So Big Is Better has the Best Ever Day at Breeders’ Cup Grade 1

IMG_7976Photos and Text: Pamela Burton

November 1, 2013, California ~ Owner Mark Powell could only say “Yes!” repeatedly and with great emphasis  after his win with So Big is Better at the President of the United Arab Emirates Arabian Stakes Invitational, the last race of the day on the first day of the Breeders’ Cup weekend at Santa Anita. When Powell recovered his speech, he embraced his trainer, brother, Scott Powell. “Scott has been training So Big in New Mexico for the last month and So Big was ready,” he said.

“It was amazing to win,” Powell continued. “We were treated really well by all of the President’s Cup group and race officials. We are thankful to them to bring this type of race into the USA.”

Powell brothers after race

Powell brothers after race

Scott Powell had cause for a double celebration as he owns and trained the 3rd place finish, the Burning Sand daughter, Ms Dixie (out of the Wiking daughter, Dixie Darlene).

The start, three across

The start, three across

There were many good horses among the 11 that lined up for the start at Santa Anita with the impressive backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains. Al Waed, Litle Bit and Grilla grabbed the lead three across  at the start with number 11, So Big Is Better, stalking quickly from the outside. It was never a contest, as So Big Is Better found his stride and pushed easily past some of the best Arabian contenders in the USA  to win in the time of 1:55.78.

Winning Team

Winning Team


The French bred, No Problem Al Maury, recently purchased at the Arqana  Paris Sale for 240,000 Euros, had been shipped over by new owner Sheikh Joaan Bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar, adding to the International mark of the race.  Guided by leading French trainer, Jean Francois Bernard, the racing card showed the Dormane colt’s last win by 25 lengths, and some thought he would have a clear shot. Perhaps he could not match the enthusiasm of the grey front-runner or it might have been the difference between the European and US running styles, but for this race he came in 2nd.

Powell purchased So Big Is Better, the 2004 son of Burning Sand out of WW Mirror Image (AT Ali Baba+/) from trainers Warren and Helen Shelley in 2012, and has since raced him from east to west and north to south. “It’s amazing how he handles all of the different tracks,” said Powell.  “We drive him ourselves and we’ve put on 6 or 7,000 miles across the US this year.  I’m really proud of him. He has that desire to win. With this he broke Line Dancer’s record of wins as a Burning Sand son,” enthused Powell. (Line Dancer’s record was 24 firsts out of 30 starts from 1999-2002.)

So Big Is Better 

His career claims 54 starts and 25 wins since 2008 for total earnings of $333,065

2013  7 wins out of  11 races… earnings $132,725


Santa Anita 11/1/2013

Lone Star  10/12/13

Fairplex 9/12/13  HH Sheikh Zayed Arabian Cup Stakes

Ferndale 8/25/1013

Arapahoe 8/18/2013 Crow Valley Classic

Arapahoe 6/2 13 Allowance

Sam Houston 3/3/2013

So Big Is Better did not return to the winners’ circle but was brought in by horse van after his win.  “He has a slight suspensory problem, but he’s okay and eating well today, Saturday,” said Powell. “With rest we expect a full recovery. He has a big heart and he gave his all coming around the stretch. He can now look forward to the next chapter breeding mares. He will be available to start breeding in early 2014.”

Smoke House shipped from the east coast with his trainer and jockey. Unbeaten in 2012, the big chestnut four-year-old placed 3rd in the June, 2013 UAE Presidents’ Cup at  Churchill Downs after two previous firsts.  Asked how he was doing the day after his Santa Anita race, owner Kathy Smoke reported that Smoke House was fine. “Smokey is good, just tired,” she said. “We think we were a bit short on fitness. He didn’t quit trying; he just ran out of gas. He’s still growing and we plan to come back next year.”

Grilla, trained by veteran, Bill Waldron, won this race in 2010 at Keeneland, and had 3 wins this year.

Finish order:


2. NO PROBLEM AL MAURY (FR), jockey, Jean Bernard Eyquem

3. MS DIXIE, jockey Gregorio Rivera


Faisal Al Ali, EEF and Abdulla Al Saboosi, General Consul UAE

Faisal Al Ali, EEF, and Abdulla Al Saboosi, General Consul UAE

The $150,000 prize money UAE President’s Cup Gr 1 stakes is slated to run again at the 2014 Breeders’ Cup in Santa Anita. Officials from the UAE attending included Emirates Equestrian Federation Assistant Secretary General, Faisal Al Ali. Abdulla Ali Al Saboosi, General Consul of the United Arab Emirates to Los Angeles spoke. “This is the first time the Arabian race is here for the Breeders Cup. This is another good bridge being built between the UAE and the USA and we are very happy to be here.”

Photo Gallery: Photo Gallery 

Total handle for Santa Anita for Friday, November 1, as reported by FalKirk International wagering consultant for Breeders’ Cup, was $51,521,146 versus $48,586,765 in 2012. Wagering on the Grade 1 President of the United Arab Emirates Cup totaled $1.7 million. The reported attendance was 35,833.

As for the other wonderful races at the Breeders’ Cup…well, that’s another story.


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