ARCADIA, Calif. — Notes and observations from the first day of the 26th Breeders' Cup:
Best feel-good story
A year ago, many weren't sure whether Grade I winner Cloudy's Knight would ever race again. On Friday, the 9-year-old gelding nearly pulled off the ultimate comeback when he came within a nose of defeating the regally bred Man of Iron in the Breeders' Cup Marathon.
The Marathon was just the third race for Cloudy's Knight this season. He returned in September after missing a year with a hind leg tendon injury. After winning the Grade III Sycamore at Keene land on Oct. 22, trainer Jonathan Sheppard was initially hesitant to bring the Lord Avie gelding to Santa Anita off such a short turnaround.
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"You don't want to feel you're being greedy," Sheppard explained. "It was only 15 days. He is 9 years old, and he's never run on synthetic in his life. And I would hate to see it be, you know, something less than good.
"But I also thought it was conceivable, and maybe he could show people what he can do."
Cloudy's Knight also came within a lip of making jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. just the second female rider to win a Breeders' Cup race. "The experience here has been incredible," Homeister said.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner She Be Wild went through the ring at the Ocala Breeders' Sales April 2-year-olds-in-training sale but failed to meet her reserve, bringing just a final bid of $19,000.
"Well, I think because Mike and I do all the work ourselves, perseverance just pays off," co-owner Nancy Mazzoni said. "We, of course, we had a lot of low moments before this one, and almost didn't stay in. But ... we kept her, and here we are."
Best first-time winner
Louisville native Dale Romans finally has a Breeders' Cup victory to add to a résumé that has more than 1,200 wins. The longtime trainer saddled Tapitsfly to victory in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Romans' first Breeders' Cup win couldn't come for a more ideal client, owner and breeder Frank Jones. Jones has been in the business for ,more than 30 years and was close friends with Romans' father, the late Jerry Romans.
"No one deserves to win a race like this more than Mr. Jones," Romans said. "My father trained for him before me. It's just a great win for him and for me too."
Added Jones: "I think it is the greatest moment by far. His daddy trained for me and then, he passed on a little early in life, and Dale's my adopted son."