The travel buzz gets noisy for the Breeders' Cup

By Ron Flatter  ( 

For the second time, Del Mar will host the Breeders’ Cup when it is renewed Nov. 5 and 6. (Ron Flatter photo)

Louisville, Ky.

Breeders’ Cup gossip the week before the pre-entries are formally taken Monday is like the sound of vuvuzelas. Remember those things? In South Africa they have been celebrated. In the rest of the world they were the aural equivalent of a thousand bee stings, constantly buzzing and nagging during the 2010 men’s soccer World Cup.

Trust me. I was there. I even brought one of those things over the Equator and back home. Trust me again. Nothing drowns out the noisemakers at a New Year’s Eve party in New York City like the unwelcome sound of a cheap, plastic horn that makes Jobim’s “One Note Samba” sound like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

I think I have watched every Breeders’ Cup since the late John Gaines cobbled together the first one at the late Hollywood Park, where a little lightning in the great outdoors never frightened anyone the way it does in the great $5 billion indoors of the track’s gaudy replacement. The one that will host Super Bowl LVI, weather permitting.

Before we were forced to wait around for COVID shots or for shots to be fired to protest the COVID shots, I had covered every Breeders’ Cup since the 2007 regatta at Monmouth Park. That was the first time the championships took two days and the last time they were held somewhere other than Kentucky or California.

For roughly half the history of what has grown from a bold, seven-race experiment to 14 must-see races for the most seasoned of horseplayers, I have witnessed this period of time before we have a really good idea of who really will be racing under the regal purple and gold banners that could easily be turned inside out and made into Lakers or LSU championship banners. Flip the script, Coach O. Geaux, LeBron.

Six paragraphs later, we come to the point. I cannot remember a year when there was so much turmoil over who would and would not be shipping to the Breeders’ Cup. One respected, global sportsbook actually had three of its top four choices for the $2 million Mile completely disappear from its futures book in a matter of hours. Then the new favorite seemed to be ruled out by his trainer Tuesday only to be reinstated Wednesday with a matter-of-fact “never mind.”

Palace Pier at 9-4, Poetic Flare at 9-2 and Baaeed at 6-1 were, as they say over there, among the most fancied for the Mile. That was before British Champions Day last weekend at Ascot. After Baaeed and Palace Pier slugged it out and finished in that order in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, and since Poetic Flare had lost three in a row, they all were ruled out of a trip to California before the sun set Saturday on what is left of the British Empire.

Up went Space Blues, opening at 5-2 on the strength of his slog through the quicksand of ParisLongchamp to win early this month in the Prix de la Forêt. Then Tuesday, trainer Charlie Appleby did an interview with Racing TV in England to say he was taking three horses to the Breeders’ Cup. Space Blues was not one of them.

Before that aforementioned global bookmaker could completely rewrite the Mile odds, Appleby told Daily Racing Form that he would be bringing Space Blues to Del Mar – and one or two others that he did not reveal to Racing TV in that interview at Newmarket. It was like that scene in “Airplane,” when Johnny Henshaw-Jacobs pulled the plug on the runway lights. Just kidding.

As aging fingers were attacking a keyboard to assemble this 10th paragraph, a heavyweight showdown fell apart at the top of the $4 million Turf. Co-trainer John Gosden told DRF’s Steve Andersen, who had a really good day Thursday, that the Saudi Cup and Dubai World Cup and International Stakes-winning colt needed “a little bit of a rest.” Down goes the 5-1 third choice behind Tarnawa (2-1) and Domestic Spending (9-2), who were still in when I poured a second glass of chardonnay Thursday night.

No, there will be no matchup of Tarnawa and Mishriff, maybe ever. Too bad. If Palace Pier wins a fight with Baaeed for the European championship of 2021, it will not be soiled in the least by a visit to the colonies.

Not to be completely outdone by the internationals, Wesley Ward told Horse Racing Nation and this week’s Ron Flatter Racing Pod that Kimari, on the shelf since her breakthrough Grade 1 win at Keeneland last spring, will be coming off the bench to race in the $1 million Turf Sprint. Good luck with that. She has to face Golden Pal, her stablemate and the 8-5 favorite in the race.

So the drone of Breeders’ Cup gossip has reached that crescendo that sounds like 84,490 horn-blowing fans in the Soccer City stadium 11 years ago in Johannesburg. Iniesta scores in extra time for Spain. Whatever. The bzzzz of the vuvuzelas goes on.

Kimari is in. Mishriff is out. Space Blues is coming. Palace Pier is not. Kimari is coming off the bench like Kirk Gibson. Sorry. Couldn’t hear you over that jet engine of a B-flat. Oh, yes. I looked it up. Vuvuzelas make a B-flat.

And all this tumult, learned futures bettors are the ones who can get a jump on all this news. Thursday at 7 p.m. EDT, Mishriff was still listed in the global odds to win the Turf. When his name finally comes down, the odds for Tarnawa and Domestic Spending are going to shorten. Anyone thinking Tarnawa was an overlay at 2-1 should heed the advice to buy, buy, buy.

Then again, trainer Dermot Weld has not publicly committed Tarnawa to the Turf yet. He suggested in an interview somewhere this week that she could go to the Filly & Mare Turf. His very kind assistant in his Ireland office told me Wednesday he would not be speaking about it before next week. Such is the reality of betting into the futures market.

Thankfully, pre-entries must be submitted by Monday. They will be announced Wednesday, when the bottom will fall out of the futures market. At least it will for long shots.

That is also when the Breeders’ Cup buzz will calm down to something resembling something a lot less cacophonous than vuvuzelas. After Wednesday, it may sound as wonderful as Journey’s “Lights” in the eighth-inning stretch in San Francisco.

If only.


Ron Flatter’s racing column is available every Friday at The Ron Flatter Racing Pod is also available every Friday morning at This week’s episode looks at next month’s Breeders’ Cup. Trainer Wesley Ward talks about his six horses that will be at Del Mar. Broadcasters who work away from their love of racing get together in a roundtable, including former ESPN host Chris Lincoln, Baltimore newscaster Scott Wykoff and Texas Tech sportscaster Ryan Hyatt. Duane Colucci from the Rampart Casino handicaps weekend stakes at Belmont Park, Keeneland and Santa Anita. The Ron Flatter Racing Pod is available for free subscription at iHeart, Apple, Google, Spotify and Stitcher. It is sponsored by 1/ST BET.

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