October 25, 2015: The first edition of Breakfast at the Breeders’ Cup
There was a strong sense of excitement and anticipation in the air and by the rail as people congregated for the first special morning edition of workouts at the track, launching Breeders’ Cup week with an array of horses entered in the championship races appearing on the track mostly wearing their Breeders’ Cup saddle towels, identifying them by name, uniquely assigned numbers, and the name of the race they were expected to race in. Keeneland’s Betologists were spread across the track apron to hand out lists of the entrants matched to the numbers they’d been assigned and categorized by race, and also to provide insight based on seeing the horses on the track, if desired.
The workouts were listed as beginning at 7 a.m. At this time of year, there isn’t any daylight by then, so I came a bit later, hoping to get good photos but not wanting to miss many of the horses even while conditions weren’t ideal for photography. Commentators announced which horses were working and spoke of their potential chances in their respective races, and how they had trained so far or were looking this morning. They also mentioned that quite a few horses had worked even earlier than 7. Understandable, since morning training does start before 7.
However, there was still a plethora of contenders to see. Holy Lute, who I was so impressed by early in the meet, was the first one on the track around the time I arrived that made me stop and look. He’s not dark bay like his sire Midnight Lute, but he is a tall and solidly built horse. In that regard, he is reminscient of his sire. He ran against the top notch Grand Arch earlier this month, but you never know what can happen in a Breeders’ Cup race. He’s got a stellar sprinter as a sire, after all.
Liam’s Map, a Classic contender, also was quite eye-catching. He too is dapple gray like Holy Lute, but in a darker shade. It was still too dark to get decent photos of him as well, but seeing those two was still worth being out that early.
Lea was the first horse I’d heard of that made a track appearance as the light began to illuminate the sky. The forecast had called for a rainy morning, so I was appreciative that no rain fell on this first of two days I will get to see the Breeders’ Cup workouts. My day job calls the next two days but I will be back Wednesday morning, fresh on the heels of American Pharoah’s Tuesday afternoon arrival, when it is expected he should take to the track at some point. Hopefully while it is daylight.
Then my friend and I heard that Beholder had been on the training track and was making her way to the paddock to school. A chance to see a horse of her caliber was absolutely not to be missed so we made our way to the paddock along with a horde of other photographers. I read when I returned to Lexington after three days away that she had spiked a mild fever, but appeared to be doing fine now. As she entered the paddock, she looked the picture of health and well-being, taking a calm interest in her surroundings. Her trainer had her go from saddling stall to saddling stall several times, finally explaining that they didn’t know what post position she’d have to the laughter of the gathered crowd. Beholder …. well she really is a horse to behold and took everything in stride. I did initially see her when she worked at Dawn at the Downs in her Oaks year, but she has made such a name for herself since then that I definitely wanted new photos of her and to see her once more. The Classic can be filled with intriguing storylines and backgrounds of the horses entered, as can many of the Breeders’ Cup races. Yet even with a race that can hold such interest, I find this one perhaps the most intriguing I’ve seen since Zenyatta’s, with two horses like American Pharoah and Beholder going head-to-head. That is not to discount the rest of the field, naturally all top horses themselves, but the idea of a Triple Crown winner and one of the most accomplished mares to come along in a while competing against each other is such a compelling draw.
As Beholder entered the paddock and began to walk around the circular paths nearest the entrance, a bay colt with a pony entered behind her and walked the whole length of the paddock, presumably going to the track. I only turned to watch him go briefly before turning back to Beholder because one photographer nearby said that he is Cocked and Loaded, on of the top Juvenile entrants. Also, as I wrote in a previous post, he was bred by Bob Austin, whom I briefly worked for this spring. I am intrigued to see what Cocked and Loaded does. While I never worked with him and was just at the farm a short time before most of their broodmares shipped out of Kentucky and they therefore didn’t require additional help, I still take an interest in him just because I did have a connection with the farm that bred and raised him.
As Beholder entered the smaller walking ring, she seemed to anticipate being expected to head through the tunnel and onto the main track, turning her head that way several times. We had been told several Breeders’ Cup contenders had opted for the training track due to the sloppy conditions of the main track today, after all the rain from yesterday and through the night last night.
Then we settled into the grandstand to watch several more Breeders’ Cup contenders make their appearances on track.
That concluded the first morning of Breakfast at the Breeders’ Cup. The fall colors are just perfect right now, and I walked through a barn just to get another dose of that Keeneland serenity.