Last weekend was very… interesting for me, as I awoke on Sunday to find out that my flight to California and the Breeders’ Cup had been canceled due to the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, I had fast fingers and was able to reach a Delta agent, who scrambled and got me on a plane out of JFK that afternoon. After a two-hour wait on the runway at Kennedy airport and a four-hour layover in Detroit, I was exhausted but thrilled to land at LAX. I collapsed into the hotel nearest to the airport and reflected on how lucky I was to get out of New York in time. To all of my friends, family and readers back on the East Coast, you’re in my thoughts and prayers this week.
Yesterday, I spent the day just getting sorted out, organizing my plans for the week and covering the draw (meaning the process where horses are assigned their post positions and betting odds) for the Breeders’ Cup races.
It was fascinating to see the amount of organization and efficiency utilized to get this many horses sorted into their correct races. However, there was one person who wasn’t as riveted as I was; she had much better things to do than pay attention to some silly horse races!
Seriously, is there anything cuter than little kids with saintly dogs? I don’t think so.
After a big day at Santa Anita, I headed off to my friend’s place, where I was crashing for the night. I am a terrible houseguest, by the way – I come in late from the track and leave before dawn. I barely ever actually see the people I’m staying with. Maybe that makes me a fantastic houseguest, actually. Hmm … something to contemplate when it’s not quite so crazy here.
I got up this morning and headed straight to the track. It was a perfectly beautiful morning, and there really is no place quite like Santa Anita with the backdrop of the Sierra Madres with a slight chill in the air as the sun’s coming up. It’s magical, and if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend a trip out here in the morning.
Clocker’s Corner, which is an area near the turn for home, is the breakfast spot at Santa Anita. This place is usually pretty popular, but with the advent of the Breeders’ Cup, the joint was really jumping. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see trainer Chad Brown in the thick of things watching his charges get their exercise.
The great thing about hanging out here is that you get to see a bunch of the sport’s stars grabbing coffee and watching their horses work out. TV hosts, trainers, jockeys and owners all rub shoulders with fans, and most are more than happy to chat with anyone who stops by. Some of the fine racing folks I spotted today include: NBC’s Donna Barton Brothers chatting with jockey Julien Leparoux.
I also spied top trainer Bob Baffert, which was really cool. He has a ton of horses running in the Breeders’ Cup, including Classic contender Game On Dude and Sprint entrant Coil.
This guy (who you may recognize from the photo with the little girl, above) was also there. I may be a little obsessed.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas was there, chatting it up with Gary Stevens, a Hall of Fame jockey himself who is also an NBC host and star of Seabiscuit and “Luck.”
Of course, the reason we were all at the track this morning was to see the stars of the show on Friday and Saturday: the horses. I’ll let you know who I saw this morning, and to make life a little easier on all of us I’ll group them together by which race they’re running in.
From the Classic:
Alpha looked very at ease on track. He’s definitely an underdog in this salty field (horse-talk for a hard race), but he looks good and may surprise people.
I really like Nonios – he’s got a whole Black Beauty thing going on that definitely appeals to me. (Yes, yes, I know, I’m a grownup. But still – he’s so pretty!) I remember seeing him at the Haskell and being really impressed with his athleticism, and nothing he showed me this morning makes me like him less. Dare I say it: a dark horse in the running.
Ron the Greek is one of those tough, game older horses who has fallen under the radar for whatever reason. He looked professional and on the muscle (racetrack speak for being ready to go) this morning.
To Honor and Serve is a horse that I’m incredibly fond of. He tries his eyeballs out every time, and I’d love to see him get a piece of the action on Saturday. He’s a regal horse who seems to take everything in stride.
The only Dirt Mile contender I saw today was Shackleford, but, man, was he ever enough. He’s about as beautiful a horse as I’ve ever seen, and he just looks like he’s ready for anything.
As he completed his gallop, he headed back to the Dale Romans barn with his stablemate (and Breeders’ Cup Turf contender) Dullahan. I may have catcalled to them … something along the lines of, “Hey, good looking! How are you handsome chestnut boys doing today?” I am, at heart, a dork. You can see that Tammy Fox, the rider on Dullahan (on the right) is laughing at me.
Speaking of Dullahan, here he is stretching his legs. I think putting him in the Turf is a good idea, since the grass course here will probably be listed as “Firm” on Saturday, and I think that he’ll take to it well. All I can tell you is that he looks very, very good.
The only other Turf contender I saw was Cogito, who was on his toes and ready to go.
The Sprint lineup is next. I’m liking Trinniberg in this race, and I absolutely love how his team makes sure that he looks his best every time he comes out of his stall. I’ve never seen this guy out of his party clothes.
Another Sprint contender is Bob Baffert-trainee Coil. This horse is a serious threat in this race, and he looked ready and on his toes this morning.
Boxeur des Rues looked like he was having a blast as he galloped by. You could almost hear him going, “WHEEEEEE!”
The only Breeders’ Cup Mile entrant I saw today was Animal Kingdom. I know I’m not alone in wishing the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner the best of luck on Saturday. He’s such a neat horse who’s shown so much grit and determination in overcoming injuries. He’s facing a really tough group of horses on Saturday, but he’s got a heart the size of a Buick and may just surprise his doubters.
The Marathon horses were out in force today. Romp, below, was pulling the arms off of his rider when they set out, but looked calm and relaxed once he’s finished with his trip around the track.
Almudena was definitely on her toes today, but her rider kept her settled and focused.
Atigun was calm and poised. He’s an interesting prospect in the Marathon, and depending on how he looks over the next couple of days may become my pick.
Time for the 2-year-olds! The Juvenile races are one of my favorite things about the Breeders’ Cup. It’s so exciting to me to see the future stars of the sport this early in their careers. I love the feeling of anticipation that we may be seeing greatness in the making.
He’s Had Enough, who has the same connections as Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another, is a seriously good-looking horse. He’s a great mover and seemed very at home on the Santa Anita surface. I’m keeping my eye on him as we lead up to the Juvenile on Saturday.
Speak Logistics was very level-headed and calm despite the high traffic on the track. He definitely seems like a mature horse, which will work in his favor with the big crowd expected for Saturday.
Power Broker looked like he was right at home here as well. He’s an interesting horse to watch in the Juvenile.
Spring in the Air is running in the Juvenile Fillies. She was coming back from her gallop when she passed me, and she was doing the Zenyatta high-stepping dance! I was in instant, undying love. Her exercise rider laughingly told me that she does that almost every day. I don’t know if you’re a hunch player, but I can remember a certain dancing filly who did quite well at Santa Anita a few years ago … .
I caught a photo of Juvenile Fillies contender Sustained just as she was about to head onto the track. This is one physically imposing horse. She looks like a mature 4-year-old, not a 2-year-old. I’m definitely keeping my eye on her.
Juvenile Fillies Turf contender Summer of Fun looked eager and happy on track this morning; she was tugging her rider along as she galloped. Also, I am totally super jealous of the exercise rider’s awesome pants.
Juvenile Sprint contender Ceiling Kitty has my favorite name of the whole bunch of Breeders’ Cup horses this year. What can I say? I basically live on the Internet, and I love me a good meme.
Another Juvenile Sprint runner is South Floyd. There’s something about this guy that I like, and depending what else I see from him in the mornings, he may be my pick for the race.
Juvenile Turf contender Artigiano was very workmanlike in his gallop this morning.
The horse I really like in the Juvenile Turf is Brown Almighty. This horse just has a presence. I’m excited to see him run on Saturday.
That’s all from me for today – if you’re on the East Coast, I hope you’re staying safe and dry, and be careful out there! Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll be back with more tomorrow. Any requests for horse photos? Leave them in the comments and I’ll try my best to get them for you!