Nov. 9 (UPI) -- The Breeders' Cup World Championships, just as they were designed to do, nicely wrapped up some issues for the 2020 racing season, including the "Horse of the Year" question, but left question marks about others, including which horses we'll be privileged to watch in 2021.
The 14 races across two absolutely gorgeous days at Keeneland in the heart of the Kentucky bluegrass provided unexpected joy for some trainers and their connections and defeats for outfits much more accustomed to winning.
And within 24 hours or so, some of the best from the Breeders' Cup -- winners and losers alike -- set the cash register jingling across Lexington at the Fasig-Tipton sales ring, led by the $9.5 million winning bid for Longines Distaff winner Monomoy Girl.
First things first. Monomoy Girl was purchased by Spendthrift Farm, which also purchased Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint fifth-place finisher Got Stormy for $2.75 million and She's a Julie for $3 million earlier in the sale.
Spendthrift announced Monomoy Girl and Got Stormy will remain in training next year -- good news for fans, bad news for Monomoy Girl's rivals.
Uni, who finished fifth while defending her 2019 Breeders' Cup Mile title, was sold to Peter Brandt for $4.1 million. Rushing Fall, runner-up in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, went for $5.5 million to the Irish Coolmore interests.
While the mares were being sold, some of the top Breeders' Cup male contenders also were headed off to stud duty with WinStar Farm alone making room in its paddocks for Breeders' Cup Classic second- and third-place finishers Improbable and Global Campaign as well as Tom's d'Etat, who disappointed with a ninth-place finish in the Classic.
WinStar's Elliott Walden said Sunday Global Campaign may have one more start -- in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park -- before settling in to his new career.
The ranks of older horses available for 2021 could be thinned even more if majority owner Spendthrift decides enough is enough for Classic winner Authentic.
Trainer Bob Baffert lobbied diplomatically for another year on the track, arguing Sunday the 3-year-old Kentucky Derby winner is just now hitting his mature prime as a racehorse. Economics may trump that.
Plans for Knicks Go, winner of the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, will be made in Korea. The colt is owned by the Korea Racing Authority, which at some point will want the 4-year-old making babies in Korea. With a Breeders' Cup win on his resume, that point well could be now rather than later.
Baffert does expect to welcome back Gamine, the brilliant winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. And trainer Ron Moquett is looking forward to an 8-year-old season for Whitmore, who won the Breeders' Cup Sprint on his fourth try. He's a gelding so there's no retirement pressure.
And then, of course, there are the 2-year-olds. Essential Quality's victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile makes him the automatic early favorite for the 2021 Kentucky Derby. But the Juvenile-Derby double has been a rarity so don't bet the house. The same goes for Vequist, who turned in a mild upset win in the Juvenile Fillies.
We can be sure there will be some 3-year-old action on the turf on both sides of the Atlantic for Wesley Ward trainees who performed well Friday at Keeneland.
Ward sent out Golden Pal to win the Juvenile Turf Sprint. Golden Pal already is a seasoned traveler, having finished second in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at this year's Royal Ascot.
Ward's Outadore finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and Campanelle was fourth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Campanelle also has some frequent flyer miles, having won the Group 2 Queen Mary at Royal Ascot and the Group 1 Darley Prix Morny at Deauville this summer.
Brad Cox headed the list of trainers with excellent results Saturday and Sunday. He won four races -- the Distaff with Monomoy Girl, the Juvenile Fillies Turf with Aunt Pearl, the Juvenile with Essential Quality and the Dirt Mile with Knicks Go.
Baffert had a nice weekend with Authentic and Improbable finishing 1-2 in the Classic and Gamine romping in the Filly & Mare Sprint.
Irish maestro Aidan O'Brien looked to be just shy of the mark on Friday with a pair of tough-beat seconds and a fourth. Things got dramatically better Saturday as his runners swept the top three placings in the Mile, although Magical's second in the Turf was a disappointment.
Speaking of disappointments, Chad Brown is used to dominating American turf racing but went 0-for-13 over the two days with runners on both surfaces. His best was Rushing Fall's second behind Auderya in the Filly & Mare Turf.
And about the year-end honors:
The Classic was billed as the race that would decide "Horse of the Year" and it probably did. It would be a surprise if wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Classic weren't good enough in an otherwise unsettled year. Also write his name in indelible ink for 3-year-old honors.
Monomoy Girl will get some "Horse of the Year" support, but likely will settle for honors as the year's top older female. Most if not all of the other dirt races produced strong contenders for Eclipse Awards in the corresponding categories.
The turf awards will take more thought after the Europeans plundered all the loot Saturday, embarrassing their American counterparts. Many voters are reluctant to hand an Eclipse Award to a foreigner making a one-time visit -- providing there's a viable U.S. option.
Cox and Baffert will get votes in the trainer category.
But that's all a few months down the road with a few meaningful races yet to be run in the interim. For now, we'll go with the cliché, "We're just going to enjoy this one."
And we'll be back to do it again next Nov. 5-6 at Del Mar, "Where the Turf Meets the Surf" just north of San Diego. And again in 2022, back at Keeneland.
While we were basking in the Kentucky sunshine, there was plenty more good racing going on elsewhere. To wit:
Royal Flag rallied four-wide at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Turnback the Alarm Handicap for fillies and mares and got there first by 2 1/4 lengths.
Mrs. Orb was second and Nonna Madeline finished third. Royal Flag, a 4-year-old Candy Ride filly, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:54.08 with Trevor McCarthy riding. The win provided some small solace for trainer Chad Brown, who suffered through a brutal Breeders' Cup at Keeneland.
"She comes from off the pace but I got a great trip," McCarthy said. "I was able to save some ground and then got her outside and she gave me a great kick."
Illegal Smile was a gate-to-wire winner in Saturday's $100,000 Stewart Manor Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on the grass. The Irish-bred daughter of Camacho made a sharp early pace, then dug in gamely to hold off Honey Pants by 1 1/4 lengths.
Lexinator was third. Illegal Smile ran 6 furlongs on firm going in 1:08.62 for Cristian Torres and trainer Wesley Ward.
"I didn't get too many instructions -- just to let her relax a little bit and turning for home, she was going awesome," said Torres, who got his first stakes win on the NYRA circuit.
On Sunday, Pickin' Time chased down frontrunning Ten for Ten in the stretch run of the $100,000 Nashua Stakes for 2-year-olds and ran on to win by 2 1/4 lengths over that rival. It was another 10 1/4 lengths to Isolate in third.
Pickin' Time, a Stay Thirsty colt trained by Kelly Breen, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.89 with Trevor McCarthy riding.
Malathaat got off to a narrow lead in Friday's $100,000 Tempted Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, then shook clear when asked by jockey Kendrick Carmouche and won for fun, finishing 7 3/4 lengths ahead of runner-up American West.
It was another 2 1/2 lengths to Café Society in third. Malathaat, a Curlin filly out of the A.P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.35. Racing for Shadwell Stable and trainer Todd Pletcher, she now is 2-for-2.
Arrest Me Red ran by pacesetting Town of Gold in the stretch run of Friday's $100,000 Atlantic Beach Stakes for 2-year-olds and drove home to a 2-lengths victory over that one.
The favorite, Whatmakessammyrun, found a little late speed but settled for third. Arrest Me Red, a Pioneerof the Nile colt out of the Medaglia d'Oro mare Maraschino Red, finished 6 furlongs over the firm inner turf course in 1:09.85.
Heavenly Curlin raced well back early in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Maple Leaf Stakes for fillies and mares, took a wide course around the leaders and drew off late to win by 5 3/4 lengths.
Art of Almost was second, 1 1/4 lengths better than Peace Seeker. Heavenly Curlin, a 3-year-old Curlin filly, ran 1 1/4 miles on the all-weather track in 2:03.23 with Rafael Hernandez aboard. The lightly raced Mark Casse trainee has won three in a row while climbing the class ladder.
Skywire got a bumpy start in Saturday's $210,000 (Canadian) Autumn Stakes, raced last of five down the backstretch and then rallied to score by 1 3/4 lengths from Armistice Day.
Timeskip was third with the odds-on favorite, Salute With Honor, fading from the lead to finish last. Skywire, a 4-year-old Afleet Alex gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.70 with Hernandez up.
Mo See Cal tracked the early leaders in Sunday's $100,000 Betty Grabel Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares, then took full charge in the stretch and won by 3 3/4 lengths.
Warren's Showtime was second, 3/4 length in front of the favorite, Just Grazed Me. Mo See Cal, a 5-year-old Uncle Mo mare, negotiated 7 furlongs on a good track in 1:25.01 with Flavien Prat aboard.
Good With People showed the way in Saturday's $100,000 Golden State Juvenile for state-bred youngsters and held on to win by 3/4 length over Positivity.
Ascot Storm was third. Good With People, a Curlin to Mischief colt, got 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:26.10 with Ricardo Gonzalez riding for trainer Peter Miller.
It's November, but September Secret nonetheless managed to eke out a victory in a four-way blanket finish to Friday's $150,000 Golden State Juvenile Fillies for California-breds.
The Grazen filly, with Ricardo Gonzalez in the irons, came from a stalking position to outfinish Dylans Wild Cat and Mike Smith by a head. Eddie's New Dream and the favorite, Governor Goteven, were third and fourth.
September Secret was a bit of a secret from the punters, going off at odds of 13-1, and finished 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.56.
Gulfstream Park West
American Giant shadowed the early leader in Saturday's $60,000 Cellars Shiraz Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, took over from that tiring rival at the top of the stretch and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths.
Secret Time, a German-bred filly, rallied to get second, 1 length in front of Charge Account. American Giant, a Live Oak Plantation homebred by More Than Ready, got 1 mile on good turf in 1:38.37 with Paco Lopez up.
Monforte pressed the pace in Saturday's $60,000 Showing Up Stakes for 3-year-olds, took over turning for home and got home first by 1 3/4 lengths.
The favorite, Jolting Joe, started last of 11 and passed all but the winner with a bold rally. Island Commish finished third. Monforte, a Carpe Diem colt out of the Rahy mare She's a Ketch, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:38.58 with Edgar Prado in the irons.
Golden Gate Fields
Camino Del Paraiso stalked the pace in Saturday's $65,000 Joseph T. Grace Stakes, took the lead at mid-stretch and drew off to win by 3 1/2 lengths.
Navy Armed Guard was second with the early leader, Give Me the Lute, third. Camino Del Paraiso, a 7-year-old Suances gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.30 with Catalino Martinez in the irons.
Plane Drunk led from gate to wire in Friday's $80,000 Shamrock Rose Stakes for Pennsylvania-bred 2-year-old fillies, winning off by 3 1/4 lengths as the nearly even-money favorite.
My Beautiful Belle was second, 2 lengths ahead of Aegean Sea. Plane Drunk, a daughter of Stay Thirsty, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.62 for jockey Edwin Gonzalez.
Edge of Night raced right behind pacesetter Mobil Lady through the early furlongs of Saturday's $75,000 Ohio Debutante for state-bred fillies and mares, hooked that one in a long stretch duel and prevailed by 1/2 length.
It was another 9 lengths to Grizabella in third which the odds-on favorite, Leona's Reward, never reached contention and finished last of six. Edge of Night, a 3-year-old Added Edge filly, got 1 mile on a fast track in 1:41.39 with Christian Pilares in the kip.
Around the World, Around the Clock:
Bivouac unleashed a devastating burst of speed in the final 200 meters to post a decisive victory in Saturday's Group 1 Darley Sprint Classic at Flemington, winning by 3 1/4 lengths as the favorite.
Nature Strip was second, 1/2 length in front of Libertini. Bivouac, a 4-year-old son of Exceed and Excel, was coming off a second-place finish behind Classique Legend in the rich Everest Stakes on Oct. 17 at Randwick.
The Godolphin runner finished Saturday's 1,200 meters over good turf in 1:08.69 and now may seek international targets.
"That was unbelievable," jockey Glen Boss said. "He has everything a good colt needs. He's got the lot."
Arcadia Queen took the day's other Group 1 event, the 2,000-meter Sappelt Mackinnon Stakes, by 1 3/4 lengths over Fifty Stars with Meldody Bell third.
Arcadia Queen, a 5-year-old Pierro mare, raced last through the stretch turn, accelerated outside rivals and was clearly best in the final 50 meters. She won the Caulfield Stakes Oct. 10 but then was fifth in the Cox Plate two weeks later.
In September, Meikei Yell and Mondreise finished 1-2 in the Kokura Nisai Stakes. Sunday, the 2-year-olds went their separate ways and both won graded stakes.
Mondreise, a Daiwa Major colt, tracked the early leader in the Grade 2 Keio Hai Nisai Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse, took the lead easily while cresting the hill early in the stretch run and held on gamely to win by a neck over Lord Max. The 1,400 meters went in 1:21.8 with Christophe Lemaire riding.
Meikei Yell, a Mikki Isle filly, returned to competition against other fillies in the Grade 3 KBS Kyoto Sho Fantasy Stakes at Hanshin Racecourse. After racing outside behind the leaders, she got to the front inside the 200 meters and held off Opal Moon by a diminishing 3/4 length. Yutaka Take had the mount.
News and notes:
Trainer Todd Pletcher notched his 5,000th career win Friday at Aqueduct as Microsecond won the seventh race on the card. Pletcher had horses entered in five Friday races at Keeneland, including three Breeders' Cup races, but none came close to winning.
"It would have been kind of cool to do it in a Breeders' Cup race," he said. "But we've always said that our goal when we get a horse in is to do the very best we can. So every win counts, and we're happy to get it."