Invasor went off as the third choice in the Breeders' Cup Classic but sealed up Horse of the Year honors with a win in the race (Photo courtesy of Horsephotos.com)
When Invasor headed to the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic with a near perfect record, it wasn’t hard to imagine him as the favorite for the race.
After all, the South American import was not only Uruguay’s 2005 Horse of the Year, but he was also a Triple Crown winner. His only blemish came after he was purchased by Shadwell Stable, when they sent him to the 2006 United Arab Emirates Derby in Dubai, where he finished behind Discreet Cat. That was his final race on foreign soil before making his United States debut.
The colt was just as spectacular in the United States as he was in Uruguay, winning three straight Grade 1 races before heading on to the Classic.
But Invasor had to settle for third-choice in the betting as he was facing Preakness Stakes winner Bernardini, who was coming into the race on a six-race winning streak, and Lava Man, who was coming into the race off of a seven-race winning streak.
In the end, Invasor’s 6.70-to-1 odds looked like a gift.
After bobbling at the start, he came from midpack to blow past Bernardini in the last furlong for a one-length victory with Lava Man finishing a non-threatening seventh.
“It's an unbelievable feeling to win for the right people,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin told the Blood-Horse. “I'm just so happy with everyone associated with the horse -- the groom, the exercise riders, and the whole organization.”
2006 BREEDERS' CUP CLASSIC
Invasor went into the Breeders’ Cup Classic off of a 90-day layoff after missing the Jockey Club Gold Cup due to a fever. The layoff was the longest of any Breeders’ Cup Classic winner in the history of the race.
His storybook season earned Invasor the Eclipse Award as champion older male while his defeat of Bernardini helped to secure Horse of the Year honors for 2006.
Invasor’s Eclipse Awards made him a Horse of the Year in two countries, a feat not often accomplished by a racehorse.
Invasor received a 3-month break from racing after his Breeders’ Cup win and came back in the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream to try and keep his Grade 1-winning streak going. He ran into trouble when he was forced to stop his rally leaving the final turn after he was blocked on the rail. But Invasor gathered himself back up and found a hole. After that, he showed why he was a champion, taking the lead inside the final sixteenth of a mile and pulling away to win by two lengths.
The victory set Invasor up for an attempt at the Dubai World Cup, where he would try to win at the only track that had ever denied him a victory. Invasor showed that he had improved with age, winning the race by 1 ¾ lengths over Premium Tap. The triumph showed a gutsier side of Invasor as he had to grind it out with Premium Tap, fighting with his fellow U.S.-trained horse through a good part of the stretch and taking the lead with less than a furlong to go. Second-place Premium Tap was eight lengths ahead of the next contender, making Invasor’s win look even more spectacular. But even sweeter was that Invasor had finally gotten revenge on Discreet Cat, who had handed him his lone defeat.
Invasor became the third Breeders’ Cup Classic winner to go on to win the Dubai World Cup, following in the hoofsteps of Cigar and Pleasantly Perfect. The colt returned to the United States to prepare for a run at a repeat win in the Suburban Handicap but in a disappointing twist of fate, he was injured in his final workout before the race. He wasshipped to Shadwell Farm soon after the injury to prepare for his new career, continuing the boost he had given Shadwell on the track.
“He was such a superstar. He helped earn us an Eclipse Award for leading owner that year and really brought a lot of attention back to Shadwell and gave a big boost to the stallion operation when he retired. It was very good for morale to have a horse like that win several Grade 1 races,” said Kent Barnes, Shadwell Farm’s stallion manager.
Invasor retired with arguably the best group of stallions to retire in this decade, but he has held his own. He ranked in the top 30 last year among second-crop sires and Barnes believes that the older Invasor’s foals get, the better they will be.
“I think we have his best horse in his first crop. [Ausus] is a 4-year-old filly that is coming on this year for us and won a Grade 3 at Arlington and was third in a Grade 1 … this filly of ours just seems to be getting better with age. I think they are a later-maturing horse, and hopefully people will recognize that and keep them in training a little bit longer,” Barnes said.
From three small crops of racing age, Invasor has 37 winners with Ausus leading the charge as her sire’s leading earner. Barnes hopes that Invasor’s impact on the breed will be bigger than just having big race winners as the Argentina-bred brings an interesting outcross to the American market.
“Hopefully, being somewhat of an outcross, being a sound, durable horse, and essentially free of the Mr. Prospector line, he’ll establishe a little more soundness and a little more stamina into some of the North American pedigrees,” Barnes said. “I was just reading an article the other day on the number of starts horses make now versus 20, 30, 40 years ago, and it’s obviously going down. Our horses are a lot more unsound. It’s my hope that at least some of his [foals] will be able to make a few more starts.”
As for people remembering his racing career, Invasor still has a loyal fan base. Every year, Invasor has fans stop by the farm to visit him, including many from Uruguay and Argentina. His racetrack habit of biting hay nets when people pet him is something his fans might see at the farm today, showing that even though his days at the track are through, he hasn’t changed much.
In 2013, Invasor was inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame. He still stands at Shadwell Farm in Lexington, Ky. next to a line-up that includes 2006 Belmont Stakes winner Jazil.