Mucho Macho Man won the $5 million Classic by a nose Saturday, making Kathy Ritvo the first female trainer to win North America’s richest race at a Breeders’ Cup that began tragically with the death of a horse in the first race.
Gary Stevens capped his comeback at 50 in stellar fashion, surviving a photo finish in the Classic after winning the $2 million Distaff with Beholder on Friday for a sweep of the biggest races at the two-day world championships at Santa Anita.
Ritvo became the fifth female trainer to win a Breeders’ Cup race and got to celebrate a year after seeing Mucho Macho Man finish second by a half-length to winner Fort Larned.
This time, she had to sweat out the results.
Mucho Macho Man stretched his neck at the finish to narrowly edge Will Take Charge, trained by 78-year-old Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.
Game On Dude, the 8-5 favorite, finished ninth on his home track for trainer Bob Baffert and co-owner Joe Torre, the retired Dodgers and Yankees manager.
The 30th Breeders’ Cup got off to a troublesome start, with a rare disqualification in the opening race and Secret Compass euthanized because of a broken leg.
The $2 million Juvenile Fillies went from strange to tragic over several minutes. The DQ was announced after a green screen went up in a spot approaching the final turn to shield injured Secret Compass from the crowd.
“When you lose a horse like that, it just took all the wind out of our sails,” Baffert said. “I’ve never had something like that happen on a big day. We’re all still in shock.”
John Velazquez, who rode Secret Compass, had emergency surgery to remove his spleen after internal bleeding was discovered shortly before he was to be released from a Pasadena hospital.
Ria Antonia finished second but was declared the winner of the 11/16-mile race after She’s a Tiger was disqualified by the stewards.
They ruled that She’s a Tiger and Stevens drifted out late, bumped Ria Antonia and Javier Castellano, slowing her momentum.
“I had gotten by Gary but when he came in to me, he bumped me off-stride,” Castellano said.
Stevens said the stewards had a tough call.
“The stewards made their call and I wouldn’t disagree with that,” he said.
It was the first DQ of a winner since the inaugural 1984 Juvenile Fillies race in which Fran’s Valentine won and later was placed 10th.
“This is heartbreaking,” said Jeff Bonde, who trains She’s a Tiger.
Sent off at 32-1 odds, Ria Antonia paid $66.60, $29.80 and $17.40. The winning time was 1:43.02 and the margin was a nose.
“If that horse changes course and doesn’t make contact, you say, ‘OK, leave it up,”’ said Jeremiah Englehart, who trains Ria Antonia. “But once you make contact it has to come down.”
She’s a Tiger returned $6.40 and $4.80. Rosalind paid $6.80 to show.
Running third at the time, Secret Compass’ front legs collapsed, slamming Velazquez hard into the dirt. Baffert’s 2-year-old filly was euthanized after sustaining a lateral condylar fracture, according to on-call veterinarian Dr. Wayne McIlwraith.
“It is the worst type of injury we get, unfortunately,” he said.
Velazquez was to ride in all nine Breeders’ Cup races, but he was replaced by other jockeys.