder’s groom totally taxed Gary Stevens’ water after the win and drank it himself, which is awesome and funny. Judging from the expression on Gary’s face, he thought so, too!
As the sun went down over Santa Anita Park and the first day of the Breeders’ Cup Word Championships, I had a moment to reflect on how wonderful this sport really is, and how lucky we as fans are to be able to see this level of competition every year. So bring on Breeders’ Cup Saturday and even more World Championship-caliber horse racing!
Thank you so much for stopping by, and let me know in the comments what your favorite moment of Breeders’ Cup Friday was!