I realize there are more important things (ok, a lot more important things) to worry about in horse racing than the name of a race, but I couldn't help doing handsprings when it was announced Wednesday that the name the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic has been put out its misery. Starting this year, the race's name will once again be the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Hallelujah.
The word "Distaff" may not mean much outside out of racing circles, but too bad. The race was so well established when the name was changed to the Ladies' Classic that you were messing with racing history and tradition. The word "distaff" is a proud, elegant and traditional word within racing and that's really what should have mattered, not that some consultant said that it didn't test well with focus groups in Topeka.
"We restored the Ladies' Classic [its name from 2008 through 2012] to its original name due to feedback from our loyal fans who have a strong affinity for the Distaff," said Craig Fravel, Breeders' Cup President and CEO. "In recognition of our 30th year, the Distaff has provided us with some of racing's most remarkable moments, personified by such outstanding Thoroughbreds as Lady's Secret, Personal Ensign, Azeri, Zenyatta, and our two-time defending champion, Royal Delta. It is a fitting tribute to bring back the name Distaff to honor the rich history of the Championships."
Well said, Craig.
Sheppard's Drive for 50: Jonathan Sheppard reached an incredible milestone July 25 when Martini Brother won the Jack Kiser steeplechase, giving the trainer at least one winner at Saratoga for 45 straight years. Racing does a terrible job when it comes to record keeping, so no one can tell you for sure if Sheppard holds the longest winning streak in Saratoga history, but it's hard to imagine that he doesn't.
The quest now is to win a race for 50 straight years, something well within his reach. He is 72, but seems to be in excellent health and has a solid stable that is still winning regularly.
"The fact that I have done it longer than anybody else is very gratifying," the Hall of Fame trainer said.
"Yes, I am proud of it. If my health remains good, which it is at the moment, I definitely envision training at least five more years and hopefully I can continue to win a race every meet."
Sheppard has an advantage over other Saratoga trainers in that he has a stable full of jumpers, and a lot of those races at Saratoga are easy pickings for him. But he's far from a one-trick pony. He has won such prestigious flat races at Saratoga as the Diana, Glens Falls, Sword Dancer, Saranac and the Seneca. He's won the Diana three times.
This and That: With a $500,000 purse and the Horse of the Year (Wise Dan) in the field how is it that the Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga is not a Grade 1 race? Hopefully, that mistake will be corrected next year … I don't know how they are doing it, basically running two tracks with one horse colony, but Calder and Gulfstream are managing to put forth decent cards during their head-to-head conflict. They'll have 10 races at Gulfstream Saturday with 88 horses entered or an average of 8.8 per race. Across town at Calder they'll have a nine-race card with 74 horses entered, again more than eight per race. The crazy schedule has kept some of the South Florida jockeys hopping. Last Sunday, Edgar Zayas won the second at Calder at 1:20 and rode in the third at Gulfstream at 2:21. He then won the fourth at Gulfstream.