Heather Benson: 2013 Breeders’ Cup recap

Horse Nation’s brand-new blogger Heather Benson, a former racetrack executive and professional handicapping analyst, outlines the highs and lows of this year’s races.

Photos courtesy of BreedersCup.com.

From Heather:

I meant to do a Breeders’ Cup preview to get this blog started, complete with my “expert” analysis of the races. Thank god I was bedridden with the flu because let’s just say that that Breeders’ Cup 30 ended up being an exercise in handicapping futility for this race fan…I didn’t pick a single winner.

So instead of that painful exercise, we can instead start this blog conversation with a look back at what the weekend at Santa Anita brought us. This year’s edition of what is ostensibly Thoroughbred racing’s “World Championships” saw several highs and lows. Here is a quick run-through:

HIGH: Watching repeat Breeders’ Cup race winners come back and win another one. I hate falling in love with a winner in a big race and then watching them disappear. So to see horses like Beholder, Mizdirection and Secret Circle come back and take another race down is a great thing. I didn’t put a dime on them, but loved their wins all the same.


LOW: Watching the live performance of that awful “Breeders’ Cup song” they played right before the Classic on NBC. I normally avoid watching the network television telecast for any race, instead watching online. The endless chattering of talking heads annoys me to no end. But as I had a friend over to watch the races, I figured she would appreciate a screen bigger than nine inches across. So we watched…and wish we hadn’t. WHO was that woman singing? It was not good, not good at all. It was like watching your boss get drunk and sing karaoke at the office Christmas party. You want to just walk away, but you can’t because the horror is just too mesmerizing.


HIGH: Watching the old man, Gary Stevens, cap his comeback year with wins in both the Distaff (on Beholder) and the Classic (on Mucho Macho Man). For those of you out of the loop, Gary Stevens was one of America’s top jockeys in the ’90s and early 2000s. He retired seven years ago due to a knee injury that just wouldn’t heal. And then, he un-retired in February…at age 50. It is always scary when sports legends do this. Remember when fat Roger Clemens tried to pitch again and how badly that went? Enough said. But Gary has ridden lights out this year…winning the Preakness on Oxbow and then cleaning house at the Breeder’s Cup. I simply hope to still be able to get my foot in the stirrup at age 50, much less ride at a world class level (OK, I have no hope of even doing that NOW!). Well done, old man, well done!


LOW: None of the Kittens won. The Kittens? I have spent the last few years just loathing the names that Ramsey Farm gives the offspring from their stallion, Kitten’s Joy. They all end up with names like “Big Blue Kitten,” “Kitten Kaboodle” and my personal least favorite, “Kitten’s Dumplings.” I like a dignified racehorse name…things like War Admiral, Citation and Secretariat just sound better than “Emotional Kitten,” “Bitty Kitty” or “Kitten’s Mittens” (all real names of Kitten’s Joy babies, by the way).

But then this summer, I started paying attention to them, because who couldn’t? The Kitten babies won EVERYTHING in sight this year…and in the old school way. They love to run long and on the grass…an anomaly in America where we breed to run short distances on the dirt. On one day in August, Kitten’s Joy sired the runners of every single big name turf race in the US… 3 grade 1’s in one day. That just doesn’t happen….Vegas probably would have given me great odds on it! And the more I learned about the Ramseys as individuals, the more I liked them too…true horse people that put their horses first and winning second. And so, against my better judgment, I was rooting for the Kittens to have a big weekend at the Breeders’ Cup. Alas, they did not…but I do know that with owners like the Ramseys behind them, there are bigger and better days ahead.


All in all, it was a good Breeders’ Cup. Good crowds, tight finishes and lovely weather. They changed the awful “Ladies’ Classic” back to the Distaff and dropped that idiotic “Juvenile Sprint” race and it seems like they are trying hard to bring the event back to its former glory. It’s onward and upward from here and I look forward to the next edition!

Heather Benson is a former racetrack executive, professional handicapping analyst and owner of a Triple Crown winner (well, at least a horse that played one in a movie). But far more importantly, she is a is still that girl who gets giddy when the starting gate opens and cries every time she watches a replay of Secretariat’s Belmont Stakes. Join her each month as she takes you on a journey through the world of horse racing, from top to bottom, with a little bit of everything in between! Heather also operates Back Forty Media and Marketing, a full service marketing firm focusing on telling story of equine ventures around the country. Go to her website for more info and to follow her on Facebook at www.backfortymarketing.com


Heather: “Me and my ‘Triple Crown winner,’ a.k.a. Cyclone Larry, taken at the North Dakota Horse Park in 2009. He was a racing prospect I owned that failed utterly as a racehorse but was cast in the role of ‘Secretariat’ in the 2010 Disney movie by the same name.”


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