It was a day for the aged – and the odd – at the Breeders’ Cup.
After a record 19th victory Friday from 77-year-old trainer D. Wayne Lukas, 17-1 shot Calidoscopio became the oldest horse ever to win a Breeders’ Cup race at age 9, beating Grassy by 41/4 lengths to take the $500,000 Marathon, longest of the Breeders’ Cup races in Arcadia, Calif.
But an unusual age is only the beginning of the eccentricities of a horse whose name is Spanish for kaleidoscope and resembles a crazy uncle more than a kindly grandpa.
Calidoscopio was unmistakable in the two weeks he trained at Santa Anita after shipping in from Argentina.
He was galloped bareback in his daily workouts, and wore a white “bonnet” of sorts wrapped around his head.
The lack of saddle is an old tradition in Argentina, and the horse is “too old to change his routine,” according to trainer Guillermo Frankel.
And the bonnet? To prevent “head colds,” said Frankel, a 54-year-old former veterinarian from Buenos Aires.
The quirks extend to race day too. Calidoscopio wears a blindfold that covers his whole face all the way down to his chest to help ease him into the starting gate.
And after Friday’s big victory, his connections – including a group of seven owners led by Juan Carlos Echeverz – celebrated with soccer-style singing, chanting and flag-waving, bringing a shock to the usually staid winner’s circle at Santa Anita.
The day’s second-biggest upset was claimed by Hightail. Sent off at 15-1 odds, Hightail kicked off the two-day world championships with a nose victory in the $500,000 Juvenile Sprint, earning Lukas his leading 19th Breeders’ Cup victory.
Royal Delta won the $2 million Ladies’ Classic by 11/2 lengths, making the defending champion the only favorite to win on an upset-filled opening day.
In the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf, 11-1 shot Flotilla rallied to win by 11/4 lengths. Trainer Mikel Delzangles and jockey Christophe Lemaire, both from France, won their first Breeders’ Cup race.
Zagora won the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf by three-quarters of a length at 9-1 odds. And Beholder led all the way to win the $2 million Juvenile Fillies, holding off 3-2 favorite Executiveprivilege by one length.