A Breeders’ Cup to Remember

Keenelandby ART PARKER

The Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland was a winner. Quite a few people thought it would be difficult for Keeneland to be a successful host. I don’t know why, after all, everything Keeneland has ever done is successful and classy. The annual show came deep into the heart of the Thoroughbred world and didn’t disappoint. I am anxious for Keeneland to host the event again.

Now, to the racing. There is no need to waste much time talking about American Pharoah. He ran a big race in the Classic and was sent to the retirement villa in good health with a splendid reputation. I understand he may even get as many as 100 girlfriends his first year as a retiree. Ah, it is good to be king!

Beyond American Pharoah we saw some horses prove that they were better than we probably imagined such as the splendid three year old filly Found, when she defeated Arc winner Golden Horn in the Turf, and Tepin, who delivered a terrific performance in the Mile.

But looking back there were two winners that really caught my eye. Unfortunately, one has gone to stud, but the other could give us many thrills in the next few years.

Liam’s Map had every reason to lose. He endured a nightmare trip but overcame it to earn his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Had the son of Unbridled’s Song exited the gate in normal fashion he would have completely buried the field. Instead he was away slowly and looked as if he wasn’t ready. He was quickly steadied and was left far from his customary role of escorting the field around the track on the lead. Liam’s Map was screaming to be let out of jail for three quarters of the race. Patience by rider Javier Castellano and pure class by Liam’s Map avoided disaster and, when the opportunity arose, the two pounced and proceeded to victory. He exhibited the class I like to see; the class to overcome adversity and eventually win, even though he could not have things his own way.

The other that really got my attention is the young filly Songbird. Breaking from the far post she dashed out to get the lead as if it was a minor procedure. She then went into cruise control. Songbird appears to be an obedient professional worker. She looked easy to manage and appeared to be following Mike Smith’s instructions, what little he needed to give her.

Rachel’s Valentina was in second and commenced an all-out drive when the field reached the midway point of the far turn. She tried her best to reach a leader that was happily jogging along and well clear. In the stretch Smith gave Songbird her head, scrubbed her neck and the champ dutifully turned on the afterburners. When she was done a classy and very good Rachel’s Valentina was almost six lengths back in second. The timer for the mile 1/16 stopped at 1:42.73. Impressive. She made it look like a mild workout.

A few hours later the juvenile boys ran the same distance and the winner could do no better than 1:43.79. That tells me she would have beat the boys by five or six lengths without a tough battle.

It was two great days with great racing. Deserving champions showed us their best. Some are off to the breeding shed and others leave us with plenty to look forward to. For loyal horseplayers and racing fans it was a day that couldn’t be beat- no matter how much money was lost!

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