Fine margins. It’s what sport is often about, and boy did we see that over the weekend at Breeders’ Cup.
I know I know it’s all done now, but when you have been there is remains in your blood for many days.
The mind is still pumped as a pump thing.
The rides on Auguste Rodin, Master of the Seas and Inspiral were rightly heaped with praise, not least by me.
But there were two efforts that were perfect from the saddle and both resulted in defeat. They hardly got a mention.
It’s often said that when those on top get beaten they think what else they could have done. Sometimes, though, there is simply nothing.
Let’s start with Ryan Moore’s performance on Warm Heart in the Filly & Mare Turf.
Perfectly placed. Attacked at the right time. Kicked clear. Picked up by Inspiral. Moore gave his all with precision and skill. Warm Heart was not quite good enough.
I was chatting with Michael Tabor, one of the owners of Warm Heart, before the race and he asked me what I thought.
My feelings were probably like most, and he agreed with me, when I said to him Inspiral was the most talented in the field but Warm Heart more straightforward. That’s what I sided with Warm Heart. I was wrong.
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And then there was Mawj, agonisingly caught late by Master of the Seas in the Mile.
It was clear for those of us stood next to Oisin Murphy that he was massively dejected by the defeat. Top sports people do not like getting beaten.
But Murphy sat in an ideal spot off a decent gallop. This was one people might say he could have been a length further back and kicked a length closer to the finish. But I disagree.
You have to remember Mawj was being considered for the Inspiral race over further. Murphy did everything right. Master of the Seas just had a better turn of speed. A more mature male horse getting the better of a less hardened young filly.
Moore, as most of you will know by now, was subsequently fined over $20,000 for his ride aboard Auguste Rodin, the biggest penalty handed out in California for whip overuse.
He went just one strike above the permitted limit. There’s not much more I can write about the whip.
All the jockeys around the world should have gone on strike together until sensible, unified rules were agreed between all racing nations.
As it is, most countries have different views on it and they destroy each other. They destroy the sport together.
Within obvious reason, there still remains not one reason to do with welfare to have limits on whip use.
And those people who know more about riding a horse than anyone else are punished, at least most of the time, for nothing.
There can’t be any other job in the world where you are penalised for being brilliant.
Moore was sensational on Auguste Rodin. Everyone knows it bar the law makers. The fine to him is neither here nor there. But by handing out a fine the rule makers bring their own sport into disrepute.
No one can believe that makes sense. Riders who abuse a horse should always be punished. Thrown out the game if need be.
But a jockey who gets a horse rolling should never have to stop doing that when their horse is responding. Any level-headed person would understand that.
We see Inspiral next season as well as Auguste Rodin. Hell they might even meet now stamina is proven in the former for John & Thady Gosden. That’s some thought.
Finally, I just want to mention Aidan O’Brien, the trainer of Auguste Rodin.
At race time the master of Ballydoyle is totally focused.
As a presenter you know once his jockey comes into the parade ring you don’t want to disturb him. He’s in conversation and often wants to walk out with his horse to the track. His eyes are drawn to every detail. This is a man 100% driven my excellence.
But away from raceday you see another side to this genius handler.
I was lucky enough to get plenty of time with him at Santa Anita, and he was funny, charming and always happy to chat.
You don’t have as many kids as Aidan has without understanding a bit about life!
O’Brien would also explain things. For instance, Moore always rode Cherry Blossom, a fair youngster but far from a star, in the mornings, which seemed odd to me so I asked why?
O’Brien pointed out Cherry Blossom is a little crazy, and would often buck and kick. They wanted Moore on her for that reason. He’s the best.
When quizzed about life away from horses O’Brien also played the game and answered anything thrown at him with a smile.
He probably thought it was all mad, but he’s too much of a good bloke to say that.
If you haven’t seen the chat check out my Twitter feed @mcyeeehaaa and it’s pinned to the top.
And just minutes after the Auguste Rodin success, his body adrenaline pumped, he stopped for selfies with fans. That O’Brien is a special person. Very special.
Finally, on the subject of Coolmore isn’t it fabulous the lads and Godolphin are happy to run more than one in a race?
Punters might not always like it, but in general the sport would be miles less fun without the competition.
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Just think of the Master of the Seas finish without Mawj or vice-versa, and what might have been if Unquestionable had not been in the Juvenile Turf with River Tiber taken out. Horses are bred to race.
Thank goodness the major owners are happy to race and compete even against themselves. Some of the rules lack all sense. But this game is so gripping. Breeders’ Cup 2023 was super special.
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