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A thrilling start to the two-day Breeders’ Cup event

November 7, 2009     E-mail this page to a friend!

Mastery (left), Cloudy’s Knight (center), and Man Of Iron battle in deep stretch in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon
(photo by Robert Cooke, Jr., courtesy of NTRA and Breeders’ Cup)
By Karen Svea Johnson

The first Breeders’ Cup race was race three on the Friday card at Santa Anita Park, the Breeders’ Cup Marathon. The 3-year-old British colt Mastery was the heavy favorite off his strong record of three wins, a second, and three thirds in eight races in the UK and France.

But there was an old-timer among his challengers, the 9-year-old Cloudy’s Knight, bred and owned by Jerrold Schwartz/S J Stables LLC and conditioned by hall of fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard. He was making only his third start of 2009 and was ridden by Rosemary Homeister Jr., making her very first appearance in a Breeders’ Cup event but riding the horse for the third time.

The race began as expected, with Black Astor playing the rabbit from the inside post. But the shape of the race changed a mile and a half into the mile and three-quarters event. Cloudy’s Knight ran past tiring runners and had a clear lead at the top of the stretch, with Mastery and the 3-year old Man of Iron in pursuit. As they neared the wire, the crowd roared as the tough, wily “Knight” gave the young “Man” all the challenge he could handle right up to the wire.

A long photo showed that Man of Iron had prevailed, but the post-race interview revealed few regrets among Cloudy Knight’s connections.

“Whether he won or not was not foremost in my mind,” said Sheppard. “I just wanted him to get a clean trip, and I was sure Rosemary would give him a good ride.

“But I also thought it was conceivable, and maybe [on an] unfamiliar surface show people what he can do. But it all came together beautifully—at least until the last jump or two. But we’re proud of him. He ran a great race.”

NTRA’s Eric Wing asked Homeister to talk about the experience of riding in her first BC race.

“The experience has been incredible. Everybody—the public, the press—has been wonderful. Jonathan and Shirley (another of the connections) and Jerrold Schwartz have been absolutely great, giving me this opportunity to ride this horse in the Breeders’ Cup,” she said.

When asked if the results of the photo were a letdown, she replied, “You know, my horse has such a long neck and a long nose. I wish it would have been just a little longer …

“But when I didn’t get it, yes, you get deflated. The horse gave such a gallant effort and for him not to win, it just kind of, it just brings you down a hair. But, you know what? The was still happy. He had his ears up. He came back great and there’s always another race.”

And that’s always good news to hear about a 9-year-old Thoroughbred.

Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park concludes today, with the first BC race, the Juvenile Turf, scheduled for a 10:45 a.m. PT posttime.