Bob Baffert got beat again in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. Bill Mott settled for half of a repeat sweep in the weekend’s two biggest races.
The Hall of Fame trainers could only wince as 9-1 long shot Fort Larned won North America’s richest race on Saturday night, capping a weekend of upsets in the world championships at Santa Anita.
Fort Larned ran the race of his life, leading all the way to win by a half-length over Mucho Macho Man.
The highly anticipated Classic was strictly a two-horse race to the finish.
Game On Dude, the 7-5 favorite, ran what Baffert said was “probably the worst race of his life” in finishing seventh. He lost in the closing strides a year ago at Churchill Downs.
Mott’s trio of Flat Out (third), Ron the Greek (fourth) and To Honor and Serve (10th) came up short.
Mott, unlike Baffert, didn’t leave empty-handed. Royal Delta successfully defended her title in the $2 million Ladies’ Classic on Friday, as one of only four favorites to win in 15 races over two days.
The spotlight belonged to an unheralded horse named for an old post in Kansas that protected the Santa Fe Trail, a jockey who rides in racing’s minor leagues, and a low-profile trainer.
“The prestige of winning this race in front of the world is unbelievable,” jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. said.
He celebrated his 27th birthday with the biggest victory of his career. Trainer Ian Wilkes could say the same.
“Fort Larned just gave us the greatest birthday present ever,” said Hernandez, who was the leading rider this year at Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs.
Fort Larned ran 11/4 miles in 2:00.11 in the showcase race of the two-day world championships at Santa Anita that was shown in prime time for the first time. The 4-year-old colt paid $20.80 to win. Wilkes had never won such a big race.
Baffert went 0 for 9 on the weekend, with Game On Dude failing to deliver the Hall of Famer a first-ever win in the Classic. It was the end of a bummer year for him after surviving a heart attack in March and finishing second in each of the Triple Crown races.
Mucho Macho Man was second and Flat Out was third.
Mott was trying to duplicate his feat from last year when he won the Ladies’ Classic and the Classic with Drosselmeyer.
Upsets dominated six of the day’s nine races, with Little Mike pulling off the biggest stunner at 17-1 odds in the $3 million Turf.
Rosie Napravnik joined Julie Krone as the only female jockeys to win a Breeders’ Cup race when she guided 6-5 favorite Shanghai Bobby to a head victory over He’s Had Enough in the $2 million Juvenile.
“As long as you’ve got the horse underneath you, you can get the job done,” said Napravnik, who started her career riding under her initials A.R. so no one would realize she was a woman.