ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) — Gary Stevens had never won the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in his long career. Kathy Ritvo came close a year ago with Mucho Macho Man only to settle for second.
The veteran jockey and the trainer who got another chance at life after a heart transplant in 2008 teamed up with the hard-knocking horse to win by a whisker Saturday.
Mucho Macho Man edged Will Take Charge in a photo finish decided by a nose, making Ritvo the first female trainer to win North America’s richest race at a Breeders’ Cup that began tragically with the death of a horse in the first race.
“I didn’t know the photo was as close as it was,” said Stevens, who was 0-for-14 in the Classic.
Stevens capped his comeback at 50 in stellar fashion, surviving a photo finish in the Classic after winning the $2 million Distaff with Beholder on Friday for a sweep of the biggest races at the two-day world championships at Santa Anita.
Ritvo became the fifth female trainer to win a Breeders’ Cup race and got to celebrate a year after seeing Mucho Macho Man finish second by a half-length to winner Fort Larned.
“Thrilling,” she said.
First, though, Ritvo had to sweat out the results.
Mucho Macho Man stretched his neck to hold off Will Take Charge, trained by 78-year-old Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.
“I was just hoping he got it,” Ritvo said. “When I saw Gary shake his stick, I was confident. He ran a fantastic race.”
Game On Dude, the 8-5 favorite who was 5-0 this year, finished ninth on his home track for trainer Bob Baffert and co-owner Joe Torre, the retired Dodgers and Yankees manager.
Baffert had an up-and-down day. His filly, Secret Compass, broke her leg in the opening Juvenile Fillies race and had to be euthanized. Then he won two races before Game On Dude lost as the favorite for the second straight year.
“When I saw him going real fast on the backstretch, I knew I was in trouble,” he said. “Then when Mike (Smith) asked him, there was nothing there. You always feel bad when you get beat, but I feel worse for the horse.”
Fort Larned wound up fourth.
Mucho Macho Man ran 1 ¼ miles in 2:00.72 and paid $10, $4.60 and $3.60 as the 4-1 second choice. The victory likely earned him champion older male honors and may get him consideration for Horse of the Year honors, which Game On Dude could have wrapped up with a win.
Current Horse of the Year Wise Dan repeated in the $2 million Mile, winning by three-quarters of a length under Jose Lezcano, a late replacement for Velazquez. He paid $3.60 to win as the 4-5 favorite.
Will Take Charge returned $7.20 and $4.80.
“It’s just a heartbreak that he lost,” said Lukas, who won his only Classic in 1999 with Cat Thief. “He did everything right. The jump after the wire we got him.”
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Two months shy of his 50th birthday, Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens is launching a comeback this weekend at Santa Anita.
“My passion is still there,” Stevens said Thursday in announcing his return after a seven-year retirement. “Or I should say my passion has come back. I’ve worked a couple of very good horses in the morning at Santa Anita that kind of made the hair stand up on my neck and I haven’t felt that in a long time.”
Stevens’ first race will be Sunday at Santa Anita, with his lone mount in a $50,000 claiming race on a horse named Jebrica.
“I’m going to be selective in what I ride and if that means not riding at all or upsetting people then so be it,” he said. “I didn’t come back to ride five days a week and ride nine races a day. I came back to ride some quality horses with hopefully some good futures.”
He retired in November 2005 after battling knee pain that had him downing anti-inflammatories every day for the last 15 years of his career.
“Knees, they were never 100 percent, I’ll tell you, but compared to my last five years of riding they’re about 120 percent now,” Stevens said, adding that the medications damaged his liver. “Fortunately, the liver is able to repair itself and I’m healthy.”
Stevens said he’s been working with a personal trainer and attended a program in Bellevue, Wash., that taught him how to eat a diet featuring high-protein and carbohydrates along with healthy fats. In retirement, his weight reached 146 pounds, but now Stevens said he’s “down to 119 without trying.”
“I’m sleeping well, no medications,” he said.
Stevens’ wife, Angie Athayde, said, “He cut out smoking, drinking, sugar. He went really hard-core.”
She and the couple’s young daughter visited Stevens in Washington state over Thanksgiving, where food and drink were in abundance.
“I said, `Are you OK? They’re drinking,”‘ she said of the get-together. “He said, `It’s not the drinking. It’s the pie.”‘
Athayde said she’s excited for him to resume riding.
“It’s long overdue,” she said. “He’s been so miserable not riding. I told him, `You’ve got to get back on a horse.”‘
Stevens has been working as a racing commentator for HRTV on weekends and for NBC Sports during the Triple Crown series, and he said he’ll continue in those jobs while juggling his riding commitments.
The TV work provides a fallback plan if his comeback is thwarted by his knees.
“I don’t know that that pain won’t come back. Only time will tell,” Stevens said.
Then there’s the danger involved in riding 1,200-pound thoroughbreds going 40 mph in a race.
“Anything can happen at any time,” he said. “I know being out there it’s not a question of if I’m going to hit the ground, it’s when. But I’m probably fitter than I’ve been. I know I’ll able to handle the blow. The risk is worth the reward at this point.”
For now, Stevens is working without an agent, although he indicated he may have one soon. He said he’s looking forward to riding a few horses in particular, although he declined to provide their names.
In addition to his TV duties, Stevens has worked as a jockey agent, opened his own racing stable, and done some acting. He played jockey George Woolf in “Seabiscuit” and played a down-on-his-luck jockey in the HBO racing series “Luck” that was cancelled after a brief run last year.
Stevens won 4,888 races and more than $221 million in purses during a career that began in 1979 at Les Bois Park in Boise, Idaho. He’s won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes three times each, and twice won the Preakness Stakes. His other highlights include winning the Santa Anita Derby nine times and eight Breeders’ Cup races.
In 1997, Stevens was elected to racing’s Hall of Fame and the following year he won the Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding jockey.
Friday’s opening act for Saturday’s races saw the toteboard explode with winners at double-digit odds in first 3 Breeders’ Cup races having $2 win payoffs of $32.80, $36.40 and $24.80. In fact, the Post Time favorite to get to the Winners’ Circle until Royal Delta went gate to wire in the finale (Ladies Classic) as the 8-5 favorite which still generated a Pick-6 payoff of $733,865.20.
Saturday’s nine (9) Breeders’ Cup races have plenty of storylines to fill time between races for the broadcasters, such as…. can the father-son (trainer/jockey) team of Aidan & Joseph O’Brien get St. Nicholas Abbey to repeat in the Turf? Will undefeated 2 year old Shanghai Bobby win the Juvenile and emerge as the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby? Can the vanilla yogurt loving Amazomibe defend his title in the Sprint? Is the Mile a two-horse race of East (Excelebration) versus West (Wise Dan)? And finally in the Classic, can Game on Dude avenge his 2011 lose to the Bill Mott trained Drosselmeyer, by defeating not one, not two but three of Mott’s runners?
Post Time for the first BC race (is race 4 on the SA card) is scheduled for 2:50pm EDT (11:50am PDT). The first BC race will be the 4th race on Satan Anita 12 race card. All BC races will be broadcast live with 4th thru 11th races on NBC Sports Network, then switch to NBC for primetime coverage of the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (8-9 p.m. EDT).
Below are opinions on each of Saturday’s nine (9) Breeders’ Cup races will be posted on Saturday morning. The horses are those who I feel have the best chance at winning versus being able to complete an Exacta, Trifecta or Superfecta. Hence, Double, Pick-3 and Pick-4 players take note. All Post Times listed are Eastern Daylight Time.
#1 – Summit County (30-1)
#2 – Artigiano (8-1)
#3 – George Vancouver (GB) (8-1)
#4 – Gervinho (15-1)
#5 – Fantastic Moon (GB) (12-1)
#6 – Dundonnell (4-1)
#7 – Brown Almighty (20-1)
#8 – Balance the Books (8-1)
#9 – Noble Tune (6-1)
#10 – Joha (6-1)
#11 – Dry Summer (10-1)
#12 – I’m Boundtoscore (20-1)
#13 – Know More (8-1)
#14 – Lines of Battle (12-1)
#15 – (AE) Rising Legend (12-1) AE = Also Eligible – will only start if another in the field is scratched
This race has a full field of 14 2 year olds (12 colts and 1 gelding) going postward. Each of these runners have only a handful of career starts. It’s here where you could see a nice priced runner cross the wire first.
Horse to Watch: #2 – I’m Boundtoscore will be heard from early as she is certain to be on or near the lead as the field heads to the backstretch. The question is whether MD-based jockey Sarah Rook can make every pole a winning one for WV based trainer colt who makes his 6th career start in a 6th different state/province (CA, KY, PA, VA, NJ and ONT-Canada).
Fact: For the first time in Breeders’ Cup history, 2 year olds will not be allowed to compete with the use of the diuretic drug Lasix, which is routinely administered to control the tendency of horses to bleed in the lungs after exertion. The ban has stirred intense controversy throughout the U.S. thoroughbred industry.
UPDATED with MORE SCRATCHES: Please note in addition to the scratched horses in the BC Marathon and BC Juvenile Fillies Turf, in the BC Juvenile Sprint #5 – Super Ninety Nine has now been scratched (see below).
When the Breeders’ Cup (BC) expanded the number of races from the original eight (8) in order to make it a two day event, Day 1 (Friday) was unofficially “Ladies Day”. That is, all of the races on Friday featured fillies and mares. Over the past couple past years, that is no longer the case. Now it seems the BC brass review the pre-entries for the fillies and mare races, and if there are any that have a superstar or multiple stars, they’ll move that race to Saturday (Day 2).
There are a total of 15 races for the 29th Breeders’ Cup Championships, six (6) Friday and nine (9) on Saturday. 4 of the 6 races on Friday are restricted to fillies and mares. The two exceptions are the 6 furlong Juvenile Sprint and Grade 2 (G2) Marathon. They are the first two Breeders’ Cup races (4th and 5th on the card) this year held at Santa Anita Park, Post Time is 1:06pm PDT (4:06pm EDT) and broadcast live on NBC Sports Network.
Bob Baffert hopes to “bolt” to the Winners’ Circle often as he has (10) runners in eight (8) races over the 2 day event, while Mike Smith needs just one win to become the all-time winningest Breeders’ Cup jockey. He has eight mounts and is currently tied with Jerry Bailey, each having 15 wins.
These 6 races will be enough to wet the appetite of hard-core horse players. It’s like being able to open a present or two on Christmas Eve, to help quell your excitement in order to settle down enough to get a goodnights’ sleep before the big day. Saturday features nine (9) BC races, concluding with the $5 million Classic.
Below are my opinions on each of Friday’s six (6) Breeders’ Cup races. The horses are those who I feel have the best chance at winning versus being able to complete an Exacta, Trifecta or Superfecta. Hence, Double, Pick-3 and Pick-4 players take note. All Post Times are listed as Eastern Daylight Time (EDT):
#1 – Hightail (8-1)
#2 – Ceiling Kitty (12-1)
#3 – Merit Man (8-5)
#4 – South Floyd (6-1)
#5 – Super Ninety Nine*** SCRATCHED ***
#6 – Harardous (8-1)
#7 – Sweet Shirley Mae (4-1)
The inaugural running of the Juvenile Sprint was just a year ago when Secret Circle easily disposed of 8 rivals as the prohibitive 2-5 betting choice.
I’ll go out on a limb and say the winner of the 2nd running will provide a higher WIN price. Don’t be fooled by slow 5 furlong work by #8 – Merit Man. Trainer Bob Hess has used this pattern in the past with this guy. #4 – South Floyd should be setting the early pace with the rest of the pack not far behind.
Horse to Watch: English invader #2 – Ceiling Kitty is 1 of 2 fillies in here, but has faced her male counterparts in all 7 career outings, being victorious in 3. She might be worth a look as she gets HOF rider John Velazquez in the irons for her natural dirt debut.
Fact: #1 – Hightail is the only maiden in the field, trying to win for the 1st time in his 9th lifetime start.
The Marathon was added to the BC program in 2008. The winners in the first 2 runnings of this event were European shippers, while the next 2 by runners bred and raced in the USA.
The first two years were run on the synthetic surface at Santa Anita Park (SA) but switch to natural dirt in 2010 and 2011 at Churchill Downs (CD). The 2012 Marathon will be run on natural dirt as the SA main track is back to Mother’s Nature dirt. Based on the short history of race the track surface seems to dictate from what continent the winner hails. This years field of 14 compromises of just two (2) Europeans, #2 – Fame and Gloryand #13 – Sense of Purpose. In 43 races between to two, none have been on natural dirt. There are two (2) South American breds who race in Argentina (#6 – Calidoscopio and #9 – Almudena) but have nice dirt track resume’s.
Horse to Watch: #6 – Calidoscopio has hit the board in 15 of 24 main track races, winning 7 of them. He’s made a career from running distances of 1¼ to 2 miles and appears to be able to “run all day”. No one really knows how stiff the competition is in Argentina, but that 2.01 3/5 on May 1 going 10 furlongs isn’t chopped liver, unless it was run on asphalt. This 9 year old can make BC history by becoming the oldest winner of a BC race (a few have won at age 7).
Fact: #10 – Eldaafer won this event in 2010 at Churchill Downs.
Just as young children eagerly anticipate Christmas morning, horse players do the same for Breeders’ Cup. It is the culmination of the racing year, featuring the best thoroughbreds from around the world. For the sixth consecutive year, it will be a two-day event (Friday, Nov. 2nd and Saturday, Nov. 3rd) with total purses exceeding $25 million. Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, CA will be the venue for the 29th annual Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
Day 1 (Friday) will feature six (6) Breeders’ Cup races on a Santa Anita 10-race card. 1st race Post Time at 4:06pm EDT (1:06pm PDT) with the Breeders’ Cup race slated for race 4 through 9. Here’s the line-up. All Post Times are listed as Eastern Daylight Time and will be televised on NBC and NBC Sports Network:
4th race (4:06pm): $500k BC Juvenile Sprint – 6 furlongs
5th race (4:46pm): $500k Gr. 2 BC Marathon – 1 3/4 mile
6th race (5:28pm): $1 million Gr. 1 BC Juvenile Fillies Turf – 1 mile on the Turf
7th race (6:08pm): $2 million Gr. 1 Grey Goose BC Juvenile Fillies – 1 1/16 mile
8th race (6:48pm): $2 million Gr. 1 BC Filly & Mare Turf – 1 1/4 mile on the Turf
9th race (7:30pm): $2 million Gr. 1 BC Ladies Classic – 1 1/8 mile
Day 2 (Saturday) will feature nine (9) Breeders’ Cup races on a Santa Anita 12-race card. 1st race Post Time at 1:05pm EDT (10:05am PDT) with the Breeders’ Cup race slated for race 4 through the finale, race 12. Here’s the line-up. All Post Times are listed as Eastern Daylight Time with televised coverage by NBC:
4th race (2:50pm): $500k BC Juvenile Turf – 1 mile on the Turf
5th race (3:35pm): $2 million Gr. 1 BC Filly & Mare Sprint – 7 furlongs
6th race (4:14pm): $1 million Gr. 1 BC Dirt Mile – 1 mile
7th race (4:57pm): $1 million Gr. 1 BC Turf Sprint – 6½ furlongs on the Downhill Turf
8th race (5:36pm): $2 million Gr. 1 Grey Goose BC Juvenile – 1 1/16 mile
9th race (6:18pm): $3 million Gr. 1 BC Turf – 1 1/2 mile on the Turf
10th race (6:58pm): $1.5 million Gr. 1 Xpressbet BC Sprint – 6 furlongs
11th race (7:40pm): $2 million Gr. 1 BC Mile – 1 mile on the Turf
12th race (8:35pm): $5 million Gr. 1 BC Classic – 1 1/4 mile
To help get you in the mood for some horse racing, here’s the last Breeders’ Cup race run at Santa Anita…
… does anyone remember (or care) who won that Wake-GT OT game that day (re: ESPN scroll at the wire)?!
And just when you thought Zenyatta was would give us a Fairy Tale ending to her career in the 2010 Classic, we only had one horse to Blame…
As distraught as Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith was after that loss, he rode an eerily similar race aboard Drosselmeyer in last years Classic. Returning to the scene of the 2010 crime, snatching victory away from former girlfriend and recently retired, Chantal Sutherland who was aboard Game On Dude. Ya just can’t make this stuff up!
“The Breeders’ Cup continues to be the greatest two days of wagering anywhere in the world,” said Ken Kirchner, President of FalKirk International and the manager of the Breeders’ Cup wagering and simulcasting operations for the last 16 years. “With a tantalizing array of fractional wagers, like the 10 cent Superfecta and 50 cent Trifecta, Pick-3’s, Pick-4’s and Pick-5’s, players can be confident they will receive the highest betting value in all of racing. Among last year’s top payouts were a $71,510 Pick 5 for 50 cents; a $93,628 Pick 4 for $1; and a $444,571 Pick 6 for $2.”
Each Breeders’ Cup World Championships race will feature a maximum of 14 horses and wagering interests. In addition to the standard Win, Place and Show betting, there will be Exacta and Trifecta wagering on every race and rolling Pick 3 wagers beginning with the first race and continuing through all races on both Championship Friday and Championship Saturday. Among the featured wagers this year are:
• Friday’s Ultra Pick 6 will have a guaranteed gross pool of $1 million and Saturday’s Ultra Pick 6 will feature a $2 million guaranteed gross pool. If no one hits the Friday Ultra Pick 6, the pool will carry over into Saturday’s Ultra Pick 6. The wager is a mandatory payout at the end of the Saturday program. Last year’s Friday Pick 6 paid $444,571 for 6 of 6 winners, while no one selected all six winners on Saturday and five of six winners paid $95,070 for a $2 base wager.
• Breeders’ Cup Pick 5’s are offered on the first five races each day and will give players a chance to cash a large bet for a small investment. Last year, the Saturday Pick 5 paid $71,510 for a fifty cent bet.
• The Pick 4, with a 50-cent minimum, continues to be a fan favorite bet at the Breeders’ Cup. There will be three guaranteed Pick 4 pools. Friday’s all Championships Pick 4 (races 6-9) will have a guaranteed pool of $1 million. This Pick 4 paid $11,714 for a $1 wager last year. On Saturday, there will be two guaranteed Pick 4s. The early all Championships Pick 4 (races 4-7) will have a $1 million guaranteed gross pool and the late all Championships Pick 4 (races 9-12) will have a $2 million gross pool. The 2011 late Pick 4 on Saturday paid $93,628 for a $1 base wager.
• There will again be a Super High Five wager on both the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Bettors are required to select the first five finishing places on one ticket. If no one hits the Super High Five on Friday the pool will carry over to Saturday’s Super High Five on the Classic. The wager is a mandatory payout after the Classic. The Super High 5 on the 2011 Classic paid $156,424 for a $1 wager.
• A Daily Double wager linking the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic on Friday to the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday will again be offered. Last year’s “Classic Double” of Ladies’ Classic winner Royal Delta and Classic winner Drosselmeyer paid $84.
• Breeders’ Cup continues to offer some of racing’s best average payouts, with the $2 exactas averaging $354; $2 trifectas averaging $2,860 and $1 superfectas averaging $11,563 in 2011.