Part 1 Breeders' Cup Thoughts: The Stage is Set
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Each week, West Point Thoroughbreds President Terry Finley will share his thoughts leading up to the Breeders' Cup. This is the first installment.
With seventeen days to go before the first day of Breeders' Cup races, the stage is set. I am extremely excited to share my thoughts with everyone over the next few weeks. Every Monday leading up to the races and then once more after the races I will offer my thoughts.
This year, the Breeders' Cup holds so much significance for me. West Point Thoroughbreds has a chance to make history. 2007 has been an unbelievable year for us. We are thrilled with the successes we have had thus far including five Grade 1 wins. However, the Breeders' Cup is our championship. Success in sports is generally measured in championships, so our focus is on capturing one or more of these Breeders' Cup races. If we do, it will be the best year any thoroughbred partnership company has ever enjoyed. That's pretty heady stuff, but it is also very humbling to see where we are now and remember where we came from. Monmouth Park, site of this year's Breeders' Cup, was one of the first tracks where the stable competed. Actually, my affinity for Monmouth runs far deeper than most tracks. As a teenager, I worked on the Monmouth backstretch during the summer. I ran across a winner's photo from Monmouth Park of myself as a teenager from the late 1970s the other day. The memories began flooding back. I am not sure I could have imagined that thirty years later I would be fortunate enough to be in the position I am now.
While the Breeders' Cup will be a homecoming of sorts for me personally, I will derive my greatest joy from making this year's Breeders' Cup the most enjoyable experience possible for our Partners. This, by far, will be the most exciting (and daunting) event we have had to put together. There are some inherent challenges that we will face including ticketing and paddock passes, but when you face potentially starting five runners you have to expect some degree of difficulty.
I'm counting down the minutes until we enter the horses. I know it will be a magical moment. Of course, the $275,000 check we have to write to run in the five races might give me heart palpitations for a few days afterwards.
As for the horses here is the latest:
Awesome Gem will be our first ever Breeders' Cup Classic runner. Over the past ten months, he has consistently squared off against the best horses on the west coast. His victory in the Grade 2 San Fernando Breeders' Cup over the winter was one of the most stirring races I have ever been involved with. Since then, we have been on the short end of some agonizingly close photo finishes. On paper, it looks as if there are roughly five horses to beat in the Classic. However, you have to be in the race to win it, and we know that Awesome Gem will give you every ounce of everything he has in the race. This summer the Monmouth strip was extremely speed favoring, so that could work against us. However, they say that everything possible is being done to make the track fair. With a little luck you never know what might happen.
Our excitement about Dream Rush's chances is boundless. We realize that if she wins the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint she is likely the de facto champion female sprinter. If we don't have some bad luck, then Dream Rush will be hard to beat in her race. She could not be doing better. She turned in her major breeze prior to the race on Monday when she worked a dazzling five-furlongs at Aqueduct. Rick's enthusiasm about her is contagious. We realize that there will be some quality fillies in the race. Our favoritism in the race could be affected by what happens with La Traviata, but Rick would not want to trade places with anyone. Neither would I.
Rick Violette also sent out our other Breeders' Cup runner from his barn for a work on Monday. High Finance went a steady mile in 1:39 and change in preparation for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. High Finance is as talented as any middle distance horse in the country, but he also will throw in head scratching efforts from time to time. One of those efforts came in his last start in the Forego. Rick and I laugh because Rick feels he's sometimes less trainer and more amateur psychiatrist with High Finance. We know that on his best day High Finance can compete with and beat any horse in the country. If he does not show up, then we realize that he will likely run toward the back of the pack.
Who said figuring out this racing game was easy? Our Grade 1 winner Irish Smoke never ran a step as the favorite in the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland. Having had a few days to look back after the race, it seems like the Alcibiades might just be a toss out race. Numerous favorites ran very poorly over the weekend. It seems as if the Polytrack, which was baked by some rain and then bright sunshine, was hard on many horses. The leader board changes in the two-year-old division from week to week. If you've got a Grade 1 winning juvenile at this time of year you cannot look too far ahead and must strike while the iron is hot. Just as many college football coaches do after a bad game, they throw away the tape and move on. We're going to throw away the tape from the Alcibiades and move on.
The Breeders' Cup Distaff looks like it might be the most wide-open race outside of the Classic. The favorite, which we might be, will likely go off at around 7/2 or even 4/1. Kiaran breezed her an easy half-mile on Friday, and her next breeze will likely be her major work prior to the race. I could say so many things about this filly, but her ascent toward the top of her division has been meteoric. Her career did not kickoff until mid-April at Keeneland in one of the most bizarre finishes to a race you'll ever see. It is a race we can laugh about now because we did end up winning. I remember thinking to myself then that this filly might be charmed. I was wrong. She was not lucky, she was just that good. Since then, she has gone on to become a Grade 1 winner on the dirt and a stakes winner on the turf. She's less than a length from being undefeated. Now that she has punched her ticket to the $2,000,000 Breeders' Cup Distaff we want to see if in six short months she can go from maiden to Breeders' Cup champion.