It was another photo finish between a pair of top females during a two-day event that had already seen one storybook result decided by barely a whisker.
But as the results of the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf flashed on the Santa Anita Park toteboard on Saturday, it became evident that while 8-5 choice Lady Eli had more than triumphed over physical adversity, the daughter of Divine Park had fallen just short of the result that would have capped off what is already an all-time comeback.
European invader Queen’s Trust denied Lady Eli in her fairytale return from laminitis, just getting her nose down over the multiple Grade 1 winner to upset the 1 ¼-mile Filly and Mare Turf in a finish as narrow in its margin as the epic Beholder-Songbird result less than 24 hours earlier in the Longines Distaff.
Lady Eli had the sentiment of much of the racing community on her side, having returned to the races this summer after a 13-month layoff following a freak incident where she stepped on a nail while returning from her win in the 2015 Belmont Oaks Invitational and developed laminitis in both front feet.
The 4-year-old mare that trainer Chad Brown has deemed “made of steel” already defied odds when she captured the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Stakes at Belmont Park in her second start back. And when she ranged up three wide in the stretch and took aim at Avenge holding strong after setting a quick pace, it looked briefly like the ending of all endings would come to fruition — that is until Queen’s Trust came with her wicked surge outside en route to hitting the wire in a Breeders’ Cup record time of 1:57.75.
“She’s incredible. We know she’s incredible and we know this comeback story was singular, second to none,” said Jay Hanley of Sheep Pond Partners, Lady Eli’s owners. “It’s just hard to see her lose by a nostril. But if she’s back, she’s healthy, that’s all that really matters. That’s the bottom line.”
A Cheveley Park Stud homebred, Queen’s Trust came into the Filly and Mare Turf with just a maiden win from seven starts but finished third in the Darley Yorshire Oaks behind fellow Filly & Mare Turf contender Seventh Heaven and eventual Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Found.
The victory gives jockey Frankie Dettori his 12th Breeders’ Cup triumph.
The win also marked the seventh Breeders’ Cup win for trainer Sir Michael Stoute.—Alicia Wincze-Hughes
Breeders’ Cup Mile: No matter which direction one looked at in the aftermath of the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile — be it toward the crew surrounding the bay mare with neck slaps and nose kisses or at the son of a Hall of Fame trainer with his arm around his friend and fellow assistant — the eyes told a story of shock and pride.
While his words were carefully composed, the look on trainer Mark Casse’s face said it all as he tried to explain how defending race winner and reigning champion turf female Tepin ended up with a second-best outcome for a second straight time.
And, as animated as Riley Mott and Rudolph Brisset were as they watched Tourist return from his upset, half-length win, no amount of hugs and gestures were as poignant as their gazes.
“I thought I saw some tears in their eyes when they came to the winner’s circle,” trainer Bill Mott said of his jubilant son and longtime assistant.
What they all saw at Santa Anita Park was an outcome that caught more than one off guard as 12.40-1 shot Tourist used a ground-saving trip under jockey Joel Rosario to hold off the Casse-trained Tepin, denying the 5-year-old daughter of Bernstein a repeat triumph in the one-mile test.
Tourist covered the mile on a firm turf course in 1:31.71, breaking the Breeders’ Cup record of 1:31.78 set by Wise Dan at Santa Anita in 2013.
For Robert Masterson’s Tepin, it was a bittersweet cap to a year that had literally seen her travel the global establishing her dominance. After capturing the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Mile en route to becoming the first Eclipse Award winner for Casse, the bay mare looked untouchable for most of 2016, no more so than when she became the first North American-based horse to win the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 14.
Although she followed that historic win with another triumph over males in the Sept. 17 Ricoh Woodbine Mile, the toll of winning Grade/Group 1 wins in three countries this season was discussed after she finished second to fellow Mile entrant Photo Call in the First Lady Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 8.
Tepin responded by bringing every inch of her class to the Mile, rating in an outside path in seventh with Tourist just ahead of her in the inside lane as What a View set a taxing pace of :21.81 and :44.61 on the front end. She responded with her trademark surge when jockey Julien Leparoux swung her out four-wide in the lane, but it was Tourist with the finest answer of his career as he notched his second Grade 1 victory.
“You know this filly has been so good for so long and I had to hear so much about what we had done and how she had gotten beat,” Casse said. “Today was her goal and she just came up a touch short. But we’re going to go away with our heads held high. She’s a tremendous racehorse. I thought she trained the last couple weeks as good as I’ve ever seen her train.”—Alicia Wincze-Hughes
Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf: It wasn’t a theft. Highland Reel just ran away with the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Under the guidance of Seamus Heffernan, the 4-year-old Galileo colt set stiff fractions in the 1 1/2-mile race, opened up a daylight lead in the backstretch and was never threatened late by second-place finisher and favorite Flintshire en route to a 1 3/4-length score.
The Aidan O’Brien trainee, owned by Coolmore connections, ran the first quarter-mile in :24.83, hit the half-mile in :48 flat, covered six furlongs in 1:12.70 and a mile in 1:36.16, then held off the best efforts of Flintshire to cross the finish line in 2:23 flat. Stablemate Found, who defeated Highland Reel last time out in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), checked in third, another 2 1/4 lengths back.
“He’s the type of horse that’s brave in front,” Heffernan said. “And when he wants to go, you let him go and he turns it on. I thought there were a few horses that were going to come from the back and come quick. So if I was going, I wanted to go early.”
Along with two Group 1 scores internationally, Highland Reel is now undefeated in two starts on U.S. soil following his score in the 2015 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington International Racecourse.—Jeremy Balan
Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint: Finest City, a 4-year-old filly by City Zip, outlasted last year’s winner Wavell Avenue to win the $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint. The seven furlongs went in 1:22.37. Paulassilverlining finished third. Finest City prevailed by three-quarters of a length. Wavell Avenue had 11/4 lengths on Paulassilverlining.
Finest City, owned by Seltzer Thoroughbreds, is a 4-year-old trained by Ian Kruljac and was ridden by Mike Smith. Kruljac, 28, has been a trainer less than two years and now has a Breeders’ Cup win on his resume.
Finest City returned to the dirt off a pair of turf starts at Del Mar going longer. She was second, beaten a head by Avenge in the Grade 2 John C. Mabee Stakes on Sept. 4 (Avenge ran third earlier in the day in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. This summer Finest City was pitched at the highest level and ran third, beaten just 2 3/4 lengths by Beholder and Stellar Wind in the one-mile, Grade 1 Vanity Stakes.—Evan Hammonds
Twinspires Breeders’ Cup Sprint: Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert had to scratch morning-line second choice Lord Nelson from the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint, but Baoma Corp.’s Drefong came in off the bench and gave the white-haired one his fifth score in the six-furlong race.
Racing for the first time since his Aug. 27 Ketel One King’s Bishop score at Saratoga Race Course, the 3-year-old Gio Ponti colt turned back 8-5 favorite Masochistic to land his second consecutive Grade 1 by 1 1/4 lengths. Grade 2 winner Mind Your Biscuits was third by a nose.
“Drefong looked so good in the paddock, this is probably the sharpest he’s ever been,” Baffert said. “We’ve been taking our time bringing him up to this point.”
The winning time was 1:08.79 on a fast track.
Martin Garcia sent Drefong up to the front to challenge Masochistic early on from post-position 2, and those two clicked through early quarter-mile fractions of :21.49 and :44.03 with Delta Bluesman keeping close company.
“I was pretty confident since I got on him in the paddock. I was really comfortable,” Garcia said.
Masochistic dug in off the turn for home, but Drefong turned him back through five-eighths in :55.98 en route to victory.
“I knew there was going to be a little bit of a speed duel; I was worried about the inside post because it would force his hand, but Martin let him ease up there without forcing the issue,” Baffert said. “Masochistic is a really good horse, and I thought we were going to run second. ... Those two horses really threw down in the stretch.”—Claire Novak
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint: A fifth Breeders’ Cup try for Obviously did the trick. A two-time Grade 1 winner at a mile, Obviously cut back a bit in distance to take the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Anthony Fanticola’s and Joseph Scardino’s Obviously, who previously raced in the Breeders’ Cup Mile four times — earning a placing in 2012 —scored his breakthrough Breeders’ Cup win.
In Saturday’s test, Obviously forged a clear lead through a quarter-mile in :21.41 under Flavien Prat and took the field through a half-mile in :43.08. The 8-year-old Choisir gelding then held off a late charge from Om to score a nose victory, completing 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:11.33.
Pure Sensation finished third behind the top two, both of whom are based in Southern California.
Trainer Phil D’Amato hadn’t been thinking Breeders’ Cup this season until Obviously was shipped east and scored a 3 3/4-length victory in the one-mile Poker Stakes on June 18 at Belmont Park. Front-running Obviously then led the City of Hope Mile Stakes into the stretch before fading to third in that test at Santa Anita.
The victory marks the third Grade 1 win for Obviously and first since his back-to-back scores in the Shoemaker Mile Stakes in 2013 and 2014 at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita Park.—Frank Angst
14 Hands Winery Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies: Champagne Room grabbed the lead from front-running Noted and Quoted turning for home and cruised to victory in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies to kick off Breeders’ Cup Saturday.
Champagne Room, winner of the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes in August, is a daughter of Broken Vow out of Lucky to Be Me, by Bernstein, and was bred in Kentucky by Respite Farm. She is owned by Ciglia Racing, Exline-Border, Gulliver Racing, Sharon Alesia, Christensen, and Legan.
Peter Eurton is the winning trainer, picking up his first Breeders’ Cup victory. Mario Gutierrez, who guided Nyquist to victory in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, won his second Breeders’ Cup race.
“I wasn’t feeling utterly confident when they were coming down the stretch,” Eurton said. “She was getting a little tired, but nobody was catching her. I’m feeling pretty good right now. This means an awful lot to me.”
Champagne Room completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.12. Valadorna checked in second, with American Gal third. Champagne Room returned $69.20, $26.20, and $13. Valadorna was good for $9.80 and $6.60, and American Gal paid $4.80 to show.—Lenny Shulman