A stirring stretch duel at Santa Anita
By Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Fort Larned faltered inside the final furlong as the favorite in his last race, the 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup, so he wasn't expected to contend in the Breeders' Cup Classic at 10 furlongs.
After all, Fort Larned was sent off at 9-1 despite winning two of his last three races, including the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga. The 4-year-old son of E Dubai got his revenge on the distance Saturday night by holding off Mucho Macho Man in a thrilling stretch drive to become racing's latest multi- millionaire.
Fort Larned broke quickly from post 4 and Mucho Macho Man did the same from post 11. The two then raced in close quarters through early fractions of 23 1/5 and 46 2/5 seconds. The eventual winner gained a clear lead after three- quarters in 1:10, but Mucho Macho Man did not give in.
In fact, it appeared last year's third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby had dead aim on Fort Larned through the stretch, but the Ian Wilkes-trained colt was determined to conquer 10 furlongs.
In fact, the homebred opened up a slightly larger lead in the final strides to win going away by a half-length. Fort Larned paid $20.80 to win and the exacta with Mucho Macho Man paid a healthy $125.40.
Game On Dude, the 6-5 favorite who did not break out of the gate as sharp as he had in the past, was third heading into the stretch but tired to finish seventh.
As for the other key races, the most impressive winner of the day came in the Filly & Mare Sprint. Groupie Doll won't be the 2012 Horse of the Year, but she dominated her division more than any horse in the country and it showed when she exploded through the stretch to win by 4 1/2 lengths. The daughter of Bowman's Band is a lock to nab the Eclipse Award as the top female sprinter.
Saturday's closest finish came in the Juvenile. Shanghai Bobby looked like a beaten horse through the stretch, but the unbeaten son of Harlan's Holiday dug in and held off He's Had Enough by a desperate head.
The winner struggled in his first two-turn test, finishing his final 2 1/2 furlongs in a dawdling 34 1/5 seconds. It's true he ran fast early on (22 1/5 and 44 2/5), but if He's Had Enough's jockey didn't have to steady his horse earlier in the race, it is doubtful Shanghai Bobby would have prevailed.
Todd Pletcher's 2-year-old champion is now the likely early favorite for the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, he's not bred to relish the 1 1/4-mile distance. Harlan's Holiday hasn't sired many stayers and Shanghai Bobby's dam side is loaded with sprinters.
He's Had Enough ran his eyeballs out at 19-1 for trainer Doug O'Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez (same connections as I'll Have Another). One had to expect an improved effort from his 11th-place finish in the Breeders' Futurity, especially since O'Neill sent Know More, his more accomplished 2- year-old, to the Juvenile Turf and ran this son of Tapit on the dirt for the very first time.
He's Had Enough is a half-brother to Kindergarden Kid, who ran sixth in the BC Turf one race later. As is the case with Shanghai Bobby, He's Had Enough's sire is not known as a sire of 1 1/4-mile horses. However, his female line is much more impressive than Pletcher's colt, so he should progress a little better than his counterpart as the distances increase.
Royal Delta and her jockey Mike Smith were the stars of the show on Friday. The filly defeated last year's 2-year-old filly champion My Miss Aurelia by 1 1/2 lengths to win the Ladies' Classic. She's the odds-on favorite to garner the award as top older female.
The win for Smith placed him ahead of Jerry Bailey as the all-time winningest jockey in Breeders' Cup history.
The other big winner on Friday was Richard Mandella's Beholder. The 2-year-old filly went gate-to-wire to win the Juvenile Fillies race turning the tables on the previously undefeated Executiveprivilege. Beholder ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43 3/5, almost a full second faster than the colts ran in the Juvenile the following day.
The victory did not guarantee Beholder the 2-year-old filly award as Executiveprivilege still sports a 2-1 lead on the winner in the three lifetime meetings. The Bob Baffert once-beaten filly also sports three graded victories (two grade ones) to just one for Beholder.
11/03 21:37:41 ET