Big-time Busts
High-priced favorites finished up the track at the Breeders' Cup

No moment in last Saturday's Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs
had been anticipated more eagerly than the last 24 seconds of
the richest race run in North America, the $4.8 million
Breeders' Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles.

This was the final rush through the straight, and most of those
in the crowd of 76,043 had imagined they'd see Fusaichi Pegasus,
the brilliant winner of the May 6 Kentucky Derby, unleash his
devastating kick, blow by the leaders and not only announce
himself as the 2000 Horse of the Year but also prove worthy of
his staggering price tag as a breeding stallion. Last June, after
he had lost the Preakness Stakes in the mud of Pimlico, Fupeg was
sold as a stud horse for $60 million, making him by far the most
valuable animal in history. (The highest previous breeding price
had been the $40 million paid for Shareef Dancer in 1983.) His
smashing three-quarter-length victory in the Sept. 23 Jerome
Handicap at Belmont Park had persuaded Churchill horseplayers to
make him the prohibitive 6-5 favorite.

As pacesetters Albert the Great and Tiznow, a huge bay horse,
came hurtling head-to-head off the last turn, leading
eighth-placed Pegasus by 6 1/4 lengths, a roar went up when
jockey Kent Desormeaux, on Fupeg, set him down in a drive. When
Giant's Causeway loomed up to join Tiznow, and Albert faded,
Fupeg seemed stuck on a treadmill, moving but going nowhere,
while Tiznow held off Giant's Causeway deep in the stretch and
beat him to the wire by a neck. "What a fighter!" said Tiznow's
rider, Chris McCarron. Fupeg never got close enough to throw a
punch, finishing sixth, beaten by nearly eight lengths.

Fupeg's defeat in the Classic was, symbolically, the perfect
ending to an afternoon on which many big-ticket horses lost, a
few ignominiously, while several of the blue-collars--Tiznow did
not break his maiden until May 31 and is California-bred, to
boot--did much of the memorable running. Indeed, not only did
Fupeg get thumped, but the other pricey fur coat in the Classic,
Lemon Drop Kid, also did not look like a stallion worth $30
million, the price a Kentucky syndicate recently paid for him.
According to the syndication deal, Lemon Drop Kid's owner,
Jeanne Vance, would have received an additional $10 million had
he won the Classic. Alas, he came up as hollow as a gourd in the
final furlong and finished fifth, beaten by a very costly 5 1/4
lengths.

The other high-priced failure this year was a 2-year-old colt, A
P Valentine, who had been purchased as a yearling for $475,000
by a partnership led by Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino. After
the colt's 1 3/4-length victory in the Oct. 14 Champagne Stakes
at Belmont Park, the same Irish-British outfit that had anted up
$60 million for Fupeg, Coolmore Stud, bought the breeding rights
to A P Valentine for $15 million, a sum that would escalate if
the colt won certain unidentified events in the future. Trainer
Nick Zito had been saying all week that this might be the best
colt he had ever trained--he conditioned two Kentucky Derby
winners, Strike the Gold and Go for Gin--and that he expected to
win the Juvenile. Instead, Macho Uno won by a nose, barely
lasting to beat the onrushing Point Given. Zito, his face ashen,
watched Valentine struggle home last. "I don't believe this," he
said.

All in all, the three horses had recently fetched a combined $105
million, and none of them hit the board. Neither did the supposed
lock of the day, the Brazilian-bred mare Riboletta--the winner of
her last six, all stakes races--in the Distaff. She had been
mentioned as a possible Horse of the Year in the event that the
Kid and Fupeg failed. But she struggled home seventh, beaten by
nearly nine lengths, while the winner, Spain, paid a whopping
$113.80. In the second Cup race, for Juvenile Fillies, Caressing
won and paid $96. Only two favorites, Kona Gold in the Sprint and
War Chant in the Mile, won all day.

"That's what this game is all about," said Joe Orseno, who
trained two Cup winners, turf filly Perfect Sting and Macho Uno,
both ridden by Jerry Bailey. "Any horse at this level can win.
It's good for racing when long shots win."

So, out of this welter of beaten favorites and high-priced busts,
who emerges as America's Horse of the Year in 2000? That's easier
to divine than picking winners at the Breeders' Cup: no one.

Gary Stevens's Comeback
Riding High Once Again

Before Gary Stevens abruptly retired last December, his
distinguished 21-year riding career included six Triple Crown and
seven Breeders' Cup wins and a raft of stakes victories. Nothing,
however, compared with the elation he felt last Saturday when he
won the $1.2 million Mile atop War Chant and put the finishing
touches on his successful return to the sport. "This is the most
important day I've had in racing," Stevens said. "I didn't know
if I'd even be here. Right now, I'm more emotional than I've ever
been."

Stevens, 37, began his comeback on Oct. 4 at Santa Anita, nine
months after he'd hung up his tack because of arthritis in his
knees, a condition that kept him in almost constant pain. He
credits his return to riding fitness to much-needed rest and a
nutritional supplement that contains glucosamine and chondroitin,
two substances used to treat arthritis. Stevens plans to compete
in racing's showcase events for years to come, in part by
following a lighter schedule. "I feel better on horses than I
have in four years," he says. "By not having to worry about the
pain, I can focus so much more."

He showed his old form in the Mile. After holding favored War
Chant perilously far back most of the way, Stevens unleashed him
in the final eighth of a mile. The colt made up more than five
lengths in a hurry to edge past front-running North East Bound
by the length of War Chant's slender neck. "Gary Stevens," said
Irish bloodstock agent Demi O'Byrne after watching the
performance, "is as good as ever." --Mark Beech

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY BILL FRAKES Tiz Better Tiznow, with Chris McCarron (13) up, held off Giant's Causeway, ridden by Michael Kinane, en route to winning the Breeders' Cup Classic (page 68). [Leading Off] COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO Chris McCarron (13) rode the hard-charging Tiznow to an unexpected win in the Classic. COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)