George Krikorian has enjoyed top-level success in horse racing, but in the first 10 months of 2023 a Grade 1 win had eluded the owner.
That continued to be the case as of 1:43 p.m. ET Oct. 7, but by 2:18 p.m. that day, Krikorian had claimed two Grade 1 wins. And after that change of fortune in a New York minute on a gray day at Aqueduct, Krikorian extended his roll Nov. 3 when on the other side of the country one of those two winners, homebred Just F Y I, pressured favorite Tamara throughout the early going before proving resolute in the stretch to win the $2 million NetJets Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Nov. 3 at Santa Anita Park as part of the Future Stars Friday card showcasing 2-year-old Thoroughbreds.
“It’s incredible to have won three Grade 1 races,” said Krikorian, who has the other horse from that day at Aqueduct, War Like Goddess, entered against males in the Nov. 4 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf. “It’s just been incredible.”
Much of the pre-race attention in the Juvenile Fillies focused on 4-5 Tamara, a daughter of Bolt d’Oro out of Breeders’ Cup legend Beholder, who captured the 2012 edition of the Juvenile Fillies on her way to three victories in the World Championships. Tamara broke well under Mike Smith, the leading rider in Breeders’ Cup history with 27 wins who at age 58 was looking to become the oldest jockey to win a World Championships race.
After breaking from post 7, Tamara was able to clear and gradually move inside through the first turn as she completed a quarter-mile in :22.47. But Just F Y I and jockey Junior Alvarado, after breaking from post 12, stayed close while pressing the early leader through a half-mile in :46.60 before turning up the pressure through six furlongs in 1:10.95.
Just F Y I, the 7-1 third betting choice in the field, would take command inside the three-sixteenths pole as Tamara faded. After opening a clear advantage, Just F Y I had just enough to hold off Matron Stakes winner Jody’s Pride, sent off at odds of 17.80-1. Just F Y I prevailed by a neck in a battle of daughters of Triple Crown winners as Just F Y I is by Justify, who swept the classics in 2018, and Jody’s Pride is by American Pharoah, who entered that exclusive club in 2015.
In completing 1 1/16 miles in :1.44.58 on a fast track, Just F Y I earned her second straight Grade 1 win after taking the Frizette Stakes in the slop at the Belmont at the Big A meeting Oct. 7. She has three wins in as many starts after winning on debut going seven furlongs Aug. 26 at Saratoga Race Course.
“It’s pretty unusual for a horse to win a Grade 1 off of just one maiden race,” trainer Bill Mott said. “She showed us she could do it; we didn’t force her. She just showed that she was ready to run and we felt like as well as she had run, that she deserved a shot in the Frizette and it paid off.”
Winning rider Alvarado said his confidence grew as Just F Y I engaged Tamara.
“By the half-mile pole I was excited. I knew what I had under me,” Alvarado said. “But I had to respect (Tamara). She’s a very nice filly too. At that point I thought I had a good chance at it. Right when I turned for home and I asked her, she took off very nicely and held off all the way to the wire.”
Tamara faded to seventh. “We’ll have to back up and give her a little chance to catch up, start over again. Simple as that,” said trainer Richard Mandella.
Just F Y I is out of stakes-placed Star Act, by Street Cry, who has produced three winners from as many starters. Star Act is a daughter of Starrer, a two-time Grade 1 winner for Krikorian.
Just F Y I is the first Breeders’ Cup winner for Justify, who saw his second winner a race later when Hard to Justify won the Juvenile Fillies.–Frank Angst
Unquestionable Tops O’Brien Exacta in Juvenile Turf
In the final Future Stars Friday race on Nov. 3, Unquestionable stalked the leaders and hit the front at the sixteenth pole before notching a 1 ½-length win in the Prevagen Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Mountain Bear made a big run from the back to get second, completing an Aidan O’Brien-trained exacta.
Unquestionable, with Ryan Moore aboard, completed one mile on a firm Santa Anita turf course in 1:33.65 and paid $5 to win as the 3-2 favorite.
Immediately after the race, Mountain Bear was vanned off due to a “non-displaced condylar fracture” but O’Brien said the No Nay Never colt was expected to fully recover and race next year.
”He’s a very tough horse who we’ve always had a lot of faith in,” O’Brien said. “Ryan gave him an unbelievable ride in a great position from an early stage from a tough draw. He won very well in the end and I’m delighted. He did everything right in the preparations going into the race so for him to go and win is brilliant.”
Owned by Al Shaqab Racing, Westerberg, Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, Unquestionable improved his career record to two wins in six starts with $671,394 in earnings. He shipped to the U.S. off of a runner-up finish by a length in the Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere Grand Criterium Oct. 1 at Longchamp.–Bob Ehalt
Trainer Chad Brown Gets Sixth Juvenile Fillies Turf Win with Hard to Justify
Hard to Justify gave sire Justify a second Breeders’ Cup winner for Future Stars Friday when she posted a half-length victory in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, and also handed trainer Chad Brown another win in the race, extending his career total to six.
Breaking from the 12 hole, jockey Flavien Prat angled Hard to Justify over early and hustled her past the frontrunning Dreamfyre turning for home. Hard to Justify surged down the lane to score in a tight finish over Porta Fortuna to her inside and She Feels Pretty on her outside.
Campaigned by Wise Racing, Hard to Justify raced the mile on a firm turf course in 1:34.42 as the 9.10-1 fifth betting choice.
“She’s a very progressive horse who has proven she can overcome trouble,” Brown said. “She’s really very advanced for her age, mentally, and had that physical toughness to overcome a brutal trip in her first race, making a couple different runs during the race to get up.
“In her second race (the Grade 2 Miss Grillo Stakes), she was forward and was always there for Flavien. He was excited to ride her here and liked her chances in the race.”
The 2-year-old filly improved her record to a perfect 3-for-3 and won her second stakes following the Miss Grillo. Brown’s first five wins in the Juvenile Fillies Turf came with Maram (2008), Lady Eli (2014), Stephanie’s Kitten (2015), New Money Honey (2016), and Rushing Fall (2017).
Porta Fortuna edged She Feels Pretty by a head for second.–Joe Perez
Big Evs Holds On to Win Juvenile Turf Sprint
Tracking a hot pace set by Royal Ascot winner Crimson Advocate, Big Evs took over down the lane and held off the furious late rush off Valiant Force to win by a half-length. Starlust got up for third in a blanket finish for the show.
“I can’t believe it. He’s been an absolute superstar all year and to come here and put in a performance like that is unreal,” Appleby said. “Going into the race I thought he had an outstanding chance, and when (jockey) Tom (Marquand) rode him in a breeze earlier in the week he couldn’t have been more bullish.
“We’ll enjoy it as it’s a dream to be here never mind go and win. Hopefully he comes out the race in good order then we’ll make a plan for next season. He really is a horse of a lifetime for us. I can’t thank the team at home enough for all their hard work.”
The 2-year-old son of Blue Point returned $8.40 for a $2 win ticket as the 3.20-1 second betting choice.–Tracy Gantz