ARCADIA, Calif. – Just about every human emotion was being felt by trainers on Sunday morning in the aftermath of participating in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday at Santa Anita, ranging from the pride and satisfaction felt by Todd Pletcher for Vino Rosso’s victory to the profound sadness of Enebish Ganbat, whose Mongolian Groom suffered an injury that proved fatal.
Bob Baffert was thrilled with the runner-up performance by McKinzie, and Shug McGaughey, whose Code of Honor was seventh, was infuriated over what he thought was a difficult racing surface.
Vino Rosso got a Beyer Speed Figure of 111 in the Classic, which will be his final career start. Pletcher said Vino Rosso was scheduled to fly from California to Kentucky on Tuesday to take up residence at Spendthrift Farm, where he will begin stud duty next spring.
Spendthrift was one of the biggest winners on Saturday. Mitole, also heading there for stud duty next year, won the Sprint. Both Vino Rosso (older dirt male) and Mitole (male sprinter) should be divisional champions, too.
Pletcher said Vino Rosso – who had won the Gold Cup at Santa Anita in May — had done so well in recent weeks that “we were anxious for the race to get here.”
“He galloped over the track this week like he loved it,” Pletcher said. “We were on pins and needles, he was doing so wonderfully.”
Not 150 yards from where Pletcher’s horses were housed this week is the stable of Ganbat, which was understandably subdued on Sunday morning, with employees quietly going about their business, walking horses around the ring outside the barn. Ganbat was not there. A friend of his said he was devastated, that he “feels the weight of the sport on his shoulders.”
Baffert was in the box seat section watching his horses train Sunday morning. He was satisfied with the performance of McKinzie, who was second best to Vino Rosso.
“He ran his ass off. Just got beat by a good horse,” Baffert said.
Baffert was happy McKinzie was forwardly placed early in the race under new rider Joel Rosario.
“That’s the way I wanted him ridden,” he said.
McKinzie raced seven times this year, with two wins and five seconds. He will not race again this year. Baffert said he will remain in training next year at age 5, with lucrative races like the Saudi Cup and Dubai World Cup early 2020 objectives.
“We might hit ’em both, then freshen him up and bring him back in the fall,” Baffert said.
Not far from Baffert, but watching training from the apron, was John Sadler, whose Higher Power finished third in the Classic. Like McKinzie, he is a 4-year-old who will return at age 5.
“I was really happy with his race,” Sadler said. “He didn’t get away good, ran a good third. He could have been closer, but props to the winner. The winner adores this track.”
Sadler said Higher Power and stablemate Gift Box – the Santa Anita Handicap winner in April – will be pointed to races like the Saudi Cup or Dubai World Cup abroad and the Big ’Cap at home. Gift Box has been plagued by minor injuries the second half of the year, but a return to the work tab is imminent, Sadler said.
“We’d like to go to the Mideast with Gift Box, and leave Higher Power here, but we could flip that,” said Sadler, who trains both horses for owners Kosta and Pete Hronis.
McGaughey was ready to get out of town, and as far as he was concerned, not soon enough. McGaughey on Sunday morning expressed frustration with the loose nature of the racetrack.
He said Code of Honor “pulled up fine,” and would ship to Kentucky for 30 days off at Lane’s End Farm before joining him in Florida at Payson Park.
“He’ll train for a spring-summer campaign,” McGaughey said.
McGaughey said he thought Santa Anita “did a terrible job” with the track surface.
“They want to make it like a beach. It doesn’t work,” he said. “The best horse won the race. The second horse would have been second. But I had been warning my friends that they’d look at the charts and be amazed at what they’d see, how far horses would be separated. I was hoping the track would tighten down as the week went on. It didn’t.”
Santa Anita’s track superintendent is Andy LaRocco. The track’s former superintendent, Dennis Moore, is a consultant, as is Dr. Mick Peterson, an expert on the engineering of track surfaces.
“We have full confidence in Dennis Moore, our full track team, and Dr. Mick Peterson that they put out the best possible racing surface,” Aidan Butler, the chief strategy officer and acting executive director of California racing operations for the Stronach Group, said Sunday afternoon.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.