11/16/2011 3:11AM

The 2011 Breeders' Cup - a photo album

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It doesn’t really matter who’s in the races.  Every year, the Breeders’ Cup provides new photographic opportunities – the lead-up to the race, the enchanting horses and their human connections, the colorful pageantry, the historic venues, the early mornings, afternoons and evenings.

This year, as always, there are storylines anew - from cowboy Larry Jones hopping aboard his powerhouse filly Havre de Grace to trainer Bill Mott who, on Breeders’ Cup Friday morning, could be found at his barn, cleaning his own tack.   But unlike other race days, where we get pumped up for even one good horse’s story, here we find more than 170 -- from Secret Circle’s dominant win to Drosselmeyer’s eeking out his victory under the darkness of night.  Joseph O’Brien’s 18-year-old smile is now part of our history, and the, oh, so photogenic Hansen is now inspiring Derby dreams (and, perhaps more nightmare than dream, compelling some of us to sing the horribly catchy Hanson hit, ‘MMMBop’).

Here are some photos from this year's Breeders' Cup races.  Special thanks to our photographic team, including Alysse Jacobs, Kim Pratt, Tom Keyser, Justin N. Lane and John Bambury.

Above and below:  Secret Circle and Rafael Bejarano got Breeders' Cup Friday rolling, with an easy and powerful win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint.

Above: A triumphant Rafael Bejarano.

Below, a variety pack of photos from both days, in somewhat random order.  

Above:  Pleasant Prince leads the way into the first turn of the Marathon and, below, Afleet Again on the way to being a popular winner.

Above:  Birdrun, suddenly thinking the Marathon might be just a bit too long for his liking.

Above:  It's not that often that Cornelio Velasquez can be caught smiling!

Above:  Afleet Again earns the flowers and, below, winning is good.

Above:  Farraaj (#4) and others, first time past in the Juvenile Turf.

Above:  Favored Finale (left) and Daddy Nose Best head into the first turn of the Juvenile Turf.

Above:  Wrote (inside, winner) and State of Play at the head of the stretch of the Juvenile Turf.  Below, Wrote (left) emerges victorious.

Above:  The winning groom heads down the track to meet his winner.

Above:  Wrote's unusual tail, in the winner's circle.

Above:  My Miss Aurelia zooms into the homestretch of the Juvenile Fillies and, below, Corey Nakatani gives the filly some loving.

Above:  Corey Nakatani plants one on Scott Blasi's head after My Aurelia's victory and, below, Corey keeps kissing, this time his daughter Lila.

Above:  A fist-bump between Juan Gonzalez and Scott Blasi as My Miss Aurelia heads to the test barn.

Above:  Steve Asmussen shares a tender moment with his son.

Above/below:  The Asmussen/Nakatani team was also victorious with Regally Ready in the Turf Sprint.

Above: Regally Ready casts a winning glance in the winner's circle.

Above:  A wonderful tribute to longtime AP photographer and friend/mentor to many, Ed Reinke, who died at age 60 on October 18.

Above:  Garrett Gomez.

Above and below:  Perfect Shirl, longshot ($57.60) winner of the Filly and Mare Turf.

Above:  Stacelita, after a rough trip, galloped past the wire with her unusual protective eye gear.

Above:  A victory hug for the connections of Perfect Shirl and, below, Johnny V. gives a happy thumbs-up.

Above:  John Velazquez, family man.

Above:  Turbulent Descent, Pomeroys Pistol and Musical Romance heading homeward in the Filly and Mare Sprint.  Musical Romance emerged victorious and paid $42.40.

Above and below:  Musical Romance and Juan C. Leyva.

Above and below:  Musical Romance and her winning connections, including Bill Kaplan (below).

Above:  Bill Kaplan is all smiles and Juan Leyva (below), is feeling good, too.

Above:  Fashion...uh...sense? trackside.

Above and below: Amazombie and Mike Smith win the Sprint in a close one over Force Freeze.

Above:  Mike Smith savors the moment on Amazombie and, below, the winner heads back to the barns (I must wonder, however, why is the groom so sad?!).

Above:  That is a funny look on Mike Smith's face!

Above:  Todd Pletcher, always fashionably attired, heads to the paddock.

Above: Royal Delta and Jose Lezcano in the Classic post parade.

Above:  Plum Pretty leads the first time past in the (I hate the title so much, it pains me to write it) Ladies' Classic, and, below, into the homestretch.

Above and below:  Royal Delta and Jose Lezcano, Classic winners.  A few days later, Royal Delta was responsible for another jackpot when she fetched $8.5 million at auction.

Above:  Bill Mott, wife wife Tina alongside, was bleeding in the winner's circle - a result of their overzealous, cheering son Riley.  Bill didn't seem to mind.

Above:  18-year-old Joseph O'Brien and St Nicholas Abbey head to the post and, below, the duo first time past in the Turf.

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Above:  How great is this photo?...from the pride on the groom's face to the boy at far left taking a photo.  

Above:  Joseph O'Brien flashes a heart-warming smile to his father Aidan.

Above:  Joseph O'Brien in the winner's circle and, below, with his father Aidan.

Above and below:  Stephanie's Kitten leads the way home in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Above:  John Velazquez heads back to the winner's circle aboard Stephanie's Kitten, a daughter of an old favorite, Kitten's Joy.  Below, a typically quiet and subdued Ken Ramsey family enjoy their win.  :)

Above:  What a difference a year makes!  Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano.  

Above:  Signs were hopeful that Goldikova might win the Mile and, below, Goldikova and Olivier Peslier share a quiet moment before the race. 

Above:  The ever-handsome Gio Ponti, who has been competing in Breeders' Cup races since Monmouth Park in 2007.  Sadly, but very deservedly, the gallant horse was retired after this year's renewal.

Above:  Goldikova (right), the first time by.

Above:  R to L - Get Stormy, Jeranimo and Sidney's Candy lead the way into the stretch of the Mile.  This race was run with the prettiest light of either day - truly showing racing's brilliant beauty.

Above:  Turallure (grey), Court Vision (purple cap), Gio Ponti (green) and Goldikova, rail.

Above:  It looked like Turallure won from some angles and, below, Julien Leparoux apparently thought it was the case.  But Court Vision was the victor.

Above and below:  Court Vision and Robby Albarado circle before entering the winner's circle, with Will Walden at left and, below, Robby and B. Wayne Hughes enjoy their win.

Above:  How about that tote board? and, below, B. Wayne Hughes and Robby Albarado share a winning hug.

Above:  Ramon Dominguez (Gio Ponti) and Olivier Peslier (Goldikova) after the Mile.

Above:  Goldikova heads toward her new career.  Thanks so much to her sporting connections for bringing her over for another try!

Above:  Speaking of European visitors, Daddy Long Legs sure was a beautiful entrant in the Juvenile.

Above:  The final turn of the Juvenile as Hansen (right) prepares to square off with Union Rags (far left).

Above:  Hansen (grey) and Union Rags duke it out in the Juvenile.  MMMbop!

Above:  Union Rags tried, but he could not catch the dazzling frontrunning Hansen.

Above:  2010 Eclipse Award winning jockey Ramon Dominguez after Hansen's victory.  Outrider Greg Blasi leads the duo to the winner's circle.

Above: Dr. Kendall Hansen plants a grateful smooch on his beautiful colt.

Above:  Sweat and petals.

Above:  Edgar Prado.

Above and below:  Caleb's Posse keeps impressing, here winning the Dirt Mile with Rajiv Maragh up.

Above:  Jesus Castanon, aboard second-place finisher Shackleford.

Above:  Caleb's Posse looks good coated with mud and draped in flowers.

Above:  Steve Asmussen is clearly no mudlark.

Above and below:  Before the Classic, fans show their allegiance to their favorites.

Above:  Larry Jones, as usual, smiles for us as he and Corey York lead Havre de Grace in the Classic paddock.  Thank you, Larry!

Above:  The globetrotting So You Think sure is a handsome one.

Above:  Mike Smith reacquaints himself with his old buddy Drosselmeyer before the Classic.

Above:  Uncle Mo and John Velazquez head postward one last time.

Above:  The Classic start, including Drosselmeyer (right).  Also showing are Stay Thirsty, Game On Dude, Rattlesnake Bridge, Ice Box, So You Think and Ruler On Ice.  

Above:  Uncle Mo, first time past the wire.

Above:  First time past,  soon after the start, Game On Dude and Drosselmeyer - with Chantal Sutherland and Mike Smith up, respectively - bided their time.

Above:  Left to right, first time by - Uncle Mo, To Honor and Serve, Game On Dude, Havre de Grace and So You Think.  In the background, Drosselmeyer is visible at right.

Above:  Drosselmeyer mows down Game On Dude to win the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Above and below:  The lovely Havre de Grace after the race with jockey Ramon Dominguez and, below, Ramon and trainer Larry Jones.  Check it out:  Larry (second shot) can still muster a smile!

Above:  It's hard to believe that, after hounding Uncle Mo countless mornings, I'll no longer see him on track.  I'll really miss you, Mo!

Above and below:  Mike, thanks for helping promote the game by giving photographers something fun to shoot!  I absolutely believe that, the more the jockeys celebrate, the more likely AP and other photo agencies are to make photos that appeal to newspapers/publishers.

Above:  Bill Mott, on the occasion of his second Classic victory in two days, greets Mike Smith and Drosselmeyer upon their return to the winner's circle.

Until next year, at beautiful Santa Anita.....