09/12/2012 11:45AM

New York Horses, Santa Anita Breeders' Cups


As we all know, this year’s Breeders’ Cup is at Santa Anita. We should also know that the last two Breeders’ Cups at Santa Anita, in 2008 and 2009, were unmitigated disasters for New York horses.

How one defines a “New York horse,” or for that matter a horse from any circuit in a time when it’s commonplace for big trainers to have multiple divisions in a number of states, can vary. But for purposes of this discussion, I classified New York horses as ones from primarily New York-based stables regardless of where those horses might have had their final preps, or horses who had their final preps at a New York track.

By my count, there were 42 such horses in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup. Only one of them won, that being Maram in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

I counted 41 such horses in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup. Again, only one of them won. That was Tapitsfly, who also landed the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

To recap, because it deserves emphasis, in the last two Breeders’ Cups at Santa Anita, New York horses went 2 for 83, and the race these winners won is near the bottom of the Breeders’ Cup totem pole, a notch, maybe two, above the Marathon.

These numbers are so staggering that even the most provincial California racing fan would have to agree that there was something more at work here than just the West being best.

Some might suggest that shipping could be a factor and note that it is more difficult shipping from cooler New York weather into a warmer fall climate than vice versa. Although that makes some sense, I’m not buying. European horses faced a similar climatic change in the 2008 and 2009 Cups, but had to travel more than twice as many miles as New York horses. Yet despite that, Euro shippers won five of the 14 Breeders’ Cup races in 2008 (all on Saturday), and six of the 14 Cup races in 2009.

Certainly, a major factor could have been the synthetic main track that was in place at Santa Anita for the 2008 and 2008 Cups. In looking back, I can think of only a few New York horses that even ran just reasonably well on that synthetic surface – Sky Diva, Ready’s Echo, Midshipman, and Gio Ponti, who, notably, was a turf horse. Otherwise, every New York horse seemed to flounder on that synthetic track. But while it should be noted that New York horses, who went 0 for 16 in main track races in the 2008 and 2009 Breeders’ Cups, did better on grass, they did only go 2 for 12.

Of course, the main track will no longer be an excuse as Santa Anita went back to dirt almost two years ago. Whether this will enable New York horses to be more competitive in this Breeders’ Cup remains to be seen. But the viability of New York horses in this Breeders’ Cup is something to think about as we assess the major final Cup preps, which are almost at hand.