01/06/2011 4:00PM

2010 Eclipse Awards: Goldikova

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Barbara D. Livingston

The Celtics, the Yankees, the Steelers – as far as sports dynasties go, they’ve got nothing on Goldikova, who has rendered one of the most challenging events in the Breeders’ Cup canon to nothing more than an elaborate stage for her particular brand of perfection.

In a glorious year of great mares in a decade of great mares, Goldikova came, saw, and conquered the best the championship could muster in the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile for the third straight year. This put her in a category all her own – Bayakoa, Conduit, Da Hoss, High Chaparral, Lure, Midnight Lute, Miesque, Ouija Board, Tiznow, and Zenyatta are all double Breeders’ Cup winners – and clinched what probably will be her second straight Eclipse Award for champion North American turf female.

As far as championships are concerned, the Europeans have already spoken. In November, while the glow from the Breeders’ Cup was still warm, Goldikova was proclaimed Europe’s Cartier Horse of the Year. This was no mean feat, especially in the face of such fine colts as Harbinger and Workforce, clearly underlining the international impact Goldikova has had with her unbeaten Breeders’ Cup streak.

Goldikova’s ability to translate her French and British form with success, year after year, to an American context has been no less than amazing. Consider the fact that she regularly competes either on straightaways or right-handed courses, over ground normally rated good to soft, and against every tough male miler on the continent.

Even more remarkable is the fact that each of her three BC Miles have offered a unique scenario. At Santa Anita in 2008, Goldikova was a brash 3-year-old, tugging hard at Olivier Peslier near the pace and exploding through a seam in midstretch to win with audacity. In 2009, also at Santa Anita, the Mile pace was fierce, and Peslier needed no part of it. As a result, he was forced to lose precious ground going wide on the final turn and Goldikova still handled Courageous Cat by a relatively simple half-length.

Goldikova’s third win at Churchill might have been her easiest of the three. At least, she made it look that way. She was able to cruise calmly on the outside, in midpack, until Peslier decided enough was enough and punched her to the front late to win by 1 3/4 lengths. In her immediate wake that day was Gio Ponti, the champion older horse and turf male of 2009, as well as The Usual Q. T., California’s top grass performer, along with European stalwarts Paco Boy, Delegator, and Beethoven.

A champion needs more than a single day, however, to solidify her support. Goldikova won 5 of 6 in 2010, beginning in May with the Prix d’Ispahan at about 1 1/8 miles. Subsequent wins in the Queen Anne, the Prix Rothschild, and the Prix de la Foret gave her a record total for a European competitor of 11 Group 1 or Grade 1 wins. The Breeders’ Cup Mile supplied the icing on that particular pastry.

Goldikova came to the end of the 2010 season with a career record of 15 wins from 21 starts. Her earnings have surpassed the $6 million mark, a plateau previously attained among North American and European mares by only Zenyatta and Ouija Board. She could have retired peacefully and without regrets.

Then, in the wake of Goldikova’s third Mile, it was announced by owners Alain and Gerard Wertheimer that they would be giving trainer Freddie Head one more year with the mare, now age 6. Should she return to Churchill Downs for a Breeders’ Cup encore in fall 2011, however, she might find they already have renamed the race the Goldikova Mile.

PAST PERFORMANCES: Goldikova's 2010 season PPs (PDF)

KEY RACE REPLAY: Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs >>