A Homecoming for the Ages
"It is an amazing day today," says the 'world's biggest American Pharoah fan, Victor, "He is going to lap the field today, just lap them. The Zayats have been nice enough to share with us, the horse racing community, and I thank them by giving back posting pictures, kissing babies, shaking hands, etc." he said with a laugh.
Runhappy in the paddock prior to his dominating victory in the Twinspires Breeder's Cup Sprint, Edgar Prado up.
Triple Crown winner American Pharoah heading to the track before his victory in the Breeder's Cup Classic, Victor Espinoza up.
Grand Slam winner American Pharoah is paraded for the Keeneland crowd by jockey Victor Espinoza after his legendary performance in the Breeder's Cup Classic.
Stephanie's Kitten, Irad Ortiz Jr. up, heads to the track before her victory in the Filly and Mare Turf.
By Grace C. Clark
The 2015 Breeder’s Cup World Championships saw a homecoming unlike any other, with hundreds of competitors returning to the state, and even city in which they were born, Lexington, Kentucky. Dubbed a “celebration of racing and breeding at its highest level,” by Keeneland President Bill Thomason, Keeneland Racecourse brought to life the spirit of racing by hosting the Breeders’ Cup for the first time, October 30-31, and set the stage for two stupendous days of racing. Over 95,000 fans attended the event across the two days, bringing together everyone from racing’s youngest fans to some of its most famous. The Breeder’s Cup World Championships consisted of 13 races, with over $26 million dollars awarded in purses.
Friday’s races included the Juvenile Turf, won by Hit a Bomb, under jockey Ryan Moore. The two-year-old colt completed the mile in 1:38.86 for owner Mrs. Evelyn Shockwell, and trainer Aiden O’ Brien. The Las Vegas Dirt Mile had an incredibly deep field, with Liam’s Map, sent off at odds of 1-2, coming off of the pace to win by 2 ½ lengths under jockey Javier Castellano. The four-year-old colt completed the mile in 1:34.54, setting a new track record for trainer Todd Pletcher and owners Teresa Viola Racing Stables and West Point Thoroughbreds. The Juvenile Fillies Turf gave trainer Mark Casse his first Breeder’s Cup champion in Catch A Glimpse, who won the mile race in 1:39.08 under jockey Florent Geroux for owners Gary Barber, Michael Ambler, and Jeff Begg of Windways Farm. The Longines Distaff was the final race of Championship Friday. Stopchargingmaria, for owner Town and Country Farms and trainer Todd Pletcher, won the mile and an eighth race in 1.48.98 under jockey Javier Castellano.
The Breeders’ Cup Championship on Saturday began with the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The favorite, Songbird, ridden by Mike Smith for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and owner Fox Hill Farms, dominated the field to win by 5 ¾ lengths in a time of 1:42.73 for the mile and sixteenths, even faster than the winner of the Juvenile, Nyquist.
The second Breeders’ Cup race on the card, the Twin Spires Turf Sprint, had a full field of 14 horses lined up for the five and a half furlong sprint. The 16-1 long shot, Mongolian Saturday, under jockey Florent Geroux, stayed at the neck of leader Ready for Rye before taking the lead at the top of the stretch, and tenaciously fought Lady Shipman to win the $1,000,000 race by a neck for owner Mongolian Stable and trainer Enebish Ganbat.
The last time Wavell Avenue and La Verdad met, La Verdad was the victor as the pace-setter in the Gallant Bloom Stakes at Belmont Park. But the prior race was run at 6 ½ furlongs, and the added furlong in the TwinSpires Filly and Mare Sprint proved beneficial to closer Wavell Avenue. Under jockey Joel Rosario, Wavell Avenue was held off a stellar pace set by La Verdad, to overcome the mare by 1 ¾ lengths at the finish. “Avenue” finished in a time of 1:22.39 for trainer Chad Brown and owners M. Dubb, D. Simon, Head of Plains Partners LLC, and Bethlehem Stables LLC.
Stephanie’s Kitten, owned and bred by multi-Breeders’ Cup champions Ken and Sarah Ramsey, entered her final race in the Filly and Mare Turf at odds of 8-1. The six year old Kitten’s Joy mare exited her swansong victorious under jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., winning the mile and three sixteenths race in 1:56.22 for trainer Chad Brown.
Runhappy, star of one of the most feel good stories in racing this year with trainer Maria Borell, entered the TwinSpires Sprint as the solid favorite. The three year old Super Saver colt did not disappoint, stalking the pace in a perfect trip by jockey Edgar Prado, and dominating the field in the final furlong to draw away by 1 ¾ lengths. Runhappy completed the six furlongs in 1:08.58 for owner James McIngvale.
The Mile was one of the most action-packed races out of the entire 2015 World Championships. Tepin, after absolutely dominating her female competition, was taking a shot at the boys, and female European champions, in the turf race. Included in her foes were defending Mile champion, Karakontie, and Shadwell Turf Mile winner Grand Arch. The four year old mare was three wide when she made a commanding move before proceeding to win by 2 ¼ lengths in a time of 1:36.69 under jockey Julien Leparoux. Tepin gave trainer Mark Casse his second Breeders’ Cup win, and owner Robert Masterson his first.
The Sentient Jet Juvenile causes visions of the First Saturday in May, and victor Nyquist evoked memories of Derby’s past. Trained by Doug O Neill, owned by Reddam Racing, and and ridden by Mario Gutierrez, the colt’s connections are the same as those of 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, I’ll Have Another. He likely sealed the two-year-old colt championship, winning the mile and one sixteenth route in 1:43.79, even after having a rough start.
The Breeders’ Cup is one of the few times a year International horses and their American counterparts meet. The Longines Turf typically has the largest contingency of European competitors, due to the fact it is run on the European surface of choice, and its mile and a half distance. Golden Horn, winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in France earlier this year, entered as the favorite, but was overcome by fellow European, Found, in the final furlong. The three year old Galileo filly won by half a length for owners Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Mrs. John Magnier, and trainer Aiden O’ Brien. She covered the mile and a half in 2:32.06 under jockey Ryan Moore.
Breeders’ Cup Classic
As American Pharoah sashayed into the paddock for the final time, memories of this once in a lifetime horse flooded the 50,000+ fans watching in person at Keeneland Racecourse, and millions more around the country. The bay colt took America on a journey the likes of which hadn’t been experienced in 37 years, and on a brisk October Saturday at Keeneland, American Pharoah capped off his career in a way not even fellow Triple Crown winners Whirlaway, Affirmed, Citation, and even Secretariat, can say they did.
“Pharoah” faced a field of seven other horses, including Belmont Stakes winner, Tonalist, and one of only two horses to ever finish in front of Pharoah: Keen Ice, in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the final race of the 2015 World Championships. The Triple Crown winning colt was sent off as the heavy favorite at 6/5, and as in nearly every one of his prior races, Pharoah did not disappoint. Followed by the cheers of over 50,000 fans, American Pharoah broke on the lead and never looked back. At the top of the stretch, after setting a reasonable pace that only slowed as he went on, jockey Victor Espinoza turned on the afterburners and American Pharoah broke away from the field, winning in gallant fashion by 6 ½ lengths, setting a track record of 2:00.07 for the mile and a quarter.
In winning the Classic, American Pharoah became the first winner of the Grand Slam of horse racing: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, and Breeder’s Cup Classic. As if he hadn’t already cemented his place as one of the greatest horses of all time, Pharoah exemplified his greatness with his Breeders’ Cup victory, and the many who saw his feat will not let him slip from their mind anytime soon.
Find more information about the Breeders’ Cup at: www.breederscup.com.
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