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What are you gonna do?

So said Zenyatta’s trainer John Shirreff’s after her agonising defeat last night.

Her jockey, Mike Smith, burst into tears.

In other news, Goldikova completed her historic Breeders’ Cup treble in the mile. Why is it though that Zenyatta’s 5 length head start to the field, her eating the dirt on the kickback, and then the late charge with twenty-five “reminders” in the home straight to just fail by a head is the far more compelling story?

When I read what Shirreffs said I felt pretty bad for him. Worse than I did for the jockey who blames himself. Maybe he should just blame Blame who came home only just in front. You wouldn’t write it.

This song has the answer for the trainer, the jockey and anyone who ever had their heart broken on the racetrack in a I can’t believe they didn’t get there moment. Hopefully, the still great Zenyatta thinks she won the race.

Last Knockings?

Is what we are down to for the flat season that was 2010. Over the years, fans of flat racing have been frankly goaded by some of the die-hards in the jumps fraternity about the damp squib that our season sometimes goes out with. Not this year. We may not have had the midsummer excitement of a Sea the Stars, but we have had Workforce, we have had Goldikova and Paco Boy (who go again tonight in Kentucky) and the drama of Special Duty who liked to collect her races from the stewards’ room, but today the flat season is definitely going out with a bit of a *firework or two.

Today there is the final leg of Champion Jockey battle: Hanagan -v- Hughes, the latter being in arrears by two when they go under orders on Town Moor at 12.15 today and then, when the blood on the carpet has barely started to dry over that, we have the Breeders’ Cup tonight with the promise of Zenyatta and the possibility of Workforce completing an unique treble.

You can keep Cleeve Hill, this stuff is properly epic, if you have the imagination to appreciate it…

Zenyatta at the Breeders' Cup in Santa Anita 2008

*Firework (Katy Perry). First line “Do you ever feel like a plastic bag…” This gets the award for the world’s most execrable opening lyric. Trash it.

Breeders’ Cup: Day One

It’s all about the fillies and mares today, but in the turf races it’s harder to make a judgement at this point given that the US work riders are adamant that the ground is riding soft. Accusations about “watering for the Europeans” fly. Probably best in that case to see how it goes for the first turf race before getting too stuck into Midday in the second (turf race). Henry Cecil’s mare prefers the dig, but I suspect that, rather like yielding in Ireland, soft in the US is a moveable sort of feast. I have an idea that Hibaayeb may be a bit of value in Midday’s race, but if it is truly our soft soft then forget it.

I will be really interested to see how Theyskens Theory gets on tonight, having backed her on debut in the summer. She will be making her debut on an artificial surface in the Juvenile Fillies Dirt race. I have a feeling she is going to go really well on it.

Fingers crossed.

Midday and Tom Queally

Fingers crossed also that my friend Jamie Jnr has time to pop by and give us his thoughts on the matter, which I suspect will be more expansive and knowledgeable than mine. (Mine taking a somewhat pariochial approach to the whole crapshoot.)

On the Upgrade

To upload my actual own videos it turns out I need to BUY a WordPress Video Upgrade.  I worked this out for myself when learning all about MP4 files – fascinating – and because I took the time to read the idiot’s guide  that was there yesterday when I was busy wasting my time not reading it!

The upgrade is a mere $59 and something cents but I am not sure it is worth it to upload one video of my youngest daughter in the back of the car.  Maybe I’ll wait until she graduates or gets married or climbs the North Face of the Eiger before I splash out.

I didn’t start the blog for the purposes of uploading videos after all…

…  or  did I

Breeders’ Cup Weekend

There was a day in the not-so distance past that you could hoof off down the boozer and watch this on the tv.  If anyone can still do that please let me know for next year.

This year, in another appalling punter versus being a fully-paid up member of a family conflict, I am called away to Devon.

So tonight, when Midday is winning the Filly & Mare Turf in emotional scenes for the blog’s beloved Henry Cecil (or it could be Father Time lifting the Marathon), I will be on an M-way somewhere in the South.  On my own with a 5 year old, which is worse than actually being on my own.  Not because she is not good but because of the responsibility of it all.  Motherhood seems so much more heavy on my shoulders when I get in a car, in the dark, in three lanes of traffic, on my own!  Did I mention I was on my own?

Saturday will see me dragged out to a cold open field for fireworks.  I have been informed I can “catch up” on the Breeders’ Cup when I get back, but by then Fleeting Spirit will have won the sprint and Twice Over will have won the Classic.  Actually I am not too confident about any of the selections given the quality of the fields, but on the nights that are the Breeders’ Cup where international collateral form can be hard to come by or assess, I suggest chucking the form book out of the window (on the M5 perhaps) and just enjoying the Californian spectacle.  The Brits dishing up a can of whupass to the Yanks and all that kinda thing y’all.

That’s if you’re not out watching fireworks or driving to Devon.  Did I mention I was on my own…


Aidan O'Brien works Lillie Langtry @ Santa Anita

P.S. Don’t forget Frankie says “relax”, but he also says if your hoss has a draw in double figures at Santa Anita “forget it”.

A Breeders’ Cup Confession

The clocks going back spelled the end of the flat season. Granted, us flat world believers can tick over on the all-weather for the next six months, but by Christmas I may well have morphed into a mudlark and will be arranging Boxing Day around the King George at Kempton.

Despite the blips of quality jumping excitement over the winter, real racing, for me, is over until next April. This means I am most susceptible to the punting lure of the Breeders’ Cup in Santa Anita on the 6th & 7th November. The list of European horses (I keep things simple – assuming all our horses are much better on the turf than the homeside) that have obliged for me over the years is impressive. Ouija Board, Shirocco, Wilko, Red Rocks, Islington, not to mention the absolute blinder the Eurozone played last year hoovering up 5 of the races, albeit over the new 2 day format.

But such delights come at a price – guilt. One reason for my reticence used to be the surface. American racing has been predicated on dirt, a fast but attritional surface which is charged with contributing to injuries and fatalities. A few years ago California changed all their surfaces from dirt to polytrack and thankfully there has been an average of 40% reduction in horse fatalities. Presumably, I now have a substantially decreased risk of backing a horse that gets injured, a great worry in the past on dirt.

However there remains the question of the the drugs permissible in the US. – primarily the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory Bute and Lasix which stops racehorses bleeding. Bute inhibits pain which has lead to speculation that some horses will race through the pain barrier leading to injury. Racecourse veterinarians have opined that a horse on Bute may compromise their medical pre-race examination, in the sense that the horse won’t “say” ouch.

Lasix seems more innocent; it prevents bleeding, but its effect is diuretic and causes horses to lose up to twenty pounds of fluid pre-race, lowering the blood pressure and the chances of bleeding. Some believe it to be performance-enhancing, not least because of carrying less weight! No wonder that some of the European trainers join the Lasix party. I am not qualified to comment on the whys and wherefores of the drug regime for racehorses in the US, but the use of drugs still causes me some unease.

And yet, there will be Henry with Midday, Twice Over and Father Time. Consider the Marathon; Geordieland, Kite Wood and Dansant.  In the Juvenile Fillies Turf more than half the field are British and Irish.  Fleeting Spirit sprinting against the very best they have to offer; not to mention the Ballydoyle battalion. I think you get where I am going with this. The quality is too magnetic, the setting too awesome. In short, the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita is too much of a last hurrah to miss. 

Frankie sums it up nicely on Donativum in 2008

Back in the real world

I am shocked to see and hear that Sea The Stars’ marvellous exploits do not appear to warrant wall-to-wall coverage.  This comes as a shock to me – you mean the entire universe is not quite as obsessed as me?

Indeed the radio only mentioned him @ 8.30 (notice the break from usual rigid routine – that’s how earth-shattering events have been) in a brief sentence, after a long Lee Dixon ramble about the amazing new ball that they are playing with in The Premiership.  Apparently this may account for the goal-infested matches there have been lately.  If Mr Dixon is to be believed the ball can go any which way you wish to kick it…  Either that, he said, or no-one knows how to conduct a back four any more. 

Anyway, I don’t want the pantomime that is The Premiership intruding on my Sea The Stars aftermath, even if the media aren’t producing the lengthy paeans of praise I am after.  I expect a purchase of Racing Post will fix that later.  Please, please let Alistair Down write something I like for once.

I have been reading a lot about Sea The Stars and his victory and the Breeders’ Cup.  I am with Pat Eddery – he should do no more, there is nothing left to prove.  Yet, some correspondents are after more.  They suspect we have not yet found the bottom of the horse.  Why, I ask, would we want to?  Are we so greedy for more that we would pack him off to California, a long flight after a long, long season and then ask him to compete on polytrack, albeit in the most spectacular of settings.  If we demand that, he will either win or lose, or worse.  None of the possible outcomes could enhance his fame any more.  Mick Kinane said yesterday his coat has gone, he is becoming woolly.  This is a sure sign that it is time for us to let him go.  John Oxx has always said he will let the horse tell him where the next place to go will be.  I am sure he will be listening carefully over the next few weeks.

Urban Sea 1989-2009, (courtesy of Irish National Stud)

Urban Sea 1989-2009, (courtesy of Irish National Stud)