We had so much fun at our first ever Breeders’ Cup last year that we had do it all again! With over 118k people in attendance for Horse Racing’s two championship days Friday, November 4 and Saturday, November 5 at Arcadia’s Santa Anita Park – about an hour outside Los Angeles – it was a spectacle spilling over in starpower. Spread over a series of ten races, the extravaganza of the finest in Horse Racing, drew fans and talent from all around the world. If there was any question about the sport’s popularity, the 2016 Breeders’ Cup ranks overall as the fourth-most-bet edition of all time since its inception in 1984 with $159.9 million wagered.
The $6-million Breeders’ Cup Classic was the centerpiece of the weekend, contested on Saturday. Seen widely as 2014 North American Horse of the Year and fan favourite CALIFORNIA CHROME‘s crowning moment in a flawless 2016 campaign, it just simply wasn’t meant to be. The Cinderella-storied five-year-old led all the way looking to pull away under a confident ride from Victor Espinoza, only to be caught late by brilliant three-year-old colt and second choice, ARROGATE. The winner is owned by Juddmonte Farms and trained by the legendary Bob Baffert, who won the important race last year with wonderhorse AMERICAN PHAROAH.
Headlining Friday was the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff starring three of the sport’s queens, all whom have in previous years won a Breeders’ Cup race en route to being named champion with a coveted Eclipse award. Still very much on-top, Spendthrift Farm’s six-year-old mare BEHOLDER, making her final start, took her earnings past the $6 million-mark with her third Breeders’ Cup victory. This very likely will culminate in a rare fourth championship title for the Richard Mandella trainee when awards are handed-out January 2017. Under Gary Stevens, BEHOLDER faced stiff competition from the undefeated and impending three-year-old filly champion SONGBIRD, battling to the end in an exhilarating head-bobbing finish, never to be forgotten. Reigning champion three-year-old filly STELLAR WIND had a poor start and was never in contention despite defeating BEHOLDER in their last match, the Zenyatta Stakes.
Stars of the human variety also were in attendance including Breeders’ Cup Ambassadors BOBBY FLAY and ELIZABETH BANKS in a dramatic mesh, face-covering fascinator, watching the Breeders’ Cup Classic from the rail with her family. Taylor Lautner, Maika Monroe, Emily Ratajkowski and Allison Janney also were among several others spotted.
As Canadians, we had plenty to be proud of. Woodbine Racetrack stars CHANNEL MAKER, NOHOLDINGBACK BEAR, MELMICH and CALGARY CAT ventured to California after accomplished campaigns this season locally, the latter two running a decent fourth in the Marathon and Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint respectively under jockey Luis Contreras, who came with his father and brother. Ontario-bred WAVELL AVENUE who was defending her Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint title finished a close second in the race this year. Vancouver’s Mario Gutierrez who got his break at Hastings Park, won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with longshot CHAMPAGNE ROOM.
We may be seeing less of Woodbine Trainer Brian Lynch these days but Amerman Racing Stables’ OSCAR PERFORMANCE won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf under his preparation. Our friends at Team Mark Casse thrilled us with runner-up finishes with turf champion TEPIN in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile after winning it last year, and promising Stonestreet Stables filly VALADORNA was a bang-up second in the Juvenile Fillies – she will be a force to be reckoned with next year. CLASSIC EMPIRE gave Mark Casse and owner John C. Oxley their first ever Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and he very well could be in the Kentucky Derby that first Saturday in May 2017 as the favourite.
Let’s re-live that magical Breeders’ Cup experience once more in photos!
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner NEW MONEY HONEY with the sharp-dressed Chad Brown team, under jockey Javier Castellano.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner OSCAR PERFORMANCE and jockey Jose Ortiz, with our friend, Erin Cotterill, assistant to Trainer Brian Lynch. He is a shy colt.
Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner TAMARKUZ under Mike Smith, who had a fantastic weekend with count ’em… three wins!
Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner and reigning champion mare, BEHOLDER and also at bottom her noble opponent, champion filly SONGBIRD.
Breeders’ Cup Ambassadors Elizabeth Banks (with family) and Bobby Flay.
Some Can-con for you! 🍁 CALGARY CAT, a fast-closing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint with Luis Contreras and Trainer Kevin Attard. Let’s not forget reigning Canadian Horse of the Year CATCH A GLIMPSE in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf entrant CHANNEL MAKER with Team Dan Vella (and our friends Julie and Gina!) and NOHOLDINGBACK BEAR (with jockey Eurico Da Silva) in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint!
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner CHAMPAGNE ROOM under Mario Gutierrez. Do not discount Mark Casse trainee VALADORNA (seen with our friend and lovely assistant Trainer Sarah Campion) who ran second and gorgeous Bob Baffert trainee AMERICAN GAL whom after an unlucky trip, still ran a respectable third.
Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner DREFONG, under Martin Garcia.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner CLASSIC EMPIRE, Team Mark Casse and Oilman John C. Oxley’s first win in the race. Watch for him on the Kentucky Derby trail. Look out also for runners-up NOT THIS TIME, a handsome half-brother to last year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner, LIAM’S MAP and SYNDERGAARD, named for MLB star Noah Syndergaard.
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner FINEST CITY. Jockey Mike Smith truly is a showman, giving us much to photograph! Canadian-born WAVELL AVENUE just misses a repeat win.
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner OBVIOUSLY who thrilled us in the 2015 Woodbine Mile on the front end, wins after three tries for leading California Trainer Philip D’Amato. Look at the emotions! We were ecstatic to see his star filly ENOLA GRAY at his barn. Perhaps she will be at Del Mar next fall for Breeders’ Cup 2017?
Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile winner TOURIST under Joel Rosario, with assistant and son to Bill Mott, Riley who has visited Woodbine much this year. Turf queen and defending champion TEPIN was flying late to be second. We were thrilled we got to see the stellar MISS TEMPLE CITY who has two Grade I wins against the boys this season for Trainer Graham Motion.
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner QUEEN’S TRUST under charismatic celebrity jockey Frankie Dettori and fan favourite and Breeders’ Cup winner herself LADY ELI, a heartbreaking second. It is a treat to see Japanese/French-speaking jockey Yutaka Take as he rode Asian import, NUOVO RECORD.
Breeders’ Cup Turf Classic winner HIGHLAND REEL took it wire-to-wire under a daring ride by Irish rider Seamus Heffernan. Great runs also from a now-retired Hong Kong Vase winner FLINTSHIRE and defending heroine of the race FOUND, who recently won the prestigious Arc de Triomphe in France.
Last but not least, Breeders’ Cup Classic victor, ARROGATE under a joyful Mike Smith! It takes a remarkable horse to defeat iconic CALIFORNIA CHROME… and he did it!
And this might have happened… #CHROMIE 📸🐎😁
Horse Racing is here to stay. To racing’s modern fans! 🍾
In the ’90s, most Kids hung-out at the Mall or did House Parties on weekends. My single delight every Saturday and Sunday was going to the Races with my Parents. In that era, there was no Star brighter than CIGAR. The two-time Horse of the Year had us Racing Fans at the edge of our seats with a 16-race win streak stretching from October 1994 through July 1996.
Even after the streak ended, CIGAR still was going strong before ending a remarkable Career at Woodbine Racetrack here in Toronto (like Secretariat in 1973) with a game third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He retired just shy of the $10-million mark in earnings (an all-time record) winning everywhere from California to New York to Dubai. Horses like CIGAR literally are one in a million and he not only was America’s Horse. He was the Horse of Racing Fans around the World.
The Maryland-bred Colt owned by Allen Paulson, a prominent Aircraft Developer and Businessman, exceeded any expectations of him beginning his Career with an unsuspecting seventh place finish at Santa Anita Park in California. After switching from grass to the dirt, things took-off rather well for him and what we had was a true Racing Icon – a Hall of Famer – and no doubt one of the greatest of all time.
The Canadian connection certainly was there too. His paternal Great-Grandfather, Oshawa’s Windfields Farm-bred Norther Dancer, to this day is hailed for passing-on the genetic foundation of many of today’s brightest Racing Stars. His maternal Grandfather Seattle Slew also is an American Racing Icon, winning the coveted Triple Crown in 1997.
I never had the honour of seeing the great CIGAR in-person, but admired him deeply from our living room TV Set. He was a Star. Despite not having much luck as a Stallion following his Career on-track – all 37 mares bred to him failed to become pregnant – he lived a peaceful life at the Kentucky Horse Park of Champions, passing away yesterday at the age of 24 following surgery for a neck problem he was experiencing.
Thank you CIGAR, for the memories. Thank you for your Legacy.