Authentic's Breeders' Cup Classic
Baffert-trained Kentucky Derby winner leads all the way to beat stablemate Improbable in $8m race
Authentic won the US$6 million (S$8 million) Breeders' Cup Classic as trainer Bob Baffert capped a troubled 2020 with two victories at Keeneland, where European raiders won all four turf races yesterday morning (Singapore time) in sometimes sensational style.
Baffert's Kentucky Derby winner Authentic was a wire-to-wire winner in the Classic under John Velazquez.
He cruised to his third Grade 1 victory over elder stablemate Improbable in the marquee event of the 14-race, US$30 million Breeders' Cup slate at the Keeneland track in Lexington, Kentucky.
There were no fans in attendance, but the coronavirus pandemic did not stop a determined contingent of more than two dozen runners from Europe, who came up big after being shut out in the previous day's five races.
Order Of Australia, a 73-1 longshot was in the US$2 million Mile only after One Master was scratched because of injury.
He led a sweep for Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien under jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot, who was aboard only because Christophe Soumillon tested positive for Covid-19 last week.
Boudot made the most of his chance, grabbing his second win of the day, after Audarya in the Filly & Mare Turf, a mount he inherited after Ioritz Mendizabal was unable to make the trip from Europe because of a positive coronavirus test.
"It's just unbelievable," Boudot said. "It's a dream come true for me. It is my first win during the Breeders' Cup week with Audarya. I had an opportunity because Ioritz had a positive test of Covid and his trainer gave me this fabulous mare ..."
Order Of Australia broke from the outside post and was running second entering the final straight, where he overtook Halladay and held off the late-charging Circus Maximums. Lope Y Fernandez finished third to complete the sweep for O'Brien.
O'Brien was not in attendance in Lexington, but his 13th Breeders' Cup win, and his first in the Mile, was a welcome reversal of fortune after his English Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck was euthanised on Tuesday, after breaking down in the Melbourne Cup.
That followed disappointment last month, when O'Brien withdrew four runners from the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe after contaminated feed put them afoul of anti-doping regulations.
Dermot Weld likewise was not on hand to see Tarnawa, with replacement rider Colin Keane aboard in place of Soumillon, win the US$4 million 2,400m Turf. It was his first Breeders' Cup victory in his 17th attempt.
"It doesn't get any bigger than this," said Weld's son, Mark. "I'm sad that my dad's not here, but this Covid situation is what it is."
Glass Slippers had got the ball rolling for the European raiders with a victory in the Turf Sprint with Tom Eaves in the irons.
It was a monster meeting for Kentucky trainer Brad Cox, who saddled Dirt Mile winner Knicks Go and Distaff winner Monomoy Girl to take his tally for the 2020 Breeders' Cup to four.
It was an especially sweet victory for Monomoy Girl, who won the 2018 Distaff as a three-year-old, but was sidelined for more than a year after a colic surgery.
"I'm very proud of her, I thought she was better than ever coming into this, I really, really did and I think she proved that," Cox said.
The 1,800m race for fillies and mares was billed as a showdown between Monomoy Girl and rising star Swiss Skydiver, who this year became just the sixth filly to win the Preakness Stakes ahead of Authentic. But Swiss Skydiver stumbled out of the gate and was never a factor.
Another star filly, Baffert's Gamine, underlined her credentials as a speedster with her victory in the US$1 million Filly & Mare Sprint under Velazquez.
Gamine came from off a blistering pace set by Serengeti Empress, surging to the front at the top of the stretch and pulling away for the victory.
Baffert, the two-time Triple Crown winning trainer, has come under scrutiny this year, after having four horses produce positive tests for banned or regulated substances.
Gamine was among them, testing positive twice, including for an illegal level of a corticosteroid used legally as an anti-inflammatory.
Baffert and Velazquez called her victory a "vindication".
"The headlines don't sound well, but when you get to the facts, they were contamination, one was an overage," Baffert said of the drug violations.
He had released a statement on the eve of the Breeders' Cup, outlining measures he would take to prevent similar incidents in the future.
"I always thought I ran a tight ship, I have to run a tighter ship," he said.
"We run it like a barn and we have to run it more like a hospital and that's the new norm now. I'm just happy that she showed what a wonderful filly she is and there was no doubt today." - AFP