Yibir’s Longines Turf Win for Red-Hot Connections Headlines Breeders’ Cup Saturday Undercard

In winning two earlier Breeders’ Cup races Nov. 5-6 at Del Mar, Charlie Appleby experienced varying emotions, watching as a pair of his horses (and nearly a third) were scratched due to unruly gate antics and two runners emerged as victors.

Saturday in the $3,680,000 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf, he just watched all the race drama unfold, cheering on Godolphin’s blossoming 3-year-old Yibir as he stormed late to catch Broome by a half-length.

“It was a bit more relaxing, anyway,” Appleby said, smiling.

All three Breeders’ Cup wins came for Godolphin with sons of Dubawi ridden by William Buick.

Buick needed to call upon all his skill in the Turf, doing his best to coax a headstrong Yibir into settling early. But he was ultimately successful, settling him into 13th-place early in the 14-horse field behind a swift pace set by Tribhuvan.

Tribhuvan led the field through in splits of :48.38, 1:12.41, and 1:36.76. But soon after passing the mile marker, the pacesetter and his nearest challengers were in retreat.

One after another foe began to pick them off, though not defending champion Tarnawa, whose signature late kick was absent.

Instead, it was Broome that surged past the leaders, taking a midstretch lead under Irad Ortiz Jr., seemingly with victory in his sights. But Yibir was finishing even faster, and closing furiously down the center of the course he caught the Aidan O’Brien-trained Broome in the final strides. The winner was timed on firm turf in 2:25.90, a course record.

“Halfway around the home turn I could see Broome had gone, but I was always confident of picking him up,” Buick said. Yibir has “an amazing turn of foot and I couldn’t pull him up after the line. Amazing horse, and I think he did something today that not many horses can do, so all credit to him.”

European-based horses swept the top four positions, with the Roger Varian-trained filly Teona running third and Japan, another O’Brien trainee, checking in fourth. Tarnawa ran 11th as the 2.10-1 favorite.

Yibir provided the first victory in the Turf for both trainer and jockey. His win was the sixth overall in the Breeders’ Cup for Appleby and fifth for Buick.

“I’ve been coming to Breeders’ Cup for many years, and many times things have not gone my way,” Buick said. “I understand how hard it is to have winners here so I appreciate every bit of success. The luck has gone my way this year.”

Appleby was also delighted with his stable’s success, his only poor finisher being Walton Street, who ran ninth in the Turf. Even his two horses scratched at the gate seemed to dodge serious injury.

“A fantastic weekend. I can take a couple of them home fresh,” Appleby quipped.–Byron King

Space Blues Outfinishes Smooth Like Strait to Win FanDuel Mile

Godolphin, Appleby, and Buick got the ball rolling earlier Saturday in the $1,840,000 Fanduel Breeders’ Cup Mile presented by PDJF when Space Blues, a 5-year-old son of Dubawi and a Godolphin homebred, outfinished pacesetting Smooth Like Strait by a half-length. The 5-year-old Dubawi gelding, making his final start, tracked Smooth Like Strait through the far turn while saving ground before angling out in the stretch and powering to victory.

“I was surprised we went as slow as we did,” said Buick, who rode Space Blues in 11 of his 18 races. “It certainly helped. He settled well and was always in a good spot without having to do too much.”

It had been more than two years since Appleby had asked Space Blues to run as far as a mile. The trainer was quick to point out, however, that European milers are of sterner stuff than their flat, turning American cousins. Space Blues was coming off consecutive victories in testing seven-furlong events at York and Longchamp.

“To give you an idea of what we’ve always thought of him, though,” Appleby noted, “I was training him at first with the (Epsom) Derby in mind.”

Space Blues finished the mile in 1:34.01 as the 2.10-1 favorite. He retires as whiz at distances from six to eight furlongs and a Breeders’ Cup world championship on his résumé, along with the eternal gratitude of his jockey.

“I’ll miss him,” Buick said. “He was always a pleasure to ride. A great personality, and he didn’t really need a jockey. With him, the rider could only mess things up.”

The Mile’s three-quarter split in 1:11.02 effectively neutralized the chances from anything attacking late. Ivar made the best run to finish a length behind Smooth Like Strait, while Raging Bull was fourth, just ahead of the 6-year-old mare Got Stormy in her final race.–Jay Hovdey

Aloha West Edges Dr. Schivel in Sprint Thriller

Jose Ortiz doesn’t ride at Del Mar regularly, but that doesn’t stop him from winning there. As the finish line loomed in the Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Ortiz kept scrubbing on Aloha West. The gallant little colt was flying from sixth, laser focused on leader Dr. Schivel. The question was, could Aloha West get there in time?

Dr. Schivel never gave up, but neither did Aloha West. Aloha West drew even with the leader, and the two raced together right to the wire. It would be not a nose bob but a nostril bob, and Aloha West’s nostril got the job done.

“I just ride hard, three or four jumps to the wire,” said Ortiz. “I thought I had it, but I wasn’t sure.”

The six-furlong Sprint can be a duel for speedsters, and this year Jackie’s Warrior was considered the fastest, accounting for his 1-2 favoritism. He zoomed to the lead at the start, just as expected, while Grade 1 winner Dr. Schivel lurked in fourth, waiting for his opportunity.

Aloha West raced farther back in seventh as Jackie’s Warrior clocked the first quarter-mile in :21.91. Around the turn, Dr. Schivel moved up on the outside, and he caught leader Jackie’s Warrior when they turned for home.

Just as Dr. Schivel appeared home free, 11.30-1 shot Aloha West came hard, charging on the outside. Aloha West closed ground relentlessly, gamely never giving up, to score about as narrow a victory as possible without a dead heat.

Dr. Schivel finished second, 1 ½ lengths ahead of Following Sea. Favored Jackie’s Warrior faded to sixth. Aloha West completed the six furlongs in 1:08.49.

“I liked where we were early in the race, and the head-bob was a tough one,” trainer Wayne Catalano said. Catalano won his fourth Breeders’ Cup race in the Sprint and his first in 10 years.

For the Aron Wellman-led Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, which owns Aloha West, the Sprint marked the best way ever to celebrate 10 years of racing. Those in this particular partnership range from longtime owners to first-timers, and they all must have brought a bevy of friends to swamp the winner’s circle.

“This is surreal,” said Wellman, Eclipse’s president. “This is my home track – I just live five minutes down the road.”

Wellman immediately turned to Catalano and began heaping praise on him.

“This guy is a treasure,” Wellman said. “He has done an incredible job developing this colt. (Aloha West) only ran for the first time in February this year as a 4-year-old, and 10 months later he’s a Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion. That takes master horsemanship to be able to accomplish something that monumental.”–Tracy Gantz

Japan’s Loves Only You Wins Filly and Mare Turf with Late Rush

In April, Loves Only You helped make some history for Japan racing in Hong Kong. On a fall Saturday at Del Mar, she stood alone in a historic racing moment for her home country in North America.

Loves Only You became the first Japan-based horse to win a Breeders’ Cup race when the 5-year-old daughter of the late sire Deep Impact split favored War Like Goddess and longshot My Sister Nat to win the $1,840,000 Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. That turned out to be a the first in a two-win day for Japan, as longshot Marche Lorraine, trained by Loves Only You’s conditioner Yoshito Yahagi, would upset the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff three races later.

“We’ve had so many horses challenge in the Breeders’ Cup but we’d never had a victory at Breeders’ Cup,” said DMM Dream Racing director Takumi Nomoto through an interpreter. “That why I felt like it was a challenge to come in here and we got the big win.”

Loves Only You won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Sha Tin back in April, leading home four Japan-based runners in that race. It marked the first time Japan-based runners had taken the top four spots in that top Hong Kong event.

Two weeks after that Hong Kong victory, Yahagi approached Nomoto about running in the Breeders’ Cup and while they didn’t completely commit to it at that time, they set on that path, which would be realized.

“The race looked like a really tough race, a competitive race, but before the race we thought our horse was Number One,” Yahagi said through an interpreter. “It was a really great race but we believed in her and now she won this great race.”

In the 1 3/8-mile Filly and Mare Turf, it would be a U.S.-based horse who would move first when jockey Julien Leparoux made a sweeping, six-wide move in the third and final turn aboard War Like Goddess to loom large entering the. Surging War Like Goddess would seize the lead in the stretch and carry that advantage past the eighth pole.

Chad Brown-trained My Sister Nat made a sweeping move of her own in the final turn and then engaged War Like Goddess in deep stretch. But it would be Loves Only You moving best of all in deep stretch. Prominently placed in fourth or fifth throughout by jockey Yuga Kawada, Loves Only You was patient as she encountered traffic in the lane before finding a seam inside the sixteenth pole to deliver her winning surge.

Loves Only You prevailed by a half-length over My Sister Nat; completing the 1 3/8-mile race in 2:13.87 on firm turf. War Like Goddess held third, 1 ½ lengths ahead of dual English classic winner Love in fourth.–Frank Angst

Life Is Good Blazes to Overpowering Dirt Mile Score

Life Is Good has the kind of name that bespeaks happiness and conjures visions of blissful days.

After what happened in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, it’s nearly impossible to avoid gushing about what sort of life awaits this rather “good” 3-year-old in 2022.

Not only was China Horse Club and WinStar Farm’s Life Is Good a decisive, front-running 5 ¾-length winner of the Dirt Mile, he powered to his first Grade 1 win with such a dynamic display of early and late speed that the crowd gasped when track announcer Larry Collmus informed them that the son of Into Mischief  sprinted through the opening quarter-mile in :21.88.

Good? Oh, he was much better than that.

“He was great,” Elliott Walden, CEO, president, and racing manager of WinStar Farm, said about the colt trained by Todd Pletcher. “When (jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.) came back after the race, he told Todd that he thought he was going :23 and :47.”

It’s rare that a horse can dash through a :44.94 half-mile and trick an Eclipse Award-winning rider such as Ortiz into believing that he was running some 10 lengths slower, but Life Is Good has that dynamic blend of talent and speed that allows him to make something demanding look simple.

“He’s an exceptional talent,” Pletcher said after Life Is Good’s fifth win in six career starts. “Sometimes when you expect to win, it’s hard to win, but he did it.”

Switched to Pletcher’s barn from Bob Baffert over the summer, Life Is Good was valiant in defeat when he finished second to Jackie’s Warrior in the seven-furlong H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes in August. After that race, a plan was crafted to use the Dirt Mile as a springboard to the top 2022 races. Since then he has reeled off wins in the Kelso Handicap and Dirt Mile and is now poised for longer and richer tests next year.

Life Is Good, who led by a length much of the way before pulling away in the stretch, covered the mile in 1:34.12 as the 7-10 favorite with Ortiz putting a finger to his lips as he crossed the wire in a tribute to jockey Miguel Mena who died when struck by a vehicle in Louisville earlier in the week.

Ginobili futilely chased the winner in the stretch and settled for second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Restrainedvengence.–Bob Ehalt

Ce Ce Rallies Late to Win Filly and Mare Sprint, Gamine Third

Horse ownership has brought owner/breeder Bo Hirsch to Cloud Nine, but for one Breeders’ Cup, he said he reached “Cloud Million.”

His 5-year-old homebred mare Ce Ce put him there in defeating longshot Edgeway and favored Gamine in the $860,000 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

He wasn’t alone in his excitement. The victory gave jockey Victor Espinoza his first Breeders’ victory since American Pharoah’s Breeders’ Cup Classic win in 2015. And for trainer Michael McCarthy her win punctuated a memorable 2021 that included a Preakness Stakes victory from Rombauer.

Flanked by Espinoza and McCarthy in a post-race press conference, Hirsch showered them with praise.

“This guy over here,” turning to 49-year-old Espinoza, “is like a fine wine. He just improves with age,” Hirsch said. “And I love him. He’s the best.

“And this guy over here,” he added, turning to McCarthy, “(has) done such a wonderful job with Ce Ce getting her to just continue to improve, and he knows when to lay her up for a period of time and when to come back, and he just did a remarkable job. And if you can find a trainer out there that works harder than he does, I promise that person is on a day that’s longer than 24 hours.”

As for Ce Ce, the chestnut mare shined Saturday in her 16th start, just as she on so many other occasions, such as when she won two Grade 1 races in 2020. Fourth or five early, she swooped in action late on the turn, reeling in the leaders before midstretch and motoring away for a 2 ½-length victory.

Ce Ce, the third betting choice at 6.20-1 odds, stopped the clock with a final time of 1:21 for seven furlongs.

Gamine, the reigning champion female sprinter finished three-quarters of a length behind Edgeway and lost a one-turn race for the first time in nine such starts. She was hampered by pace pressure, jockey John Velazquez said.

“When you go that fast early, it’s hard to keep up the whole way around when you are pressed all the time,” he said. “At the quarter pole, I thought she was going to have it, but as soon as I moved my hands and she didn’t respond the way I thought, I knew I was in trouble.”–Byron King

Golden Pal Returns to Breeders’ Cup Victorious with Turf Sprint Score

Golden Pal did precisely what trainer Wesley Ward predicted he would do in the $920,000 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, exploding out of the gate to clear the field in a matter of strides and denying the rest of the field any hope before they even hit the bend.

The 3-year-old Uncle Mo colt never slowed down in the stretch, cruising to a 1 ¼-length win in 55.22 seconds and becoming a two-time Breeders’ Cup winner. He won the Juvenile Turf Sprint at Keeneland last year for the Coolmore group of Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Westerberg.

“He’s got the title – he’s the best horse (I’ve ever trained),” said the trainer afterward, who picked up his sixth Breeders’ Cup win. “I hope everyone in horse racing has a horse like this, as special as he is.”

“He’s always had a high opinion of the horse,” said Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier, gesturing to Ward. “We got together and got the deal done.”

The 5-2 favorite blitzed the field through a quarter-mile in 22.25 seconds and a half-mile in 43.91 seconds under Irad Ortiz Jr. and was not challenged in the stretch by runner-up Lieutenant Dan. Charmaine’s Mia finished third.

Ortiz also rode Golden Pal in last year’s Juvenile Turf Sprint victory.

“He was ready today,” Ortiz said. “I was happy to get the lead easily and he responded to me when I asked him for the run down the stretch. I was confident coming for home and he still felt very strong.”

Ward suggested a return to Royal Ascot would be targeted for Golden Pal’s 4-year-old season. He was second by a neck in the Norfolk Stakes as a 2-year-old. – Jim Mulvihill