She was one of the most electrfying horses of the 2010s.
She loved to run fast, and she was willing to take on challengers. She loved to win races, and she did so in abundance. You could find her beating rivals on dirt or turf, and she did that going short or long. But when all was said and done, this gray/roan Thoroughbred firmly placed herself among the all-time best sprinters on one particular course. And she was amazing to watch each time she traveled over it.
Guided by Mike Puype and owned by a partnership that comprised various entities throughout her career (Jim Rome's Jungle Racing being the most prominent), Mizdirection took second on debut at Hollywood Park in March 2011. That effort came on a synthetic track, and while Mizdirection would do well over various surfaces, she was meant to flourish on the turf. Fathered by noted grass sire Mizzen Mast, Mizdirection graduated in her first try on the sod a month later at the Track of the Lakes and Flowers. It was clear that racing on the green in Inglewood was very much to her liking, and as time would show, she would feel the same way about turf courses at other venues.
Mizdirection was terrific in her freshman season, never finishing worse than third in seven starts. The main highlights that year were her first stakes win in the Sandy Blue Handicap at Del Mar and placings in the Grade II San Diego Handicap and later a third in the Grade II Raven Run on Keeneland's main track (she originally came to the line in fourth, but was promoted to third after the original third place runner was deemed to have caused interference on Mizdirection in the stretch).
Though Mizdirection won the Sandy Blue while going a mile, she really was more at home sprinting, which accounted for her other two wins during the 2011 season. And as everyone would later find out, she was completely at home on a certain layout, too.
Making her 2012 debut in Santa Anita's Grade III Monrovia Stakes, Mizdirection's first start at four years old marked her initial attempt at the track's unique downhill turf course. Drawing the rail for the Monrovia, Mizdirection had no trouble navigating the layout. Not afraid to go to the lead in prior starts, she tracked the leaders and delivered a powerful run to win her first graded stakes win in a perfect result to begin the new year.
But the Monrovia was more than just a victory for Mizdirection. Looking back, it was actually a very significant race in her career. It was clear she liked competing on the hillside, and that victory marked the beginning of one of the greatest records ever produced on that course.
The rest of Mizdirection's season was pure excellence. After coming back to win on the hillside again in the Clockers' Corner Handicap, she concluded her Santa Anita meet by taking the Grade III Las Cienegas on the main surface. She followed that up with a good second in the Great Lady M. Stakes at Hollywood Park (also on turf) in what turned out to be her lone defeat in 2012. Returning to action a few months later, Mizdirection was tasked with her biggest assignment yet: the Grade I Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.
The Breeders' Cup was back at Santa Anita, which meant the Turf Sprint would be on the downhill course. That was of course good news for Mizdirection, given her prior success over it. But she was also running against males for the first time. Of the fourteen horses entered in the Turf Sprint, only Mizdirection and Reneesgotzip were female.
But handicappers thought Mizdirection stood a chance to win. In what was a wide open betting race, Mizdirection was among the top choices despite being at close to 7-1 odds. Also given serious backing were defending Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint champion California Flag (another fan of the hillside turf course), and the favorite, Unbridled's Note, who won the Grade III Eddie D. Stakes on the same layout a few weeks before the Turf Sprint.
Capable of adapting to different running styles, Mizdirection and Mike Smith raced off the pace, letting fast fractions develop. And the splits were astoundingly quick. The first-half mile was timed in under 43 seconds (which is speedy even for the hillside). But the race shape went perfectly for Mizdirection. One of her best qualities was her fearlessness, and that was on display in the Turf Sprint.
Going very wide into the stretch, Mizdirection did not let up, putting together a powerful Zenyatta-like rally on the outside to become the first female to win the Turf Sprint in her best performance to date. There was no better way to conclude the year, and the win was no doubt instrumental in landing Mizdirection a well-deserved nomination for the top Female Sprinter honor at the Eclipse Awards (which ultimately went to Groupie Doll, who won the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint).
Returning to race at five, Mizdirection picked up right where she left off on her favorite strip of grass, becoming just the second horse to win two runnings of the Monrovia. She followed that up by taking charge early in the Grade II Buena Vista Stakes at one mile and not looking back, making short work of her opposition. Then came another victory in the Las Cienegas, which was back on the hillside after being run on the main track the previous year due to rain. With momentum in her corner, Mizdirection was sent East to Belmont Park for the Grade I Just a Game Stakes at a mile on turf on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Setting a slow pace early, it was not Mizdirection's day as she faded to fifth in her first (and only) off the board result.
But the Just a Game proved to be nothing more than a blip on the radar. Really, 2014 had been a year of records for Mizdirection thanks to her repeat scores in the Monrovia and Las Cienegas Stakes. But she had the opportunity to defend one more title. Nearly five months after the Just a Game, Mizdirection was back on (you guessed it) Santa Anita's hillside course for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.
Once again, the mare was going to do battle with a full field, and Reneesgotzip and Unbridled's Note were back to challenge Mizdirection again after losing to her in the 2012 version. But Mizdirection was ready for everyone with her title on the line. Getting a fast pace to work with as she did the previous year, she rallied in the stretch to deny Reneesgotzip and Tightend Touchdown (who deadheated for second) to become the first two-time winner of the Turf Sprint in what was undisputably her crowning achievement. She had yet to lose when starting on the hillside layout, and ultimately, she never would taste defeat over that course.
The 2014 Turf Sprint ended up being Mizdirection's final career start. The win netted her another spot as a finalist for the Female Sprinter Eclipse Award, but she lot out again to Groupie Doll. But that in no way diminishes what Mizdirection did on track. She retired with eleven wins, four seconds and a third in seventeen races. That is certainly an impressive resume, but her record on the hillside turf is even more amazing.
Mizdirection made six starts on the course, winning every time. There have been plenty of Thoroughbreds who were accomplished when it came to running down the hill, but Mizdirection stands out because she went undefeated over it. And each of her six triumphs came in a stakes race, most of which were graded. And also because she is currently the lone multiple winner of the Monrovia and the first horse to win two runnings of the Turf Sprint (only Stormy Liberal has matched her since).
What made Mizdirection a special horse was how she brought excitement to a race, especially when she sprinted. Her rallies were fun to watch, but she could open up on rivals and decimate them with ease. When she was in action, it was a must-see occasion, and she could be counted on to give her best.
In her honor, Santa Anita implemented the Mizdirection Stakes on her favorite layout after she retired, and Aqueduct racetrack in New York joined in naming an event after her as well.
Currently, Mizdirection is residing in France, where she has birthed some runners. But although she is now in Europe, she will always have a place in Southern California racing. And she will always have a place at Santa Anita, where she is a bona fide legend of the hillside turf course.
Mizdirection in France: Mitchell, Ron. "Puype Reflects on Mizdirection's Cup Success." Blood-Horse, October 15, 2014, https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/111312/puype-reflects-on-mizdirections-cup-success