IT was only a nose. But that nose just let us breathe a little more easily.

When Cody’s Wish showed all the grit and determination of the boy after whom he was named, to hold off National Treasure in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, and the cameras briefly flashed on Bob Baffert’s wry smile, you felt this could be a good evening. The sport would be blessed again.

Those dreadful moments of disaster and constant bad publicity of the summer in Kentucky and New York were brushed away in the bright Santa Anita sunlight.

And so it continued. Amazingly, eight of the nine Grade 1 races on Breeders’ Cup 2023 went to the favourite or joint-favourites. Three horses held their titles from the previous year and there were three brilliant European winners.

Dettori, Buick, Moore all excelled on Inspiral, Master Of The Seas and Auguste Rodin. The O’Brien colt became a rare animal in adding a Breeders’ Cup to his dual Derby wins. Godolphin, Juddmonte, Coolmore made the winners’ podium. Everyone happy!

The Classic was the only race to lose some of its lustre, moved from its climatical slot on the card. White Abbario, who had been a decent if exposed three-year-old, added to his impressive Whitney win, now in the hands of Richard Dutrow, returning to the training ranks after a long ban from the sport.

What it also revealed going forward was that, with Arabian Knight the best of the three-year-old crop in the Classic and Forte and Arcangelo retired, it leaves an intriguing scenario for next season. There are few decent colts still in training.

With Justify’s progeny proving as good on dirt as on turf, and if Auguste Rodin makes it to Del Mar, by which time City Of Troy may have established himself as an outstanding three-year-old, Ballydoyle could have the two leading candidates for the Classic in 2024.

Good rides or riding your luck?

TWO of the main races on Saturday produced interesting debates and differences of opinion.

Should Harry Cobden have pushed on between the last two fences on Bravemansgame at Wetherby, and perhaps gain a length or two that would have allowed him to make a mistake at the last and still have sufficient advantage to hold off the challenge of Gentlemansgame?

Was Ryan Moore’s ride to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf on Auguste Rodin a thing of wonder or just playing the cards that fell in his lap – gap opened, horse in the right place to capitalise and gain a significant advantage over wider running rivals?

What is certain is that Auguste Rodin had to be a very good horse to quicken instantly when asked and skim through round the tight bend. It was noted on social media that Auguste Rodin joins Mill Reef, Troy, Sea The Stars and Golden Horn as the only Derby winners to add at least three more Group 1s before the end of the year since the pattern was introduced in 1971. Quite some company.


The verdict on the Bravemansgame ride seemed to be close to 50/50.

I’d be inclined to agree with the scenario suggested by Neil Channing on Luck on Sunday that if a horse goes two clear going to the last, the rival jockey is perhaps a bit less dynamic or less confident in chasing him into it and it can play to the leader’s advantage.

Gentlemansgame’s rider Darragh O’Keeffe on the same programme said: “When we jumped the second last, I never thought he was getting away from me, going to the last I felt, if I wing this, I have half a chance.” Whether O’Keeffe would have been in that positive a mindset had Cobden pushed two clear is the question.

Later in the week a ride by Adam Wedge also copped online abuse, this time for NOT using the whip, in riding outsider of three Out Of Office into second in a novice chase at Chepstow. Initially it did look like a little more effort could have been made. Would he have won? Probably not.

But in the week of the Melbourne Cup it brought to mind the Banjo Patterson poem.

There’s some that ride as sailors do, with legs, and arms, and teeth;

And some that ride the horse’s neck, and some ride underneath.

But all the finest horsemen out — the men to Beat the Band

You’ll find amongst the crowd that ride their races in the Stand

Champion sprinter to Cheltenham star!

IN these days of stallion fees and announcements coming left right and centre, it can be amusing to sometimes look back at the stud careers that did not play out as planned. Retiring a champion sprinter to stud should, in these speed-loving days, see such a top racehorse have a few good years at stud.

It’s a bit strange to see that the ‘exceptional sprinter’ Muhaarar appears to have not one but two very good prospects for next year’s Cheltenham Festival.

The outstanding bumper horse from last season, A Dream To Share may well be joined by the juvenile hurdler Burdett Road who won impressively on his jumping debut at Huntingdon last Sunday.

Muhaarar flat winners this season include French classic winner Marhaba Ya Sanafi, Jessica Harrington’s graded performer, Trevaunance, Group 3 winner Anaaf and the prolific winning filly Sparks Fly.

But on second glance, maybe it’s not so strange that he is siring good jumping horses.

His dam was a seven-furlong winning daughter of Linamix and that grey is the source of many top jumpers through his sons, Fragrant Mix, Fair Mix and Carlotomix. Uxizandre, Simonsig, Gemix are all sons of those sires with another Linamix horse Martaline responsible for many more top class jumpers. It might be the sprinting speed that was the outlier not the genes that produced two-mile jumpers!

When no news is newsworthy

Thumbs up: Our two racing channels and Virgin Media One who broadcast the Australian racing from Flemington on Saturday and the Cup on Tuesday taking direct Australian channel coverage.

It looked terrific to be on the spot for every race and interviews and crowd scenes with no studio analysis getting in the way of the action. Good weather brought an attendance of 84,492, up 14.5% up on last year.

Thumbs down: The Irish Times who decided to go with the headline on one of its Melbourne Cup report - Good outcome for Melbourne Cup with no fatality in race for third year in a row. Is that really news or are we to have every race now scrutinised by this criteria?