If you’re a Southern California horse racing fan you have to be smiling tonight after Oak Tree at Santa Anita hosted one of the best Breeders’ Cups ever.
In my racing column that ran Friday, Oct. 17, I predicted that this would be a tremendous two-day event, and it was all that and possibly more.
First you had the 31,257 who showed up at Santa Anita on Championship Friday on a work day for many people and despite the fact the Arcadia track had never held a marquee race day on a Friday, save an opening day of its winter-spring meet. This was a tremendous turnout. An inflated attendance figure? Who knows, but it wouldn’t be the first in this day and age of inflated crowd counts in all sports, not just horse racing.
Then another 51,331 showed up Saturday, meaning Santa Anita has never drawn less than 50,000 for a Breeders’ Cup. Southland racing fans should stand up and take a bow, and Santa Anita should recognize them come the 2008-09 winter-spring meet with some sort of special day.
Then there were the performances, led by the spectacular filly Zenyatta, who should be named Horse of the Year after Curlin’s fourth-place finish in the Classic. Stardom Bound and Midshipman, the two Juvenile stars of the show, both put on great shows, and the Europeans shined by winning five of the nine races on Saturday and finishing first and second in three of those races.
Garret Gomez won a record four races over the two days, and Bob Baffert and John Gosden each won two races. Baffert’s now won seven Breeders’ Cups. Mike Smith won a pair of races Friday.
Overall, just a tremendous two days of racing with no breakdowns at all — fatal or otherwise. Was it the synthetic track? I’m not going to go that far because who knows? There may have been no breakdowns if they’d had it at Belmont Park, Saratoga or Churchill Downs. When those big, powerful animals take a bad step, bad things are going to happen — dirt or synthetic track. Let’s all just be happy that it was a great two days of racing action, every horse returned to their barn safely and every jockey was unharmed.