Drama and Upsets Headline First Day of Breeders' Cup Races
All of the drama and excitement anticipated from the Breeders' Cup came to fruition in the first day of the races with Royal Delta being the only favorite to win a Breeders' Cup race in the $2 million Ladies' Classic, the final race of the day.
The afternoon started with the fourth race of the day, the ungraded $500,000 Juvenile Sprint. The original field of seven was whittled down to five with Super Ninety Nine scratched in the morning and South Floyd, co-owned by University of Louisville men's basketball head coach Rick Pitino, scratched before entering the gate by the on-site veterinarian because of being slightly off on his left front.
Merit Man was the clear money favorite at 1-2 odds by race time. But jockey Patrick Valenzuela made a cruicial mistake in riding Merit Man: he left too much room on the rail. With the five horses racing close together in a pack through the six furlongs, the 15-1 longshot Hightail road the rail to overtake Merit Man with half a furlong left.
There was some incidental contact between the two horses at the sixteenth pole which led to a steward's inquiry after the race, but no action was taken and Hightail's win by a nose was upheld. It was his first win in nine races. The win also gave trainer D. Wayne Lucas his 19th Breeders' Cup victory, the most by any trainer, and his first win since 2005.
As if that wasn't good enough, the Grade II $500,000 Marathon. Atigun was the 3-1 favorite in the 1-3/4 mile race and kept pace with the leaders in the early going. Jockey Mike Smith took the lead in the back stretch which was perhaps ill-fated. As the horses rounded the final turn, the nine-year old Calidoscopio came off the rail and pulled to the outside to overtake Atigun.
The 17-1 longshot Calidoscopio broke the gates slow and dropped to the back of the pack trailing by 20-1/4 lengths after a half-mile. He made his move in the back stretch before pulling away in the final turn winning by 4-1/4 lengths.
The Argentine horse whose last race was on June 23 became the oldest horse to win a Breeders' Cup race.
While not a complete upset, the $2 million Juvenile Fillies Grade I saw the favorite Executiveprivilege unable to overtake Beholder who lead nearly from gate to wire in the 1-1/16 mile dirt race. The 9-1 Zagora won the $2 million Filly and Mare Turf race.
Even when the favorite came through, there was still drama involved.
With Royal Delta beating the undefeated My Miss Aurelia and Awesome Feather to win her second consecutive Ladies' Classic, jockey Mike Smith became the all-time winningest rider in Breeders' Cup races breaking the tie with Jerry Bailey with 16 wins.
With all of the upsets in the day, there was only one Pick-Six winner: a $288 ticket that paid $773,865.
If Saturday's races are anywhere near as exciting as Friday's races, there could be some big money winners at the Great Race Place. Game On Dude leads the pack in the $5 million Classic, however former Dodger catcher and TVG commentator Paul LoDuca is picking Richard's Kid to win.
The gates open at 8:00 a.m. and the first post is at 10:05 a.m.