Archive for Breeders Cup

Breeders Cup Reveals Reasons Why Horse Racing Should Be Excited About Future

This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Joe Drape of New York Times…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!

Breeders’ Cup Over; Excitement May Not Be

The 28th running of the Breeders’ Cup is in the books, and there is a lot of things to like about the top end of the thoroughbred racing industry. There was hardly a dud among the 15 races contested — which should be expected when $26 million of purse money is at stake.

The Europeans took a strong contingent to Churchill Downs — a must if this is truly going to be a global championship — and they left here with ample loot. The trainer Aidan O’Brien won the Juvenile Turf with Wrote, then experienced a more priceless moment when his 18-year-old son, Joseph, rode St. Nicholas Abbey to victory in the Turf to become the youngest jockey to capture a Breeders’ Cup race.

There were a fair share of bombers that came in, but none bigger than Court Vision, who had not been in the winner’s circle in 13 months but found his way back there with a furious closing kick to win the $2 million Mile at odds of 69-1.

Dale Romans, who took over the training of the horse from Rick Dutrow in September, credited luck, rather than magical horsemanship, for the improbable victory.

“All we needed to do was get him back to his old form, and if they backed up at all, he would come running,” Romans said of Court Vision, who did have eight career victories in 30 career starts. “When you have the best milers in the world running, they will go fast early. We were just hoping they would go too fast and he could run them down. And it all worked out perfectly for us.”

There also was a nice peek at some of the anticipated headliners for next year’s Triple Crown campaign. Usually the winner of the Juvenile is declared the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby, and from now until the first Saturday in May, he and his connections will be scrutinized as closely as art authenticators pore over found masterpieces looking for any hint of inauthenticity.

This year’s Juvenile champion was Hansen, and he has plenty of quirks to examine in the coming months. He came into the Juvenile undefeated after winning two races by a combined 26 lengths. Hansen flies out of the gate and never looks back. It’s not an ideal style for a colt who hopes to emerge from a full field of 20 at the Derby as the best 3-year-old in the land. His trainer, Mike Maker, knows that but confessed he had little choice but to let the big gray have his way.

“He’s a handful for us,” Maker said. “We don’t try to change him much, because if we do try, he gets mad and wants to fight. So we let him do his thing, make him believe he’s the boss.”

Hansen won Saturday by a short head over Union Rags, a colt that looks best suited to capture the Derby and beyond. He and his rider, Javier Castellano, broke from the No. 10 post and came no closer inside than the four path, turning a mile-and-a-sixteenth race into a mile-and-an-eighth one. Union Rags rolled down the stretch like he was something special, and he just missed reeling Hansen in. Union Rags is the true early Derby favorite.

Inevitably, the subject of championship voting comes up this time of year, and with it comes heated debate. It won’t be as hard to determine the award recipients this year as only a couple of horses lasted throughout 2011 and put up meaningful numbers. The New York Times does not allow its reporters to vote, but that does not mean there aren’t opinions.

Why not Animal Kingdom for the 3-year-old champion?

He had five starts this year, winning the Spiral Stakes on a synthetic track at Turfway Park and the Derby on dirt. He also finished second in an allowance race on turf and lost by a half-length in the Preakness Stakes. His Belmont Stakes effort was compromised when he was bumped at the start and his rider, John Velazquez, lost his stirrup. He finished sixth, and his season ended with a leg injury.

Neither the Preakness champion Shackleford nor the Belmont victor Ruler On Ice won another stakes race, though both are solid competitors. Shackleford made 10 starts this year, and Ruler On Ice nine. Stay Thirsty had nice wins in the Jim Dandy and the Travers, but his 11th-place finish in the Classic highlighted his up-and-down year.

Who is the Horse of the Year? The filly Havre de Grace remains the right choice. She finished fourth Saturday in the Classic after having trouble early, and her connections placed her against male horses in an effort to take away any doubts that she was a worthy recipient.

Drosselmeyer was the long-shot winner, and Game On Dude was a gritty second-place finisher, but neither can say they won 5 of 7, three of them in Grade I company. In fact, another filly and Havre de Grace’s rival, the since-retired Blind Luck, will probably collect the most second-place votes.

“She ran well and certainly didn’t tarnish herself,” Havre de Grace’s trainer, Larry Jones, said. “We have no regrets about running her here, and she’s still got another year ahead of her.”

So here’s to a very good year and raised hopes for an even better next year.

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?

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The Breeders Cup: The Perfect Sporting Event?

This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Jay Cronley of ESPN…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!

Good As It Gets

New sporting events can be about as meaningful as infomercials, barely beating reruns in terms of interest. The chief need to be filled by most new sporting events is a corporate sponsor needing more money.

Something like the Fed-Ex Cup is hardly water cooler talk at work. It’s more like cheese nacho talk overheard upon occasion in municipal course snack shops. The Fed-Ex Cup is a golf event. To win it you shoot low scores at tournaments few follow closely. Who won this year’s Fed-Ex Cup, and where? Be back in a sec. The screen says the winner was Bill Haas icing the title at East Lake. The runner up was Webb Simpson. No offense, but I somehow missed their rise to this top.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup series has been around a while under different names and features a point system to determine playoff drivers. I come from a long line of sports players who have great respect for the classic time out. During all the time-outs I have known, nobody could steal home, could score a lay-up, could dance into the end zone for six points. But in car racing during a time out, under a caution flag, drivers can make up great distances of ground. Given technology that can duplicate human organs on something resembling a copy machine, you’d think that there would be a simple enough way to return cars to their original upright positions at the time of a wreck. I have always watched three race events a year, Daytona, the Indy 500, and the original Go Daddy commercials. After the big races early in the year, somebody had to have said: Now what?

The relatively new BCS system of picking two college football teams to play for a national championship is based on theory, conjecture, popularity and money. Boise State could finish undefeated from now until the moon turned as blue as its field and not be permitted to play in the final game. To date, the BCS has been lucky with contenders losing late to make way for the big dogs to play for king cash. This year, a huge mess is developing with six legit contenders campaigning for one spot in the championship, as the SEC winner is a guaranteed finalist: Wisconsin, Boise State, Stanford, Clemson, the Big 12 winner, and the SEC runner up, if it’s LSU or Alabama with one loss.

The one new sporting event that has work even better than it looked on the drawing board is the Breeder’s Cup championship run that goes Friday and Saturday, Nov. 4 and 5, at the garden spot of thoroughbred racing, Churchill Downs.

Several elements make this a picture-perfect sporting event.

One, it is truly a world championship, something along the lines of the Ryder Cup, the USA versus Europe, with the occasional competitor from Dubai mixed in. It’s primarily the British keeping the Breeder’s Cup from being about as unworldly as the World Series in baseball. Members of the British media think they invented horse racing when all they did was perfect turf racing. It’s hard not to feel a bit of nationalism when one of those characters dressed in a Sherlock Holmes hat and looking like he used to caddy for Benny Hill comes on the screen and says the Americans are running for third or fourth in a turf race. Many U. S. horses gravitate to the turf; it’s all European horses know.

The Triple Crown races come so early in the year and are so stressful for young horses, the winners are hard-pressed to win again, often even race again.

The Breeder’s Cup races tolerate no excuses. You think you’re tough, here’s the place to prove it. Chickens are obvious. The best horses at the end of the year usually win.

The most inviting thing about this sporting event is the risk-reward relationship of money wagered. When most horses can win a race, a lucky $2 bet can turn a fish into a whale

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?

Breeders Cup Going To Santa Anita Makes Strong Statement Against Belmont Park

This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Steve Crist of Daily Racing Form…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!

Breeders’ Cup decision a slap in face to Belmont

Next Wednesday, at a luncheon being hosted by the mayor of Los Angeles and Breeders’ Cup, Santa Anita is expected to be named the host site for the 2012 Cup races. Politicians and Cup officials will surely hail the announcement that Santa Anita will be the host for the third time in five years as wonderful news.

To my mind, it will be a sad day for American racing and for a Breeders’ Cup organization that has lost its way and abandoned the ideals it established nearly 30 years ago.

I would feel the same way if Belmont Park were being given the Cup for the third time in five years while California had not had one since 2005. Santa Anita is a beautiful facility and a terrific host for the Breeders Cup – once every three or four years. So are Belmont Park and Churchill Downs. (There’s a separate discussion about whether the rotation should include a fourth slot for a wild-card track.)

One of the founding principles of the Cup was that the races would move around the country while emphasizing the primary racing centers of California, Kentucky, and New York. It was a bedrock principle, the only way to ensure national unity and support for a year-end championship day that by definition was diminishing traditional events in each region, and obviously the fairest thing for the sport’s far-flung horsemen and fans.

At one time, before fairness and inclusiveness at the Breeders’ Cup went the way of the dodo and the Distaff, there wouldn’t even have been a discussion about the site of the 2012 Cup. After being run at Santa Anita in both 2008 and 2009, then at Churchill Downs in 2010 and again this year, the only question should have been whether Belmont would host it in 2012 alone or in both 2012 and 2013. Instead, Cup officials not only spurned New York for the fourth year in a row, but also did so in disrespectful and humiliating fashion.

Tom Ludt, the new Breeders’ Cup chairman, made the unnecessary announcement in June that there were now three “finalists” for 2012 hosting – Belmont, Churchill, and Santa Anita. Obviously, New York was being passed over again. Cup board members had been very impressed with the presentation made on Santa Anita’s behalf by Greg Avioli, now a top official at the track’s parent company but the chief executive of Breeders’ Cup until this spring.

It’s going to be fascinating to see how Cup officials can possibly justify three Cups at Santa Anita in five years while New York has not had one since 2005. I offered Ludt and Craig Fravel, the new Cup chief executive, an opportunity to do so but both declined comment pending next week’s announcement.

The Cup board’s previous arguments on behalf of Santa Anita as perhaps a permanent Cup host were flimsy or probably wrong. They proposed that Santa Anita should be considered for that because other major sports events have permanent homes (they don’t); because Los Angeles is a media and entertainment center with fine hotels and restaurants (unlike New York?); and because the 2008-09 runnings were so successful (in fact, they were the two lowest-handling Breeders’ Cup Saturdays in recent years, outdone by Belmont in 2005, Churchill in 2006 and 2010, and even Monmouth in torrential rains in 2007).

More recently, some Cup board members have been spreading the word that New York didn’t actually want the Breeders’ Cup, a complete fiction. The fact is that Belmont was ready, eager and able to host the Cup in 2009, or 2010, or 2011, or 2012. Each time it was misled about its prospects and had the goalposts moved – one time its franchise renewal hadn’t technically been ratified, another year officials had inadvertently promised the site to both Belmont and Churchill, another year it had to take advantage of a Kentucky tax break no one had suggested New York needed to pursue. Yet this time it’s okay to give it to Santa Anita even though the track has not even been awarded racing dates for 2012 and does not currently have a tested racing surface for the event.

The mean-spirited capper to all this is that when NYRA officials learned second-hand that they were not being given the Cup yet again for 2012, they asked if it could at least be announced next week that Belmont would finally getting the races again in 2013. The request was denied, and they were told there needs to be “further discussions” about that.

In a parallel universe of fairness and statesmanship, Santa Anita might not even have applied for the 2012 Cup and instead said it was obviously New York’s turn but that they’d sure like to be considered for 2013. When the Breeders’ Cup was being run by people who supported racing without regional preferences, by leaders such as Ted Bassett and John Nerud and D.G. Van Clief, Breeders’ Cups were awarded in an equitable fashion with the goal of helping the entire industry.

Those days are clearly gone, along with a fair and balanced Breeders’ Cup.

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?

Are Santa Anita’s Woes The Fault Of The Track or The Horsemen?

This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Art Wilson of The Daily Breeze…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!

Santa Anita looks to be back on track

Santa Anita came under fire this past year when there were 19 fatalities over its new dirt track during the 2010-11 winter/spring meet.

The criticism was justified, too, because that’s way too many.

But before we fry track management over one bad meet, let’s give them a chance to rectify the situation and get it right.

I believe they will.

The problems started in December when Southern California received a higher-than-normal amount of rain that, according to Santa Anita officials, turned a lot of the new surface’s sand to clay.

“We started off with a great track, but unfortunately that track changed for whatever reason,” Santa Anita president George Haines told the California Horse Racing Board at its regularly scheduled meeting Thursday at Hollywood Park. “There are a bunch of different theories, but we do know now that the composition of the track has way too much clay in it and the way to solve that problem is to dilute that clay with clean sand material.”

Haines said management has found the new material, has it on site and it will take 10-14 days to remediate the track and get it the way it’s supposed to be once the testing is completed and the maintenance begins July 11.

Meanwhile, Haines and Greg Avioli, recently named president/CEO of Santa Anita owner Frank Stronach’s racing empire, have pledged to do whatever it takes to fix the problem.

Avioli, former president and CEO of the Breeders’ Cup, told CHRB members
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Santa Anita will foot the bill by itself for the remediation.

“We know that it’s our responsibility because it’s our race track,” he said. “So we’re determined that we will get it right.”

Said Haines: “We have a great deal invested in this and we are going to do the very best to get this as good as we can get it.”

Veteran trainer Bruce Headley, a strong proponent of dirt racing, has no doubt the track will be fine by the beginning of Santa Anita’s autumn meet scheduled to begin Sept. 28.

“I think Ted Malloy (racing surface consultant for Stronach) has made more tracks than anybody else and he will get this right,” Headley said.

He believes there is another problem that leads to many of the breakdowns.

“When the horses get hurt now, start showing signs of wear and tear, they (trainers) won’t give them a rest and the problems turn into bigger ones,” he said.

Another industry insider, who preferred to remain anonymous, had stronger words when asked why Santa Anita had so many fatalities earlier this year.

“Same ol’ (bleepin) thing,” he said. “Too much cortisone, too much painkiller and trainers that are too greedy and too desperate. I mean, how many of the same guys are breaking down the same horses?”

To be fair to Santa Anita, Del Mar had problems with its synthetic Polytrack surface during its 2009 season, when there were 12 fatalities during a 37-day meet.

Del Mar turned it around last summer, when there were only five fatalities despite a rash of complaints from trainers about the track’s consistency.

Said Del Mar CEO Joe Harper on closing day last summer: “This track, during the offseason we added fiber and once we figured out how to mix it, it was a much more forgiving race track, and I think it showed statistically.”

Del Mar, of course, is hoping to host a Breeders’ Cup sometime in the near future. Santa Anita, which became the first track to host back-to-back Cups in 2008-09, is on the verge of landing another one.

Santa Anita, Belmont Park and Churchill Downs are finalists to host the 2012 Breeders’ Cup, a decision that most likely will come in the next 30 days.

“We have made a very aggressive bid for the 2012 Breeders’ Cup where we’ve made some very strong financial commitments,” Avioli said. “We feel pretty good about our chances and think that would be a very good thing for California racing.”

Indeed.

But problems still persist, problems that not even Zenyatta’s amazing victory in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic could solve.

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?

Should Fans Have a Say in End of the Year Awards???

This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Steve Davidowitz of GradeOneRacing.com…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!

ASTONISHING RESULTS IN MY HORSE OF THE YEAR FAN POLL

Beyond the increase in the pari mutuel takeout at Santa Anita and the decline in handles that can be directly attributed to the public outcry, I have been astonished by the results of my special fan poll for Horse of the Year.

As you may recall, I am pledged to honor the poll results for my actual Horse of the Year vote in the official Eclipse Award balloting. My reason for doing this is simple:

Fans of every level of interest deserve a voice in the Horse of the Year Process!

That the NTRA and the Eclipse Award Committee have yet to create a place on their web sites where fans can express their point of view and gain a representative percentage of the official vote count—-say a net 10 percent weight against the total votes by all the media and racing officials who own voting rights —is another perfect example how out of touch racing leaders are with the people who support this game with their wagering dollars.

I ask you: What would be the harm to set something up like that?

Actually, the issue is better framed by realizing the continuous harm being caused by NOT setting up such a logical public outlet!

As to the way the official Horse of the Year balloting is likely to go, numerous media and racing officials apparently feel strongly that Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame deserves the honor for having beaten Zenyatta in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Interestingly, the majority of those pro Blame voters are quartered in the East and/or are involved in racing at tracks where Blame and his fine trainer Albert Stall have raced regularly in recent years. Meanwhile, a somewhat smaller group of racing officials in the West are more inclined to vote for Zenyatta, where the 6 year old mare has done almost all of her racing, as has her respected trainer John Shirreffs.

In my poll, I found an amazing imbalance in favor of Zenyatta due to another bias, perhaps the most pronounced one sided expression since the people of the Soviet Union could only vote for Joseph Stalin in their single choice elections in the 1950’s.

My fan poll was a one-sided affair for the great race mare, Zenyatta.

Get this: The actual tally of 147 fans that sent me E-mails and posted comments on this website was an astonishing 132 for Zenyatta and only 15 for Blame!

That imbalance of opinion similarly was skewed by the presence of so many female voters in my poll, as only 24 men voted, while 123 women participated.

The male vote was split down the middle, 12 for Blame and 12 for Zenyatta.

Looking at this another way, only three of the 123 women in my poll voted for Blame!

The results lend themselves to these indisputable facts:

* No other horse in my lifetime has brought so many women into racing, or spiked their interest.

* No other horse in my lifetime has elicited as much fan passion to accompany a Horse of the Year opinion, not even the battle that was waged by supporters of Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra vs. Zenyatta in 2009.

In that situation, the vast majority of women were not clustered so strongly in one corner in opposition to male voters in the other. In 2009, there was a clear preference among Eastern voters for Rachel, as in the West, there was for Zenyatta, but this split was not as pronounced as the present gender gap.

Also, as many E-mailers stated— (more than two dozen have been published intact under my Horse of the Year columns)—the chief arguments expressed by Zenyatta’s supporters rest on four points that most of the voting media is discounting.

* Zenyatta has been a champion for three years—and given that she continued undefeated after her short-lived retirement— her overall lifetime performances should count for something in the voting for this year’s Horse of the Year Award.

*Zenyatta did not lose any stature when she was narrowly beaten by Blame in the BC Classic, because she had such a sluggish start and actually caught up to Blame 1-1/2 strides past the wire before Blame galloped out safely in front of her with energy in reserve.

*Blame won the race on his home track but did not really prove superiority over Zenyatta. In fact, many argued and I tended to agree, that if the two had the opportunity to race against each other again at Churchill Downs or any other track, she probably would win more races than Blame.

*Blame lost to Haynesfield in the Jockey Club Gold Cup when he could not handle that horse cruising along at a moderate pace on the lead. By contrast, Zenyatta never has been hampered by a slow pace in any of her races. She fired her strong rally in every start, without needing pace meltdowns or perfect trips.

Those who prefer Blame point to the higher quality of competition he faced winning four of his five starts this year. They also state clearly that he did defeat her in the singular race that mattered the most. Countering that argument is difficult, but Zenyatta’s supporters do point out that she won last year’s BC Classic, while Rachel Alexandra was kept on the sidelines and yet Rachel still was voted Horse of the Year. They also point to Curlin who lost the BC Classic in 2008 and still was judged to be 2008 Horse of the Year.

It also is fact that most of the media who has voted for Blame accepts the fractional splits and margins as published in the official result charts, but a more careful examination of where Zenyatta was at the first quarter mile call and the mid stretch call with only a furlong to go says the chart understates the degree of difficulty she faced.

After dozens of viewings of the race replays and use of various stop action technologies, my measurements say that Zenyatta was 20+ lengths behind at the first quarter mile call, not 16-3/4 as represented by the result chart.

Even more significant, Zenyatta was 3-1/2 lengths behind Blame at the furlong pole, not two lengths behind as represented by the chart.

The difference is important because many voters for Blame discount her trip as being ‘good’ or at least the same stuff she has done in all of her races. Not true.

Zenyatta made three separate moves in this race and did more than any race she has ever run. And, while Mike Smith has chastised himself for a mistake he really did not make, he actually might have won the race had he switched his whip from his left hand to his right sooner than he did.

Watch the tape and you will see an extra late spurt as soon as Smith changed over from left to right handed whipping inside the final furlong.

There is at least one other publicly disseminated mistake that needs correcting.

According to virtually every published account of this race, Zenyatta never caught Blame in the gallop out.

Fact: Stop action and still photography definitely show that she actually put her nose in front of Blame 1-1/2 strides past the wire, before she shut down as is her custom, while Blame went on from there to gallop out clearly in front.

It also is interesting to me that the majority of media voters who have published their Horse of the Year opinions, have acknowledged that Zenyatta will go down in history as “one of the greatest race mares of all time”. Yet, they believe Blame’s narrow BC victory trumps her historic standing.

Oh really?

Let me be clear: A vote for Blame is credible and 100 percent defensible as an expression of one thought and one thought only: He had a very good year and won the BC Classic while Zenyatta finished second. If that is the defining notion, so be it. But please do not tell me that he proved his superiority in that race, on his home track while she finally woke up so many reluctant media to her extraordinary talent. This after so many of the same voters discounted her as “a mere synthetic track specialist” who would be exposed against a good field on a dirt track.

Exposed?

I think she proved her quality on numerous occasions and deserved to be in the conversation for Horse of the Year long before she ran so gallantly in this years’ Classic. As I recall, I think she defeated a bevy of Grade 1 winners with an electrifying rally in the 2009 BC Classic and did the same thing when all hope seemed lost in at least two of her spine tingling wins this year. In other words, Zenyatta never wavered from pure excellence in any start this year.

I am voting for Zenyatta because the fans have instructed me to do so. But, if I had a vote of my own, unencumbered by any other points of view, I still would vote for Zenyatta. Fact is the arguments made by those who shared their reasons turned me around. When I first wrote my column about who might be Horse of the Year, I said “Blame earned his claim to it in the BC Classic. ”

I looked a bit deeper and saw a lot more to appreciate.

While many have misstated Zenyatta’s Horse of the Year credential as based on her “popularity”, or her zealous fan base, the truth is that Zenyatta has a stronger claim to the award: She was nearly perfect in 2010 and was the single most significant horse of this year if not the entire decade. Significance is far different and more compelling than mere popularity, especially when coupled with plenty of great performances.

At the bottom line, as I have said in numerous public forums, Zenyatta is the most talented race mare I have ever seen. In every race she ran this year she proved that. Yet, only in defeat at Churchill Downs, did she earn some of the respect she deserves for her ability. So, despite my fan poll that governs my vote, her exceptionally brilliant, albeit narrow BC Classic loss probably will keep her from winning the Eclipse she richly deserves. That is not quite the tragedy that her most ardent female supporters believe.
No matter the outcome of the Horse of the Year voting, Zenyatta’s record for sustained excellence  will be remembered as long as races are run in this country.

What is a tragedy is that the NTRA and the Eclipse Award Committee continue to deny the fans the opportunity for their passionate voices to count.

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?

Aussie Journo on American Racing: “attracts desperates and crooks”, “grubby sport”, “a farce”!

This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Matt Stewart of Melbourne Herald-Sun…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!

HORSEPOWER THE LIFE OF THE PARTY

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – In Friday’s (Melbourne) Herald Sun there was a full-page ad of the like rarely, if ever, conjured up by the racing industry and presented in the nation’s biggest-selling daily newspaper.

Paid for by Racing Victoria, it promoted the first clash of sprint superstars Black Caviar and Hay List in the Patinack Farm Classic, run the next day.

It was a simple ad without fluff; just two horses facing off, their race records underneath and a banner that promised something raw and enthralling, a “Heavyweight Showdown”.

It did not require any other sexy elements to lure us through the gate; no popping champagne corks, no beautiful young people or a rock band after the last.

More than 77,000 people attended the final day of the four-day carnival, attracted, of course, by the usual party elements but also by the most simple and time-tested calling card racing has; the horse.

The horse, as opposed to horsing around, has been the successful theme of this spring carnival and racing has surely made some important inroads back into the hearts and minds of the wider community.

On Cox Plate day the mums, dads and kids swelled eight and 10-deep around So You Think’s stall an hour before the Cox Plate. They “ooohed” and “ahhed” at the horse’s beauty as they would at an animal at the zoo.

They were intoxicated by him, by his simplicity.

First timers who were there will return to the racetrack, knowing that amid the drunks and punters there are magnificent animals at the races, too.

Briefly, So You Think took the whole nation for an emotional ride.

Even non-racing types are captivated by a horse who is beautiful and unstoppable.

We saw that at Churchill Downs in Kentucky yesterday.

The Yanks couldn’t give two hoots about horse racing; to them it’s a grubby sport that attracts desperates and crooks and is conducted almost in secret, underground.

But the Yanks love a good story, even one that occurs on a racetrack.

As Zenyatta paraded and pawed the ground in her purple rug before her bid to win her 20th straight race, an entourage followed and a mob converged. Cameras flashed. For a few minutes, Zenyatta was an American superstar.

Back here So You Think has been that superstar, first for his quest to defy all sorts of historical hurdles to win the Melbourne Cup – before failing, bravely – then as a heart-breaker after his shock sale to Ireland’s all-consuming Coolmore Stud.

Rarely has Joe Public become so absorbed, so emotional, about the sale of a racehorse.

Fast colts with good pedigrees are bought and sold all the time. The Arab and Irish billionaires make irresistible offers and pluck the best from all parts of the globe so they can pit their poached horses against each other on the racetracks of Dubai, Europe and America.

This is the way of the racing world, a fact many of us only half accept.

There were two overwhelming sentiments after So You Think was sold to Ireland – parochialism and disappointment.

Bart Cumming’s devastated foreman Reg Fleming summed up the parochial sentiment when he asked: “What makes their racing better than ours anyway?”

Peter Moody joined in after Black Caviar won on Saturday. “Why don’t they come to us?” he asked.

They both have a point.

Yesterday’s Breeders Cup extravaganza in Kentucky was allegedly world racing’s biggest deal. Coolmore and Darley poach horses with an ultimate eye to the Breeders, Royal Ascot and Dubai.

The Breeders Cup was run over two days and the temperature was about 8C. Two horses were put down after failing to handle the tight track. One favourite was declared unfit to run by its trainer in a pre-race interview, but started anyway and was pulled out of the race by its jockey.

Punters, already freezing, did their money cold. Two jockeys had a punch-up, one champion, Workforce, was scratched, his connections too scared to run on the track.

This farce, compared with the wonder of Flemington through Cup Week.

As Fleming said, 100,000 people lifted the roof when So You Think hit the front at the 200m in the Cup. That responsibility, inspiring 100,000 fans to lift the roof, now sits on the shoulders of Black Caviar.

The Cup Week crowds will not return for another year but while the party has moved on, the horse is a constant.

The summer and autumn will be a ghost town compared with what we’ve just seen, but the horse is back as a magnet and none will have the pulling power of the mighty Black Caviar come Flemington in February.

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?