There were 13 Breeders’ Cup races run without incident over the last two days at Santa Anita Park.
But in the 14th and final race, the Classic, Vino Rosso’s win was overshadowed by the breakdown of Mongolian Groom, a 4-year-old gelding who was vanned away after pulling up and not finishing.
The Breeders’ Cup later announced horse had been euthanized. “The death of Mongolian Groom is a loss to the entire horse racing community. Our equine and human athletes’ safety is the Breeders’ Cup’s top priority,” the organization said in a statement.
Santa Anita has been the site of 37 horse deaths during racing and training since last Dec. 26.
Mongolian Groom was in contention -- swapping between second and third -- with about a quarter-mile remaining in the 1 1/4-mile race. At the top of the stretch, he was in third place when the jockeys aboard the horses infront of him both suddenly turned to look back -- possibly reacting to a sound. Moments later, Mongolian Groom was was suddenly pulled up by jockey Abel Cedillo.
Breeders’ Cup officials said the horse suffered a “serious fracture to his left hind limb.”
The winner of the $6-million race, Vino Rosso,is a 4-year-old colt who won the Gold Cup in his only other start at Santa Anita in May. But Saturday’s win in the $6-million Classic was by far the biggest of his career. He was ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., who also rode winners in the Turf championship and Dirt Mile.
Vino Rosso paid $11.20 to win, $5.80 to place and $4.00 to show. The favorite, McKinzie, was second and paid $4.80 and $3.60. Higher Power paid $6.00 to show.
Bricks and Mortar started the day as the leading horse of the year candidate and will also end it that way.
The 5-year-old horse won his sixth race in as many starts this year, capturing the $4-million Turf championship by a head over 50-1 longshot United.
Trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Bricks and Mortar stayed within striking distance throughout the 1½-mile race, moved up on the final turn and ran United down in the stretch to win by a head in 2 minutes 24.73 seconds.
It was trainer Brown’s second win of the day — his mare Uni won the Mile championship on turf earlier in the day — and was Bricks and Mortar’s seventh consecutive win dating to December of last year.
Bricks and Mortar paid $4.00 to win, $3.20 to place and $2.40 to show. United, a 4-year-old gelding which has spent all year racing in Southern, earned his biggest paycheck to date and paid longshot supporters — and jockey Flavien Prat fans — $25.60 and $13.00. Anthony Van Dyck paid $4.00 to show.
Bricks and Mortar led the most recent National Throughbred Racing Assn. poll in horse of the year voting, and neither of his closest challengers — Midnight Bisou and Sistercharlie — won in their races earlier today.
This has not been a good day for jockey Mike Smith.
Smith was aboard heavily favored Omaha Beach in the Dirt Mile, kept him back in the pack and started his rally too late, finishing second. And he just repeated the effort on even-money favorite Midnight Bisou in the $2-million Distaff championship.
Despite rallying in the stretch, Midnight Bisou finished 1½ lengths behind Blue Prize and probably scuttled her chances of winning horse of the year.
Midnight Bisou, a 4-year-old filly trained by Steven Asmussen, who earlier won the Sprint with Mitole, came into the day having won all seven of her races — earning more than $1.8 million — this year.
She was second in the most recent National Thoroughbred Racing Assn. poll for horse of the year. Omaha Beach, before his loss today, was among the leaders for top 3-year-old.
Blue Prize, trained by Ignacio Correas and ridden by Joe Bravo, paid $19.80 to win, $5.60 to place and $4.20 to show. Midnight Bisou paid $2.80 and $2.20. Serengeti Empress paid $6.00 to show.
The winning time over 11/8 miles was 1 minute 50.50 seconds.
Jockey Joel Rosario rode his second Breeders’ Cup winner of the day, guiding Uni to a win in the $2-million Mile over Santa Anita’s turf course.
Uni, the 7-2 third favorite, was part of a pack that ran down pacesetters Hey Gaman and El Tormenta as they turned into the stretch, then, six wide off the rail, she surged into the lead. The 5-year-old mare, trained by Chad Brown, paid $9.20 to win, $4.80 to place and $3.60 to show.
Got Stormy, the 3-1 favorite, finished 1½ lengths back and paid $4.80 and $3.40. Without Parole paid $5.60 to show.
Uni, who won all four of her races in 2018, has three wins and a third in four starts this year.
The run of well-priced winners at the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita on Saturday is over. A pair of runners used to winning, or coming close, saw to that.
Mitole, a 9-5 second favorite who has never been out of the money in 14 career starts, won the $2-million Sprint championship going away, by 1 1/4 lengths over 3-2 favorite Shancelot.
A 4-year-old colt trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., Mitole has won six of his seven starts this year and 10 of 14 lifetime, with a pair of seconds and a pair of thirds.
Shancelot, a 3-year-old who has three wins, two seconds and a third in six lifetime races, led inside the 1/16 pole when Mitole surged ahead and pulled away.
Mitole paid $5.60 to win, $3.20 to place and $2.60 to show. Shancelot paid $3.20 and $2.80. Whitmore paid $5.00 to show.
FILLY & MARE TURF
Iridessa looked right at home in the $2-million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf championship Saturday at Santa Anita Park.
The 3-year-old Ireland-bred made her U.S. racing debut by covering 1 1/4 miles in 1 minute 57.77 seconds to beat Vasilika by a neck.
She had been racing exclusively against the best in Ireland and Great Britain and came into Saturday with a modest four wins in 11 career starts.
That earned her backers 13-1 odds, and she delivered payments of $28.40 to win, $11.20 to place and $5 to show. Vasilika, the 9-2 second choice, paid $5.40 and $3.20. Sistercharlie, the odds-on favorite, finished 2 1/4 lengths further back and paid $2.20 to show.
Jockey Mike Smith took 15-1 longshot Mirth out quickly and was four to five lengths clear of the field for most of the race. But Iridessa and Vasilika surged past at the top of the stretch and dueled all the way to the wire.
The identity of the nation’s top 3-year-old horse is still unsettled. Very unsettled.
Omaha Beach was the even-money favorite Saturday in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, and a win would have put him in prime position for the honor.
But he didn’t win. Not even close.
Spun to Run, another 3-year-old colt, one that’s mostly been racing in Pennsylvania, went wire to wire in 1 minute 36.58 seconds to beat Omaha Beach by 2 3/4 lengths.
Omaha Beach rallied in the stretch, as he tends to do, but it was far too little far too late.
Spun to Run, who is trained by Juan Carlos Guerrero and was ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., paid $20.20 to win, $7 to place and $4.80 to show. Omaha Beach paid $3.40 and $2.40. Blue Chipper paid $6 to show.
Improbable, the Bob Baffert-trained second choice at odds of 9-2, avoided his usual issues coming out of the gate and was well positioned on the far turn but finished fifth.
Omaha Beach is expected to stay at Santa Anita and race in the Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26, the opening day of the winter-spring meet. Then it is expected he will run in the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in Florida on Jan. 26 before he retires to stud.
Omaha Beach was cast as the favorite leading up to the Kentucky Derby this year before he was sidelined by a throat issue, so his plans have been blown up before.
Don’t bet against trainer Peter Miller in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Not even with a horse that hadn’t run a race since mid-June.
Miller won the Turf Sprint for the third consecutive year, this time with Belvoir Bay on Saturday at Santa Anita Park.
Belvoir Bay, a 6-year-old mare, broke from the far outside and went wire to wire, covering five furlongs in 54.83 seconds to best Om by 1 1/4 lengths.
Miller won the last two years with Stormy Liberal, who finished eighth this time.
Belvoir Bay was a 14-1 longshot and paid $31.60 to win, $14.40 to place and $7.60 to show. Om, a 7-year-old who holds the distinction of having won one of the two races that American Pharoah didn’t win in his storied career, paid $13.80 and $9.40. Shekky Shebaz paid $5.60 to show.
Belvoir Bay has been a frequent flier in winning three of her six starts — with two seconds — this year. Her most recent race, a fourth-place finish, was in June at Belmont Park in New York. Before that, she raced at Santa Anita in May and Dubai in March.
The Turf Sprint was her third win this year at Santa Anita, where she has won seven times in 10 starts in her career.
FILLY AND MARE SPRINT
This is not a typo: Covfefe won the $1-million on Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.
The 3-year-old, trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Joel Rosario, overcame the inside post position to cover seven furlongs in 1 minute, 22.40 seconds. It was her fifth win in six races this year.
Rosario was able to position Covfefe perfectly, taking advantage of quick breaks from the gate by Danuska’s My Girl and Heavenhasmynikki from post positions 2 and 3.
Covfefe was third on the turn and surged into the lead while forcing the second-place finisher, Bellafina, four wide.
Covfefe, the 3-2 favorite, paid $5 to win, $3.60 to place and $3 to show. Bellafina paid $5 and $3.60. Dawn the Destroyer returned $6.60 to show.