Jerry Brody used to raise champion Black Angus cattle on his 450-acre farm in upstate New York. Nine years ago, Brody got out of cattle and into horse racing and now he acts as though he's overdone it.
"I've got 92 horses," Brody said, almost wearily, and while that might be a few too many, there's at least one who's not expendable. He's Allez Milord, Brody's 4-year-old colt who foiled trainer Charlie Whittingham's three-horse entry and also beat two more highly regarded starters from Europe Sunday, winning the $400,000 Oak Tree Invitational by 2 1/2 lengths before 34,485 at Santa Anita.
Whittingham had won 9 of the previous 18 runnings of the Oak Tree, but this time he had to settle for second and third, with runner-up Louis Le Grand finishing three-fourths of a length ahead of Rivlia. Whittingham's other starter, Ifrad, was last in the 10-horse field.
Chris McCarron, first introduced to Allez Milord in a workout last Monday, shoehorned the Tom Rolfe-Why Me Lord colt through a small hole along the fence with about an eighth of a mile to go. Captain Vigors, who had set the pace from the start, was tiring badly and he came out enough for Allez Milord to get through.
"I told Chris that the best ground was on the inside and he took me literally," trainer John Gosden said.
Gosden took over Allez Milord's training duties about a month ago, after the colt had run last in his first American start, the Turf Classic at Belmont Park.
Gosden was not optimistic going into the Oak Tree, even though Allez Milord's workout under McCarron was a good one. Allez Milord bled internally at Belmont, in a state where horses can't run on medication, and he was running with an anti-bleeding medication for the first time Sunday. Gosden also felt that Santa Anita's rain-soaked turf course might not help the horse.
The soft going probably minimized the chances of Rivlia, the strongest part of the favored Whittingham entry, which went off at 6-5. The bettors also rated two French horses--River Memories and Village Star--higher than Allez Milord. Village Star was a headache for jockey Jose Santos in the gate, then rallied from last to finish fourth, and River Memories, the well-traveled 3-year-old filly who won the Rothmans International in Canada in her last race, was never in contention, being uncomfortable with the going, and outran only Ifrad.
With the start of the race moved from the hill to the backstretch so the horses wouldn't have to run over the patch of dirt leaving the hill, Allez Milord was timed in 2:36 1/5, the slowest clocking in the history of the race, which was run on a soft course for only the third time. The winner paid $16.20, $5.40 and $6.40, with the Whittingham entry returning $2.80 and $2.60.
Allez Milord, who was bred in New York by Brody, earned $240,000, which is the amount that the owner would have to pay to supplement him to run in the $2- million Breeders' Cup Turf Stakes at Hollywood Park on Nov. 21. There was some confusion between Brody and Gosden about whether Allez Milord had been nominated--which would alleviate paying the supplementary fee--but a list in the Santa Anita racing office showed the colt was ineligible.
Allez Milord's last race probably will be the $500,000 Hollywood Turf Cup on Dec. 13, and then he will be sent to Japan for stud duty.
Sunday's win, which was Allez Milord's 7th in 15 starts, boosted his career purse total to about $740,000.
Last year, Allez Milord was considered one of England's best 3-year-olds. He was the third betting choice in the English Derby, but he collided with another horse, suffering a torn hip muscle, a hoof injury and body lacerations.
He recovered in time to win a major race in Germany and ran second to Jupiter Island in the Japan Cup. "It was so close that we thought we had won," Brody said.
This year, running against the best in England for trainer Guy Harwood, Allez Milord had a win, a second and a third in four starts.
With Captain Vigors setting a slow pace, Allez Milord was in the middle of the field for a half-mile, then moved up to third, behind the leader and Schiller, on the turn.
"I really wanted to wait for Schiller to give it up, but he hung in a long time," McCarron said. "I had to take a chance, hoping Captain Vigors would drift. My horse exploded when I gave him his head."
Horse Racing Notes