A crowd of 55 123 attended the second and final day of the Breeders’ Cup this past Saturday. Billed as the world championship of thoroughbred racing, it was a memorable day, despite only three favourites winning in nine races.
The 29th renewal of the Breeders’ Cup, a two-day international festival proved again that it is every bit the equal of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.
The star of the show was the five-year-old gelding Wise Dan, who bolted to a dazzling victory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile and probably secured the USA Horse Of The Year title in the process.
He ran the race in track record time en route to recording his fourth consecutive win, and ninth victory in 11 starts. The record had stood for 15 years.
Wise Dan broke from the pack under John Velazquez in the home straight and held off 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom by a length and a half.
Game on Dude, the overwhelming favourite for the marquee Breeders’ Classic, finished a surprising seventh out of 12 runners after making a slow start, effectively ending his chances of securing Horse of the Year honours.
Also taking advantage of Game on Dude’s unexpected fall from grace was Fort Larned, who stormed to a stunning upset win by half a length over Mucho Macho Man in the Classic, America’s richest horse race. The 9-1 shot lead all the way.
“Fort Larned just gave us the greatest birthday gift we could’ve ever had,” said jockey Brian Hernandez after winning his first Breeders’ Cup title on his birthday. “He ran just a great race, he’s one of the best and he showed it today.”
Trained by Ian Wilkes, the son of E Dubai’s unofficial winning time was 2:00:11, finishing ahead of second-place, Mucho Macho Man and Flat Out in third.
Groupie Doll stretched her unbeaten run to five races with victory in the $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint. The odds-on favourite annihilated her opponents to win by four and one-half lengths from Dust and Diamonds.
Unbeaten in her four previous races, the William Bradley-trained filly stayed wide throughout and pulled away from the pack with a blistering turn of foot.
Kentucky bred colt Shanghai Bobby also made it a perfect five-of-five by winning the $2 million Juvenile.
Well ridden by Rosie Napravnik, he maintained his perfect record by winning the race in a thrilling finish after fending off a late surge by He’s Had Enough.
Napravnik was thought to have made the dash a trifle early, but summoned another surge from the Todd Pletcher-trained colt and he kicked again to win by a head from He’s Had Enough.
In the biggest upset of the day, outsider Little Mike stole the show from the heavily fancied Point of Entry and last year’s champion St Nicholas Abbey to win the Turf.
A 17-1 long shot, Little Mike was brilliantly ridden by jockey Ramon Dominguez and held off a late challenge by Point of Entry to seal victory by half a length with a commanding burst down the stretch.
Royal Delta won the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic for the second year in a row, in easy fashion that included two undefeated fillies in her wake. She rocketed from the gate and never looked back.
“She ran them off their feet,” her Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott, said.