Kentucky dreams for Tepin team with Classic Empire
Report: USA, Saturday
Santa Anita: Breeders' Cup Juvenile (Grade 1) | 1m½f | dirt | 2yo colts and geldings
The Tepin team of trainer Mark Casse and jockey Julien Leparoux may have been disappointed when she was beaten, but they certainly have something to look forward to in Classic Empire, now 10-1 favourite with Coral for next year's Kentucky Derby after an impressive victory in the Juvenile.
Nyquist went on to claim the roses on the first Saturday in May after winning America's senior race for two-year-olds in 2014, and hopes will be justifiably high for a repeat performance from Classic Empire, who chased the pace before establishing a clear lead in the stretch and then valiantly fought off favourite Not This Time by a neck. In what looked a red-hot renewal, the pair were well clear of third-placed Practical Joke.
Both the first two look top-class dirt colts, and Casse admitted it had been a nail-biter.
"I thought at the top of the lane he was going to win easily but then it got pretty close," he said. "All week long Dale [Romans, trainer of the runner-up] said we were going to run one-two. I'm just glad I was the one!"
Like Triple Crown hero American Pharoah, Classic Empire is a son of Pioneerof The Nile; his owner John Oxley won the Kentucky Derby in 2001 with Monarchos.
Santa Anita: Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (Grade 1) 6½f | turf | 3yo+
No joy for Europeans as Obviously holds on
Aidan O'Brien felt Washington DC needed a step back in trip while Hugo Palmer and James Doyle felt Home Of The Brave wanted further. The outcome, however, was pretty much the same thing as neither transatlantic visitor lived up to expectations in the Turf Sprint won by front-running veteran Obviously.
Well-fancied Washington DC finished seventh in this $1 million event on Santa Anita's unique downhill turf course. "Ryan [Moore] said he's very fast so we'll go back to five with him," said O'Brien.
Godolphin representative Home Of The Brave broke well before fading after halfway and beating only three home.
"He just doesn't have the change of gear over that trip and that's why he was in the Mile and we thought about that," said trainer Palmer. "Maybe we made the wrong decision but he ran well for a long way."
It was a case of if at first you don't succeed, try, try again – and then try again – for the winner Obviously, an eight-year-old gelding who had made four previous unsuccessful attempts at the Breeders' Cup Mile after leaving original trainer Peter Fahey, for whom he had won as a three-year-old at Cork and Dundalk.
In an unusual background for a Grade 1 sprint winner, he was even schooled over hurdles before being sold to America.
After a sluggish break, he was still able to claim the lead at an early stage under Californian-based Frenchman Flavien Prat before holding on by a nose from late-charging Om, who was “wiped out at the gate” according to Gary Stevens.
Sent off 3.8-1 favourite, Obviously was the only market leader to score at this year's Breeders' Cup, and the victory was a first Breeders' win for trainer Phil D'Amato.
Santa Anita: Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (Grade 1) 7f | dirt | 3yo+ f/m
Finest City another for Smith - and a first from Kruljac
Mike Smith, the most successful rider in Breeders' Cup history, was also the most successful rider at the meeting with three winners to take his career total to 25.
Forty-five minutes before his famous Classic success on Arrogate, the 51-year-old teamed up with the least experienced trainer at the meeting in Ian Kruljac, a 28-year-old making his Cup debut who has held a licence for just over a year and had only three previous wins to his name.
All of them had come via four-year-old Finest City, and now it's four after she held last year's winner Wavell Avenue by three-quarters of a length to claim the $1m Filly & Mare Sprint.
"To get a Group 1 for a filly is everything you can do in this game, especially on this stage," said Kruljac. "There's nothing more you can dream for."
Santa Anita: Breeders' Cup Sprint (Grade 1) 6f | dirt | 3yo+
Drefeld delight for Baffert
Arrogate's trainer Bob Baffert was also among the winners earlier on the card in the Sprint, in which Drefong completed a five-timer for the Californian-based legend.
In a typically blistering contest, nothing was able to land a blow from off the pace as the three-year-old sat close to front-running favourite Masochistic before asserting a furlong out under Martin Garcia.
"What a racehorse, what a race," said Baffert, who was winning his fifth Sprint.
"He’s been getting better and better, but we didn't know how fast he was. He'd trained so well coming into this race I thought he was peaking. When I saw him in the paddock I just knew he was going to get it done."
Santa Anita: Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (Grade 1) 1m½f | dirt | 2yo fillies
Champagne a 34-1 shocker
Breeders' Cup day two began with a proper shock result as 34-1 chance Champagne Room popped to the front at the head of the stretch before holding a late bid from Valadorna by three-quarters of a length.
The winner, a first Breeders' Cup success for local trainer Peter Eurton, had been well beaten behind Saturday's rivals Noted And Quoted and With Honors at the same track a month previously.
"I had a perfect trip," said jockey Mario Gutierrez, winning his second Cup race after Nyquist's Juvenile at Keeneland in 2015. "She broke really sharp. I was able to settle behind the speed and when I asked her, she ran with all her heart."
The hard-luck story was favourite American Gal, who missed the break from her outside post and was then forced to race four wide throughout before coming third. "We broke real bad and it cost me the race," said jockey Mike Smith.