Every so often with They Are Off, I like to reminisce about great races or great horses from the past. I always enjoy writing this historical pieces and I hope you enjoy reading them. For the next several weeks, I would like to highlight one edition of each of the original seven Breeders' Cup races in the lead-up to the World Thoroughbred Championships to be run at Churchill Downs on Friday, November 5 and Saturday, November 6. Today, I will start the series with a look at the 2001 Breeders' Cup Sprint.
The 2001 Breeders' Cup was run at Belmont Park just a scant six weeks after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in the heart of Manhattan. It is hard to believe that such a major international event took place so soon after such a devastating tragedy, but keep in mind that the 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks was going on at about this time as well.
One of the undercurrents leading into the 2001 Breeders' Cup was the absence of a single Cup victory on the resume' of trainer Bobby Frankel. Frankel had been inducted into the Thoroughbred Racing Hall Of Fame in 1995 and had won (it seemed) every race under the sun. Well, the exceptions to that assumption were the Breeders' Cup and the Triple Crown races. As of 2001, Frankel had not managed a win in any of the races in either series. That would change in 2001 as Frankel's trainee, Squirtle Squirt, wore down the very game filly, Xtra Heat in the shadow of the wire to notch his first career Breeders' Cup winner. Both Squirtle Squirt and Xtra Heat were part of the pace of the Sprint from the moment the gates opened. Unlike most renditions of the Sprint, the opening quarter in 2001 was a pedestrian 22.2 seconds. Usually, the first fractional time in the Sprint is around 21 seconds flat or something nearer that range. So, the frontrunners in the race really hadn't exhausted themselves by the time the wire loomed. The first three finishers in the race (Squirtle Squirt, Xtra Heat, and Caller One) were all at the front of the field for the entire six furlongs. Additionally, none of that trio were well considered by the bettors that day either. Squirtle Squirt went off at 10-1, Xtra Heat was 18-1, and Caller One was 12-1. It resulted in a very nice Trifecta payoff of $2,162.
Of course, this would not be the only Breeders' Cup or Triple Crown win for Frankel in his remarkable career. He would go on to win the Filly And Mare Turf in 2002 (Starine) and 2005 (Intercontinental), the Classic in 2004 (Ghostzapper), and the Distaff in 2007 (Ginger Punch). And, let us not forget the 2003 Belmont Stakes win with Empire Maker that spoiled the Triple Crown bid of Funny Cide. Bobby Frankel passed away in November 2009 and it can certainly be said that when it came to racing, he had done it all.
You can watch the 2001 Breeders' Cup Sprint with the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcWm7cENh8Y
Tune in tomorrow for a look at this weekend's Grade 1 Woodbine Mile. By the way, Frankel won the Woodbine Mile three times, 2000 (Riviera), 2005 (Leroidesanimeaux), and 2009 (Ventura). For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!