Breeders’ Cup: Riding Lesson from The Mig

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Richard Migliore upset last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint aboard Desert Code, the veteran jockey made all the right moves to win his first Breeders’ Cup race. He’s back this year to defend the crown on Desert Code.

Tuesday, we walked Santa Anita’s unique turf course with Migliore. He choreographed how to ride the downhill, the right turn (way more turn than you realize), the left turn and the “dirt” crossing.

Mig, take over.


“Ideally you want to be drawn between 6 and 10. If you’re drawn in 1, you start way out and you have to go right, if you’re drawn on the outside, you get jammed going into that right-hand bend because horses don’t turn right in our country, they don’t corner as well as you like. If you’re already on top of that rail, it’s hard to make that turn smooth, you’ve got to come out and drop over. Somebody can jam you in there and you have to take up. You’re better off in the middle, then you can run straight and angle to the turn and then fall back to the left.

“Last year he was 9. Ideally you wouldn’t want to be 1 and you wouldn’t want to be 14. If you could be 7 . . .

(An hour later, Desert Code drew 13)

“The first 70 yards is fairly level, then you start to descend. Some horses react to it and start checking themselves, I think they use more energy trying to slow themselves down, that’s why it’s important to have horses run into your hands. You want them in your hands and more balanced. Just let them run into your hands.

“See how the grass is different, see how short they keep it? It’s bouncy. It’s not undulating as the East Coast.

“On Desert Code I want to be right here (about five lanes off the right rail). Sometimes if you can, you can try to get the other riders to take up or commit, you don’t take their ground but you want them to think about it.

“It’s pretty cool right? You think about where the start is and where the grandstand is, it’s a cool layout.

“As we’re coming into here, you can see nobody’s dead on that rail because you can’t hold the turn. You try to square off the two turns, this is more of a corner than people give it credit.

“We’ve gone about five sixteenths, you don’t want to make a dramatic hard right and a dramatic hard left. You want to hit that turn, saving ground and I don’t want to be pulling on them, I want to go completely straight. You want to make one move, people make a move trying to get up the inside and it’s too soon, you have a long way to go.

“Last year, I know they’re flying because I’m getting out run.

“Then we come to the dirt crossing, a lot of them will see it and check themselves, they usually make a little leap and change their leads left or right, that’s why it’s so important when you come down this hill to have space and you don’t want to ask them to run. If you’re behind, it’s so important to be patient because if you get your horse running before the dirt, they’re going to hit the dirt and someone’s going to go left and someone’s going to duck right and that’s when you get in trouble.

“Stay disciplined, stay disciplined, stay disciplined. Wait, wait, wait, because you know, experience tells you there’s going to be a little bit of an explosion and you’re more out of control if you’re running fast, sit, let the explosion happen, and pick a path. Then hope you have enough time to get there. Thankfully I did last year. Then it’s about spotting who’s running, I looked up and saw the blue of Diabolical. You know the term in harness racing, live cover. This race is about live cover. You need to find live cover, who’s going to carry me to the next gap. That being said, you need horse.

“I’ll have an idea of horses that are live and I want to follow but as you get to the crossover, it’s all about who’s traveling, who’s traveling and if they kick on, can I kick on their draft. You need them to clear a path for you. You always want to give yourself a couple of options.

“Last year, I put my hands down, traveled, traveled, by the time we got to the three eighths pole, he’s leaning on me, even though I had one horse beat at that point, I thought I’m going to get a piece of this, I didn’t know I was going to win it but I knew I was going to get a piece. By the time we made the crossover, I thought I’m going to be third, then I’m going to be second, by the eighth pole, I said, (screw) this I’m going to win it. I love this race, it’s unique.”