Nov. 6 (UPI) — There are some unanswered questions and odds and ends after the Breeders’ Cup World Championship this weekend at Santa Anita and lots to which to look forward for the rest of 2023 and into the New Year.
The main question left is, who’s the 2023 Horse of the Year?
Clint Cornett, part owner of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner White Abarrio, wasted no time after that race looking for support for his 4-year-old, saying, “I hope this horse after this race gets the respect it deserves, right? Because I think he has been a little overlooked throughout his 3-year-old career.”
White Abarrio won the Florida Derby at age 3, but was nowhere in the Kentucky Derby and struggled after until the owners switched trainers to Rick Dutrow. From there, White Abarrio went on to an impressive victory in the Grade I Whitney on Aug. 5. Is that enough to be named the best?
The 3-year-olds seem to be out of the running, with the possible exception of Arcangelo, who won the Grade III Peter Pan, the Belmont Stakes and the Grade I Travers, but was withdrawn from Classic consideration after developing a sore tootsie during training at Santa Anita. Under the circumstances, that’s a pretty good resume.
Cody’s Wish won four of five starts, including a repeat in Saturday’s Dirt Mile, and certainly has the emotional edge with his connection to disabled teen namesake Cody Dorman. He defeated White Abarrio while winning the Mile but White Abarrio returned the favor in the Whitney.
Dirt Mile runners typically are not Horse of the Year contenders but again this year, it might be enough.
Idiomatic won eight of nine starts during the year, including Saturday’s Distaff, her third Grade I of the season, and will have strong support for the top honor and plenty of lobbying from trainer Brad Cox.
“Listen, I think she definitely deserves some votes for Horse of the Year. It’s a serious record,” Cox said immediately after the Distaff. “She has had a tremendous year from start to finish. Today was just icing on the cake.
Elite Power and Goodnight Olive were repeat winners in the Sprint and Filly & Mare Sprint and might get some votes.
Ironically, the best horse on display at the Breeders’ Cup and, arguably, the world’s best horse, won’t get the nod. Auguste Rodin made his only North American start in winning Saturday’s Turf and we can only hope to see him run again in 2024 — somewhere.
He’s eligible for Horse of the Year, but one start does not a campaign make.
As Auguste Rodin’s future remains up in the air, trainer Aidan O’Brien shared some provocative thoughts about his pedigree — by Japanese champion Deep Impact, out of Rhododendron, one of the best daughters of Ireland’s champion sire Galileo. Deep Impact is by Triple Crown champion Sunday Silence.
“We were watching him cantering on the track during the week, and he was floating over the dirt,” O’Brien said of this year’s English and Irish Derby winner. “I was thinking maybe we’ve been doing the wrong thing with him all the time.
“Obviously, everybody knows his granddaddy [Sunday Silence] here. He looks the very, the same. If you’ve ever seen any pictures of his granddad, what he was, and everybody knows what he was, and this horse looks the very same as him, he has the movement and the personality and the action. It’s just incredible.”
Realistically, Auguste Rodin potentially represents “the new Galileo” for the Coolmore “lads” and putting him at risk back on a racecourse would be a truly gutsy call.
Veteran trainer Bill Mott had an excellent weekend, saddling three winners, including Cody’s Wish and Elite Power, He also had Just FYI in Friday’s Juvenile Fillies. Irad Ortiz Jr. won the Bill Shoemaker Award as the event’s top jockey with three wins.
Trainer Bob Baffert, tied for second with 18 career winners, was shut out this year despite some good chances.
His came closest to a win in the Dirt Mile as Preakness Stakes winner National Treasure was just nipped in the late going to the aforementioned Cody’s Wish — an outcome not made official until after a long inquiry into some bumping.
We’ll do it again Nov. 1-2, 2024, down the road at Del Mar.
Other weekend highlights
On Saturday at Santa Anita, Salesman, taking his first swing at a marathon distance, led throughout Saturday’s $250,000 Grade II Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes and wasn’t challenged, easing home first by 8 1/4 lengths over Win the Day.
Lightly raced Seal Team, making his first stakes start, took the lead at mid-stretch and got home first in a multi-horse cavalry charge at the end of Saturday’s $250,000 Grade II Twilight Derby.
Santa Anita carried right on Sunday as Closing Remarks closed well from the back of the field to win the $200,000 Grade II Goldikova Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 mile on the turf by 1/2 length over the favorite, Queen Goddess.
And Ruby Nell shot out to a huge lead in the $100,000 Autumn Miss for 3-year-old fillies at the same trip and cruised home first by 3 1/4 lengths over odds-on favorite Anisette.
Lots of promising 2-year-olds were in action.
Lord Bullington rallied around rivals in the stretch to win Friday’s $150,000 Qatar Golden Mile for 2-year-olds at Santa Anita by 3 3/4 lengths over Go With Gusto.
Magic Spoon rallied outside the front-runners in the final sixteenth to win Friday’s $175,000 Golden State Juvenile for California-breds by 1/2 length over another latecomer, Private Gem.
Grand Slam Mile ran away with the companion race for state-bred fillies, winning by 7 1/4 lengths.
Two Ghosts, a Ghostzapper gelding, came from the back of the pack to win Saturday’s $150,000 (Canadian) Grey Stakes for 2-year-olds at Woodbine by 1 length from the favorite, Piper’s Factor.
On the turf, Please Advise rallied from far back to win Saturday’s $120,000 Atlantic Beach Stakes at Aqueduct by a neck and Toupie, a Wertheimer homebred by Uncle Mo, took the $120,000 Stewart Manor Stakes for juvenile fillies by 2 lengths over Marco T.