Breeders’ Cup madness

Can’t help but venting a bit after watching the Breeders’ Cup races last night (or what little of the Breeders’ Cup races Equidia chose to show us). I have to say this year more than ever has left me with the impression that horse racing in the United States has absolutely nothing in common with horse racing anywhere else on the planet. First off, the Americans have shown they have absolutely checked their horse sense at the door with the handling of Announce in the Filly & Mare Turf.

Maxime Guyon was hacking the filly down to the start when she spooked at something and managed to touch a trailer of some sort parked on the track. The contact was all of a split second, and about two seconds later the outrider was over telling Guyon to dismount and unsaddle, because track veterinarians had decided to scratch the horse. One wonders what the hell was a large piece of equipment doing parked on the side of the track? But no matter – Guyon handled the situation very well, and as soon as the filly touched whatever it was behind her, she settled down and moved forward, like a sensible horse will. Apparently there was a tiny cut. There were rumors that it later needed stitches (I’ve seen no confirmation of this).  Clearly the horse was sound, and if a vet had bothered to take a look at the horse, this would have been evident.  And clearly, connections of Announce were paying the price of the ineptitude shown in last year’s Breeders’ Cup when Life at Ten was allowed to race despite every indication that there was a problem.

Earlier, another filly in the sprint, Shotgun Gulch, also was scratched at the gate because a vet apparently saw a sign of lameness when the horse was warming up. How this could happen is beyond me, since the American horses “warm up” with their head twisted toward a lead pony, so they all trot sideways. No news yet on whether anything was actually wrong with the horse.

Obviously, an unsound horse should not be allowed to race. But if the vets stationed around the gates at the Breeders’ Cup are able to make that sort of diagnosis in less than 10 seconds without getting within spitting distance of the horse in question, they are a talented bunch of doctors indeed.

Another thing that always jars me when watching American racing is the loading process at the gate. It seems the gate crew try to outdo each other in proving their testosterone levels by slamming the back of the gate as hard as possible behind the horse, and the more flourish the better. Are they looking for high marks for artistic impression? I do appreciate the speed with which they work, but is it really necessary to do it all with that much yelling, slamming and gesticulating? And don’t get me started on the insanity of crawling up into the gate with the horse and holding his head.

All that mayhem at the gate means they jump out fast and terrified. The first fractions are usually faster than the finish – sort of like watching Arabian racing here. And gunning into those tight turns makes me hold my breath and hope for the best. Then there’s the added unease of knowing nearly all of the horses out there are racing on Lasix and probably Lasix adjunct and anything else permitted by the rules. With all this, I found myself watching the races by peaking through my fingers like a kid at a horror movie.

So what will I be doing tonight? Watching anyway, because I can’t help myself. I have to cheer on Goldikova and see how So You Think adjusts to both dirt and blinkers. Come home in one piece, guys.


Apres-Arc detox

Our last visitors left today after a great week of racing, touring, eating and drinking. The Arc weekend was fantastic, as usual, plus the weather was more like Deauville in August than Longchamp in October. Put simply, we roasted. It was wonderful. Our party took over a good part of the paddock restaurant, and we couldn’t have been better placed to have a look at all the Group 1 horseflesh on offer. No one saw Danedream coming. The crowd of 50,000 were stunned into silence by her record-breaking victory. Even Frankie Dettori, on third-placed Snow Fairy, couldn’t believe it – and who could blame him? He was sitting pretty going into the home stretch, with only Sarafina’s leader and some unknown orange silks in front of him. But Sarafina’s leader, Shareta, ran the race of her life and the unknown orange silks happened to belong to a feat of German engineering called Danedream. Frankie settled for third.

It was also too bad to see Goldikova get headed on her last appearance in France, but she’ll still go to the Breeders’ Cup, where I suspect she still has some ass to kick. Nice to see Sole Power take a good third in the Abbaye; he is Sotka’s half-brother, and this bodes well for her season next year. And another one to keep a close eye on is the undefeated Dabirsim, who showed amazing acceleration in the Grand Criterium.

We left the crowds of Longchamp far behind on Monday to head off to Argentan with Magical Flower, where she finished 5th in a maiden and took her first check in France. She is now qualified for handicaps, and there is a good one for her next week, if she gets a low enough rating. I’m reluctant to enter in a handicap straight away, but this would be the best race for her. She has to be rated below 32 to qualify. Based on what she’s done so far for us, she shouldn’t be rated higher, but sometimes the handicappers do unreasonable things.

While we were out in deepest Normandy, we took the opportunity to stop by and see my other horses near Orbec, where Triple Tonic is recovering, Hard Way is bored in a field and Well Done Clare is happily in foal to My Risk. Triple Tonic will be ready to come back in early November, I suspect, and I’ve decided to bring Hard Way back home. We’ll see how he goes, but it’s not out of the question that he could race again.

Anyway, in all the excitement this past week, I haven’t gotten a chance to say that I’m very pleased to be part of a new alliance of bloggers called Turf. Have a look at the web site. It includes some very well-written blogs by people in and around the thoroughbred racing business all over the world. I’m very pleased to be part of the group, and it will give me a chance to address wider issues now and then, in addition to the laundry list of what the horses in my yard are doing. There will be various themes tackled by all of the bloggers in the group (and the current one is the Breeders’ Cup, and I’m behind…so stay tuned!).

Regrouping (Hangover 3?)

I’m finally finding time to catch up after coming back from our brief, but crammed, vacation. Vegas was fun, as always. You either love it or hate it, but I think it’s great. Everyone’s there for the same reason – a little gambling, a lot of eating, some shows…it’s refreshing to be in a place where you can chat with strangers sharing the craps table or lounging by the pool and not have to worry about the French formalities. But I digress. Back in the real world, or at least what passes for it for me, we are in mid-season in Deauville, and things are clicking along.

Strictly Rhythm seems to be back on track, running a very good fifth in a maiden on Friday. She had the far outside number 18 draw, which is no gift on the 1,900 meter course. From that spot, you either have to get out front or sit behind everyone. She got out nicely, showing much more spark than she had in her past two races. A better draw would have put her even closer to the win. Comment Dit ran a good third in her claimer. She has proven to be a tough filly who has taken her racing well. Hold That Emperor was a little more disappointing, running only 6th, but he is running like a horse that needs a break, and he’ll get one, finally.

On Tuesday, Justthewayyouare ran a good fifth, but it was his first blow on the fibersand and I think he’ll be better on the turf. He’ll get one more run out in the country before he goes back to Ireland to finish growing up.

Tomorrow, George makes his comeback in the last race of the day. He seems to be back on track, and the entry is good, so fingers crossed for him. He ran off with me twice this week, so I know he’s certainly got it in the tank. It also gives me a great excuse to be on hand for Goldikova and Galikova. Deauville is quite a bit of fun in August.