Breeders' Cup Again Proves Its Worth

Years ago the "end of year" championship was a novel concept that most got behind for a few reasons.

i) Most sports' have a season with a championship of some sort. Championship races for big money were logical.

ii) Thoroughbred racing season - in the public eye - consists of three races, the Triple Crown, and little else. People like to wax poetic about televised Saturday races from Belmont or elsewhere, but they were built for another time and don't work today. The BC provided a fall outlet for the sport to promote itself to the masses.

iii) To try and bring the worlds' owners together to find out who has the best horse, and promote racing globally. As I'm watching the Lions play the Chiefs in London, this in many ways was a forward-thinking concept.

In today's world, with bloodstock sales and foal crops lagging and with politicians as the new audience for the sport, there are other reasons why this series is important.

I think, again, it delivered.

Runhappy was the story of the Cup, for me. You've got a messed up horse in blinkers who was given time to become a seasoned, happy racehorse. He wasn't sent to a factory stable, he was not rushed for some ego-driven try for a Derby, he was not a commodity. That those folks took home the hardware with a horse who sat off the speed like the calm, tractable, easy to ride horse he now is, is exactly what patience and horsewomanship is about. It was awesome to watch. I wish them all the success in the world.
The Classic was (after scratches) on paper, perhaps one of the most boring affairs we've seen of late. It was the ultimate trap race, that bettors abhor - is American Pharoah the Haskell American Pharoah or the Travers American Pharoah? If the former, 3-5 is fine, if the latter 3-5 is horrible. Thankfully, moments after the race we all forgot about the trap race.

American Pharoah delivered, arguably, the best final year race we've seen from a Triple Crown participant in a long, long time. Chewed from a TC season? Chewed from 17 or 70 (not sure of the number) flights across the country? Chewed from staggering home in the Travers? Not even close.

If all horses had this colts' constitution, Joe Drape would never write a 24 horse story. This guy is pure magic. And he's fast, too. I am glad he proved it in the Classic, because as I noted before, without the always wanting and overasked "big Beyer" there's a hole in the horses' PP's for some (this is a sport where Zenyatta was only pronounced good by some when she lost). Game, set, match American Pharoah.

I like that this years Cup delivered sportsmanship, which is what the sport of horse racing is built on. At times, the Euro-love in the press (they do everything right, we suck) borders on the absurd. Frankel going more than a mile was considered heresy for a year or two, Sea the Stars and others who win the Arc pack it in. This year we had a horse who won the Arc make the trip overseas. He was running on ground he did not like and was beaten by a nice horse who raced three times in the last month. I don't know Golden Horn from a french horn, Found from lost, but I do know some nice horses, along with trainers and owners sending them on a plane half way around the world to take a shot.

I get some of the criticisms of this set of races - it waters down other stakes, etc. I get that the "big day" thing is becoming ridiculous in this sport where if something is done and kind of works it's worth overdoing. But the fact is, American Pharoah closing out his career in a Jockey Club Gold Cup does not reach an audience. Runhappy winning at Santa Anita late in the year is ho-hum. When it's done at the Breeders' Cup, those in charge of "coupling" of slots, the masses who through the ballot box control revenues for the sport, and the general fan who tunes in to watch only the Triple Crown sees it. That's not unimportant, and that's why this series - through hard work and planning each year - delivers exactly what it's supposed to.

Have a great day everyone.

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