The 2021 Breeders’ Cup one week later, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

November 12, 2021

Past the Wire and Jonathan Stettin take a look at the Breeders’ Cup 2021 one week later with the good, the bad, and the ugly

It seems in journalism today everyone wants to be first. It doesn’t matter if they are even right or accurate. First, that is what counts. That is probably one of the many reasons why I do not consider myself a journalist for one second. I’m a high school drop out from Brooklyn who happened to wind up writing a column about the sport I grew up loving. I could care less about being first unless of course it involves a wager on a horse or a few other things.

I like to wait and digest what I saw. I like to engage my mind before my mouth or keyboard. I don’t always succeed but I try. When you wait, I think you reflect better.

Last week we saw yet another Breeders’ Cup. Following is the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I’ll start with Chad Brown. I think he earned it. The hard way. Further, this way if I’m fortunate enough for him to read this, he can read about himself first and then skip the rest. He earned that too!

Ouch. Talk about a gut punch. The day before the Breeders’ Cup begins, Chad gets tagged. He has to scratch Breeders’ Cup Juvenile likely favorite and obvious major player Jack Christopher. He also has to scratch Domestic Spending from the Breeders’ Cup Turf. He too was a contender and for what it is worth, I didn’t think there was a chance he’d get beat and after watching the race, I am pretty sure I was right. Little did Chad or anyone else know it would get worse.

Before we get to the new Songbird won, which is now Dunbar Road won, let’s talk about the question. I can’t recall anything quite like it. While the horses were unloaded behind the gate in what we’ll call the fiasco race, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, a reporter or analyst spoke to Chad on camera. I don’t recall who the reporter was, and I would not call them out here if I did. I usually don’t even watch that stuff. I was at the track and it was on the monitor so I had to hear it. I wish I hadn’t.

Now Chad and the reporter are in the stands. The horses are unloaded behind the gate. Chad had Portfolio Company entered and he was behind the gate with the other horses. This guy asks Chad how is your horse handling the delay behind the gate? My first reaction was what. Now Chad may be a turf guru of a trainer, and also have a Hall of Fame resume on the dirt, be able to get horses back to Grade 1 levels after laminitis, and maybe even the best ever at his age and stage of the game, but I’m pretty sure nobody including Clark Kent can see that far. After the scratches of the day before even a gentleman like Chad would have been justified to reply with “seriously”?

Chad handled it like the professional he is. He told the reporter his horse had a tendency to get worked up, and he hoped he was handling it okay. Seriously, or what followed by expletives would have also worked, but Chad kept it classy.

It got worse still. After all this, and after a year of working with past Alabama winner Dunbar Road to get her to peak and return to her best, when it counted most, she loses one of the closest photos and toughest head bobs in Breeders’ Cup history. They deserved the win. Tough game this horse racing. She broke from the 11 post, and lost to a horse who paid $100 to win. If they run that race 10 times Dunbar Road probably wind 9 of them.

Chad will be back. Actually he already is. He responded to what had to be a rough weekend by winning the closing day stake at Belmont with Orglandes. You can’t keep a good man down.

If the Breeders’ Cup is going to have special Bob Baffert rules, I think they should institute Charlie Appleby rules going forward. No Appleby horses in the one post. None, not ever. We’ll start with the fiasco race and the failure to communicate amongst other things. I don’t think anyone is exactly sure what happened and why, but I think I am pretty close. We do know as the CHRB and Breeders’ Cup made it very clear regardless of who got hosed and how bad, all the proper rules were followed.

Albahr, an Appleby horse in the 2 post, next to Modern Games an Appleby horse in the 1 post, which if they adopt my rules he would not be allowed in ever again, reared and wound up hung up and stuck under the gate. Fortunately the horse was alright and the gate crew was able to get him out. He was an automatic scratch. While freeing the horse the other horses were backed out of the gate. Modern Games was taken out of the front of the gate causing someone somewhere to think he broke through. He was declared scratched. It was announced. Bets were still being taken, and people were alive to Modern Games in multi race wagers and also single race bets. Now someone somewhere realizes Modern games didn’t break through the gate, he was led out and he is fine. But he was already declared a scratch. Yikes, what now. They let him run for purse money only. They stuck anyone who had him with the post time favorite who of curse didn’t win. Modern Games won, rather easily I might add. But if you had him you didn’t win. You lost with post time favorite Dakota Gold who would probably have been my 5th or 6th choice down in the race. If you were alive to Modern Games you took it on the chin hard. But hey it is alright all the proper rules were followed. For the record Tiz the Bomb is the official winner. Boos were loud and clear throughout the track after the race.

Wesley Ward won the first of the Breeders’ Cup races with a two year old that out sprinted the other two year olds. Nice job with Twilight Gleaming.

Echo Zulu dominated her race clinching the Eclipse Award. Joel Rosario going for the stakes record rode her replacing Ricardo Santana who had been undefeated on her and is the regular rider for Steve Asmussen. It looks like agent Ron Anderson and the owners were involved in that one.

Christophe Clement got a well deserved and long overdue first Breeders’ Cup win with Pizza Bianca for Bobby Flay. Jose Ortiz rode a flawless race. Christophe should bring Jose donuts and coffee in the morning for that one.

Corniche had to race under the special Bob Baffert rules but it didn’t matter. He dominated the race from the 12 post, well actually the 11 as Jack Christopher didn’t go and pretty much sewed up his Eclipse Award and early Kentucky Derby favoritism. He didn’t get any Kentucky Derby points, and Churchill Downs has special Bob Baffert rules to so if Corniche stays with Bob he can’t run in the Derby. He is a fast horse, and a really good one. The cars were pretty cool in their day as well.

Ce Ce benefited from the perfect storm. The fast three year old Bella Sofia stuck to the monster Gamine over a track t was pretty well known Gamine didn’t like and set it up for Victor Espinoza and Ce Ce to roll on by.

The Turf Sprint at 5 furlongs got Wesley Ward another Breeders’ Cup win. Golden Pal went to the front and never looked back.

Life is Good dominated the Breeders’ Cup Mile. This is a really good horse and might be the best three year old of them all. He didn’t do enough to win the Eclipse, that almost has to go to Medina Spirit who we’ll get to later. That said Life is Good is the real deal.

The first of two for Japan came in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Loves Only You takes it beating Chad Brown’s My Sister Nat. Did I mention Chad Brown had a rough weekend. Love who was competitive against the best in the world was not competitive here and was a big disappointment. War Like Goddess was also disappointing, but she was being asked to beat better than she had in the past and ran decently. Love not so much.

I told anyone who’d listen Jackie’s Warrior and Letruska were two absolute bet against horses in their races. Jackie’s Warrior was not helped by his inside draw, but nothing was stopping Cat Man Wayne Catalano and Aloha West. He put it all together at the right place and time. Another nice ride by Jose Ortiz to nail red hot Flavian Prat on the wire aboard Del Mar specialist Dr. Schivel.

A lot of class was shown in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Before we get to that, another Charlie Appleby horse in the 1 post, another gate scratch. Master of the Seas, scratched in the gate. Again, no Appleby horses in the one hole. House rules. Paulo Lobo had three possible starters for the Turf Mile. Imperador and In Love were pretty much in. Ivar was on the outside looking to get in. Imperador scratched and Ivar got in. Two out of three ain’t bad.

Umberto Rispoli quickly proved himself one of the best riders in the world when he came to the US from Hong Kong and immediately started winning races here after being a champion jockey overseas. He had not won a Breeders’ Cup yet though and last year at Keeneland he had what we can call a rough sandwich of a trip. This year he did not let that happen and rode a flawless race giving long-shot Smooth Like Strait every possible chance to win. he put the horse right on the lead and dolled out his speed to perfection. You can’t ask for more from a rider. Space Blues, another Charlie Appleby runner who was not on the rail was just too much for Smooth Like Strait late and he and William Buick got by Umberto and Smooth Like Strait as the betting favorite. Jockeys are pretty fierce competitors and you can only imagine how bad Umberto wanted that one. He earned it but didn’t get it. Not this time anyway. It did not stop one of the best displays of class during this Breeders’ Cup when Umberto embraced and congratulated Buick on camera during the gallop out. In the very same race we saw the two Paulo Lobo riders who he stayed loyal to, Alex Achard and Joe Talamo high five and congratulate each other. Talamo finished third on long-shot Ivar. That whole barn exudes class.

Space Blues and Willaim Buick catch Smooth Like Strait and Umberto Rispoli in the Breeders' Cup Mile
November 06, 2021: Space Blues (IRE), ridden by William Buick, wins the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile Presented by PDJF on Breeders’ Cup Championship Saturday at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club on November 6, 2021: in Del Mar, California. Wendy Wooley/Breeders’ Cup/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM

Another win for Japan in the Distaff with Marche Lorraine. At least that is what the camera said. Oisin Murphy gets his first Breeders’ Cup win. Maybe….

Dunbar Road loses tightest Breeders' Cup photo you'll see
November 06, 2021: Marche Lorraine (JPN), ridden by Oisin Murphy, wins the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Breeders’ Cup Championship Saturday at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club on November 6, 2021: in Del Mar, California. Alex Evers/Breeders’ Cup/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM Alex Evers /Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup

Dunbar Road won. Yes I handpicked the photo. 😬

Keep Appleby off that rail and he is deadly. Yibir took the Turf for Charlie giving Buick another win. This rapidly improving three-year old dominated the older turf horses. Tarnawa who was probably best in the Arc if not for a bad trip on very heavy ground, and also last year’s winner was flat. She brought nothing with her this year.

Knicks Go dominated the Breeders’ Cup Mile last year at Keeneland and dominated the Breeders’ Cup Classic this year at Del Mar. That is quite a resume. Joel Rosario used his speed to get to the top and they improved their position from there. He’s the Horse of the Year. Medina Spirit picked up the pieces to run second. That should easily earn him the three-year old championship despite the Kentucky Derby betamathasone positive test. he is two for two over Essential Quality. He beat older horses where Essential Quality did not. Like it or not championships are won on the racetrack, or at least they should be.

The Edwin J Gregson Foundation and everyone involved, Jenine Sahadi, Jill Baffert, Angie Carmona, just everyone involved do a fantastic job and work really hard for a great cause. This year’s dinner honoring John Gosden was a privilege to attend. It was a great production and seeing recipients of the grants the foundation provides was truly special. It was a highlight of the Breeders’ Cup weekend for sure.

I don’t care where the surf meets the turf or whether you take a plane, a train, a bus or a car, Del Mar is cold. It is kinda like Belmont in late fall. If you are not in the sun it gets pretty chilly. I brought a bathing suit. I needed a parka.

The chairs in the Ancient Title room where I sat some of the time are as old as some of the chairs in the boxes at Saratoga. The TV’s need some major upgrading. Most aren’t even HD. Overall the Breeders’ Cup did a pretty good job as they usually do, but Del Mar looks a lot better on TV than it does being there.

The restaurants in the area are what we call menza menz. Overrated. I’m being nice. The ones I went to anyway with the exception of the Fairmont Grand Del Mar where the John Gosden dinner was. That food was good.

The traffic was not bad at all. LA was much worse. I breezed to and from the races and everywhere else I had to go.

Wagering was tough. It always is. When Domestic Spending scratched everything changed for me. That was going to be my key and a major wager. It was not meant to be.

Photos: Alex Evers /Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup, Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Breeders’ Cup Classic

Photo: Breeders’ Cup Mile Space Blues and William Buick and Smooth Like Strait and Umberto Rispoli, Wendy Wooley/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup

Contributing Authors

Jon Stettin

Jonathan’s always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. Growing up around the game, he came about as close as anyone...

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Jonathan Stettin is a New York Legend. He's been a Horseplayer, earning his living at the track, since he was 19 years old. @jonathanstettin

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