Repeating is the hardest part
FARMINGTON — While most casual racing fans will be focusing their attention on American Pharoah and his quest to win the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic today at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Ky., two other horses will be trying to accomplish something equally as impressive.
Bobby's Kitten, listed at 15-to-1 on the morning line, will be trying to win the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint for the second consecutive year.
Later on the same card, Judy The Beauty, the co-third choice at 6-to-1 on the morning line, will be attempting to win the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint for the second straight year.
Repeating as a champion in any sport is hard. Doing it in the Breeders' Cup requires a few additional challenges that other sports don't necessarily provide.
Like any other sport, injuries do get in the way. Horses, like humans, are vulnerable to even the slightest of ailments.What makes the challenge for both these champions difficult will be a completely different playing surface, as well as newer, perhaps even better, competition.
In the case of Bobby's Kitten, when he won the Turf Sprint last year at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., the race was run over a unique, downhill course at a distance of about 6 1/2 furlongs.
Today, because the configuration of the turf course at Keeneland is flat and within the confines of the main track, the race is a full furlong shorter at 5 1/2.
That is not Bobby's Kitten's best distance. He was a middle distance horse turning back a bit last year and now he's being asked to sharpen his late rally and have less distance in which to do it.
It's not to say Bobby's Kitten has no chance to win, but his effort would be extraordinarily noteworthy if he accomplished it.
Judy The Beauty, on the other hand, might have done the hardest work for her repeat bid a year ago.The Wesley Ward trainee had run only twice at Santa Anita prior to winning the Filly and Mare Sprint last year. Today, she will be back over a course where she has won four times from five career starts.
Unlike the Turf Sprint, with its various distances, the Filly and Mare Sprint is always 7 furlongs, a distance at which Judy The Beauty has finished first or second five times in six starts.
First post for the Breeders' Cup card today is at 9 a.m., with the Turf Sprint scheduled for 10:45 a.m.. The Filly and Mare Sprint at 11:25 a.m.
In the Classic, American Pharoah is scheduled to make his final career start and is attempting to become the only Triple Crown winner to also win a Breeders' Cup race. That will be the 11th race on the day, with a scheduled post time of 3:35 p.m.
Steve Bortstein hosts "First Sports" and "The Fast Track" on Fox Sports 1340 AM and 93.9 FM and on iHeartRadio. He serves as paddock show host at SunRay Park & Casino and is a voting member of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.