01/08/2014 1:58PM

2013 Eclipse Awards: Mizdirection

photo by: Nikki Sherman

If racing were limited to “down the hill” events at Santa Anita, a mare named Mizdirection might be as ingrained in American sports culture as Man o’ War or Secretariat.

In six races over the unique 6 1/2-furlong course (and seven overall starts on the Santa Anita turf), Mizdirection never lost, including back-to-back victories over male rivals in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Her level of success was enough to make her a 2013 Eclipse Award finalist in two categories – female sprinter and female turf horse.

Mizdirection won the 2013 Turf Sprint with somewhat different tactics than in 2012, when she rallied from well back. This time, she stalked the pace from a closer position before wearing down the leaders to prevail by a half-length.

Every move in 2013 had been masterfully choreographed by trainer Mike Puype toward a repeat in the Turf Sprint. Mizdirection’s 5-year-old campaign began with her wheeling back on nine weeks’ rest from her 2012 Breeders’ Cup triumph to take the Grade 2 Monrovia on Jan. 6 at Santa Anita as an odds-on favorite.

She then returned six weeks later to dominate the Grade 2 Buena Vista when stretching out to a mile over the Santa Anita turf, and then it was an eight-week gap to another victory as an odds-on choice in the April 13 Las Cienegas going “down the hill.”

Puype then ventured outside his comfort zone by sending Mizdirection to New York to run in the Grade 1 Just a Game on the June 8 Belmont Stakes undercard. The mare floundered over a yielding course when fading to fifth of six in the one-mile race.

“I suspected going in that she wouldn’t be able to handle that course, and that’s just what happened,” Puype said. “Our next move was to go back home and get ready for the Breeders’ Cup.”

Prepared solely on workouts during the nearly five-month span leading up to the Nov. 2 Turf Sprint, Mizdirection never missed a beat. She was to be ridden again by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who rode her in both Breeders’ Cup starts and in every one of her 2013 races except for the Las Cienegas, when David Flores was aboard.

Mizdirection ran according to the blueprint, as she was kept in the clear after breaking from a favorable outside post before surging to the lead and simply outfinishing Tightend Touchdown and Reneesgotzip, who finished in a dead heat for second.

“Mike rode a perfect race,” Puype said.

Mizdirection ended the year with 4 wins from 5 starts and earnings of $805,000.

Mizdirection was owned by a multi-pronged partnership that included the Jungle Racing LLC of Jim Rome, the highly popular sports-talk superstar who is frequently outspoken about the virtues of the sport. Rome was on hand at Santa Anita as one of 15 designated Breeders’ Cup ambassadors.

“Jim is freaky in love with this game,” Puype said several days before the Breeders’ Cup. “With the huge audience he has, and as much time as he spends talking about racing on his shows, the sport is extremely fortunate to have him. He goes out and gives us all this free publicity and is completely genuine about it. It’s great.”

Rome said after the Breeders’ Cup: “The Miz ride has been one of the great experiences of my life.”

Just two days after the Breeders’ Cup, Mizdirection was sold at auction for $2.7 million at Fasig-Tipton in Lexington, Ky. She was purchased by Mandore International on behalf of Al Shaqab Racing, the stable of Sheikh Joaan al Thani of Qatar.

Mizdirection will be bred in 2014 to first-year stallion Al Kazeem, a multiple Group 1 winner in England and Ireland.

Mizdirection, a gray mare by Mizzen Mast out of Deceptive, by Clever Trick, was bred in Kentucky by Joseph J. Perrotta. She ended her career with 11 wins from 17 starts and earnings of $1,719,621.