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TURF

Dead Heat Is Cool for All Concerned

October 26, 2003|Bob Mieszerski | Times Staff Writer

Through its first 19 runnings, the Breeders' Cup Turf consistently has produced close finishes.

In the first 10 years the largest margin of victory was half a length. The most decisive winner was Daylami, the 8-5 favorite who won by 2 1/2 lengths four years ago at Gulfstream Park.

The 20th Breeders' Cup Turf on Saturday gave tight a whole new meaning. For the first time in the history of any Breeders' Cup race, there was a dead heat for the win when defending champion High Chaparral and 14-1 shot Johar couldn't be separated at the wire. It took three pictures and some 13 minutes before the photo finish sign came down and the dead heat was confirmed.

Falbrav, the 7-2 second choice, almost made it a triple dead heat. He was only a head back after having the lead approaching the wire.

Watching the race live, many believed High Chaparral had won solo. Jockey Mick Kinane thought so, especially after Donna Barton, who was working on horseback for NBC, approached him as if he had.

Richard Mulhall, racing manager for the Thoroughbred Corp., which owns Johar, agreed with Kinane. "When I first saw it, I thought we were second," he said. "I didn't think he got up. After I watched the replay over and over and over, then I thought we won it.

"When it was taking so long, I was thinking, well, it has to be a dead heat. I'm happy with a dead heat. It's no disgrace to dead heat with High Chaparral. He's an awful good horse."

It was the third of four victories on the day for Richard Mandella, who trains Johar.

Everybody had plenty of time to watch numerous replays of the thrilling finish. After what seemed an eternity, especially to those directly involved, the dead heat was announced, leading to a noticeable cheer from the large crowd.

"I'm happy it was a dead heat," said John Magnier, the co-owner of High Chaparral who did look and sound sincere. Both owners will receive the requisite trophy that goes to all Breeders' Cup winners, and the winner's share of the purse was divided, each receiving $763,200.

"I don't think it would have been fair for either side to have either horse lose," Magnier said. "We're all happy at the moment."

The dead heat enabled High Chaparral, who was the 9-2 fourth choice, to become the first repeater in the Turf. He improved his record to 10 wins in 13 starts and the win proved a memorable conclusion to his career. He will be retired to Coolmore Stud with earnings of more than $5.3 million.

Whether there is more to come from Johar remains to be seen. Mulhall said no decision has been made on whether he will run next year.

A 4-year-old son of Gone West, he had won the Hollywood Derby last fall. In his most recent race, the Clement L. Hirsch here Sept. 28, he was ridden contrary to style. In a small field -- four horses -- without any pace, he had taken the lead, and that's not where he wants to be. He wound up second, beaten by half a length by Storming Home.

In the Turf, jockey Alex Solis dropped back to last and remained there for a mile. Taken to the outside, he started to rally, and nearing the wire, he looked as if he would get past High Chaparral and Falbrav.

"I pulled up next [to Kinane] and he asked me what I thought," Solis said. "I said, 'Man, that's very close.' It was an incredible race."

Nobody who saw it would argue, including Aidan O'Brien, the trainer of High Chaparral. "I think it was a relief for everyone involved that he did get the dead heat," he said. "It was great that he won."

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