Fort Larned wins Breeders' Cup Classic
ARCADIA, California (AFP) –
Fort Larned stole the show with a brave victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday, out-duelling Mucho Macho Man and leaving favorite Game On Dude in the dust.
Game On Dude, unbeaten in five prior starts on the dirt track at Santa Anita, was the overwhelming favorite to give trainer Bob Baffert a first victory in the $5 million Classic — the richest race in North America.
Instead, he trailed in seventh, piling on the misery for Baffert, who had 10 runners over two days of Breeders’ Cup racing and departed without a winner.
“It really was a tough week, but what are you going to do,” Baffert said.
“When these things happen, when things are hard, you’ve just got to move on,” added Baffert, who received words of encouragement from Game On Dude co-owner Joe Torre, the former World Series-winning manager of Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees.
“A few minutes ago Joe Torre told me that you’ve got to forget it,” Baffert said. “Things that happened five seconds ago, you’ve got to let them go and move on. That’s what will happen.”
As Baffert went back to the drawing board, Fort Larned trainer Ian Wilkes and jockey Brian Hernandez were celebrating their first Breeders’ Cup triumph — and in the race that capped the two-day, 15-race slate worth a total of $25 million.
Hernandez and Fort Larned took the lead into the first turn, extended it on the backstretch, then held on in a furious duel in the final straight to beat Mucho Macho Man by half a length.
“He was gaining on us, but our horse wasn’t going to let him by,” said Hernandez, who called the win a perfect 27th birthday present.
Flat Out was third as Game On Dude, never beaten in five prior starts on the dirt track at Santa Anita, finished seventh in the 12-horse field in the 1 1/4-mile race.
It was just one of the upsets produced in nine races at the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday.
Little Mike was the big surprise in the $3 million Turf. Sent off at 17-to-1, the five-year-old gelding reminded observers he is a multiple grade one winner this year, holding off fancied home hope Point of Entry as well as St Nicholas Abbey — who had won at Churchill Downs last year to continue Europe’s run in the 1 1/2-mile race.
Joseph O’Brien, whose victory last year aboard St Nicholas Abbey had made him the youngest jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup race, said his horse ran well, but just didn’t have quite enough for unheralded Little Mike.
“When I asked him, he responded. We had to go a bit wide on the turn, but nonetheless he ran very well,” O’Brien said.
Tapizar, dismissed at odds of 15-1, triumphed in the $1 million Dirt Mile and journeyman jockey Willie Martinez garnered the first Breeders’ Cup victory of his career when he piloted 13-1 Trinniberg to victory in the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
Filly Mizdirection, who hadn’t raced since May, showed her male rivals how it’s done with a big stretch run to win the $1 million Turf Sprint by half a length.
While trainer Aidan O’Brien couldn’t repeat in the Turf with St Nicholas Abbey, he and jockey Ryan Moore teamed up for a second straight win in the $1 million Juvenile Turf with George Vancouver.
A year after the same duo brought Wrote to victory, Moore piloted George Vancouver through a tightly packed field to a 1 1/4-length win.
There were no real surprises in the Mile, the Juvenile and the Filly and Mare Sprint.
US turf star Wise Dan, trained by Charles Lopresti and ridden by John Velazquez, won the $2 million Mile in a course record 1min 31.78sec ahead of 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.
Excelebration, racing just a fortnight after a victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, was the best of the Europeans but finished out of the money in fourth.
In the $2 million Juvenile, traditional pointer to next year’s Kentucky Derby, Shanghai Bobby lived up to his favorite’s status, using a determined stretch run to earn his fifth win in five starts and cement his claim to champion two-year-old colt honors.
In the Filly and Mare Sprint, it was Groupie Doll who stretched her winning streak to five graded stakes races this year, three of them in grade one events.