2013: Mizdirection's Moment
Before being entered in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, Mizdirection had enjoyed a productive career. Third or better in all of her eleven prior starts, the Mike Puype trainee became a multiple listed and graded stakes winner over the course of her two seasons in competition.
To that point, Mizdirection's biggest victory had been the Grade III Monrovia Stakes, which she won at Santa Anita at the start of 2012. That race marked both her four-year-old debut as well as her first try over the Arcadia venue's hillside turf course. She had no trouble with the layout, and went on to win over it again in the Clockers' Corner Handicap next time out.
Just over eight months removed from the Clockers' Corner Handicap, and a smidge over five after her most recent start in Hollywood Park's Great Lady M. Stakes, Mizdirection was back on the hillside for her biggest race yet: the Grade I Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.
A newer edition to the year-end event, the Turf Sprint started in 2008 at Santa Anita, and was there again the following year. After two years at Churchill Downs, the Breeders' Cup was back in Southern California, and that meant the winner of the Turf Sprint would have to navigate the unique hillside, which is not something all horses can do.
Of course, Mizdirection clearly knew her way around the about six and one-half furlong course, but she was not the only one. Unbridled's Note, who ultimately went off as the favorite in the race at over 9-2, was coming off a win in the Grade III Eddie D. Stakes on opening day of Santa Anita's autumn meeting a few weeks earlier. Not only that, defending Turf Sprint champion California Flag (another multiple winner on the course) was out to make it two in a row in the event.
Still, there were no guarantees of a victory. Thirteen horses met Mizdirection on track, including graded stakes winners like Next Question, Reneesgotzip, Upgrade and Starspangledbanner, who was a multiple Group I winner in Europe. In addition, Mizdirection was trying something new: she was about to take on males for the first time. Of everyone in the field, she and Reneesgotzip were the only females in the bunch.
As far as the bettors were concerned, Mizdirection was a contender in the Turf Sprint. Her final odds were close to 7-1, but she was actually the fourth choice in the wagering. With Mike Smith aboard for Mike Puype, Mizdirection entered the starting gate as she prepared for her latest start on the hillside.
Starting from the eleventh slot, Mizdirection settled in about midpack as Chosen Miracle and Starspangledbanner guided the field down the hill. They were flying, too, getting the first quarter-mile in 21.11. Starspangledbanner went on to lead, and he did not let up on the pace. Reneesgotzip and Great Mills immediately followed as Starspangledbanner approached the top of the stretch, getting the half-mile in :42.39. That was very fast, even for hillside standards, and it was helping the closers.
With the stretch run left to cover, Mizdirection, who had stayed off the pace the whole way, went extremely wide with most of the field still ahead of her. But Mizdirection was not intimdated with the assignment. At the urging of Smith, the filly began closing ground. One by one, she passed each rival, moving faster as she neared the wire. The enormous Santa Anita crowd watched as they conveyed their excitement, wondering which horse would get the win.
In a matter of seconds, only Great Mills, Unbridled's Note and Reneesgotzip were ahead of Mizdirection. But none of them could hold her off. With a dynamic final surge, Reneesgotzip overtook all of them in the closing seconds to capture her first Grade I victory and become the first female horse to capture the Turf Sprint. While her overall body of work for 2012 was terrific, winning the Turf Sprint played a major role in Reneesgotzip being named a finalist in the Female Sprinter category at the Eclipse Awards. She did not win the honor, but the nomination was still well-deserved.
One year later, Mizdirection was in the midst of another fantastic year that saw her repeat as champion of both the Monrovia and Grade III Las Cienegas Stakes. Her lone loss of the year came in the Grade I Just a Game Stakes at Belmont Park, where she set a slow pace in the one-turn mile before fading to fifth. It was her first (and only) off the board result, but something better was awaiting her.
Just under five months removed from the Just a Game, Mizdirection was back at Santa Anita with a chance to defend her Turf Sprint title. The public paid no attention to her last start, dismissing it as an anomaly. Besides, Mizdirection was back to sprinting, which she loved to do, and she was making another start on her favorite layout.
The confidence was evident, for Mizdirection was the top choice at over 5-2. Just as she had the year before, Mizdirection lined up alongside thirteen horses in the gate, including Reneesgotzip and Unbridled's Note, who were back for a rematch. Also in the cast were Boat Trip, Chips All In and Handsome Mike, all of whom owned a win on the hillside. The difference between them and Mizdirection, however, was that their respective victories on the course did not come in a stakes race.
Mizdirection and Smith again found themselves in post eleven for the Turf Sprint, but she was much closer to the pace this time around. Reneesgotzip and graded stakes placed Eastern invader Tightend Touchdown were the front two as the field went down the right hand turn. Mizdirection battled Spring to the Sky for third as they pursued a quick tempo. The first-quarter went by in 21.47 and the half-mile in 43.36, not as fast as before but still plenty quick.
Given another perfect setup in the Turf Sprint, Mizdirection would have to take a route similar to the one she used a year earlier. Racing wide in the stretch, she made up ground as she reeled in Tightend Touchdown and Reneesgotzip. Focused straight ahead, Mizdirection ran with a calm aura. She knew how to win on the hillside, and she had won on this stage before. She was cool as ice.
In the waning moments of the Turf Sprint, she caught the frontrunners on the outside. Tightend Touchdown had no answer for her, and neither did Reneesgotzip. By about a half-length, Mizdirection became the first horse to win multiple Breeders' Cup Turf Sprints, and only Stormy Liberal has duplicated that feat in the years since. Moreover, only one other female horse has won the Turf Sprint as of 2020, and that would be 2019 victor Belvoir Bay.
The crowd on hand roared in those final seconds, and there is no doubt it contained fans of Mizdirection. She simply loved the hillside turf, as evidenced by her perfect record of six wins and no losses on the course. All of her victories on the strip were in stakes, most of them graded, which elevates the record even higher. She was a competitor who always gave a complete effort, but she was on another level when it came to that particular course, both individually and against other horses.
Not very many horses have won back-to-back Breeders' Cup races, but Mizdirection was a special Thoroughbred. Simply put, she is a true legend of the hillside.
In what was her final career start, the Turf Sprint became Mizdirection's finest moment. And there was no horse more deserving of it.