The 40th Breeders’ Cup Championship Saturday at Santa Anita on November 4 provided a bonanza for bettors who followed the favorites on day two. That did not diminish the excitement as photos were needed to confirm the result of thrilling contests.
The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile was a worthy championship opener with the current titleholder, Cody’s Wish, starting as the 4/5 favorite. Trained by Bill Mott, this five-year-old son of Curlin bred out of a Tapit mare by Godolphin beat Cyberknife a head last year. This time it took a photo to determine that he had beaten the front runner, Bob Baffert’s National Treasure (5/1). Saffie Joseph’s Skippylongstocking (12/1) finished almost four lengths behind them to take third.
Cody’s Wish was held up by Junior Alvarado as usual and closed late to win by a nose. The race was his swansong and he fulfilled the dreams of his biggest fan, the wheelchair-bound Cody Dorman after whom he is named. Cody formed a bond with the colt when he was a foal and was there to witness his final victory. Cody, 17, tragically passed away on his journey home. Cody’s Wish will stand at Jonabell Farm for a fee of $75,000.
The Filly & Mare Turf run over a mile and a quarter was another profitable race for bettors. The UK-trained Inspiral started as the 5/2 favorite for Cheveley Park with her regular jockey, Frankie Dettori on board. Saddled by John and Thady Gosden, it was the first time this daughter of Frankel out of a Selkirk mare had been tried beyond a mile. She had five top level victories on her resume but was known to be quirky and was boisterous in the preliminaries.
Chad Brown’s In Italian was most strongly fancied to challenge her at 33/10. She was runner-up in this race last year and was most recently seen filling that position in the First Lady Stakes. Drawn in the inside gate, Joel Rosario quickly took the lead on In Italian and was most closely pursued by State Occasion (56/1), another UK trainee. Mark Casse’s Fev Rover (185/10) raced in third on the outside of the Aidan O’Brien-trained Warm Heart (4/1) who wasted no ground under Ryan Moore. Inspiral was not the fastest away from the six gate and was held up on the rail towards the rear of the pack by Dettori as the half mile was covered in 46.90 seconds.
In Italian kicked for home rounding the final turn, maintaining her lead. Inspiral was six lengths off the pace and angled out, looking for space. Warm Heart found some and powered into a clear lead 150 yards from the wire but Dettori was surging forwards from out wide with Kevin Attard’s Moira (135/10) close behind him. Inspiral ran a sensational final fraction and got her head in front on the wire to beat Warm Heart a neck. A length behind them Moira took third, beating the Japanese challenger Win Marilyn (39/1) by a nose. In Italian weakened and was beaten nearly three lengths into fifth.
Inspiral galloped on so strongly after hitting the wire that Dettori took an age to pull her up. John Gosden had expressed concern about trying this distance before the race but suggested afterwards that maybe they should be running her over further.
In the seven-furlong Filly & Mare Sprint Chad Brown’s Goodnight Olive was 11/10 favorite to retain her title. This incredibly consistent five-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper out of a Smart Strike dam was set for retirement to the breeding shed after the race. She delighted her connections by winning her final start in style.
Goodnight Olive broke well but was reined back by Irad Ortiz. She took the lead two furlongs from home and cruised to victory, beating Rodolphe Brisset’s Yuugiri (26/1) almost three lengths. Saffie Joseph’s Three Witches (34/1) was a length further back in third.
Bred by Stonestreet Thoroughbreds, Goodnight Olive was purchased by First Row Partners for $170,000 as a yearling. They had to be very patient with her as she has needed surgery twice to remove bone chips from her fetlocks. She has rewarded them for it by earning over $2 million.
The Breeders’ Cup Mile on turf was a much more open contest. Godolphin’s Master Of The Seas and the Japanese trained Songline started as joint-favorites at 33/10. Trained by Charlie Appleby in the UK, Master Of The Seas lost his clear lead in the betting market after his disastrous draw in the outside gate of a field of 13 was announced. He was last seen finishing as the runner-up by the narrowest of margins in the Coolmore Turf Mile Stakes at Keeneland a month ago.
Japan’s Win Carnelian (41/1) rushed to the lead closely pursued by Astronomer (54/1) on his outside. The Godolphin second string, the Saeed Bin Suroor trained three-year-old filly Mawj (49/10), raced in third behind them on the rail under Oisin Murphy. The quarter mile was covered in a sizzling 22.16 while the hood-wearing Master Of The Seas was settled towards the rear of the pack by Will Buick, saving ground more than ten lengths off the pace.
Buick was still at the rear when he finally angled Master Of The Seas out rounding the final turn. He was forced to race extremely wide, passing the entire pack who had fanned out. He was too far back to see that Mawj had taken the lead in the stretch as the pacesetters weakened. Master Of The Seas was not featured in the television picture but responded generously to Buick’s urgings and suddenly appeared in it to cross the wire alongside Mawj. A photo was needed to confirm the result and it took some time before Master Of The Seas was announced the winner. Mawj was beaten a nose leaving Bill Mott’s Casa Creed (63/10) to take third. Songline was beaten just over a length into fifth behind Chad Brown’s fourth-placed Gina Romantica (74/10).
The five-year-old Master Of The Seas is a son of Dubawi, bred by Godolphin out of a Danehill dam. He was gelded after losing his form in his classic season giving hope that he may be back to defend his title.
Juddmonte’s giant Idiomatic standing 17 hands 2 inches was fancied to win the mile and a furlong Breeders’ Cup Distaff for three-year-old and older fillies & mares and was sent off as the 9/5 favorite. Trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Florent Geroux, this daughter of Curlin can be feisty but was unexpectedly composed in the preliminaries.
Idiomatic usually wins from the front but she allowed Geroux to settle her on the shoulder of the pace-setting Randomized (8/1) who carried the white and red silks of Klaravich Stables. She took the lead a furlong from home and held on to it bravely as Randomized battled to regain it. Idiomatic beat her half a length leaving Le Da Vida (166/10) in third ahead of Clairiere (16/5). She provided Juddmonte with their first Distaff victory.
The highlight in terms of the quality of horses in the pack was the Breeders’ Cup Turf run over a mile and a half. Ireland’s Aidan O’Brien saddled the 9/4 favorite, the Epsom Derby winner Auguste Rodin. This stunning dark brown son of Deep Impact out of one of Coolmore’s best Galileo mares, Rhododendron, is incredibly talented but is not the most reliable. He was fitted with a cross noseband to win his most recent start in the Irish Champion Stakes in September after flopping at Ascot in July in the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. He started as the favorite and finished last for no obviously apparent reason.
The cross noseband was on again and O’Brien gained his seventh win in the race and his 18th Breeders’ Cup victory. His jockey Ryan Moore immediately received accolades for his superb ride. He corrected the view that he gave the horse the perfect trip as they got squeezed as they crossed the dirt. He had to take a pull and found himself towards the rear of the pack but kept calm and close to the rail.
Nerves of steel were required to maintain that position. Moore gradually improved his placing without wasting ground and waited until the leader, Balladeer (64/1), drifted slightly wide of the rail providing a small gap for Auguste Rodin. He hit the front late in the stretch leaving Todd Pletcher’s Up To The Mark (17/5) three quarters of a length behind him. The Japanese-trained Shahryar (25/1) took third under Cristian Demuro.
Not known to show emotion after winning top races, Moore smiled broadly when interviewed after this one. He was full of praise for his horse as he switched off when most of the pack were ahead of him. Auguste Rodin had been working so well on the dirt at Santa Anita that connections have not ruled out the Classic – and it has been announced that he will stay in training next year.
In contrast the Breeders’ Cup Classic run over a mile and a quarter was not the strongest renewal. Rick Dutrow’s White Abarrio was ultimately more popular with bettors at 13/5 than the former favorite, Baffert’s Arabian Knight who was sent off at 17/5 with the stateside racebooks. Dutrow has managed to come back after a ten-year ban for multiple medication violations, starting training again in February. His jockey Irad Ortiz had tears of joy after the race. Dutrow was similarly emotional, saying it was unbelievable.
Arabian Knight was rushed up to take the lead early as usual, Saudi Crown (7/1) took second leaving White Abarrio to race behind them on the rail in third under Ortiz. He angled out approaching the turn for home and gradually eased past the leading pair who weakened. Japan’s Derma Sotogake (26/1) was beaten a length in second. Michael Stidham’s Proxy (17/1) took third for Godolphin, a neck in front of Arabian Knight.
Favorite Fails in Turf Sprint
The reigning five-furlong Turf Sprint champion Caravel sprang a surprise last year at 43/1 but was the third choice of bettors to retain his title at 23/5. Philip D’Amato’s Motorious started favorite at 3/1 having won the grade 3 Green Flash Handicap at this track two months ago. The UK trained rags-to-riches horse, Live In The Dream, was fancied by many to provide a fairytale ending for his connections at 42/10.
Adam West’s Live In The Dream broke well and took the lead and grabbed the rail under Sean Kirrane as usual but was headed in the final 100 yards. It was the only gelding in the race, the appropriately named Nobals (12/1), a five-year-old son of Noble Mission trained by Larry Rivelli who managed to make up ground late on the rail to win. Live In The Dream had drifted away from it when the gas was running low.
Nobals’ jockey Gerardo Corrales was credited with giving him a ‘Ryan Moore ride’. He had to be patient when he found himself further back than planned and was followed by Joel Rosario on Christophe Clement’s Big Invasion (124/10) who took second. O’Brien’s Aesop’s Fables (10/1) was third ahead of Live In The Dream and Motorious in that order.
Championship Saturday Bettors’ Paradise
The Breeders’ Cup is often a graveyard for favorites but eight of the nine 2023 Breeders’ Cup Championship races were won by them, delighting the majority of bettors. There was no shortage of excitement as winning margins were often minimal and there were some spectacular performances by horses and jockeys. The 40th Breeders Cup was the best one for bettors in years.