11/04/2009 4:20AM



It does my heart good to realize I can still be shocked, stunned, delighted and even disappointed--take your pick--over something as routine as the draw for Breeders' Cup races. It happened Tuesday afternoon for the 26th time.

--I remain shocked and embarrassed that North American horse racing is so feebly represented in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf. Telling won the Sword Dancer fair and square, although he'd lost the 11 races before that after exhausting his conditions. Presious Passion is a grand animal, with a flamboyant running style that is both a blessing and a curse. Monzante, who won an Eddie Read, has never been near 12 furlongs. And Allegre, while not quite the second coming of Ricks Natural Star, may need a flashlight to find Dar Re Mi by the end of the ordeal. This is the same race won by such homegrown heroes as Manila, Great Communicator, Prized, Fraise, Chief Bearheart, Buck's Boy, Johar, Better Talk Now and English Channel. They weep.

--At the same time, I was stunned that the vast resources of Ireland's Coolmore-Ballydoyle operation could not muster a single representative for either the Turf or the $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile. After all, these grass races are run for the benefit of Europeans. Aren't they? The least they can do is show up to the party.

--I continue to be disappointed that four of the 14 Breeders' Cup races are populated by 2-year-olds. Even more disconcerting, of the 149 runners in the main bodies of the 14 races, 49 are mere babies. Babies! What is this, the trials for the Rainbow Futurity, or the ultimate pageant of the Thoroughbred breed, in all its great variety? Two Juvenile races might have been one too many. Four is nothing but filler.

--I am delighted that there will be a rematch in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic between Richard's Kid and Einstein, the 1-2 finishers in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Richard's Kid is owned by Arnold Zetcher, the former Talbot's CEO who is at the forefront of a group intent on purchasing Santa Anita Park. Stronach heads the bankrupt company being forced to sell Santa Anita to pay off massive debt. Best of all, in case no one noticed, the race will be run at Santa Anita.

--I was not surprised to see Bob Baffert have such bad luck at the draw (the 2-year-olds Lookin at Lucky and Always a Princess on the far outside, going 1 1/16 miles, and Zensational on the rail in the Sprint). For Pete's sake, the man won the first four races on last Sunday's Santa Anita card. Karma is an evil mistress, and tends to roll in cycles. Baffert is counting on the pendulum swinging back his way by the weekend.

--And I can't wait to watch Zenyatta toy with the boys.

I was also relieved to see Gary Stevens alert and on the job with HRTV during the post-draw interview session. Last Saturday, the Hall of Famer-turned-trainer took the worst of a bizarre chain reaction when a filly in the next saddling stall backed into the heavy wood and metal partition and knocked it to the ground. Valet Manny Avila (who gallops Richard's Kid and Always a Princess for Baffert), was helping Stevens saddle his filly, and was momentarily pinned beneath the partition. The filly shied into Stevens, and banged his head into the another partition. That one held. "This is nothing," Stevens said, pointing to the traces of a nasty scrape near his left temple. "It's what was going on inside my head that had me worried." As for Avila, he escaped with a few scratches and bruises. "Look at this," he said, waving his scratched Callaway sunglasses. "The least they can do is buy me a new pair."