Breeders’ Cup 2022: Fallen Superstars And Shocking Victors

4 mins read
Horse racing.
Horse racing. Source: Shutterstock



Author: Lindsay Griffin

A good rule of thumb is that favored horses, according to expert horse racing predictions, win about 30% of the time.

It would follow, then, that favorites would win approximately four of the fourteen Breeders’ Cup races. The odds were slightly tipped to the public’s favor, however, as five post time betting choices came home winners: Meditate (Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf), Goodnight Olive (Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint), Cody’s Wish (Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile), Modern Games (Breeders’ Cup Mile), and Flightline (Breeders’ Cup Classic) were all victorious.

While that is a good showing, it means that this year, in nine of the races, the favorites faltered and upsets occurred. Let’s take a look at three of the most striking.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile: Forte Defeats Cave Rock

Prior to the running of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, many punters were not only sure that Cave Rock would win, that they actually built their entire exotic wagering structure around him. 

Cave Rock was “the single.”

Cave Rock was sure to provide “one of the lowest-priced payouts in Breeders’ Cup history.”

Cave Rock, it seemed, was the lock of Future Stars Friday.

He was favored for good reason. Undefeated in three career starts, including Grade I victories in the Del Mar Futurity and the American Pharoah Stakes, the son of Arrogate looked nearly as unstoppable as Flightline. He already had two triple-digit Beyer speed figures, the second one while going 1 1/16th miles, the distance of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Plus, he is a Baffert trainee, and Baffert has an impressive record in the Juvenile, having won it on five previous occasions. 

However, as the field turned for home, the expected script did not play out. Instead of Cave Rock outclassing the rest of the field and leaving them to pick up the pieces, Cave Rock found himself in front, but only by a diminishing length and a half. Suddenly, a horse pushed by him, and Cave Rock found himself beaten to the wire for the very first time.

What happened? Well, as blunt as it may sound, Cave Rock was simply not the best horse that day. 

While Cave Rock’s record was impressive, he was not the only multiple grade-I winner in the field. The victor, Forte, had previously scored in both the Grade I Hopeful Stakes and the Grade I Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity. The latter race was especially helpful as a prep, as it is a feature of Keeneland, the track that hosted this year’s Breeders’ Cup. Forte, a son of Violence, clearly has an affinity for the surface, while Cave Rock, who had only raced in southern California, may not have found it to his liking. In addition, Cave Rock was seen to be sweating and acting nervous in the post parade, while Forte was cool as a cucumber. That professionalism may have made all the difference.

Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint: Caravel Stuns As Golden Pal Flops

Golden Pal has long had a reputation as being extremely quick out of the gate. 

In his twelve prior career starts- of which eight were wins- Golden Pal had always broken quick enough to, if not establish a clear lead immediately, then at least keep himself out of trouble. His fleetness typically propelled him to the front of the pack, and if the going was to his liking, he stayed there.

It was assumed, therefore, that Golden Pal, a Florida-bred son of Uncle Mo, would rush to the front of the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint field and take them gate to wire. In fact, he had done just that in the 2021 edition of the race, and before that, the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.

But when the gates flipped open for this year’s Turf Sprint, something unforeseen happened. 

Golden Pal hesitated.

Moving awkwardly in the gate, Golden Pal seemed caught unawares and spotted the field a length. He never really moved into contention, reaching the middle of the pack and simply settling, never unleashing any of his power. His lack of punch was so befuddling that some suspected either the starter held onto the horse too long or there was some sort of error at the gate, but neither rumor was ever substantiated.

Meanwhile, a five-year-old Pennsylvania-bred mare by Mizzen Mast suddenly found herself alone on the lead. Caravel, who had never won a Grade I race or won against males, was dismissed as a 42-1 longshot, but as the lone pacesetter, she took the race for her own, hanging on by a half-length. 

Breeders’ Cup Sprint: Elite Power Overtakes Jackie’s Warrior 

Aside from Flightline, Jackie’s Warrior was the heaviest favorite of Saturday’s card. It was announced prior to the race that the formidable horse, who had won the 2021 Eclipse Award as Champion Sprinter, would retire immediately afterward. 

The decision made sense. What, after all, did the veteran sprinter have left to prove?

Well, there was one gaping hole in his credentials. He had twice entered, and twice lost, Breeders’ Cup races. 

Both of the earlier losses were easy enough to shake off, as Jackie’s Warrior just kept coming back, seemingly stronger with every year. He was a formidable force in the sprint division in 2022, and even a loss to Cody’s Wish in the Grade I Forego Stakes was forgiven. Really, it seemed all Jackie’s Warrior needed was Breeders’ Cup glory.

Alas, it was not to be. Jackie’s Warrior showed a lackluster start in the race, perhaps tired by his long campaign. Instead of making the lead as expected, Jackie’s Warrior hung behind pacesetter Super Ocho. Although Jackie’s Warrior did hang on for third, it was up and coming sprint star Elite Power who took the mantle from the retiring champion. 

Elite Power, a four-year-old by Curlin, had only just made his stakes debut in his most recent start, but it was an impressive win in the Grade II Vosburgh Stakes. One can hope that the colt can continue to carry his brilliance into the 2023 season and beyond.

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