Alex Steedman's sideways glance at the Breeders' Cup from Del Mar

By Alex Steedman
Tue 31 Oct 2017

Racing UK’s Alex Steedman has soaked up the Breeders’ Cup atmosphere and, perhaps with a large intake of salty air from his position overlooking where the surf meets the turf, our man gives his sideways glance of what might unfold at the self-styled World Championships in California on Saturday.

Marshaland:

Think of this for a moment. Visualize Sir Mark Prescott on his hack, chugging on a Montecristo, ponying Marsha back to the Del Mar winners’ enclosure after the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint with a satisfied smile broader than Newmarket heath. Much like Chris Eubank without the monocle, or big truck, and much better chat. NBC ratings will go loopy, The Breeders’ Baronet.

Already SMP has been playing the Evan Williams’ backward farmer routine:. “I’ve never had a runner at Del Mar before so I don’t really know what I’m doing,” he said.

“The track looks pretty tight so I suspect Lady Aurelia will win and we’ll be tailed off. But we’ll have a go.”

Like two dazzling ladies in a duel of compliments (Oh you’re much, much prettier than me), Wesley Ward flashes his pearls and reveals Del Mar is a closers track with Marsha the favourite, which surprises mathematicians who gauge the home stretch as bing about 15 yards long.

In the end Marsha makes the running, looks like winning every step of the way until run down by Lady Aurelia, who gets up to force a dead heat.

Frankie Dettori started celebrating as soon as the stalls open.

The interview afterwards is conducted with SMP wearing Wes’s Stetson and Lord Ward quoting passages from Hemmingway, while leading a lurcher.

Meanwhile, Nick Luck dutifully interviews all 74 Elite Racing members shoehorned onto the podium, while the band belts out ‘We Are The Champions’.

Ulysses – An Odyssey:

Ulysses - Del Mar - Penelope Miller Ulysses is a best-priced 11-4 for the Breeders' Cup Turf with bet365 (Penelope Miller/ABR)

Although fans were a trifle disappointed Uli didn’t take in the QIPCO Champion Stakes, X Factor, Strictly and fight Anthony Joshua en route to California, they’ve been pacified by news he might yet attempt the unprecedented Sprint/Mile/Classic treble on Saturday.

Sir Michael [Stoute] is waiting to hear from Frankie Dettori’s accountant before a decision is reached on Friday.

Uli’s arrival was greeted with fanfare down on South beach, where it’s rumored his prep will include arm-wrestling as well as skate boarding.

I’m told the horse considers this Breeder’s Cup challenge as ‘a nice little jog’ though warns he could get sleepy if serenaded by an all-female choir during the anthems.

In the end the treble proves a doddle, with Uli wowing the locals by bench-pressing Arrogate in the winners’ circle afterwards. Dettori surprises everyone by bench-pressing Sir Michael Stoute and Michael Holding together in the winner’s circle, while Paddy Power quote Ulysses as 1-4 for the Presidency.

Aidan and the magic numbers:

The only thing stopping Young Aidan adding to his haul of Grade Ones in person was the slight hitch getting through US customs.

The initial problem of removing a mobile phone from his ear proved easier than news that he learnt his craft back in the homeland under a guy once known as James ‘Whitey’ Bolger. As soon as O’Brien informed a few of The Lads downtown that he was sure to win the Fillies & Mares the doors opened.

AOB proves a hit around the stables immediately, where his blues duets with Ryan Moore are a nightly routine.

Chewing the fat over a few bourbons with British journos, Moore admits he sings Honky Tonk Woman in the ear of his mounts during the final furlong of all big races.

He also reveals that Kieren Fallon’s whistling was never in tune. The Racing Post’s Lee Mottershead meanwhile ensures a good night’s sleep for all with endless rounds of his famous double chocolate hash browns.

The stable sing-alongs are rewarded on track, where the Ballydoyle massive get the red carpet treatment. Moore jerks tears with a stunning rendition of ‘I Won’t Back Down’ in honour of the late Tom Petty after Highland Reel makes all in the Turf. Frustrated, however, at winning just the eight Grade One races, O’Brien salutes the Del Mar crowd with news that he’s giving up training to become a professional punter.

“Once you’ve beaten them, join them,” he tells me, in homage to Bobby Frankel.

Lettergate:

Mike Smith - Arrogate - Eclipse Sportswire Arrogate bids to become the first horse since Tiznow to win back-to-back Classics (Eclipse Sportswire)

Race week starts with the bombshell of Arrogate’s missing letter. Americans have been in a Tiznow ever since word filtered through of the fallen H that once preceded his name.

Ancestral rights have been claimed back in Yorkshire, while the renowned Bob Baffert oats-soaked-in-Taylor’s-tea diet that served them both so well in 2016 has been used as evidence of origin. When quizzed on the issue, Baffert says, “Ah, don’t know what ye talking about chuck.”

Hounded by the speculation and scrutiny, Arrogate chases home Ulysses, fresh from his Turf win, at a respectful distance in the Classic.

It is revealed afterwards that Khalid Abdullah’s colt will return to his roots and is entered for the 2018 Juddmonte International at York.

New trainer Mick Easterby says he’ll also be entered for the Stayers Hurdle, before being sent to see Pipalong and Carlton Frankie. Meanwhile Harrogate tea manufacturers introduce a new decaffeinated product, which they playfully brand ‘Arrogate.

Always a Lady:

Queen's Trust v Lad Eli - Santa Anita - Eclipse Sportswire Lady Eli went down fighting to Queen's Trust 12 months ago in the Filly & Mare (Eclipse Sportswire)

It’s a busy news week by any standard, but the wires go mental when it’s revealed Lady Eli will run her final race in the Filly & Mare in specially-designed stilettos.

Having once trodden on a nail, the elegant filly has developed an unfortunate phobia.

Nike and Adidas were considered front-runners for the job but eventually John-Paul Gautier is flown in to make the super shoes.

Waxed eyebrows are raised when trainer Chad Brown lets slip the Hoss Heels will be a towering 18 inches high sending Breeders’ reps scurrying for the rule book.

In a gesture of good will, Team Eli agree to run an additional circuit of the track which they duly do in record time, waltzing away with a second Breeders’ Cup crown.

In the twilight, Sir Michael Stoute is seen deep in conversation with Gautier, holding a red stiletto while news reaches us that Lady Eli has been booked for next season’s Dancing With The Stars, where she is to be paired with Brad Pitt.

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