Both races served as Breeders’ Cup Challenge qualifiers, earning the winners paid, automatic entry into separate Breeders’ Cup races Nov. 4-5 at Keeneland.
“Not a bad hour,” Pletcher quipped in a telephone interview.
“You never take for graded these Grade 1 opportunities, and to be able to do it with these two horses, with these two clients — it was a huge day for the whole team,” he added. “I can’t say enough about the work that everyone has done to get us there.”
The horses, too, put on a show. Forte scored in his two-turn debut, and Annapolis ran a mile on a firm course that played quickly under Irad Ortiz Jr. in a stakes-record 1:33.29. The War Front colt improved to 5-for-7 with Saturday’s victory, increasing his earnings to $1,166,100. He paid $14.70 to win.
Third early, sitting right behind the speed in a good position, Annapolis took command after tipping out in the stretch and drew clear by 1 1/2 lengths over Ivar, the 2020 Turf Mile winner. Ivar nosed out Aidan O’Brien’s European invader Order of Australia, who was third, a neck in front of late-running Set Piece in fourth.
Pacesetting Masen, who carved out quarter-mile fractions of :23.58, :46.60, and 1:10.01, weakened to sixth. Favored Santin turned in a lackluster performance, finishing ninth.
Pletcher won the Coolmore Turf Mile for the second time after first capturing it in 2005 with Host when the race was sponsored by Shadwell.
He wasn’t the only one rightfully proud of Annapolis. So, too, was owner Perry Bass of Bass Racing. The Bass family also bred Annapolis as Bass Stables.
“This is the pinnacle,” he said following the winner’s circle ceremony, his eyes moist and his voice quivering. “To breed one and win and to win a race like this — it’s the epitome.”
Ortiz, asked about teaming up with Pletcher, who has become one of the leading supporters in recent years, Ortiz called it “awesome” to have success with the trainer’s high-powered stable.
“I’ve been riding for him the whole year, win some Grade 1s for him before, too,” Ortiz said. “I love to win a Grade 1 for anybody. I love to win for any trainer. I’m happy for him, his barn. Teamwork worked out at the end of the day. Those guys [backstretch staff] work so hard in the mornings — grooms, hotwalkers, everybody.”