A capsulized look at the Breeders’ Cup races at Del Mar on Saturday:
Winner: At the start, trainer Peter Miller had one eye on his horse, Roy H, and the other mainly on hefty favorite Drefong. When Mike Smith and Drefong broke tardily, Miller’s optimism shot up. “Drefong hasn’t had dirt kicked in his face,” Miller said of the typical pace-setter. Drefong, no factor from the get-go, ceded his customary lead to Imperial Hint, with Roy H in heated pursuit. The two swapped positions in late stretch, and Roy H, the third wagering choice at 9-to-2, won with a length to spare.
Scoop: Gelding a horse can improve its performance. Or have minimal impact. In Roy H’s case, maybe both. He was snipped after his three-year-old campaign, then went 0-for-4 at age four. This year, his fifth, he has lost once in six starts — by a mere 1 1/2 lengths. To Miller, Roy H always had elite-level talent but is a late developer.
Quote: “O-M-G. . . . I feel like Chad Brown, like Bob Baffert. One of those guys. It’s unbelievable.”—Trainer Peter Miller after his second Cup win Saturday.
Winner: World Approval, at odds of 5-2, became the first betting favorite to win on the afternoon under jockey John Velazquez. The 5-year-old gray gelded son of Northern Afleet was coming off Grade I victories at Woodbine and Saratoga for trainer Mark Casse. World Approval moved from third to the lead in the stretch under right-handed urging.
Scoop: World Approval’s dam, Win Approval, becomes only the second mare to produce a Breeders’ Cup winner from the same race. Half brother Miesque’s Approval won the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Quote: “World Approval, he’s is our heavyweight. He’s the one we bring in. He’s our closer. He’s the one that gets it done. So we knew we were saving the best for last.”-Trainer Mark Casse.
Winner: Twenty-four years after scoring the most improbable Cup upset ever with 133-to-1 Arcangues taking the Classic, trainer Andre Fabre sent out Talismanic at a far more reasonable 14-to-1 in the penultimate race on the card. Talismanic ran fifth for most of the 1 1/2-mile journey, surged to third in the stretch when jockey Mickael Barzalona found a gap, loped past Beach Patrol and crossed cross the line a half-length to the good.
Scoop: Barzalona’s passport is stamped with numerous countries. Yet not only had he never ridden in the U.S., the victorious jockey had not set foot here. However, one aspect of Del Mar was familiar to him. The turf Saturday was firm, and Talismanic has won four times on five trips over solid ground. Otherwise, the colt, on whom Barzalona rides regularly, is two for 11.
Quote: The man [Fabre] is a living legend. He’s got Breeders’ Cups, Classics, Group 1s. He’s just a master trainer and trained this horse perfectly. . . . If Andre Fabre trains them, I think you have to pay respect.”—Joe Osborne, chief executive of the winning Godolphin Stables
Winner: Call it home track advantage. West Coast-based longshots Stormy Liberal and Richard’s Boy, trained by Peter Miller and owned by Gary Hartunian’s Rockingham Ranch, finished one-two under jockeys Joel Rosario and Flavien Prat. Stormy Liberal, sent off at 30-1, was claimed for $40,000 last year. “Those people are jumping off the Coronado Bridge,” Hartunian said.
Scoop: Hartunian said he paid $160,000 to enter both horses, which is the reason he didn’t bet the exacta that paid $277.50. “I blew it,” he said. Lady Aurelia, the odds-on favorite, finished 10th. “I had two jockeys that know the course and two horses that know the course, and it turned out to work in our favor,” Miller said.
Quote: “It was just a surreal experience.” -Trainer Peter Miller on winning his first Breeders’ Cup race.
FILLY & MARE TURF
Winner: The Great Britain-based Wuheida, sent off at odds of 11-1, held off Rhododendron to win for jockey William Buick. Owned by Godolphin Stable, the 3-year-old daughter of Dubawi showed a liking to Del Mar’s firm turf course.
Scoop: Wuheida showed early promise until being sidelined last April with a stress fracture in her right hind leg. She had won her first two races, then lost four in a row. She relished the Del Mar turf. “This ground suited her,” trainer Charlie Appleby said. Added Buick: “She has lots of ability and the trip really suited her.”
Quote:"I can’t explain - to ride my first Breeders’ Cup winner means everything. I’m so, so happy.” -Jockey William Buick.
FILLY & MARE SPRINT
Winner: Setting a brisk pace, even-money favorite Unique Bella seemed good as gold. But when she tapped out at the head of the stretch, a cavalry of contenders shot past her, with Bar of Gold the best of all by a nose over Ami’s Mesa. The betting public overlooked her as the morning-line odds of 30-to-1 more than doubled by post time to 66-to-1, and the exacta exceeded four figures ($1,030.20). Unique Bella backed up to seventh.
Scoop: Trainer John Kimmel did not decide to enter Bar of Gold until seven days before the race — and, even then, he was not fully committed. The mare had relished off tracks, with all but one of her previous wins on unsteady surfaces, but was coming off a dismal sixth in torrential rain at Keeneland. Co-owner Chester Broman responded that the race was a crapshoot and the horse had potential, so why not?
Quote: “The odds of it coming up wet were nil. If it had, we wouldn’t have minded.”—Trainer John Kimmel on the ultimate of longshot possibilities — an off-track in southern California.
Winner: Ralph Nicks, trainer of eventual winner Caledonia Road, was less than enthralled about the No. 12 post in the field of 13 and was less than optimistic when jockey Mike Smith could not guide her closer to the rail. Smith opted for a wide path, and it worked as pacesetter Moonshine Memories, the favorite, overextended herself, was gassed in the stretch and retreated to seventh. The winner went off at 17-to-1, long odds but not nearly as long as recent winning payoffs of $69.20, $125.40 and $66.60.
Scoop: Though Smith had never ridden before for Nicks, the two have been pals since they were apprentice jockeys at Louisiana Downs. Because of the relationship, there was little strategizing pre-race. Nicks trusted Smith even though the Hall of Famer had not been aboard Caledonia Road.
Quote: “I gave her a breather from the half-mile pole to the three-and-a half because she kind of wanted one. When I stepped on the accelerator again, man, she jumped back on it and I knew I was going to be live from that point on.”—Jockey Mike Smith