Stars of Yesterday: Looking Back at Best Arkansas Derby Winners
For many years, the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Dubai World Cup reigned as the two richest dirt races in the world. Winning both has been the mark of a great horse; only five horses have achieved the feat, and three of them are members of Racing’s Hall of Fame, including the amazing international traveler Invasor.
Bred in Argentina and born in 2002, Invasor’s ancestors hailed from all over the world. His sire, Candy Stripes, was born in the United States but was a son of the French-bred stallion Blushing Groom. Furthermore, Invasor’s dam, Quendom, was an Argentinean-bred with Argentinean ancestors of her own, and farther back in Invasor’s pedigree were horses that hailed from Great Britain and France.
Yet for all of these international influences, Invasor did not begin his racing career in the United States, Argentina, or even Europe. Instead, he got started in 2005 at Maronas racetrack in Uruguay, where he won his debut by an eye-catching 6 ¾ lengths.
That was only the tip of the iceberg.
Showcasing remarkable talent and versatility, Invasor swept through his next four races like a whirlwind, winning them all by a minimum of 2 ½ lengths while handling longer distances, tougher competition, and even a muddy track on one occasion. By winning the Uruguayan Two Thousand Guineas, the Gran Premio Jockey Club, and the Uruguayan Derby, Invasor successfully completed a sweep of the Uruguayan Triple Crown.
Invasor’s achievements soon caught the attention of Shadwell Stable, which purchased the unbeaten colt for $1.5 million and transferred him from trainer Anibal San Martin to Kiaran McLaughlin. In his first race outside of Uruguay, Invasor disappointed when fourth in the UAE Derby at Nad Al Sheba in Dubai, but the disappointment was temporary. As things would turn out, the UAE Derby would mark Invasor’s only defeat.
Two months later, Invasor made his U.S. debut in the historic Pimlico Special Handicap and rallied powerfully in the stretch to win by 1 ¼ lengths. He was even better in the Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park, pulling away from his rivals to win by an easy 4 ¼ lengths. He then he showed off his courage in the Whitney Handicap, overcoming a stumble at the start to win by a hard-fought nose.
But the biggest race of his career — the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs — was still to come. Invasor’s preparations didn’t go as smoothly as hoped; plans to run Invasor in the Jockey Club Gold Cup had to be scrapped when the colt developed a fever, meaning that Invasor would enter the Classic having not raced in nearly three months.
Yet despite facing a terrific field that included Preakness Stakes winner Bernardini and California superstar Lava Man, Invasor prevailed. Racing much farther off the pace than usual, Invasor unleashed a huge rally around the far turn then kept on surging in the homestretch to reel in Bernardini and triumph by a length.
Unfortunately, the Dubai World Cup would be Invasor’s last race. While training for a repeat bid in the Suburban Handicap, Invasor injured his right hind ankle during a workout and was retired to Shadwell Farm to begin his stallion career. As a sire, he achieved mild success from limited opportunities, with Ausus, winner of the 2013 Modesty Handicap, among his most successful foals.
Nowadays, Invasor resides as a stallion at Haras Cuatro Piedras in Uruguay, located just a half-hour away from Maronas Racetrack, where Invasor first lit up the racing world with his brilliance. More than 15 years after his U.S. exploits earned him Horse of the Year, he’s back home again, and remains a living legend.
Note: This story was originally published in October 2016 and has been updated.
- Invasor retired with a record of 11 wins from 12 starts and earnings of $7,804,070. His impressive total currently ranks him 19th among the highest-earning horses to ever race in North America; at the time of his retirement he was ranked fourth, below only Cigar, Skip Away, and Fantastic Light.
- Invasor won nine top-level Grade/Group 1 races during his career; three in Uruguay, five in the United States, and one in Dubai.
- Heading into the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic, Invasor wasn’t favored to win the Classic or Horse of the Year honors — Bernardini and Lava Man had both compiled impressive records and were the preferred choices, but when Invasor beat them both in the Classic, he was an undeniable choice for Horse of the Year, a huge rise given that he had started the year by finishing fourth in the UAE Derby.
- Invasor’s clocking of 1:59.97 in the 2007 Dubai World Cup is the second-fastest winning time in the history of the race.
- Invasor was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2013.