DEL MAR, Calif. – Perhaps it is only fitting that a man renowned for his ability to discover diamonds should land on the right jockey with a $2 million purse at stake in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
Charles Fipke, owner of Forever Unbridled, was questioned for making a late change before the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff when he dropped Joel Rosario for John Velazquez. The move raised eyebrows because Rosario had guided the 5-year-old mare to victory in both of her starts this year.
There can be no doubting the result.
Fipke said of the difficulty of winning any Breeders’ Cup race, “Everything has to be the best. You have to make sure you don’t mess up anywhere.”
In this case, Fipke decided that meant reaching an uncommon decision. Rosario had been aboard Forever Unbridled for six consecutive starts. Trainer Dallas Stewart had not given Velazquez a leg up on her since April 15 of last year, when they rolled to a 2 ¼-length victory in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.
Yet the move to Velazquez proved to be seamless as he won with Forever Unbridled for the third time in as many tries.
“The whole key was I wanted to save ground on the first turn and I was able to do that,” Velazquez said. “I got her in a comfortable position where I thought she was going well.”
Velazquez bided his time in sixth while Champagne Room set the pace with Paradise Woods right behind. When Velazquez prompted his mount to go with half a mile remaining in the 1 1/8-mile contest, she responded in a big way.
Abel Tasman, last in the early going, staged a prolonged rally but could not quite get there.
“She tried hard and ran her race,” said Bob Baffert, Abel Tasman’s trainer. “She just got beat by a really good filly.”
Fipke deserves much of the credit for the quality of his homebred. He went to $2.5 million to purchase Lemons Forever, the dam of Forever Unbridled, at Keeneland’s November breeding stock sale in 2007 and ultimately sent her to Unbridled’s Song.
Fipke said of his pursuit of Lemons Forever, “I got sold on the pedigree, and then when I saw her, I got sold again. I couldn’t even stop on the bidding. I had to have her. And here we are.”
Forever Unbridled finished third in the Distaff last year at Santa Anita with Rosario in the irons. Although she acquitted herself well, she was never a serious threat as Beholder eked out a nose victory against Songbird after a torrid stretch duel.
Forever Unbridled got a late start this season due to arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone chip from her left front ankle. She launched a five-wide move to take the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap by a length and three-quarters on June 17 at Churchill Downs. Rosario kept her extremely wide but also wisely well out of view from front-running Songbird in surprising her by a neck in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 26.
Before the Distaff, Del Mar stewards ruled that Rosario had the call on the mount from Stewart, meaning Fipke must pay both riders based on the winner’s $1.1 million share of the purse.
Forever Unbridled covered the mile and an eighth in 1:50.25.
In an interesting post-race development, Fipke indicated that he will seriously consider running Forever Unbridled against males in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes on Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park.
“I don’t know how she’ll stack up against the colts,” Fipke said, noting that he would wait to see how the Pegasus field develops before possibly negotiating to obtain a slot in the starting gate.
For Fipke, the fun with Forever Unbridled may be just beginning.