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Breeders' Cup Classic is a heartbreaker

Mike Smith guides Drosselmeyer past Game On Dude and his former girlfriend at the finish. Goldikova is denied fourth win in the Mile.

November 05, 2011|By Lance Pugmire
  • Jockey Mike Smith rides Drosselmeyer to victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Saturday. Smith was aboard Zenyatta last year when they lost at the wire in the same race.
Jockey Mike Smith rides Drosselmeyer to victory in the Breeders'… (Rob Carr / Getty Images )

Reporting from Louisville, Ky. — How about ghost of boyfriend past?

Game On Dude was within yards of making Chantal Sutherland the first female jockey to win the Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday when Sutherland's ex-boyfriend Mike Smith and his colt Drosselmeyer surged past on the outside to win the $5-million race before 65,143 at Churchill Downs.

"I looked up, saw white and said, 'You've got to be kidding me, it's Mike Smith,' " Sutherland said.

For Smith, who was aboard Zenyatta last year in a heartbreaking Classic loss to Blame at the wire, the redemptive victory tied him with now-retired Jerry Bailey for the most Breeders' Cup triumphs in the event's 28-year history with 15.

"Last year, I sat here just devastated, thinking my life was over," Smith said. "Just amazing."

Drosselmeyer, a 15-1 shot, paid $31.60 to win after entering the stretch in seventh place. Ruler On Ice rallied from ninth in the stretch and finished third.

Smith did not gloat about passing Sutherland, who is the sport's new star and a part-time actress and model who was deluged with media attention upon her arrival in Louisville.

Earlier Saturday, Smith won the Breeders' Cup Sprint atop Santa Anita-stabled Amazombie.

"She should be proud. Her horse ran an awesome race, but Drosselmeyer was just too much today," Smith said. "I congratulated [Sutherland], said to hold her head up. I think she's pretty proud, pretty happy, this being her first Classic."

Sutherland broke up with Smith about two years ago, and they remain "cordial" but distant, according to a mutual friend. "Don't call. Don't text," the friend said.

"I'm very proud of my horse, very proud of myself. I had an amazing time," Sutherland said in a statement to The Times. "And I'm happy for Mike. But really? Really? Of all people."

Sticking with trainer Bob Baffert's prerace plan, Sutherland took Game On Dude to the lead from the No. 8 post and kept it throughout as Uncle Mo (10th place), So You Think (sixth), Flat Out (fifth) and filly Havre de Grace (fourth) failed to run her down.

Drosselmeyer, the surprise Belmont Stakes champion in 2010, had won only once in six races since. Trainer Bill Mott said he opted to race in the Classic rather than the $500,000 Marathon because of the horse's runner-up showing to Saturday's Classic favorite Flat Out in the Oct. 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

"We knew there'd be a good race," said Mott, who also won the prestigious Ladies' Classic with Royal Delta on Friday. "It was a matter of if he can get up in time."

Earlier, the distinguished 6-year-old mare Goldikova failed to win a fourth consecutive Breeders' Cup Mile in her final race, finishing third behind upset winner Court Vision and runner-up Turallure by a length.

"She looked like she was going to win, she just died out," Goldikova trainer Freddy Head said. "We had the race I wanted her to have. She looked like she'd win for a moment, but now I don't believe she can sustain speed.

"She's done that the last few races. Maybe the mileage and the years have taken a toll. She did what she could. She tried her best."

Goldikova, with 14 Grade I victories, came out of the bad No. 1 post cleanly and was tucked in nicely at the rail heading toward the final turn, but couldn't catch the dueling Court Vision and Turallure.

Court Vision, at 64-1, won by a nose and paid $131.60 on a $2 bet — the second-biggest longshot to win in the event's history. The horse has Southern California connections, with Malibu's Eric Gustavson the president of Kentucky's Spendthrift Farm.

Also, unbeaten Hansen established himself as a Kentucky Derby favorite by holding off favored and previously undefeated Union Rags by a head in a thrilling 1 1/16-mile Juvenile worth $2 million.

Union Rags roared down Churchill Downs' long stretch but couldn't catch Hansen.

Trainer Aidan O'Brien was given the second of his two victories Saturday by his 18-year-old son, Joseph, who rode Ireland's St Nicholas Abbey in the $3-million Turf to become the youngest jockey to win a Breeders' Cup race.

"Dream come true," Joseph O'Brien said. "I've been going to the Breeders' Cup since I was very small. To win this, it's out of this world."

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