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Let's Talk Breeders' Cup

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The Breeders' Cup is more than two days of elite international horse racing, it's a gathering of racing's tribe. This week, horses, trainers, owners, breeders, barn staffs, racing industry players and media are descending upon Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., for the 30th running of the Breeders' Cup.

Of course, the races on Friday, November 1 and Saturday, November 2, are the centerpiece of the week. But the lead up to the races is a whirlwind of activities from watching the morning works at dawn, to meetings, interviews, press conferences, dinners, parties and concerts.

I was curious about how others in the racing industry and media see the Breeders' Cup, so I reached out with an email full of questions. A great group of racing-types from across the globe, nine in total, gave the following responses. Thank you, all!

Ron Flatter

Based in New York, Ron Flatter is wrapping up his 10th year as the International Correspondent for RSN in Australia. He is also a national network news presenter for Fox News Radio in New York. He has been following racing for more than 40 years and has worked professionally covering it since 1987.

What do you look forward to about the Breeders' Cup?

This is the event for serious horse players - and serious horse media. For most of the journos at the Breeders' Cup, this isn't about hats and drinks. This is about comparing form and putting some finishing context on the year in the Western Hemisphere. And like Super Bowls and World Series and, yes, the Kentucky Derby, it's a last chance to see a lot of horsemen and colleagues until next spring.

What's your favorite pre-race Breeders' Cup activity or event?
If my travel allows it my favourite pre-meeting event isn't an event at all. It's going around to the barns in the morning. Same goes for most race meetings.

Who are your all-time top three Breeders' Cup horses?
My top three Breeders' Cup horses don't necessarily mean most wins, although one is shown here. It's for the signature the horse put on the event:
1. Goldikova - 3 Mile wins
2. Zenyatta - huge attraction that ran her best race of career in defeat (see slideshow below)
3. Cigar - invigorated the event to put a household name on the big trophy

Do you have a favorite category of race?
Not particularly one favourite category. I actually long for the old days when it was just the core seven. There are so many now that it's almost like watching the Oscars to see who wins Best Cinematography. (Let's not forget the first three years of the Dirt Mile were either not dirt or not a mile.) It really depends on the storyline and the fields. I love Ian Wilkes, but let's face it: Blame v Zenyatta was much more compelling than Fort Larned v Mucho Macho Man.

Rate your all-time top three Breeders' Cup races
Tops is Blame holding off Zenyatta in '09. Next is 133-1 Arcangues winning the Classic in '93. Then High Chaparral-Johar dead heat in '03 Turf.

What horse are you most looking forward to see run this year?
I want to see Paynter run in the Classic. First time I will have seen him since last year's Haskell and, therefore, since he came back from nearly dying.

Any other insights regarding the BC you'd like to share?
My overall feeling about the Breeders' Cup is that it is at an important crossroads. If it continues to try and appease the rest of the world on an anti-drug policy, it risks cutting off the US breeding hand that financially feeds it. I believe it must drop its desire to be a World Championships (which it never truly has been) and just do right by its US constituency. There's no reason any other nation's biggest races need to bend their rules to appease America - and vice-versa. I would prefer drug-free racing, but I respect the wishes of the majority within the US. I believe the Breeders' Cup must do so, too - but admit it and press on without trying to roll out a red carpet to the world. Lasix-free racing is like soccer. If the rest of the world likes it, then it will do just fine without America.

Christine Cornelius

Berlin-based Christine Cornelius is a writer and racing fan who you're as likely to see at Santa Anita, as at Baden-Baden or Longchamps.

What do you look forward to about the Breeders' Cup?

Exciting races - maybe a future superstar?????

What's your favorite pre-race Breeders' Cup activity or event?
Morning workouts

Who are your all-time top three Breeders' Cup horses?
Sunday Silence, Goldikova, Zenyatta

Rate your all-time top three Breeders' Cup races
1. BC Classic 1989 - Sunday Silence
2. BC Turf 2005 - Saint Liam
3. BC Classic 2009 - Zenyatta

What horse are you most looking forward to see run this year?
Paynter

Barry Irwin

Barry Irwin, CEO Team Valor International and formerly Clover Racing Stable, lives in Versailles, Kentucky. He bred and raced Animal Kingdom, winner of the Kentucky Derby and this year's Dubai World Cup. Team Valor is running Street Sailing -- Juvenile Fillies Turf, Mexikoma -- Juvenile, and Brujo de Olleros -- Dirt Mile in this year's Breeders' Cup.

What do you look forward to about the Breeders' Cup?

I look forward to the intensity of the competition. You just don't see power packed fields like this in America on any other afternoon of racing.

What's your favorite pre-race Breeders' Cup activity or event?
I am not much of a pre-race guy. Never have been.

Who are your all-time top three Breeders' Cup horses?
1. Prized became the first to win the Breeders' Cup Turf in his grass debut. That was amazing.

2. Pluck's performance was one of the most amazing, as he went to his knees at the start, had to jump a fallen horse at the three-quarter pole, was so far back it looked like his rider had eased him. He was able to generate such a tremendous amount of speed that he not only got up to the leaders, but won eased up. The race won an award in the TDN for the BC performance of the year.

3. Of races in which I didn't own the winner, the one performance that sticks out was Arazi winning the Juvenile at Churchill Downs. I watched from high up, saw the run unfold and was speechless. That was as good as it gets.

Do you have a favorite category of race?
Not really.

Rate your all-time top three Breeders' Cup races
1. Arazi winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.
2. Any Goldikova win.
3. Personal Ensign/Winning Colors Distaff

What horse are you most looking forward to see run this year?
My Conquestadory in the BC Juvenile Filly Turf.

Any other insights regarding the BC you'd like to share?
The craziest Breeders' Cup experience I've had was the one at Hollywood Park where the traffic was underestimated and was so backed up leading from the airport to the track on Century Boulevard that Turf Writers missed the first few races and at least a couple abandoned their cars and walked part of the way. That was different!

For horseplayers, the Breeders' Cup is awesome, because you get fantastic odds on terrific horses that in most instances are running at the highest odds of their careers.

Dede McGehee

Veterinarian Dede McGehee is the owner of Heaven Trees Farm near Lexington, Kentucky. McGehee's Heaven Trees Farm in Lexington, KY, breeds for the commercial market; including graded stakes winning full sisters St. John's River and Panty Raid (a full sister to St. John's River), Breeders' Cup performer Imperial Gesture, and G3 winner Monashee. The farm also foaled and raised the young Rachel Alexandra, and still takes care of her dam, Lotta Kim.

What do you look forward to about the Breeders' Cup?

I am probably not a font of knowledge! I am usually in the garden pulling plants and cleaning up the garden at Breeders' Cup. I set my phone timer, and run outside and back inside to watch each race. I think I have only been 3 or 4 times total. One year we went to Vegas and watched it there. That was quite fun. And some years I have horses over at Keeneland for the sale on Monday after, so I am over there. It is a tough time of year to get away.

Who are your all-time top three Breeders' Cup horses?
Off the top of my head, favorites are .... Personal Ensign, Pebbles, Wild Again. So many choices.........

Any other insights regarding the BC you'd like to share?
I think Breeders' Cup is like the Super Bowl only better and without the commercials and the weird chicken wing recipes. I sure hope to have one run someday.

Glen Todd

Glen Todd races under the banner of the North American Thoroughbred Horse Company. Based at Hastings Park Racecourse in Vancouver, NATHC is a among the leading owners in British Columbia and Canada. Commander will be running in this year's Breeders' Cup Marathon for NATHC.

What do you look forward to about the Breeders' Cup?

It is without doubt the highlight of any owners' expectations other then the Kentucky Derby which is still number one.

What's your favorite pre-race Breeders' Cup activity or event?
My favorite pre-race event is hanging around Clockers' Corner in the mornings leading up to the event and enjoying the atmosphere and seeing all of those great horses training in the morning and then of course the Draw.

Who is your all-time top Breeders' Cup horse?
Zenyatta, of course!

Do you have a favorite category of race?
The Classic and Marathon

Rate your all-time top three Breeders' Cup races
1. Zenyatta's Classics
2. Royal Delta's Distaffs
3. Dakota Phone's 2010 Dirt Mile (I won a huge Superperfecta.)

What horse are you most looking forward to see run this year?
Commander in the Breeders' Cup Marathon

Any other insights regarding the BC you'd like to share?
The Breeders' Cup is without doubt the highlight for any owner, not just me. I stay pretty humble about myself and try to stay off the radar which is hard to do at times.

Glenye Cain Oakford

Glenye Cain Oakford, freelance writer and videographer, won the 2013 Eclipse Award for audio/multimedia with a story and video about Thoroughbred foaling season. The author of The Home Run Horse (DRF Press), she currently covers major yearling and breeding stock sales for The Blood-Horse magazine. You can find her at www.gcoakford.com.

What do you look forward to about the Breeders' Cup?

I particularly like to see the international runners. International competition is what the Breeders' Cup should be about, and it's interesting to see what the world brings to the races. I also look forward to the many stories that accompany all the runners, whether they are human-interest stories pertaining to a horse and his or her connections or some interesting bloodline detail in the pedigree. And it's always fun to see how the results affect other horses in the pedigree, whose stock goes up once a winner crosses under the wire. I love it when a Breeders' Cup longshot winner suddenly boosts the value of siblings and half-siblings and mares in barns all over the place, to the amazed delight of their owners.

What's your favorite pre-race Breeders' Cup activity or event?
I don't have an official one. I'm usually at home preparing for the November breeding stock sales that immediately follow the Breeders' Cup, but before the races start on Breeders' Cup weekend I like to go visit my off-the-track Thoroughbred and give him a knowing pat.

Who are your all-time top three Breeders' Cup horses?
1. Wise Dan because I love it when a gelding makes the big time, especially for a small stable like Mort Fink's, and I consider Wise Dan a local boy because Charlie LoPresti has a stable not far from where we keep our horses.
2. Vindication because I remember him selling at Saratoga as a yearling and followed his career for my book.
3. Dead heat between Ouija Board and Goldikova because, you know, just wow--what great mares.

Do you have a favorite category of race?
I really, really love turf races. The Mile is my favorite of the Breeders' Cup races; the Distaff is my favorite of the dirt races.

Rate your all-time top three Breeders' Cup races
1. Sheikh Albadou's 1991 Sprint--because I was mocked mercilessly for picking him, but he won!
2. Da Hoss's 1998 Mile--One of the best-ever Breeders' Cup stories, the details of which I included in my book The Home Run Horse: Michael Dickinson brings the 1996 Mile winner back, two years later and with only a single allowance prep race after two years off. It was an amazing feat, for both the horse and the trainer.
3. Royal Academy's 1990 Mile--It was a real privilege to attend this one. Lester Piggott in his comeback and on one of my favorite horses.

What horse are you most looking forward to see run this year?
Royal Delta in the Distaff. I'm crazy about that mare.

Diego Mitagstein

Based in Argentina, Diego Horacio Mitagstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Turf Diario -- Argentina and South American Racing Digest, a daily newsletter similar to TDN, and also of El Crack, the South American horse racing newspaper. He was a South American correspondent to Thoroughbred Times and also is a regular contributor to TDN (USA), Jornal do Turfe (Brasil), Peru Hípico (Perú) and La Hípica (Chile). He has covered 13 editions of the Breeders' Cup.

What do you look forward to about the Breeders' Cup?

It has not been a year of great appearances, but anyway, the Breeders' Cup will always have the quality. The Classic will be a very open race. And perhaps the best race will be the Distaff, with the rematch between Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar. In my case, as an Argentinian, I have high expectations for Indy Point(ARG) in the Turf and Ever Rider(ARG) in the Marathon

What's your favorite pre-race Breeders' Cup activity or event?
The Super Saturday in October always offers the best horses in the best races at the best racetrack...

Who are your all-time top three Breeders' Cup horses?
1. Zenyatta, she represents a lot for Breeders' Cup and horse racing fans
2. Tiznow, the only on to win the Classic back to back
3. Bayakoa(ARG), she was one of the best mares in history and her win at Belmont Park was a sad, but incredible race.

Do you have a favorite category of race?
Definitely, the Classic!

Rate your all-time top three Breeders' Cup races
1. Bayakoa's 1990's Distaff
2. Midnight Lute's amazing 2007 Sprint
3. Hollywood Wildcat defeating Paseana(ARG) in the 1993 Distaff

What horse are you most looking forward to see run this year?
I choose two: Royal Delta trying to become the first female to win the Distaff 3 years in a row, and Indy Point(ARG) in the Breeders' Cup Turf

Any other insights regarding the BC you'd like to share?
I think the Breeders' Cup was maybe the most incredible creation in the last 50 years of racing. Breed the best to the best... And hope for the best...

Dan Leary

United States Trotting Association Director of Marketing and Communications Dan Leary, who has served as the Breeders' Cup press center manager for the past five years, has more than three decades of experience in sports public relations, including NYRA, Gulfstream Park and Arlington Park.

What do you look forward to about the Breeders' Cup?

Saturday in the winner's circle assisting NBC Sports, seeing national and international media in the press center, and morning works with the San Gabriel mountains as the backdrop.

What's your favorite pre-race Breeders' Cup activity or event?
Breeders' Cup "Press" party

Who are your all-time top three Breeders' Cup horses?
Zenyatta, Cigar, Lure

Do you have a favorite category of race?
The Classic

Rate your all-time top three Breeders' Cup races
1. Zenyatta (Mike Smith) - Breeders' Cup Classic, Santa Anita 2009
2. Cigar (Jerry Bailey) - Breeders' Cup Classic, Belmont 1995
3. Halfbridled (Julie Krone) - Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Santa Anita 2003
(My selections have much to do with the jockeys as well as the horses)

What horse are you most looking forward to see run this year?
Dead heat - Game on Dude and Wise Dan

Any other insights regarding the BC you'd like to share?
Despite that fact it was cold at Arlington Park in 2002 and raining at Monmouth Park in 2007, I would like to see the Breeders' Cup go to new tracks in different parts of the country.

Joe Drape

Joe Drape is the author of the New York Times bestseller Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen, The Race for the Triple Crown, and Black Maestro. He is an award-winning reporter for The New York Times, having previously worked for The Dallas Morning News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

What do you look forward to about the Breeders' Cup?

It's a day for the purist - the races are run 25 minutes a part, with usually full fields of true Grade I horses. We've been fortunate that the Europeans have showed up with some of their best horses. It's my favorite day in all of racing.

What's your favorite pre-race Breeders' Cup activity or event?
Meeting for a drink with a group of media and industry folks - talking horses and handicapping. No business.

Who are your all-time top three Breeders' Cup horses?
Zenyatta, Invasor and Cash Run who won the 99 Juvenile at 32-1.

Do you have a favorite category of race?
I like the Sprint and the Classic. Usually everyone has a shot in both of those.

Rate your all-time top three Breeders' Cup races
Zenyatta's two Classics, and Invasor's victory. He was a horse that always fired, but was rarely the favorite.

What horse are you most looking forward to see run this year?
Palace Malice. I think he is going to continue to get better.

Any other insights regarding the BC you'd like to share?
Take your shots. It's a good betting day.

Since so many mentioned Zenyatta, here's a slide show of Zenyatta behind the scenes at the 2010 Breeders' Cup. All the photos are used with permission of PhotosbyZ

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Zenyatta at Churchill Downs Breeders Cup 2010
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