A Silver Anniversary
THRU THE BINOCULARS
By JOHN PIESEN
A SILVER ANNIVERSARY
Funny (but not ha ha funny) how racing comes full circle.
In 1985, trainer John Veitch was the King of the World when he sent out Proud Truth to win the second renewal of the Breeders' Cup Classic at Aqueduct on the Subway.
Now fast forward to 2010, the Silver Anniversary of the Breeders' Cup.
John Veitch has long-since given up training, or actually training has long given up on John Veitch, the same John Veitch who trained a nice colt named Alydar among other greats for Calumet Farm, and who now is making a comfortable living as the chief steward of the Kentucky Racing Commission.
That means that John Veitch each every spring is head honcho for the Kentucky Derby, and frequently occupies the same position at the Breeders' Cup.
As such last weekend, Veitch was thrust into the controversy over Life At Ten's performance ( or lack thereof) in the BC Ladies Classic.
And, boys and girls, it was a long way for John Veitch from Proud Truth. In fact, there was nothing for which to be proud.
It's just a shame that the racing media, occupied as it was with Zenyatta and the Borel brawl, just blew off the Life At Ten affair.
It's very possible you missed it. After all, the ESPN2 rating for the Friday portion of the Breeders' Cup topped off at 0.3, and, of that number, maybe 0.1 had the sound on....and the latter number includes the huge Churchill Downs press box contingent.
So to review...
Jerry Bailey, on the ESPN set on the Churchill first turn, as he does before every race, is wired into a competing jockey - in this case, Johnny Velazquez, the rider of Life At Ten, the 3-1 second choice - and asks the same two questions: 1) Buddy, how is your horse warming up? and 2) Where do you think you will be (early) in the race?
In this case, Bailey never got to question two...because, in reply to question one, Johnny V casually told Bailey (and the national audience) that Life At Ten was not warming up well, was choppy, and didn't seem to be herself.
"I can't understand it," said JV, "she's never like this."
So here's where we are? The wagering public has bet at least $10 million on a horse, who obviously has zero chance to hit the board. Trainer Pletcher obviously was concerned because the ESPN camera showed him dashing like a crazy man from his clubhouse box, from where he normally watches a race, to the rail, his face a total wreck.
So what have we here? A fellow lounging in his easy chair in his living room in Topeka, Kans., knows more about what's going on in the Breeders' Cup than the Churchill stewards,
veterinarians...and the press box media, none of who have the luxury of the ESPN picture and, more importantly, sound.
I couldn't believe what my eyes were seeing and my ears were hearing. Like all was right in the world, Johnny V walks Life At Ten into stall one, and, moments later, the sits there when the bell rung.
By the first turn, Life At Ten is 20 lengths behind the field, and starting to be eased.
Moments later, Pletcher is asked by ESPN what the hell happened.
"She just wasn't herself today," the Toddster replied, "...maybe it was a reaction to the Lasix shot.
"That's the horse business, You can have ups and downs, and sometimes on days like this, it can literally happen every 30 minutes. We're used to the good time and bad times, and try to take it all in stride.
"The important thing is the filly is OK."
Yes, to the trainer, the important thing is the filly is OK. Especially, a filly who was scheduled to be sold at public auction the next day.
And, in the case of the one multi-millionaire trainer, the ups outweigh the downs. After all, after starting the weekend 3-for-66 in the Breeders' Cup, Pletch won three this time - one Friday, two Saturday, the second the unbeaten Juvenile winner Uncle Mo, who now stands alone as the winter book favorite for the 2011 Kentucky Derby, a race that the Toddster won for the first time this year with the since-retired Super Saver, the third Derby winner in four years for Rocky Borel.
Yes, the filly is the most important thing to Todd Pletcher...but to the thousands who wagered millions on Life At Ten, the betting public was the most important thing.
We are talking a major black eye for racing, and some compassion for the bettors were plain-out screwed. And there was little or no mention of the whole mess by the hundreds of media on the scene.
Oh, yes. By Sunday, the stewards got around to investigating the incident, and, after giving all the principals pass, chief steward John Veitch concluded that, in the future, it would be a good idea for TV to cease and desist interviewing jockeys once the whippersnappers depart the paddock.
Yup, that's it. Cut out the messenger, and all will be right with the world.
John Veitch may be doing a helluva job as chief steward at Churchill and Keeneland, and I haven't heard or read anything to the contrary.
But John Veitch blows this big-time.
Twenty-five years, almost to the day, after Proud Truth.
Too bad we didn't get any proud truth this time.
As for Zenyatta, I'm pretty much talked out. Regular readers of this venue know that I feel she was robbed of Horse of the Year in 2008, robbed of Horse of the Year in 2009, and no doubt will be robbed of Horse of the Year 2010.
One reason: many of the the same folks who had not a clue about Life at Ten vote for the Eclipse Awards...and, paraphrasing this week's Sports Illustrated, Zenyatta will have to settle for Horse of a Generation.
Since this is being written on Veteran's Day, let's put things in perspective. There's a lot more important stuff going than some idiotic Horse of the Year controversy.
Permit me one more piece of irony.
Since February, we have been told by the racing media that Quality Road was the best racehorse in North America, and a dead-certain Horse of the Year. But we discovered on
the first Saturday of November that Quality Road's only connection to HOY was stopping in Zenyatta's face, thereby costing the best horse Horse of the Year.
For the purposes of full disclosure, my BC Ladies selections were: 1. Life at Ten 2. Unbridled Belle (the winner), and 3. Blind Luck (the runnerup).
If Life At Ten had been scratched at the gate, as she should have, I would have the Distaff exacta cold, instead of merely the exacta box.
If I had to make one apology for my Classic selections , it was this. My Classic pix were: 1. Zenyatta 2. Lookin at Lucky 3. Fly Down 4. Musket Man. The mistake was picking Musket Man, a personal favorite, instead of Blame for fourth, costing me the super box - a real bad decision for which I wish to apologize.
And when push comes to shove, Blame will be voted Horse of the Year because Quality Road backed up into Zenyatta, while Etched did not back up into Blame. Unlike most big races, when the Red Sea does not part for big-time horses, this time it did...and jockey Gomez and Blame deserve all the credit for taking full advantage.
Oh, yes. One more thought.
According to the chart, the Pick Six paid $4 million, which would have to be a record, and the consolation came back $1 million -- even with two short-priced winners (Uncle Mo and Goldikova) in the mix.
Was there one winner? Two winners? Three?
And can we get some ID?
Unfortunately, we have not seen nor read word one.
Unlike at the Derby, when that Texas dude bet and cashed an $800,000 ticket in a promotion, and created an international firestorm, we don't have a clue what happened with the BC Pick Six.
Did a little old lady in Grantville, Pa., hit the four mill? Or was it a syndicate who put in six-figures? Did some one single the two winning chalks, and hit the "all" button on the other
Maybe I'm strange...but there's a need to know.
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