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2008 Breeders' Cup World Championships Wrap-up

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2008 Breeders' Cup starting gate

The horses break from the gate for the 2008 Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita

© Cindy Pierson Dulay
October 28, 2008

The 25th Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park is now history. This was the second time the event was spread over two days, Friday and Saturday October 24-25, and the first time it was expanded from the original seven race format to a new 14 race format with purses worth a total of $26.4 million. In addition, it was the first time the main track races were run over a synthetic surface, the new Pro-Ride surface installed at Santa Anita earlier this year.

The last time the Breeders' Cup was at Santa Anita in 2003, European horses made a strong showing, winning the Turf, Mile, and Filly and Mare Turf. This year it wasn't just the turf they performed well on, but also the new Pro-Ride synthetic surface as five of the nine races on Saturday were won by European shippers. UK based 3-year-olds Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator finished 1-2 in the Classic while Muhannak won the Marathon. The other European-based winners were Goldikova in the Mile, Donativum in the Juvenile Turf, and Conduit in the Turf.

There were several previous winners of Breeders' Cup races who were trying for a second win, but only 2007 Sprint champion Midnight Lute was able to get to the winner's circle again. He took off in the stretch to win the Sprint going away by 1 3/4 lengths in a time of 1:07.08 under jockey Garrett Gomez. The other previous winners back this year were: 2007 Classic winner Curlin (4th in the Classic), 2007 Mile winner Kip Deville (2nd in the Mile), 2007 Juvenile Fillies winner Indian Blessing (2nd in the Filly and Mare Sprint), 2007 Distaff winner Ginger Punch (6th in the Ladies' Classic), 2004 Turf winner Better Talk Now (8th in the Turf), and 2006 Turf winner Red Rocks (10th in the Turf).

Garrett Gomez was easily the hottest jockey for the weekend, winning four of the 14 Breeders' Cup races: Ventura (Filly & Mare Sprint), Albertus Maximus (Dirt Mile), Midshipman (Juvenile) and Midnight Lute (Sprint). Gomez is the first rider in the history of the Breeders' Cup World Championships to ride more than two winners at a single Championship and was given the Bill Shoemaker Award as the outstanding rider in this year's Breeders' Cup.

Two other riders had multiple victories with two wins each from the 14 Breeders' Cup races. Frankie Dettori, who won the Classic aboard Raven's Pass and the Juvenile Turf on Donativum, and Mike Smith, who rode Zenyatta in the Ladies' Classic and Stardom Bound in the Juvenile Fillies to victory on Friday.

Four jockeys won their first Breeders' Cup race this weekend: Jose Lezcano aboard Maram (Juvenile Fillies Turf), Richard Migliore aboard Desert Code (Turf Sprint), Patrick Smullen aboard Muhannak (Marathon), and Ryan Moore aboard Conduit (Turf). It was their first Breeders' Cup mounts for both Lezcano and Moore, making them the 11th and 12th riders in the history of the event to win with their first mounts.

Bob Baffert Baffert became the sixth trainer in Breedes' Cup history to win the same race in consecutive years with the same horse when his charge Midnight Lute won the Sprint. Baffert and John Gosden were the only trainers to have multiple wins this year. In addition to Midnight Lute, Baffert also won the Juvenile with Midshipman, while Gosden saddled both Classic winner Raven's Pass and Juvenile Turf winner Donativum.

Three trainers won Breeders' Cup races with their first career Breeders' Cup starter: Chad Brown with Maram (Juvenile Fillies Turf), Freddy Head with Goldikova (Mile), and Ralph Beckett with Muhannak (Marathon). Four other trainers also registered their first Breeders' Cup victories: John Shirreffs with Zenyatta (Ladies' Classic), Vladimir Cerin with Albertus Maximus (Dirt Mile), Jonathan Sheppard with Forever Together (Filly and Mare Turf), and Christopher Paasch with Stardom Bound (Juvenile Fillies).

Beautiful warm, sunny weather brought out the general admission crowds, although the higher ticket prices this year seemed to leave some of the reserved seats unsold. Attendance on Friday was 31,257 and on Saturday was 51,331, for a total of 82,588 over the two days. Greg Avioli, president of Breeders' Cup Ltd., responding to a question about changes that might be coming in the future, said one thing is to listen more to the fans noting that "we don't always do all things right, but we keep trying." He said the Breeders' Cup absolutely will look at the ticket situation, "Our high end tickets went really fast, but those for $150 to $200 came up a bit high, perhaps."

Preliminary total for the wagering on the two-day Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita was $155,474,553 wagered around the world on the 21 races conducted over the two days, an increase of 5.5% percent over the $147,381,170 bet last year at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. The on-track two-day total at Santa Anita Park was $18,685,080 for all races with $14,779,757 bet on the 14 Breeders' Cup races. The all-sources total for the 14 Breeders' Cup races was $132,555,935. Here is the breakdown by day:

On Track Wagering
Friday: $6,852,096.40
Saturday: $11,832,983.60
Total On Track: $18,685,080

All-Sources Wagering
Friday: $47,863,774.40
Saturday: $107,610,778.60
Total All Sources: $155,474,553

Greg Avioli said, "It was a tremendous two days of racing with incredible performances both days. We had 80,000-plus fans here over the two days and everything went smoothly in the operation – a testament to our hosts, the Oak Tree Racing Association." The 26th Breeders' Cup World Championships will be held on Friday, November 6 and Saturday, November 7, 2009 at Santa Anita Park.

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