Obviously tried and tried to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Then he tried again. And again.
He finished third the first time, in 2012 at Santa Anita, but then struggled home fifth, fifth and finally ninth last year.
Trainer Phil D’Amato, who took over for the late Mike Mitchell after the second miss, decided to try something different after two more. He entered Obviously, an 8-year-old gelding, in the Turf Sprint on Saturday at Santa Anita.
Obviously took the lead leaving the starting gate and held on to beat the fast-charging Om by a long nose to give D’Amato his first Breeders’ Cup victory. As the 7-2 favorite, he returned $9.60 after running about 6½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course in 1:11.33.
He also made history as the second-oldest horse to win a Breeders’ Cup race. Only Calidoscopio, who was 9 when he won the since-discontinued Marathon in 2012, was older. No other 8-year-old has won; in fact, only three 7-year-olds reached the winner’s circle.
“At 8 years old, he’s a marvel,” co-owner Joseph Scardino said.
“Well, it’s one for the old guys,” co-owner Anthony Fanticola added. “I can tell you he doesn’t know he’s 8.”
D’Amato said the decision to switch races was just a matter of trying to “change it up.”
Jockey Mike Smith celebrates aboard Arrogate after winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Arrogate, ridden by jockey Mike Smith, defeats California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Obviously beats Om in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint race on Saturday at Santa Anita Park.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
A trio of ladies watch as horses are prepped for the sixth race of the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Horse racing fans wear fanciful hats during the second day of the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
A groom waits with a horse in the tunnel between Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita Park on Saturday.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Mongolian grooms watch their entry, a thoroughbred named Mongolian, in the seventh race of the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday at Santa Anita Park.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Home of the Brave, with jockey James Doyle aboard, walks out of the paddock for the seventh race of the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park on Saturday.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Jockey Julien Leparoux is congratulated by a fan after winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race aboard Classic Empire on Saturday at Santa Anita Park.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Dirt sticks to the nose of jockey Julien Laparoux after he guided Classic Empire to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Saturday at Santa Anita Park.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
“We tried the Mile a bunch of times and kind of always got caught around the 16th pole,” D’Amato said. “He had run in the past down the hill with some success, and we just thought, you know, if we put him on the lead here, you know, he had enough bottom in him that if they beat him, they beat him on the square. It wasn’t that he was going to get tired, and it worked out.”
Obviously is the fifth horse to run in five Breeders’ Cups, and the only one to do it in different races. Three of the other four also won (Better Talk Now, California Flag and Kona Gold), although none waited until the last try.
In contrast to Obviously, Ian Kruljac needed only one Breeders’ Cup start to get his first victory.
The 28-year-old Kruljac is in his first year as a trainer, with three horses in his stable and one previous victory.
Finest City, a 4-year-old City Zip filly who provided that victory in April in the Great Lady M at Los Alamitos, defeated defending champion Wavell Avenue in the Filly & Mare Sprint on Saturday.
Finest City is owned by Tyler Seltzer, a USC graduate from Rancho Santa Fe, and his father Wayne, a minority owner in the San Diego Padres.
Tyler Seltzer, 41, said he attended his first Breeders’ Cup 30 years ago at Santa Anita.
“I came with my mom,” he said. “My mom’s no longer alive. And her initials (MLS) are on the back of our silks. She’s been deceased for about nine years now. But I fell in love with horse racing at a very young age. To be back here 30 years later at a place like this, in a race like this, with people like this and a horse like that, is just beyond belief.”
Lady Eli just misses
European-based horses won just two Cup races this weekend, and one of them ruined a storybook finish.
Lady Eli, the Juvenile Turf Fillies champion two years ago, nearly died last year from laminitis. She was idle for more than a year, but returned this summer and was favored to win the Filly & Mare Turf on Saturday.
She raced furiously through the stretch but lost by a nose to Queen’s Trust, an English-bred ridden by Frankie Dettori.
“I was thrilled the way she ran today,” said Chad Brown, Lady Eli’s trainer. “I wasn’t sure which filly got it at the wire, but the more I saw the replays, the worse it looked for us. Frankie rode a fabulous race and it was just two great horses down to the finish line. Naturally, I’m disappointed, but still very proud of her.”
The other European horse to win was Highland Reel, an Irish-bred who led from gate to wire in the Turf.