LOUISVILLE — Save for a few missing petals and stems near the top, the blanket of flowers from Drosselmeyer's victory in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic was — like the winner himself — looking pretty fresh at Churchill Downs Sunday morning.
Thanks to the exploits of the 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor and his fellow longshot winners on the Breeders' Cup card, the race for Horse of the Year as well as other divisional honors continues to be a jumbled mess.
The two-day World Championships produced its share of drama. But anyone hoping the event would shed clarity on year-end honors were left wanting as favorites captured just four of the 15 races and six winners went off at double-digit odds.
Drosselmeyer was the most blatant spoiler of the bunch, earning his first graded stakes win since his 2010 Belmont Stakes triumph with leading Horse of the Year candidates Game On Dude, Havre de Grace, Flat Out and Stay Thirsty running second, fourth, fifth, and 11th, respectively.
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Havre de Grace — who was sent to Vinery on Sunday for a brief rest in anticipation of her 2012 campaign — is still likely at the head of the race as her three Grade I wins, including her victory against males in the Woodward, give her some of the most solid credentials. Only Acclamation and Cape Blanco, who both missed this year's Breeders' Cup with injuries, have as many top-level wins this season.
In absence of a definitive leader among the 3-year-old and older divisions, however, votes could be throw in the direction of undefeated My Miss Aurelia, who captured the Juvenile Fillies in stunning fashion.
With champion Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty both running up the track in the Classic, the 3-year-old division isn't looking much clearer and the turf female division is an even more wide-open affair.
Before the Eclipse Awards shake themselves out for better or worse, here is our look back at some of the best and worst moments from this year's Breeders' Cup.
Best sentimental moment: Coolmore Stud is known for lots of things. Being warm and fuzzy is not one of them. That changed Saturday when trainer Aidan O'Brien watched his eldest son, Joseph, guide Coolmore's St Nicholas Abbey to victory in the Breeders' Cup Turf — a moment that proved the operation, often thought of as the New York Yankees of Thoroughbred racing, is capable of making an audience go "awww."
Best career turnaround: Just two days after being purchased at Ocala Breeders' Sales' April 2-year-olds in training sale, Musical Romance cracked her pastern while galloping. The 4-year-old filly not only recovered from that injury but has become something of an iron horse, making 33 career starts including 14 in 2011 alone, the latest of which was her triumph in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. "Ever since then, she hasn't had problem one," trainer and co-owner Bill Kaplan said. "The more I race her, the happier she gets."
Biggest underachievers: The European contingent — although the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher is a close second. Save for Aidan O'Brien saddling Wrote and St Nicholas Abbey to victories in the Juvenile Turf and Turf, respectively, the international runners failed to reach the winner's circle — somewhat of a shock considering the North American-based turf horses in particular were not considered a strong group. The defeat of champion Goldikova in the Mile is the most notable loss but the fact Sarafina and Midday both ended up off the board in the Turf ranked as stunners in their own right.
Biggest post-race gripe: When in doubt, blame the racetrack — which is exactly what more than a few did after their horses ran poorly over the drying out Churchill Downs surface. "That track was so demanding; I've never seen it like that here before," Bob Baffert, who won the Juvenile Sprint with Secret Circle and was second in the Classic with Game On Dude, said Sunday morning.
Biggest controversy that could have been worse: If Goldikova had hung on to win a fourth consecutive Mile, the stewards would have been in the spot of having to decide whether to let one of the great moments in Breeders' Cup history stand. The champion mare did angle hard into Courageous Cat during the stretch, a move that prompted jockey Patrick Valenzuela to lodge an objection. Goldikova's third-place finish was allowed to stand while Courageous Cat finished last, but imagine what the potential outcry would have been if the call had to be made with emotions running at their peak.