(Breeders’ Cup / Coady Photography)

We are now re-embarking on a new “feature” that we hope to continue each Monday for the remainder of 2023 and all of the brand, spranking New Year of 2024. We are calling it “McLean’s Monday Musings & Muck Pit.”

It’s some of our thoughts and reflections about what has happened in the horse world over the past weekend, and, perhaps over the past week(s). Some are good thoughts. Some may be afterthoughts. Some may call them our “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” thoughts. And, yes, some will be our figurative “pitch fork tosses” into the proverbial “Muck Pit.”

So, without further adieu, here’s our next pitch (and some fork):

When Will the Breeders’ Cup Come Back to Churchill Downs?

One of the questions I am asked most often by racing fans and horse friends, alike, is when will the Breeders’ Cup return to the famed racing ovals of Churchill Downs.

It’s a great question. After all, the world’s most renown and famous racetrack is the perfect location for the World Championships and has done a masterful job of hosting the main event already nine times.

Some of the best races in the history of the Breeders’ Cup have been under the Twin Spires. Remember the undefeated Personal Ensign bearing down in the sloppy, muddy, quagmire stretch to surpass Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors at the wire’s edge to capture the Breeders’ Cup Distaff? Remember the amazing run in the Juvenile by the European Arazi? Remember the great Zenyatta, hopelessly beaten for much of the race, taking aim at Blame in the Breeders’ Cup Classic — only to fail at the wire by a vanishing inch?

All of the best attendance and handle marks have been recorded in Louisville.

And, undoubtedly, it is the single location of the most fair and equitable racing surfaces and travel distances for both international and American interests.

Yet, the last time that the Louisville track played host was way back in 2018, and Del Mar has already been selected to be the venue for the next two years. The earliest that Churchill Downs could host the Breeders’ Cup again will have to be 2026. That will mark an 8-year absence from the best venue in the entire world.

So, what gives?

What’s up with Breeders’ Cup and Churchill Downs?

Let’s be honest, folks. What is up?

For the past couple of years, I have simply shrugged off the obvious stiff by believing that Churchill Downs desperately needed the Fall of the year to work feverishly on the new, brilliant and magnificent Paddock Project and couldn’t afford any delays to have it ready for the 150th Kentucky Derby, which is upcoming this Spring.

But could it be more than just that? Something more sinister?

The other day, a friend whom I value greatly and whose opinion I respect without question, brought up a possible reason. They wondered aloud if the Breeders’ Cup boycott could be tied to the suspension and prohibition of the beleaguered trainer Bob Baffert, who has a long history of drug violations at racetracks across the country, including Churchill Downs and in the most honored race of all — the Kentucky Derby.

Baffert has been prohibited from the grounds of Churchill Downs since his 3YO Medina Spirit was found to have tested positive following his win in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

“You watch and see,” my friend said. “The Breeders’ Cup won’t come back until Churchill Downs lifts the ban on Bob Baffert.”

I couldn’t believe that thought, at first. I don’t want to believe that thought now. But the more I studied the question and the possible answers, the more validity and value I put in the theory. It’s a compelling analysis — whether conspiratorial or not.

There has to be a reason why the Breeders’ Cup has avoided Churchill Downs and will continue to do so for the next two years — even when the new paddock will be done and ready for action.

The Breeders’ Cup makes more money off the two-day spectacular at Churchill Downs than anywhere else. They get more local and international news at Churchill Downs than anywhere else. They get more on-track attendance than anywhere else.

The Breeders’ Cup needs to come clean. Nobody has done more for the damned event than Kentucky — breeders, stallion owners, and race fans, too. Arguably, no track in the world has done it better, either.

For the past two years, Churchill Downs has conducted the Kentucky Derby and every other race day without the stench that Bob Baffert brings along with him. And, I can’t find a single person that gives a damn whether Baffert is at Churchill Downs or not. The event — with all of its’ historic significance to this sport — is far bigger than a person who either intentionally or unintentionally allows one of their horses to compete in it contaminated with a prohibited substance or a drug overage. No question. No gimmes. No plea bargains. No way.

If the Breeders’ Cup thinks that it is beholding to Bob Baffert for any reason, it is a shame. A damn shame.

If the Breeders’ Cup Board of Directors and major fund raisers — which consists of breeders, stallion owners and consignors — think they need Bob Baffert to bid on their horses at the Keeneland sales more than they need to maintain the integrity of the sport? It’s a shame. A damn shame.

Do the Breeders’ Cup bosses think that going to California over, and over, and over and to little Bobby’s backyard is the ideal location for the world’s championships or do they think it gives Bobby an advantage? It’s a shame. A damn shame. Even the Santa Anita stewards couldn’t give Baffert a win over Cody’s Wish, although they seemed hell-bent to look for every reason under the California sun to do so.

If there’s something up here, the Breeders’ Cup needs to divulge. Transparency is a good thing. Good for the soul.

But the truth of the matter is very simple.

The Breeders’ Cup needs Churchill Downs a hell of a lot more than Churchill Downs needs the Breeders’ Cup.

Pure. And. Simple.

Rhetoric Must Come With Conviction Or It’s Just Rhetoric:

Isn’t it amazing that the white, button-downs and the skinny ties that run The Jockey Club and the Breeders’ Cup and all those closed-minded, self-ordained, and self-important organizations that speak from the pulpits on Sunday about the importance of integrity in the sport of horse racing are so willing to look the other way when it comes to a guy who has bid on their horses at the sales.

Those same horse pundits, defined by self interest, have a serious conflict of interest.

It’s called hypocritical.

2023 Horse of the Year?

Cody’s Wish.

No question. No doubt.

Why Don’t American Stallion Farms Purchase European Studs Anymore?

Once upon a time, Kentucky stallion farm owners and managers made it a habit to go overseas to purchase stud prospects to help inject a new line of blood into the pedigrees and give a nice out-cross to their mares.

Mr. Arthur “Bull” Hancock did it for his famous Claiborne Farm. He purchased Sir Galahad from France, where he was the leading sire in 1930, 1933, 1934 and 1940. He helped buyBlenheim from England, and brought over Princequillo, as well.

Mr. John Galbreath did it for his famous Darby Dan Farm, too. He bought and transported the great Ribot, who was a leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland. It didn’t take long before that line took off with the likes of His Majesty and others.

Mr. Johnny T.L. Jones, Jr. did it for his budding operation known as Walmac International, as well. He went and got the American-bred Nureyev, who was a European superstar in France, and England, and who began his stallion career across the pond.

Nowadays, that just doesn’t seem possible. Or, at the least probable. Nowadays, Kentucky stallion farm operators seemingly don’t try to inject new blood or compete with their European counterparts.

When was the last time an American stallion owner — a Kentucky stallion operation — went to Europe and purchased one of its’ finest to add to the United States’ roster?

Even now, when the Americans lag way behind their European competitors in breeding and racing grass champions of any and all kind, we simply don’t seem willing or able to go and attract the best grass runners to stand their stallion careers here.

This past November, we ran the Breeders’ Cup Fillies & Mares Turf without a single horse bred and foaled in the United States.

To be honest, that is quite embarrassing for all of us who take pride in the American breeding and racing products.

Quite embarrassing.

If Kentucky is to maintain its’ “talking point” as the “Horse Capitol of the World,” we need to do more than just talk. If Kentucky is to maintain that it is the breeding Capitol of the Thoroughbred world, we need to do more than just promote.

Maybe it’s time we walk the walk to Europe. Once again.

Maybe it’s time we find the next Sir Ivor or El Prado or Sir Galahad or Ribot or Nureyev.

Maybe it’s time we make a commitment to breed the best. Again.

Anybody Still Want to Argue That the Japanese Runners Are Some of the Best in the Racing World?

No?

Prior to the 2023 Breeders’ Cup, “The Blood-Horse” had a story that alleged (there’s another European stallion that we brought over to this country, by the way) that Japanese runners were “…making inroads in North American racing in recent years.”

There was much bravado about the fact that there were 8 Japanese-bred horses in this year’s Breeders’ Cup and some of them could break through and whip some of our best, too.

There was much written and said about Ushba Tesoro, Derma Sotogake, Meikei Yell, Jasper Krone, Win Marilyn, Win Carnelian and the great Songline.

Anybody still writing?

Anybody still talking?

Anybody still wishing?

Not much.

The Muck Pit: 

If you read these lines much, you know by now how I feel about Ray Paulick and the pure absurdity of most of his opinions.

In short…

I have little respect and even less regard.

In short…

The guy is a buffoon. Wrapped in swaddling cloths. And, obviously lied on his head for an extended period of time.

But this week the guy took it to a whole new level.

On Twitter, which is now known as “X,” Paulick wondered aloud if Kentucky could or would take some of its’ abundance of Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund monies — which have helped to make this Commonwealth the racing pentacle in the country right now — and share it with California racetracks to help supplement the purses on the Left Coast.

Paulick suggested there were “others” in the breeding industry in Lexington who thought it was a good idea, too, to help sustain the racing programs at Santa Anita, Del Mar, Los Alamitos and, perhaps, some other jurisdictions, as well.

I have never heard of a more ridiculous, hare-brained, stupid-as-stupid-can-be idea in the entire time I’ve been around this industry.

None.

First of all, the money generated for the KTDF is created by bettors in Kentucky, either on live racing here or on Historic Horse Racing products. It’s a tax credit granted by the members of the Kentucky General Assembly back to the industry to help promote and enhance the Commonwealth’s signature industry.

It goes directly to purses at Kentucky race tracks, to help attract more horses; more handle; more promotion about Kentucky-bred horses and Kentucky-raced horses. And, it was born from the minds and backbones of such great Kentucky horsemen as Charles Nuckols, Sr., and John Greathouse, Sr. and Carter Thornton and Thomas Haley Asbury.

It is Kentucky money going back into Kentucky industry to build a better Kentucky tomorrow.

The idea to steal money from Kentucky horse people to underwrite races and purses in California is absurd, if not obnoxious to most, if not all, of us. Wish Mr. Nuckols, Greathouse, Thornton and Asbury were still here to pontificate.

Maybe Ray Paulick should stick to opining on something he truly knows something about.

But if you can figure that out? Please let me know.