Updated on 10/31/2013 2:11PM

Jay Hovdey: Favorite memories from six Breeders' Cup events at Santa Anita


For those who value local knowledge, there have been six runnings of the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park, with number seven poised for Friday and Saturday. They have had a few things in common – the mountains, forest fires, early post times, Arnold Schwarzenegger – and each Santa Anita version has presented the seven original Breeders’ Cup races, plus a few extras in recent years. All this makes for lively conversation over drinks at Nola’s new Santa Anita clubhouse bar since everyone has got their Santa Anita favorites among those six. These are mine:

[BREEDERS’ CUP 2013: See DRF’s top contenders]

Juvenile – Winners: Capote, Brocco, Action This Day, Midshipman, Vale of York, Shanghai Bobby.

A tough one, mostly because none of them went on to make any kind of lasting mark as 3-year-olds. Brocco did the best, though, winning the 1994 Santa Anita Derby and defeating Tabasco Cat, who went on to win the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Brocco would have fared a lot better than fourth in the ’94 Kentucky Derby had he not been gawking up at the stands when the gates were sprung.

Juvenile Fillies – Brave Raj, Phone Chatter, Halfbridled, Stardom Bound, She Be Wild, Beholder.

The right move would be to recuse myself, since the wife won with Halfbridled and I am reminded of it every time Julie Krone lets me dust the trophy.

And yet the thrill of 1993 lingers, when the monstrous Phone Chatter came to the racy, professional Sardula late in the stretch after Sardula had dictated all of the pace. Neither surrendered, and at the end it was Phone Chatter in front for exactly one stride – the one that counted.

Phone Chatter was injured in the race and never ran again, but Sardula carried the torch, winning the 1994 Kentucky Oaks.

Sprint – Smile, Cardmania, Cajun Beat, Midnight Lute, Dancing in Silks, Trinniberg.

Cardmania was a four-legged Michelin Guide who by the autumn of his 7-year-old season had raced in France, England, Germany, and Hong Kong, in addition to his extensive U.S. career. But he was never better than on that 1993 Breeders’ Cup Day when he uncorked a wide run to catch the fleeing gray filly Meafara and win by a neck. Finishing third, just a half-length back, was Gilded Time, who was making his first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile 53 weeks earlier.

After 77 starts, Cardmania finally retired in April 1995. On New Year’s Day of 1996 he marched in Pasadena’s Rose Parade.

Mile – Last Tycoon, Lure, Six Perfections, Goldikova, Goldikova, Wise Dan.

Following two years of watching Europeans blow the turns in the Mile at Hollywood and Aqueduct, Last Tycoon was a revelation. Robert Collet had been training his colt back home in France on a custom layout designed to replicate Santa Anita’s seven-furlong oval. Yves Saint-Martin, France’s answer to Shoemaker and Pincay, steered the colt around the California course like the stripes on a French mime’s shirt to beat Palace Music by a head.

Back home in Paris, the boulevardiers were screaming, “What is wrong with les Americains?” Two years earlier, Saint-Martin upset the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Turf at Hollywood Park with Lashkari at 53-1. Last Tycoon was 35-1.

Distaff – Lady’s Secret, Hollywood Wildcat, Adoration, Zenyatta, Life Is Sweet, Royal Delta.

Eddie Delahoussaye thought he pretty much had the measure of Chris McCarron with a sixteenth of a mile to run in the 1993 Distaff, and he was probably right. Hollywood Wildcat was running a ferocious race. But just to make sure – after all, that was champion Paseana underneath McCarron – Delahoussaye decided to flip his whip in case he needed to use it in the final yards.

Then oops! There it went, spinning aloft. Disarmed, Delahoussaye resorted to slapping his filly a couple of times on the neck and got her home a nose in front.

“I did not drop my whip,” Delahoussaye insists to this day. “When I looked over and saw it was McCarron I threw it away. I knew I wouldn’t need it.” Har har.

Turf – Manila, Kotashaan, High Chaparral and Johar (dead heat), Conduit, Conduit, Little Mike.

Dancing Brave was billed as nothing less than the second coming of Bucephalus. After an historic European campaign, the 1986 Breeders’ Cup Turf was his to lose. The foreign press followed him around as if Princess Di were entwined in his mane.

Then Dancing Brave went flat as a pancake, while Manila, Theatrical, and the 6-year-old mare Estrapade showed him how it was done. Manila, in fact, was so good that day that Jose Santos was able to hit the brakes with barely a furlong to run, shift three lanes to the right, and come on again to catch the fully extended Theatrical and win by a neck.

Classic – Skywalker, Arcangues, Pleasantly Perfect, Raven’s Pass, Zenyatta, Fort Larned.

This is unfair, because how do you compete with the racehorse version of “Gone With the Wind”? Hyperbolic as it was, the reaction to Zenyatta’s victory in the 2009 Classic was entirely appropriate. Rarely has a Thoroughbred promised so much and then so comprehensively delivered.

The horses Zenyatta beat that day included Einstein, Twice Over, Gio Ponti, Richard’s Kid, and Colonel John, all of them proven at the highest levels over either synthetics or a firm turf equivalent. Furthermore, to witness a racehorse outfinishing horses who are still running fast is a wondrous sight (her final quarter shaded 24 seconds). But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the guy who finished second.

“That was very frustrating with Gio Ponti,” Ramon Dominguez said. “I felt that I had an absolutely dream trip and my horse ran awesome. Then this horse out of another world had to come and get me. All I could think was, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ”

Nope, it really happened.