October 19-25, 2013
The 30th Breeders Crown took place on Saturday at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, and it was everything a racing fan could have possibly hoped for and more. Events as hyped as this rarely live up to their billing, but, if anything, at the end of the night it seemed like no amount of build-up could have prepared the folks who were at Pocono and the thousands all over the world who watched at simulcast sites and on television for what they saw.
Each one of the twelve races deserves an article of their own, so I’ll inevitably have to leave out some of the champions, both of the equine and human variety, that graced our stage. Since those details have been well-reported elsewhere, I thought I’d just give some of my final impressions on the finest single night of racing I’ve ever witnessed.
I had the opportunity to watch all the action from the announcer’s booth, where I called the races in tandem with my buddy Sam McKee of The Meadowlands. It was a good thing there were two of us in the booth, because I don’t think either one of us alone could have handled all that craziness. It seemed that after every race, we would stare at each other mouths agape in either shock or awe at what had just transpired on the track.
With such big money on the line, it made sense that the sport’s finest drivers were entrusted with the reins. Only five different drivers captured victories on the night: Tim Tetrick had three, David Miller, Ron Pierce, and Yannick Gingras had two each, and Brian Sears picked up one. One could say that those are the top five drivers in the sport right now and it would be hard to argue against it. Their choices were almost universally fine on Saturday night, especially Tetrick’s brilliant weaving drive aboard Market Share in the Open Trot.
For all of the brilliance that quintet of drivers displayed throughout, this night was about the horses. The night was marketed on the backs of several superstar horses. For the most part, they all came through, with the exception of Anndrovette, whose bid for a third straight win in the Open Mares pace came up short in 3rd behind David Miller and Shelliscape.
While most of these big names delivered on their promise, what differed about them was how they accomplished this. Some were simply too good for the rest, like 2-year-old trotter Father Patrick, who dominated his group on the front end, and the sublime Bee A Magician, who stayed unbeaten after 15 starts in her 3-year-old season by beating the sophomore trotting fillies without seeming to break a sweat. I Luv The Nitelife, a 3-year-old pacing filly who lost just once this year in 14 races despite a brutally tough schedule, trailed for much of her race, only to explode in the stretch and leave everybody in the dust.
Yet maybe the two most impressive command performances on the night were two that produced unbearably narrow margins of victory. Captaintreacherous is one of the most celebrated 3-year-old pacers in the history of the sport, but he was out to avenge his only loss this season, a heartbreaking photo finish defeat to Sunshine Beach at Pocono in August. The two hooked up to battle once again in the 3-year-old Colts and Geldings Pace, and for several moments it appeared that Sunshine Beach had the favorite’s number. But what makes the Captain special, as Sam McKee pointed out on race night, is his heart, and he showed every bit of it by digging in to win by a neck.
In the final race of the night, Foiled Again presented a worthy encore to the Captain’s showstopper in the Open Pace. Considering that he’d earned more money that any pacer in North American history coming into the race, anything that the 9-year-old warrior from the Ron Burke barn could give in the final was pure gravy. But one thing that had eluded Foiled Again was the Breeders Crown, so he was all-in for this one.
Driver Yannick Gingras sent Foiled Again to the front past the half-mile marker, but the fractions seemed too steep for him to carry, especially on a sloppy track. Foiled Again gave everything he had to stay on top, only to have a rallying Pet Rock pull up alongside at the line for a photo finish. For a tantalizing minute or so the photo sign stayed up until it disappeared to reveal that Foiled Again was the winner. The normally reserved Gingras gave a euphoric fist pump as the horse returned to the winner’s circle for the perfect exclamation point to the evening.
The Breeders Crown was a simply spectacular event, one that not even the windy and rainy weather could dampen. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to call another one, but, as far as I’m concerned, I was just part of the best one ever, so it would be pretty hard to top anyway.
That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.