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The 32nd running of the Breeders’ Cup took place at Keeneland for the first time in the World Championships history. Lexington, Kentucky had been hit by inclement weather on the run-up to the 2015 event, but the anticipation and buzz surrounding AMERICAN PHAROAH's swansong was not at all dampened.
How could it, the son of Pioneer of the Nile had become just the 12th winner of the American Triple Crown and only the first since Affirmed in 1978. The American racing public had another true champion to celebrate and they did just that.
Despite suffering an astonishing defeat in the Travers Stakes – a race run at Saratoga, known as the "graveyard of champions" – in his Breeders’ Cup prep, Bob Baffert’s charge would make no mistake in winning the Classic by an easy 6 ½ lengths.
Into stride quickly under Victor Espinoza, the strapping colt raced with his ears pricked throughout before recording what many handicappers believe to be his career best. Seven Grade 1 winners in Effinex (2nd), Honor Code (3rd), Keen Ice (4th), Tonalist (5th), Hard Aces (6th), Frosted (7th) never stood a chance. Europe’s hope, Gleneagles was last of the eight-strong field.
American Pharoah's $5 million Classic win saw him become the first in history to complete the Grand Slam having already bagged a brilliant Triple Crown of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
Europe had their own champion middle-distance horse running, a mere 45 minutes before American Pharoah, in the Turf. John Gosden’s Golden Horn was a Derby, Coral-Eclipse, Irish Champions Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hero in his four Grade 1 triumphs at three, but couldn’t reproduce his French victory 27 days later as he was gunned down late on the rain-affected ground by the gallant filly FOUND.
The field ignored runaway leader Shining Copper early as Ryan Moore tracked Frankie Dettori on Golden Horn into the straight. He produced the game filly half-way up the straight to give Aidan O’Brien his fifth Turf win.
Found would be Europe’s only winner of the evening after David Wachman’s Legatissimo suffered a shock reverse in the Filly And Mare Turf, another euro runner to not produce her best on rain-softened sod while a stumble out the gates not helping her cause.
STEPHAINE'S KITTEN would make it a smart last-to-first victory however, quickening smartly having entertained a dream-run down the inner into the stretch.
In contrasting fashion, TEPIN would win the Turf Mile – beating a whole host of Euro raiders - having sat an ideally-placed second throughout under Julien Leparoux before producing a facile 2 ¼ lengths win. She would beat Europe’s Mondialiste and a star was born.
Another brilliant horse of the fairer sex announced herself in the card’s opener, the Juvenile Fillies. SONGBIRD was breath-taking in her 5 ¾ romp under Mike Smith for Jerry Hollendorfer while the male equivalent, the Juvenile, went the way of a subsequent Kentucky Derby winner NYQUIST for the Doug O’Neill team.
The only trainer to land a double on Breeders’ Cup Saturday was Chad Brown. Brown once again showed his ability in handling fillies as he produced WAVELL AVENUE to win in the Filly And Mare Sprint, just 45 minutes before Stephanie's Kitten’s success.
The aptly-named MONGOLIAN SATURDAY won the Turf Sprint for Mongolian trainer Enebish Ganbat. He was the biggest shock of the evening as Florent Geroux guided him to a neck victory.
Switching surfaces but not disciplines, favourite backers were in better spirits with RUNHAPPY winning the Sprint in game fashion under Edgar Prado.
Friday night’s highlight, the Distaff, went the way of STOPCHARGINGMARIA for the Todd Pletcher and Javier Castellano team. In a thrilling finish, a half-dozen fillies had chances entering the straight, but the two horses that swung widest, Stopchargingmaria and Stellar Wind, battled it out with the pair pulling clear and the former winning by a gritty neck.
A neck was the official margin of victory for HIT IT A BOMB’s brilliant Juvenile Turf success. Third-last entering the stretch-run it looked like he had a mountain to climb, but was galvanised by Ryan Moore to score in a scintillating finish where Europe also took third spot (Birchwood).
A similar prominent show was excepted from Euro horses in the fairer sex version, the Juvenile Fillies Turf, but favourite Alice Springs came unstuck against the Mark Casse-trained CATCH A GLIMPSE who was positioned perfectly throughout by Florent Geroux. The Jeremy Noseda filly Nemoralia flew home for a sound third to give Europe two-placed runners.
Todd Pletcher and Javier Castellano doubled-up on the Friday night when their LIAM'S MAP was a ready 2 ½ lengths winner of the Dirt Mile.
|Classic||American Pharoah||3||Victor Espinoza||Bob Baffert||US|
|Turf||Found||3||R L Moore||A P O'Brien||IRE|
|Sprint||Runhappy||3||Edgar Prado||Maria Borell||US|
|Mile||Tepin||4||J R Leparoux||Mark Casse||US|
|Juvenile||Nyquist||2||Mario Gutierrez||Doug O'Neill||US|
|Turf Sprint||Mongolian Saturday||5||Florent Geroux||Enebish Ganbat||US|
|Filly And Mare Sprint||Wavell Avenue||4||Joel Rosario||Chad Brown||US|
|Filly And Mare Turf||Stephanie's Kitten||6||Irad Ortiz Jr||Chad Brown||US|
|Juvenile Fillies||Songbird||2||Mike Smith||Jerry Hollendorfer||US|
|Distaff||Stopchargingmaria||4||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||US|
|Juvenile Fillies Turf||Catch A Glimpse||2||Florent Geroux||Mark Casse||US|
|Dirt Mile||Liam's Map||4||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||US|
|Juvenile Turf||Hit It A Bomb||2||R L Moore||A P O'Brien||IRE|