Big Breeders’ Cup Saturday for Miller on Day of Upsets

Racing
Trainer Peter Miller celbrated a victory by Roy H in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 4 at Del Mar, where he picked up his first two wins at the World Championships. (Eclipse Sportswire)

As if running 1-2 in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint wasn’t enough, Roy H added to a big day for his connections Nov. 4 at Del Mar.

Demonstrating the top form that saw him win his first Grade 1 in the Oct. 7 Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes in his prior start, Rockingham Ranch’s and David Bernsen’s 5-year-old More Than Ready  gelding ran down Imperial Hint with determined strides to claim the $1.5 million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint by a length.

Imperial Hint finished two lengths in front of late-closing Mind Your Biscuits, who completed the trifecta.

Roy H (Eclipse Sportswire)

Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, the Peter Miller-trained Roy H stopped the clock in 1:08.61 for six furlongs on a fast track, and returned $11.80, $5, and $3.60 at odds of 4.90-1. The victory was the sixth for Desormeaux in the Breeders’ Cup and second in the Sprint, a race he won in 1995 on Desert Stormer at Belmont Park.

“This is amazing,” Miller said. “Two Breeders’ Cup wins in one day. The race shaped up the way we thought it would. We saw a lot of speed in there and we figured he could sit third or fourth and make his big run. He did it just the way we drew it up.”

Desormeaux’s description of his spot in the irons told of challenging start.

“He had to man up [in] the first 200 yards,” the rider said. “I had to jockey for position, fighting for a spot two times in 200 yards. After that, he had the catbird seat. He raced off my fingertips and gave me a lovely ride. Absolutely exploded turning for home. He was full of run. We were running from the quarter pole to the eighth pole. We took off.”

Defending race winner Drefong, favored at 7-5, finished sixth in the field of 10 after breaking slowly from post-position two.

“I knew in the first 100 yards it was over when he couldn’t make the lead,” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said. “What I was afraid would happen, happened. He’s been good to us and I really can’t complain. I knew the inside post would be tough on him and I could tell when he went across the gap there that Mike [Smith] was a little hesitant with him. You need racing luck. You need a good horse, but you need racing luck. It wasn’t his day. This horse doesn’t owe us anything.”

Roy H returned $11.80, $5, and $3.60, Imperial Hint brought $5.20 and $4, and Mind Your Biscuits paid $4.40.

Bred in Kentucky by Ramona Bass out of the Elusive Quality mare Elusive Diva, Roy H improved his record to six wins and four seconds from 17 starts, with $1,359,765 in earnings. He was purchased by Rockingham for $310,000 at the 2014 Keeneland April 2-year-olds in training sale, when consigned by Wavertree.

“He always had Grade 1 talent, but he never put it together [before],” Miller said. “He always had either niggling issues or he wasn’t quite mentally there. We gelded him when he was out [after July of 2016], and gave him some time off, and he’s just been a beast since he came back. If I had to put one thing, I’d say it was gelding him, but also just maturation and time.”


Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf: Talismanic continued a parade of longshot winners at Del Mar with a 14.10-1 score in the $4 million Longines Turf. Godolphin’s son of Medaglia d’Oro covered the 1 1/2 miles in 2:26.19. Beach Patrol, the 3-1 second choice, finished second over favored Highland Reel.

American-based Oscar Performance set the early pace in the Turf and cruised along throughout the first two bends on an open lead. Beach Patrol tracked in second while off the rail, with Highland Reel, last year’s winner in wire-to-wire fashion tracking in third under Ryan Moore.

The early splits were honest. The opening-quarter went in :23.69, the half-mile in :48.33, and six furlongs in 1:12.86. Tracking the leaders were Hunt, and Talismanic, with Mickael Barzalona aboard.

As the field made its way out of the third and final bend, Beach Patrol challenged Oscar Performance and quickly established the lead, but coming after him was Talismanic, with Highland Reel still digging in. The mile went in 1:38.00.

In the lane, Talismanic was too much, edging clear to win by a half-length. Beach Patrol held by a neck over Highland Reel.

“I can’t believe it,” Barzalona said. “I am thrilled to have won my first Breeders’ Cup race. I expected the horse to run well, but I’m not sure I thought I would win. Mr. [Andre] Fabre is a great trainer.”

Barzalona’s previous top wins include riding Pour Moi to a win in the 2011 Epsom Derby, and guiding Monterosso to victory in the 2012 Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline.—Evan Hammonds


Breeders’ Cup Mile: Live Oak Plantation’s homebred World Approval has found his sweet spot.

It took trainer Mark Casse a while — 21 starts, to be exact — to get the Northern Afleet gelding at a mile on grass, but that move has put the gray into another stratosphere.

World Approval (Eclipse Sportswire)

With a 1 1/4-length score in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, ahead of runner-up Lancaster Bomber, World Approval now has three straight top-level wins at the distance. His previous two Grade 1 wins were in the Aug. 12 Fourstardave Handicap and the Sept. 16 Ricoh Woodbine Mile Stakes.

World Approval finished the mile in 1:34.55 at Del Mar after a stalking trip in fifth early in the 14-horse field. Under jockey John Velazquez, World Approval got into attacking position, was unimpeded from three wide entering the stretch, and went to work. Heart to Heart, who raced just off early leader Midnight Storm through swift quarter-mile fractions of :22.30, :45.65, and 1:10.04 for six furlongs, held a one-length advantage with a furlong to go, but tired in the final furlong to finish 10th.

“I talked to [owner Charlotte Weber in 2016] and said, ‘I don’t think he can beat the best horses in the world going a mile and a half, but he might be able to beat them going a mile,’ ” Casse said of World Approval. “So everything we did was to get him ready for this, starting last year.”

World Approval is the second Breeders’ Cup winner out of Live Oak’s homebred Win Approval, who also produced 2006 NetJets Mile winner Miesque’s Approval, as well as Grade 2 winner Revved Up and Grade 3 winner Za Approval.

“I think I would say they’re all late bloomers,” Weber said of the offspring from the pensioned 25-year-old mare. “And you have to have a lot of patience with them. But if you do, then you get the results. So I just wish the mare ... wasn’t quite as old as she is.”

Blackjackcat, who came into the Mile riding a four-race win streak at the distance — including the Wickerr Stakes and Grade 2 Del Mar Mile Handicap at Del Mar — came in third.

Off at 5-2 World Approval was one of the only favorites to win on the Breeders’ Cup Saturday card, an aspect Casse was more than aware of ahead of the Mile.

“I was aware of it. ... [Assistant trainer) Norman [Casse] and I were talking before we came over, and I said, ‘Sooner or later a favorite has to win, so let’s hope it’s this time.’ ”—Jeremy Balan


14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile FilliesGuided by Breeders’ Cup master Mike Smith, Caledonia Road rallied past Alluring Star in the stretch to score a 17.30-1 upset in the $2-million 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Saturday at Del Mar.

Entered off a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes on Oct. 8 at Belmont Park for trainer Ralph Nicks, Caledonia Road closed strongly to secure her first Grade 1 score, drawing off to a 3 1/4-length victory over Alluring Star.

Caledonia Road (Eclipse Sportswire)

Longshot Blonde Bomber followed home in third.

The outcome of the first of nine Breeders’ Cup races Saturday gave Nicks his first Breeders’ Cup win while Smith improved his record Breeders’ Cup win total to 26 and added to his record Breeders’ Cup purse earnings, now in excess of $35 million.

Zoom and Fish Stable, Charlie Spiring, and Newtown Anner Stud’s Caledonia Road completed the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:45.05 on a fast track.

“This filly has come into her own this fall and her timing was impeccable,” Nicks said. “This run down the stretch is kind of her style. This is my first win and it’s on my third try. It’s just amazing.”

Caledonia Road, a daughter of Quality Road , started from post 12 in the field of 13, with Frizette winner Separationofpowers as the lone horse to her outside. Caledonia Road and Smith rated in ninth through a half-mile that saw 2-1 favorite Moonshine Memories and Alluring Star duel through :46.72. On the far turn, Chandelier Stakes runner-up Alluring Star put away the favorite and soon opened a two-length lead in the stretch under Joe Talamo.

While Alluring Star was building her advantage, Caledonia Road was rolling through the far turn and sustained that move to the finish, catching Alluring Star in midstretch and drawing off to the decisive victory.

“She was dynamite. She was much more forwardly placed than I expected her to be, to be honest,” Smith said. “She was up there intent on getting into the game and running good. She was in a good rhythm, breathing well. I gave her a breather from the half-mile pole to the three-and-a half because she kind of wanted one. When I stepped on the accelerator again, man, she jumped back on it and I knew I was going to be live from that point on.”—Frank Angst


Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf: After four straight close losses in Group 1 races, Wuheida would not be denied in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, scoring by one length over Rhododendron.

A homebred for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin global breeding and racing operation, Wuheida entered Saturday’s race off a fourth-place finish — just three-quarters of a length back — in the Group 1 Longines Prix de l’Opera on Oct. 1 at Chantilly. That followed three Group 1 starts where the 3-year-old daughter of Dubawi earned two placings and finished a close fourth. Winning trainer Charlie Appleby was glad to see Wuheida carry the Godolphin blue to the winner’s circle Saturday.

“She deserves this,” Appleby said.

Lightly raced Wuheida, who closed out 2016 with a win in the Group 1 Total Prix Marcel Boussac-Criterium des Pouliches, put an end to her recent top-level skid at the Breeders’ Cup. With William Buick showing the way, Wuheida adjusted well to her first North American start, racing a ground-saving third as Zipessa led through a quarter-mile in :23.86 and a half-mile in :47.5 with Avenge tracking.

The top two held their positions through three-quarters of a mile in 1:11.42 before Wuheida came out in the stretch and surged to the lead, easily holding off a late charge from Rhododendron. The photo for third went Cambodia’s way, giving her a placing in her first Grade 1 start; with Dacita in fourth.

Wuheida completed the 1 1/8-mile race in 1:47.91.

“She is incredibly professional,” Buick said. “She has lots of ability and the trip really suited her. I was happy with her position throughout the race and she quickened down the straight really well.”

Favorite Lady Eli tracked in midpack throughout and did not fire late, finishing seventh. The daughter of Divine Park had never finished worse than second before Saturday. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. told trainer Chad Brown that Lady Eli was bumped hard in the first turn.

“She had a rough trip and did have clear spots to run, and she just didn’t have it today,” Brown said. “I don’t know if all the bumping discouraged her or she just didn’t run for some reason today. She’s never done that before obviously. It’s quite a surprise to me; it’s unfortunate, but that’s horse racing.”—Frank Angst


Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint: An aptly named runner upset the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Chester and Mary Broman’s New York-bred Bar of Gold, who had never won a graded stakes and came off a sixth-place finish last time out in the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes on Oct. 8 at Keeneland, provided her backers with a rich reward when she upset the race at odds of 66.70-1. The John Kimmel trainee was worth $135.40 for a $2 ticket.

Ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., Bar of Gold reeled in Ami’s Mesa by a nose after racing far back early on. Even-money favorite Unique Bella set the pace but tired to finish seventh.

It was the first Breeders’ Cup win for Kimmel and the third for Ortiz, who took the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf with Lady Eli and won the Filly and Mare Turf with Stephanie’s Kitten the following year.

Bar of Gold, a 5-year-old New York-bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro , finished seven furlongs in 1:22.63 on a fast track.—Claire Novak-Crosby


Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint: Home-court advantage can be a powerful thing when championships are on the line. In the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, it helped push a couple of hometown boys right over the top.

Trainer Peter Miller and owner Rockingham Ranch celebrated their first Breeders’ Cup victories in storybook fashion Saturday when 30.20-1 longshot Stormy Liberal led a 1-2 sweep for his connections, getting his head down over stablemate Richard’s Boy in the $1 million Turf Sprint as heavily favored Lady Aurelia finished 10th.

The double-trouble geldings may have produced a stunning result for the Del Mar crowd, but their efforts were fitting given Miller’s local ties. The veteran conditioner lives about 10 minutes from the seaside venue and the fact his charges could run out of their own stalls was a big catalyst behind the decision to give the pair a chance in the five-furlong race.

“I thought we had home court advantage and they ran to that,” Miller said. “I couldn’t be prouder of these horses. They’re just two gutsy, tough, hard-knocking horses.

“I’m just elated to win a Breeders’ Cup at home.”—Alicia Wincze Hughes

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