Some people will no doubt look back fondly on the 2011 Breeders’ Cup – most obviously, connections of the successful horses and punters who clicked with one or two of the numerous long-priced winners.

But what about those of us who just hoped to see something unforgettable on America’s gala occasion? Did we see an exceptional performance? Did we see an edge-of-the-seat, genuinely stirring contest between two or more outstanding runners?
You don’t have to think very long for the answers. This was surely the dullest Breeders’ Cup on record.

I was one of the objectors when they added ‘World Thoroughbred Championships’ to the title of the event, pointing out that no such thing could ever exist in a global sport with seasonal differences.

This year the home team had to face just a few challengers from England, Ireland and France; the US invariably gets competition from more nations in the Ryder Cup.

It was crazy, too, to add more races and stage the event over two days. They should have recognised that less was more and that they had it right the first time. What is the point of the Marathon? Or of the Turf Sprint over five furlongs for that matter?

Cluttering the schedule with such meaningless contests was a folly, with no thought given to what the public wanted to see and punters wanted to bet on.

There was always likely to be less interest from the locals in the first Zenyatta-less Cup since 2007. That mare’s acknowledged star quality, plus the fact that such a charismatic character came three years in a row with an undefeated record to defend made those occasions, and it was hard to imagine a new superstar emerging to take her place.

Of course, no fresh hero or heroine did come along and the dearth of exciting performers in North America this year meant that, remarkably, the Breeders’ Cup runner with whom the fans most conspicuously identified was the French raider Goldikova. And, in truth, she was the only runner over the two days who had previously given anyone reason to consider really special.

Gio Ponti’s connections were entitled to feel aggrieved over the officials’ dereliction of duty

Alas, Goldikova could not complete the four-timer that her legions of supporters willed her to achieve and she made her farewells to racing in controversial circumstances. Plainly guilty of an infraction of the rules by hampering Courageous Cat and causing a chain reaction of interference, she should have been disqualified and placed last.

The stewards were seemingly keen to emulate their counterparts at Ascot on Champions’ Day by making an outrageous decision and as there was a difference of around £50,000 between the prizes for third and fourth, Gio Ponti’s connections were entitled to feel aggrieved over the officials’ dereliction of duty.

Rules are rules
If their horse had committed such a blatant breach of the rules, would he have retained his place? Not a chance of it. Of course it would have been a shame if Goldikova had been relegated to last place, but rules are rules and should be applicable to one and all, without fear or favour.

Far from being a world championship, to what extent was this year’s Breeders’ Cup even a national championship? Fine, they can hand the two-year-old filly title to My Miss Aurelia, who won nicely and remains unbeaten after four starts, but what about the juvenile colts?

Are the voters going to side with the still-unbeaten Hansen, or will they ignore that result and give the award to his apparently unlucky victim, Union Rags?

Heaven knows how they choose a champion three-year-old of either sex, as the situation is so confused, and no less baffling is the problem of identifying the best older horse. Can they give the title to Drosselmeyer on the strength of one standout performance during the season?

We should never forget that the prime motivation for establishing the Breeders’
Cup was the desire to enlarge the fan base for the sport

As for Horse of the Year, the logical choice would be not to declare one, because there really has been no dominant US-trained runner in any category in 2011. But there might actually be a case for Cape Blanco, who made three trips to the States and collected Group 1 wins in the Man o’ War Stakes, the Arlington Million and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, a similarly flawless North American campaign to that of All Along, who was awarded the title in 1983 after her victories in the Canadian International Championship, the Turf Classic and the Washington International.

We should never forget that the prime motivation for establishing the Breeders’
Cup was the desire to enlarge the fan base for the sport. It has never succeeded in achieving that aim.

American racing had a heyday in the 1950s when the likes of Native Dancer, Swaps and Nashua flourished, and Bold Ruler, Round Table and Gallant Man all appeared in the same crop; the sixties produced stars like Kelso, Buckpasser, Dr Fager and Damascus; and the 1970s were particularly rich in talent, featuring Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Ruffian, those arch-rivals Affirmed and Alydar, and the nation’s last truly great horse, Spectacular Bid. In the Breeders’ Cup era there has been Cigar. Full stop.

Racing ceased to be a mainstream sport in the US a long time ago and the Breeders’ Cup has done nothing to bring it back into favour. It is only the Kentucky Derby, by force of long tradition, that commands genuine national attention and the winner’s name is fast forgotten when he doesn’t go on to land the Triple Crown and warrant further interest.

It is worthy of note that this year’s Breeders’ Cup Saturday attracted a crowd of 65,000, about half the numbers who pack the stands – and the infield – on Kentucky Derby day at the same track.

Australian coverage a different matter
Interestingly, there were 75,000 present on the same day to see Black Caviar, starting at 1-25, dismiss a few inferiors and extend her unbeaten tally to 16 at Flemington. But Australia, of course, is a nation where racing is in the blood and where the media feed that passion with blanket coverage at every level of the sport. That is never going to happen in the States.

The powers that be in Britain would be wise to recognise that the creation of Champions’ Day – a success up to a point this year – is no more likely to bring racing back into the mainstream here than the Breeders’ Cup has in the States. Moving the occasion from October to September, as seems to be the objective for 2013, will not affect that either.

Our sport is in disarray from top to bottom and it has been on a downward spiral since the opportunity to create a Tote monopoly was squandered 50 years ago.

We gave the game to the bookmakers, who have done with it what they please, and almost every development since has been for the worse, or so it seems to us old-timers.

The Jockey Club, having ruled the sport for 250 years, became an estate management company, leaving us at the mercy of businessmen and marketing folk with no understanding of the horse, of racing, and of the traditions that stood us in such good stead for so long.
Of course, what the game needs, to divert our attention from this doom and gloom scenario, is a truly great horse, and, thank heaven, in 2011 we have had Frankel. What is more, we shall have him again in 2012 to counteract the management follies to come in the New Year.

I can’t remember who said it, but the sage response to the question: “What good ever came out of the Wilson government years?” was “We won the World Cup.” Well, under the BHA we have Frankel.