Even so, the horses neither know nor care about COVID, and their displays of speed, power, courage, and beauty were a reassuring point of normalcy in the midst of the bizarreness. None embodied those attributes better than Authentic, who topped off an admirably consistent season with a front-running, track record-setting performance in the Breeders' Cup Classic. The first horse to run a mile and a quarter in under two minutes at Keeneland (he finished in 1:59.19, breaking American Pharoah's 2015 record of 2:00.07), he almost certainly sealed titles for himself as champion 3-year-old male and Horse of the Year.
Two other championships were probably locked up in the Classic. First, Authentic gave his sire Into Mischief an insurmountable lead in the 2020 sire standings. Second, a second-place finish after a wide trip will probably be enough for clinch the case for Improbable as the best of this season's older males.
While Monomoy Girl's second Distaff win probably will not be enough to unseat Authentic as the king of this year's racing, it was nonetheless a magnificent performance by the undoubted champion older female and may well make her an Eclipse Award finalist in the Horse of the Year category as well, no small honor in itself. The only blemish on that race was Swiss Skydiver's stumble out of the gate, which took her completely out of her game and turned perhaps the most anticipated matchup of the year into a might-have-been.
Both the Juvenile Colts and Juvenile Fillies proved the coronations for worthy champions, as previous Grade 1 winners Essential Quality and Vequist scored clear-cut victories. On the other side, the results of the Turf, the Filly and Mare Turf, and the Mile left the male and female turf categories in something of a muddle, with Rushing Fall (who was barely caught over a distance probably a little longer than she best likes) and the erratic but clearly capable Channel Maker probably about the best of the American runners in these two divisions. The male sprinter division is likewise tangled, with voters having to weigh the brilliance of Vekoma's earlier campaign with the popular sentiment for the veteran Sprint winner, Whitmore.
The biggest snarl of all may be that surrounding the female sprinter and 3-year-old filly divisions. In spite of the cloud hanging over her head because of repeated drug positives, there is little doubt that Gamine is the fastest filly in the country around one turn, and without that cloud, voters would have a hard time weighing the merits of her brilliance over shorter distances against the consistency and grit shown by Swiss Skydiver over routes prior to the Breeders' Cup. With it? Gamine will probably still take the female sprinter division unless something untoward turns up yet again, but given that her race in the Distaff was a throw-out, Swiss Skydiver's Preakness win will probably giver her the nod in the 3-year-old filly category.
COVID or no COVID, the Breeders' Cup horses delivered as they usually do, serving up two fine afternoons of racing. And in the end, they left us with an unquestioned champion, which in an uncertain year, was authentically needed.