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Breeders Cup had exciting races

Keeneland race track in Lexington, Kentucky, hosted the 37th annual Breeders Cup Championships last weekend. Many of the top horses in the world competed, resulting in a combination of record-setting performances, long-shot winners and short-priced favorites.

Friday’s racing featured the 2 year olds (juveniles). There were five juvenile races with the first being a Grade 2 and the remaining four being G1s. Both 1 1/16th mile races each had $2 million purses and the other three had $1 million each on the line.

Recapping Friday, the first juvenile race was the G2 Turf Sprint at 5.5 furlongs. Heavy favorite Golden Pal broke like a shot out of the starting gate, blazing the first quarter mile in 21.65 seconds. Although he lead from start to finish, he did tire late, but still prevailed by three-fourths of a length. Cowan, who was mid pack throughout, closed strongly to get up for second, followed by slow breaking Irish bred Ubettabelieveit, who finished a length back in third.

The first upset of the day came in the one-mile juvenile turf. American bred Fire At Will (30-1 odds) got a garden trip from just off the early pace while saving ground along the rail around both turns. Angled out in upper stretch, he drew clear of the early leader Outadore and won by three lengths. Favored Battleground, who got a poor start and was 11th after the first quarter mile and was at least three wide around both turns, swung even wider down the home stretch to beat out Outadore by a neck for second. Although eight of the 14 starters were European breds, their best finish was Cadillac (Ireland), who came in fourth.

Vequist won the 1 1/16th juvenile fillies, out kicking early leader, Dayoutoftheoffice, to win by two lengths in a very respectable 1:42.30. She benefitted from a rail skimming ride by veteran jockey Joel Rosario. Girldaddy stalked the early pace, and just missed second by a nose to Dayoutoftheoffice, but did nose out Simply Ravishing to take third.

Favored Aunt Pearl, an Irish bred, lead from start to finish to win the one mile juvenile turf by 2 1/2 lengths. Two more Irish breds — Mother Earth and Miss Amulet — finished second and third, respectively. These Irish invaders cemented the long-held belief that European breds going a route of ground (i.e. not sprinting) on the turf deserve to be favored against American bred horses, who are more likely to win on the dirt surface or when sprinting.

Essential Quality remained undefeated, winning his second G1 and third win in his brief career in the 1 1/16th mile juvenile, likely earning the Male Eclipse Juvenile Award in the process. As the second betting choice, Essential Quality will be the early favorite for the 2021 Kentucky Derby, which is scheduled to return to its normal first Saturday in May slot next year.

Long shots Hot Rod Charlie (94-1) and Keepmeinmind (30-1) finished second and third, respectively. Short-priced favorite Jackie’s Warrior, who was prominent early, tired to finish fourth. The top four finishers were all within 3 1/4 lengths of each other when the winner crossed the finish line.

Saturday was filled with nine more Breeders Cup races, culminating in the BC Classic. Kentucky Derby winner Authentic lead from gate to wire, setting a course record for the 1 1/4 mile distance in the process. He was initially timed in 1:59.19, but upon review it was adjusted to 1:59.60, which still broke the old track record set by American Pharoah in 2015.

He finished 2 1/4 lengths in front of slight betting favorite Improbable, who had a much wider trip around both turns, possibly costing him the victory. Longshot Global Campaign held third, followed by Tacitus, Maximum Security, Tiz The Law, and four others.

Unfortunately for racing fans, Authentic was then retired to stud, so we will not get to see him race again. As for the others, we can only hope that they compete for another year.

Monomoy Girl won her second BC Distaff, winning for the 13th time in 15 career starts, with seven wins being Grade Ones. The anticipated dual with outstanding filly Swiss Skydiver — who had beaten Authentic in the Preakness last month — never materialized. Swiss Skydiver stumbled at the start, scraping her lower front leg in the process. Although she made a middle move to get in contention, the irritation from the sandy dirt surface was probably too much to overcome.

“Old man” Whitmore, age 7, finally won the BC Sprint after three consecutive near misses. With only a quarter of a mile to go and still in ninth place in the 3/4 mile race, Whitmore closed strongly to beat the other 13 entries by over three lengths. Because he is a gelding (neutered male), we could see him race again as an 8-year-old. Although 8 is not old for a normal horse, it is getting “long of tooth” for a race horse. Whitmore now has 15 wins, 11 second-place finishes and three third-place finishes in 38 career starts with over $4 million in earnings.

C Z Rocket, who was always racing near the front, held second by a neck over rapidly closing Firenze Fire, who was still 11th with only 1/4 mile to the finish line.

Knicks Go set the Keeneland track record in the dirt mile, winning as the favorite in 1:33.85. Gamine won the Filly and Mare Sprint, covering the seven-furlong distance and also setting a new track record with a time of 1:20.20. She beat her rivals, Serengeti Empress and Bell’s The One, by over six lengths in the process.

European invaders won the four turf races on Saturday, including 73-1 longshot, Order of Australia (Ireland) in the turf mile. Audarya (France), won the 1 3/16th mile, Filly and Mare Turf; Tamawa (Ireland) won the 1 1/2 mile Turf; and Glass Slippers (Great Britain) proved there is an exception to every rule by winning the 5.5 furlong, turf sprint.

And down the stretch they come!

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