ONLY ONE US HORSE OF THE YEAR
The Classic wasn’t a classic, but that much was clear beforehand, an undistinguished division through a season in which the mantle of top dirt horse had been thrown around like a hot potato.
In the event, Vino Rosso outstayed McKinzie, hardly the gateway to greatness, and the prestigious prize of US Horse of the Year can go only one way, even if it rather breaks with tradition, honouring a horse who has never once stepped onto dirt.
Prior to his sensational streak, of seven in a row, including five Grade 1s, Bricks And Mortar suffered a serious injury that kept him off the track for 14 months, making his achievement akin to climbing a mountain from scratch.
The Breeders’ Cup Turf revealed yet another dimension to him, on his first try at the trip, and to spend half the race pulling and still win is a testament to his talent, alongside his remarkable reliability.
The Horse of the Year in the US is a big deal, and Bricks And Mortar’s position is now non-negotiable. As is any award for trainer of 2019 in America.
THE CHAD BROWN ERA
Considering the competition at the Breeders’ Cup, to take eight horses to the meeting and win with three of them is quite the accomplishment, though it’s nothing new nor surprising for Chad Brown.
And this isn’t just the year of Chad Brown, but the era, liable to be so for some time to come, as he’s aged just 40. He was assistant to the legendary Bobby Frankel, the man after whom the greatest horse of all time was named.
Any criticisms of Frankel had nothing to do with ability and everything to do with ambition, on his behalf, in that he was never asked to take the show on the road, increasingly important in a day and age when racing is a global game, no longer a parochial matter.
That’s the next ceiling for Chad Brown to break through, to become an international player with big winners in other big jurisdictions, though that’s surely coming.
REPUTATION INTACT FOR EUROPE’S ‘A’ TEAM
It was slim pickings for the Euros, a whitewash averted only by Iridessa, masterminded by somebody who’s rewriting record books, Joseph O’Brien now having two pieces of Breeders’ Cup history.
It’s more than coincidence that Iridessa, as well as the next-best finisher from Europe, Daahyeh (runner-up in Juvenile Fillies Turf), were going up in distance, or back up in distance in Iridessa’s case. But their background over shorter was critical, in the speedway of Santa Anita.
Albigna, on the other hand, faced a lesser test than her crowning moment at Longchamp, working wonders to get fourth from her position, and the same could be said of fifth-placed Arizona in the Juvenile Turf, whose chance unravelled from the start, a slow start.
Another ‘A’, Anthony Van Dyck, actually raised hope for what he may do as a four-year-old, considering he kept pace in the Turf, but he’ll always be more a grinder than a glider and having his momentum checked in the straight was a killer for him.
THERE’S ALWAYS A FEEL-GOOD STORY
Even then, it was only a silver lining, against the cloud of controversy that had hung over Santa Anita since the start of the year, the sun briefly beginning to shine through after 12 of the 13 Breeders’ Cup races, before tragedy in the Classic with the death of Mongolian Groom.
But what shouldn’t be forgotten is the tale of triumph over adversity with Belvoir Bay, whose story reinforces the love and the link between horses and humans.
Missing for two days following the San Luis Rey fire, in December 2017, Belvoir Bay was rescued, rested and recuperated over time, patience the patient re-payed ten-fold with her dazzling show of speed in the Turf Sprint.
In the days since, she has been sold for $1.5 million, as a broodmare, and hopefully her sons and daughters will add more dramatic chapters to the fairytale.
MARES ON THE MARCH
There are five Breeders’ Cup races restricted to fillies and mares, but some of the most memorable moments in racing in the modern era has been when the best girls have taken on the best boys: see Black Caviar, Winx and Enable.
It’s an aggressive policy, now permeating America, as Belvoir Bay wasn’t the only emasculating presence, because the first two in the mile were both fierce females, Uni and Got Stormy.