ARCADIA, California (Reuters) - Wise Dan cemented his credentials as America’s top-ranked race horse while Game On Dude spectacularly failed as the 2012 Breeders’ Cup ended in glorious sunshine at Santa Anita Park on Saturday.
Game on Dude, the overwhelming favorite for the marquee Breeders’ Classic, finished a surprising seventh out of 12 runners after making a poor start, effectively ending his chance of securing Horse of the Year honors.
That accolade now seems certain to fall to Wise Dan after the five-year-old gelding bolted to a sizzling victory in the $2 million Mile, posting a track record on the way to his fourth consecutive win.
Also taking advantage of Game on Dude’s unexpected fall from grace was Fort Larned, who stormed to a stunning upset win by half a length over Mucho Macho Man in the Classic, America’s richest horse race.
A crowd of 55,123 was enthralled by the card on the second and final day of the Breeders’ Cup, billed as the world championship of thoroughbred racing, as only three favorites triumphed in nine events.
In addition to Wise Dan’s expected dominance over the mile, Groupie Doll stretched her unbeaten run to five races with victory in the Filly and Mare Sprint while Shanghai Bobby also made it a perfect five-of-five by winning the Juvenile.
The star of the day for most fans, however, was Wise Dan who broke from the pack on the home straight and held off 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom by a length and a half.
The gelding covered the mile in 1:31.78 to beat the track record set in 1997 by Atticus by .11 seconds, all the more impressive given that Atticus carried nine fewer pounds at 117.
“I just wanted to get him in the right position,” jockey John Velazquez said after Wise Dan’s ninth victory in his last 11 races. “When I was able to do that, and you’ve got a horse as good as this, you can expect a result like this.”
Fort Larned, a 9-1 shot, stole the limelight in the $5 million Classic, leading all the way after making a storming start and holding off a late surge by Mucho Macho Man with a strong finish.
“When you got a horse that keeps getting better and better every time you take him over there, it makes my job easier,” said Fort Larned’s jubilant trainer Ian Wilkes.
Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr, like Wilkes, celebrated his first Breeders’ Cup win but heaped most of the plaudits on the four-year-old colt.
“When he left the gate, he knew it was business time and he left there as well as he did,” said Hernandez, who also celebrated his 27th birthday on Saturday. “He’s going to be naturally fast and that’s what we let him do.”
Outsider Little Mike stole the show from the heavily fancied Point of Entry and last year’s champion St Nicholas Abbey to win the Turf in one of the biggest upsets of the day.
A 17-1 long shot, Little Mike was expertly ridden by jockey Ramon Dominguez and held off a late challenge by Point of Entry to seal victory by half a length with a commanding burst down the stretch.
Point of Entry, a 2-1 favorite after winning his previous five races and widely regarded as the one of best U.S. runners on turf in recent years, closed fast to finish second.
In one of horse racing’s most spectacular settings with the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains, odds-on favorite Groupie Doll obliterated the field to win the $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint by four and one-half lengths from Dust and Diamonds.
Unbeaten in her four previous races, the William Bradley-trained filly stayed wide throughout and pulled away from the pack with a blistering.
“You’re the big favorite and expected to win, but you still have to get there,” said jockey Rajiv Maragh, who has ridden Groupie Doll to all five of her consecutive wins. “It’s never easy until you pass the wire.”
Kentucky bred colt Shanghai Bobby, expertly ridden by Rosie Napravnik, maintained his perfect record by winning the $2 million Juvenile in a thrilling finish after fending off a late surge by He’s Had Enough.
The 6-5 favorite with four wins from as many starts, Shanghai Bobby appeared to have bolted to the lead too early on the final turn and was being swamped by challengers.
But Napravnik summoned another surge from the Todd Pletcher-trained colt and he kicked again to win by a head from He’s Had Enough, a 19-1 long shot.
“This is all part of the goal, to be on this level,” said Napravnik, having become only the second female jockey, after Julie Krone, to win a Breeders’ Cup race.
“Shanghai Bobby is a cool horse to be around. He’s talented and that’s all part of what my dream has been -- to be able to ride this type of athlete and compete in the World Championships.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury