LEXINGTON, Ky., Nov. 7 (UPI) — Kentucky Derby winner Authentic won Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland in classy fashion, likely earning Horse of the Year honors, as Monomoy Girl in the Distaff and Whitmore in the Sprint scored emotional victories.
On a beautiful day in the Kentucky Bluegrass region, the story lines ran from Arkansas to Korea — with many stops in-between. The turf races, on the other hand, were all about Ireland, England and France.
Here’s how things went on the dirt course, which played to speed all day.
The $ 6 million Longines Classic
Kentucky Derby winner Authentic added the Breeders’ Cup Classic to his resume with a front-running victory Saturday at Keeneland and, as a result, likely also will add “Horse of the Year” honors at year’s end.
Authentic, with John Velazquez up, sprinted quickly to the lead, never was challenged and finished a comfortable 2 1/4 lengths in front of Improbable, giving trainer Bob Baffert his fourth win in the Classic to go with six Kentucky Derby triumphs.
“I didn’t think there was much speed in the race,” Velazquez said, “so let’s put him on the lead, get him to the rail and see if they can come and get him.”
“He’s maturing right now,” Baffert said. “This is the time of year they [3-year-olds] catch up. I looked up at the tote board and I was surprised he was 5-1. I mean, he won the Kentucky Derby.”
“I’d have loved to run 1-2-3,” Baffert said. His third starter, Maximum Security, was in the mix until the final furlongs, but settled for fifth, with Global Campaign and Tacitus third and fourth.
Authentic provided a spine-tingling year for Baffert and his owners, including the 5,314-member Myracehorse.com “micro syndicate.” He won the Kentucky Derby as an 8-1 long shot after another of the trainer’s horses was scratched in the paddock in an incident that injured his top assistant, Jimmy Barnes.
Authentic then finished second in the Preakness Stakes, a neck behind a filly rival, Swiss Skydiver.
“We were disappointed after the Preakness,” Baffert said. “He’s a quirky horse, but he’s been working really well. He’s caught up with the older horses.”
The Horse of the Year title was up for grabs coming into the race with different winners of the three Triple Crown races and no outstanding candidate among older horses. Victories in the Derby and Classic would appear to be a winning hand, and Authentic also is likely for the Eclipse Award as the year’s top 3-year-old.
Whether Authentic will race another year is less certain. Eric Gustafson, representing Spendthrift Farm, key player in the ownership syndicate, said the group will “get together with the team and make plans for the future.”
The $ 2 million Longines Distaff
Monomoy Girl, one of the most unlikely success stories in recent racing history, swept rather easily to her second win in the Distaff — two years after her first score in the race.
Jockey Florent Geroux positioned the 5-year-old Tapizar mare close behind the leading trio on the trip down the backstretch, sent her to the lead in the stretch and won by a comfortable 1 3/4 lengths, chased home by long shots Valiance and Dunbar Road.
The second favorite in the race, Preakness Stakes winner Swiss Skydiver, finished seventh with a rough trip. “We were humbled today,” said her trainer, Kenny McPeek.
After Monomoy Girl’s win in the 2018 Distaff, she was out of action for 18 months with a string of physical issues. Trainer Brad Cox coaxed her back into competitive shape, and she won all three previous starts this year.
“A fantastic job,” Geroux said of Cox’s efforts. “Talent.”
“She’s a champion a couple of times now, I hope,” Cox said. “I really thought she was better than ever coming into this.” She was champion 3-year-old filly in 2018.
Monomoy Girl will barely have time to cool out and catch a nap before she takes the short walk to the Keeneland sales pavilion, where she will be up for auction Sunday as a broodmare prospect.
Part owner Sol Kumin said the partnership will discuss that decision before the sale, but added, “We’re trying to be smart about our stable and do what’s best for the horse.”
The $ 2 million Grade I Sprint
Whitmore, a 7-year-old gelding who had come up short in three previous tries in the Sprint, finally got the job done Saturday, kicking away from 13 rivals in the final furlong to win by 3 1/4 lengths. C Z Rocket, Firenze Fire and Empire of Gold trailed.
Whitmore has been a fixture at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, less so elsewhere, and had not won since taking the Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn in April. He finished eighth in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar, second in 2018 at Churchill Downs and third last year at Santa Anita.
“That right there is what the Breeders’ Cup is all about,” said an emotional Tom Moquett, a part-owner with Robert LaPenta and Sol Kumin’s Head of Plains Partnership. “To try so many times and come up short and finally get it. That’s awesome.”
Jockey Irad Ortiz had Whitmore on the rail for much of the race, found racing room just outside a pair of rivals in the final furlong and had plenty of horse left to take advantage of the opportunity.
He finished in 1:08.61, a good time, but well short of the track record 1:07.89 set earlier in the day by 3-year-old Nashville.
Kumin and Moquett said there are no plans to retire Whitmore. “As long as Whitmore wants to do it, he’ll keep running,” the trainer said.
The $ 1 million Grade I Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile
Knicks Go got up and went in the Dirt Mile, leading the way and finishing first by 3 1/2 lengths in track-record time of 1:33.85. Jesus‘ Team, third in the Preakness Stakes in his last start, was up for second with California-based Sharp Samurai third.
Knicks Go, a 4-year-old Paynter colt, was second in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He was transferred to trainer Brad Cox’s barn this season after a disappointing 2019 season and the switch paid off for his owner, the Korea Racing Authority.
After winning his season debut at Oaklawn Park in February, he was sidelined until October, when he won a tough Keeneland allowance race by 10 1/4 lengths.
“When we started the season, there was no thought of the Breeders’ Cup,” Cox said. “We weren’t even sure he could get into the race so thanks to the Breeders’ Cup for letting us run. I guess they made the right decision.”
“I believe this victory will make the Korean breeding industry move forward,” a KRA representative said, adding no decision has been made about whether the colt will be retired to stud in Asia or continue to run in 2010.
The name refers to the KRA’s computerized breeding analysis program, K-nicks, not the New York City basketball team.
The $ 1 million Grade I Filly & Mare Sprint
The Filly & Mare Sprint always shaped up as a virtual match race between 3-year-old Gamine and 4-year-old Serengeti Empress, and that’s how it played out — at least for 6 of the 7 furlongs.
Serengeti Empress held a narrow lead to the furlong pole, where Gamine found more, Serengeti Empress couldn’t go with her and the younger filly strode out to win by 6 1/4 lengths.
Bell’s the One just missed catching Serengeti Empress for second as Gamine finished in 1:20.20, shattering the Keeneland track record.
“She showed today she is the fastest in the land,” trainer Baffert said of Gamine. “As she gets older, she’ll get even better. We want to enjoy her next year.”
Also Saturday at Keeneland:
The first race of the day, the $ 125,000 Perryville for 3-year-olds going 6 furlongs, certainly got things going with a bang. Nashville, a Speightstown colt, led from gate to wire and won by 3 1/2 lengths in track-record time of 1:07.89.
He could have gone faster if jockey Ricardo Santana had asked him. Trained by Steve Asmussen for WinStar Farm and the China Horse Club, Nashville now is 3-for-3 and has never trailed at any point in any of those races.
The $ 150,000 Lafayette, won by Sleepy Eyes Todd, was marred by a spill at the top of the stretch involving three horses. Absolutely Aiden fell and both Strike That and Dinar lost their riders in avoiding the fallen rival.
Strike That, Dinar and all three jockeys walked away from the accident, but Absolutely Aiden was determined to have suffered a disarticulation of his left front fetlock and was euthanized. Sleepy Eyes Todd, a 4-year-old Paddy O’Prado colt, ran 7 furlongs in 1:21.77 with Joel Rosario up.
Merenith won a tight stretch duel over Motivated Seller in the $ 125,000 Qatar Fort Springs for 3-year-old fillies. Merenith, an American Pharoah filly trained by Baffert, and Motivated Seller, a daughter of Into Mischief, rallied by pacesetter Rising Seas in the final furlong. Merenith, with Luis Saez up, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.35.