In the end, neither George Washington nor Bernardini could light up the gloaming here last night, though the 23rd Breeders' Cup Classic revealed a true champion none the less.
Just like Bernardini, Invasor had been beaten only once in his life, and he made a landmark Hispanic imprint as they engaged inside the final furlong for the richest prize in American racing. Invasor was discovered by Sheikh Hamdan's scouts in Uruguay, and ridden by a teenage sensation in Fernando Jara. Any dismay his owner's brother, Sheikh Mohammed, might feel over the defeat of his own champion will be vitiated by the reflection that the only horse to have beaten Invasor is Discreet Cat. This is the freakish, unbeaten colt he kept in reserve behind Bernardini, knowing he would still be around for Godolphin next year.
The performance of George Washington, needless to say, could not be depicted in black and white. He certainly handled the dirt surface, and made a menacing move leaving the back straight, but he began to sway uncomfortably under pressure and ran out of gas on his first start beyond a mile, ultimately finishing sixth.
David Junior hobbled home last, but it was still a terrific day for his trainer, Brian Meehan, who saddled Red Rocks to win the Turf under a masterful ride from Frankie Dettori. The Italian had earlier won the Filly & Mare Turf on Ouija Board, and is entitled to come back to Kentucky nowadays without being reminded of his humiliation here eight years ago, on Swain in the Classic.
Instead it was his local rivals who embarrassed themselves in the Turf, where they set the race up with a reckless gallop. "They went a ridiculous pace," Dettori said. "I rode him cold to pick up the pieces at the end. I knew at the half-mile pole that they would fall back and didn't want to risk getting stopped going through the field, so I had to switch round and kicked."
Red Rocks completes a fertile first season at Manton for Meehan, who started his tenure there by winning a huge prize in Dubai with David Junior. But he cannot yet match the global achievements of Ed Dunlop with Ouija Board, whose performance confirmed she has ripened through the toughest season of her life.
This was her second success in the race, having been given the slip only by Intercontinental last year, and was achieved with such felicity that she proceeds to Japan and Hong Kong as a champion in her pomp. She then returns to Kentucky for a tryst with one of the world's leading stallions, Kingmambo. He is probably getting anxious already.
Starting 7-5 favourite, she was always travelling so sweetly that obstruction was her rivals' only hope. And she did have to angle wide on the final turn to be certain of a run, the leaders having gone too slowly to tire. But Dettori's anxiety was fleeting, as she cut down the middle of the track and won going away. "Awesome!" he exclaimed. "She sure delivered to the public today. She's the best filly in the world without a doubt. For a minute I was worried they might get away, but in the end we got there too early. The rest is history. She's an icon for the fans, and one of the very best I've ridden."
"She has changed the lives of all of us who are involved with her," Lord Derby, her owner, said proudly. "It's been an incredible journey. She has earned a happy retirement at the end of this year, and we look forward to racing her children in the future."
The Europeans were confident of adding the next turf race, too, but they were wiped out in the Mile behind a bewildering seven-year-old from Florida named Miesque's Approval, who started 24-1 and circled the field in the straight. Sleeping Indian and Rob Roy finished fast into fourth and fifth respectively after getting behind.
The most emphatic winner of all was Street Sense, who ran away with the Juvenile by 10 lengths a margin that has been surpassed only once in any Breeders' Cup race.
True, the win was forged by another infernal pace in front, but Carl Nafzger, the winning trainer, is not bothered by the fact that this race has yet to produce a Kentucky Derby winner. He includes Unbridled, the 1990 Derby winner, among the horses that have distinguished him as a trainer.Reuse content