When the best horse is also the controlling speed… well, that’s a recipe for exactly what happened in Saturday’s $5 million, Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, aided by the scratch of top race mare Beholder, who figured at least to be a pace presence, bounded to the lead shortly after the gates opened and never looked back, cruising to an emphatic six-length win that put the cherry on top of what was already a sweet-as-could-be year.
The son of Pioneerof the Nile also headed a cavalcade of horses with connections, of one sort or another, to the mid-Atlantic. His was his two Grade 1 victories in the region, first in the Preakness at Pimlico in May and then, in August, in the Haskell at Monmouth Park.
Pharoah was one of a trio of horses in the day’s biggest race connected to the region.
Tonalist, the talented not-a-Virginia-bred who spoiled California Chrome’s 2014 Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes, made a big move entering the far turn but emptied out when Victor Espinoza, aboard American Pharoah, asked his mount for more. Tonalist finished fifth. Also making a big middle move was Frosted, the Pennsylvania Derby winner, who met a similar fate, stopping after getting to third and finishing seventh.
“What can I say?” asked Pharoah’s owner, Egyptian-born Ahmed Zayat. “What a horse! He is the most brilliant horse I have ever seen. We are so appreciative to have him and we owe American Pharoah everything. He is a once-in-a-lifetime horse.”
The day’s most colorful winner’s circle belonged to Mongolian Saturday, whose owners, Mongolian Stable, appeared in traditional Mongolian garb after posting a 15-1 upset in the Turf Sprint. That win pointed to the mid-Atlantic as something of an epicenter for turf sprinting. Mongolian Saturday had suffered narrow defeats in Parx Racing’s two Grade 3 turf sprints, the Parx Dash and Turf Monster, earlier this season.
“I was expecting the horse to run well,” said trainer Enebish Ganbat. “I thought he could come first or second. Here, he’s been doing very, very well. We came here to win a Breeders’ Cup and we did.”
Mongolian Saturday won by a diminishing neck over speedy sophomore filly Lady Shipman, forced by circumstance into a stalk-and-pounce approach Saturday. Trained at Monmouth by Kathleen O’Connell, Lady Shipman won three stakes in the region this year, taking the Stormy Blues in May at Pimlico and then the Crank It Up and Klassy Briefcase, both at Monmouth, over the summer.
“That was such a tough beat, but she ran her heart out,” O’Connell said. “For a 3-year-old filly to come in second and with all she’s accomplished, we are very, very proud of her.”
Bobby’s Kitten, the defending champ who won the 2014 Penn Mile, finished fourth, while Turf Monster winner Pure Sensation was eighth.
It was, in fact, a pretty good day to be a filly taking on the boys. Four-year-old Tepin took the Breeders’ Cup Mile over a stellar group of European shippers, and three-year-old Found did the same in Breeders’ Cup Turf, upsetting Golden Horn, winner of the Arc de Triomphe.
In that latter event, Found’s defeated foes included Big Blue Kitten, the winner of the United Nations at Monmouth Park, who finished third with Jersey Joe Bravo in the irons; Delaware-certified The Pizza Man, who was fifth; and Fair Hill-based Cage Fighter, who finished last in the race and went off as the day’s biggest longshot, 150.80-1.
“He’s an amazing animal in my book,” Bravo said of Big Blue Kitten. “He really laid it on the line turning for home. He’s a real special horse.”
With Shining Copper entered as a rabbit for Big Blue Kitten, the Turf had an odd running line. It took the field more than 28 seconds to go from the half-mile pole to the quarter pole — and then less than 25 seconds to get the last quarter mile. That’s because, after a mile, Shining Copper held a 20-length lead in 1:39.07; after a mile and a quarter in 2:07.20, his lead was down to just a length.
Bravo and trainer Chad Brown also teamed up in the Filly and Mare Turf, with Bravo riding the trainer’s Watsdachances, earlier this year the winner of the Grade 3 Gallorette at Pimlico. She finished sixth, just a half-length behind Photo Call, the Fair Hill-based Graham Motion trainee who was fifth.
Three other runners bred in the region also tried their luck on Saturday.
The best result of those belonged to Pennsylvania-bred Favorite Tale, the Guadalupe Preciado trainee ridden by Javier Castellano, who ran willingly to be third in the Sprint, beaten less than two lengths for all the money. In that race, Runhappy put on a show, running down Private Zone late to win by nearly a length in a track record time of 1:08.58.
“We can’t ask for better than what he did,” said Preciado. “We’re happy. Those are two nice horses that finished ahead of him.”
He wasn’t the only runner with connections to the mid-Atlantic in the Sprint. Two others that won regional stakes also competed, with Holy Boss finishing a game fourth after setting the early pace; he was just a length ahead of Salutos Amigos.
It was a less successful day for distaff sprinters connected to the mid-Atlantic.
Two horses bred in the region were well up the track in the Filly and Mare Sprint. Maryland-bred Kiss to Remember finished ninth, and Pennsylvania-bred Dame Dorothy was 11th after a rough trip.
Also in the Filly and Mare Sprint, Stonetastic, trained by Kelly Breen at Monmouth Park, finished eighth after racing near the pace. She was just behind Room for Me, the David Jacobson trainee who won Monmouth’s Regret Stakes earlier this year.
Another Breen trainee, Bold Quality, finished last of 10 in the Juvenile Fillies.