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Breeders’ Cup Report Day One: Shared Spotlight

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Six different jockeys, trainers and owners shared the Breeders’ Cup spotlight in front of nearly 35,000 fans at Santa Anita Park on Friday.

Total common-pool handle for Friday’s 10-race card was $47,586,765 vs. $50,053,505 bet last year on Championship Friday at Churchill Downs (a five percent decline) and $48,439,438 bet on the 2009 Friday card the last time Santa Anita hosted the event.

“We’re off to an encouraging start with great performances on the track and strong business results. We’re looking forward to picking up where we left off on Saturday,” said Breeders’ Cup President and CEO Craig Fravel.

On-track handle at Santa Anita on Friday was $7,298,174 vs. $7,097,789 in 2009 (a 2.82% increase).

“Considering the effects of Hurricane Sandy and difficult circumstances for much of the East Coast, to be within five percent is a success,” said Ken Kirchner, Breeders’ Cup senior wagering consultant.

Friday’s betting action was highlighted by a $773,865 single winning ticket in the Pick 6.  There were 52 consolation 5-of-6 tickets that paid $6,378.00.  There will be a $2 million guaranteed Ultra Pick 6 Pool on Saturday.

In Friday’s marquee event, the $2 million Ladies Classic, defending race champion Royal Delta led all the way to win by 1½ lengths. She was the only favorite to win on an upset-filled opening day of the Breeders’ Cup.

Jockey Mike Smith, who piloted Royal Delta, earned his 16th victory in the event’s 29-year history, breaking a tie for most wins with fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey.

“I hope to be around a few more years to add to it,” the 47-year-old rider said.

Royal Delta also gave Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott his second consecutive win and fifth overall in the Ladies’ Classic, putting him in position to sweep the weekend’s biggest races, a feat he accomplished last year. He has three runners-Florida-breds Ron the Greek and Flat Out as well as To Honor and Serve—in the $5 million Classic this afternoon, a race he won last year with Drosselmeyer.

“We’re certainly not counting our chickens before they hatch,” Mott said. “I think any one of the three has a chance.”

Royal Delta, the 8-5 favorite in the deep field of eight fillies and mares, set all the pace in the Ladies Classic. After leading through some quick early fractions, she dug deep and fought off a challenge from previously unbeaten My Miss Aurelia through the lane. She covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.80.

“She’s just brilliant, she really is,” Smith said. “I was always taught when you’re on a talented horse stay out of their way. I felt confident all the way around there.”

Like My Miss Aurelia, previously unbeaten Florida-bred Awesome Feather, the 2-1 second choice, experienced defeat for the first time, finishing well behind the winner in sixth position.

Questing, a multiple Grade 1 winner also had a tough day. She was eased down the backstretch, but the on-call veterinarian said there was no apparent injury to the 3-year-old filly.

After Royal Delta’s BC win last year at Churchill Downs, she was sold for $8.5 million to Florida’s Benjamin Leon.

“I asked my chief vet where would you draw the line,” Leon said during the post-race press conference, and he said ‘I don’t know how much money you can make or you have but there is only one of her.’ That’s what made me make the commitment to buy her.”

With two Ladies’ Classic titles to her credit, Mott and Leon were already looking ahead to next year with Royal Delta. They plan to run her in the $10 million Dubai World Cup. She finished ninth in this year’s Dubai World Cup.

Included among the other standout winners on an exciting day of racing was Zagora (FR), winner of the $2 million Filly and Mare Turf. Owned by Martin Schwartz, Zagora turned back the charges of Marketing Mix and European shipper and race favorite The Fugue (GB) to win under Javier Castellano for trainer Chad Brown.

“She had everything go her way today,” said Brown. “She got the turf she likes, she got a great trip, and she’s been training great. I’ve never seen her look better health wise. Everything came together for her today and it couldn’t happen to a horse that deserved it more.”

“I’m so pleased, especially for the Schwartzs for being terrific supporters,” Brown added. “They gave me a great horse to train. She’s been a model of consistency since she came into my barn. She’s a very reliable horse in the mornings and afternoons, and she gave me my first Grade 1 win last year (in the Diana). She’s a special horse to me.”

Zagora received a polished, patient ride from Castellano, who tucked her in behind runners early, sent her between horses on the far turn and only asked her for her best in deep stretch.

“I had a beautiful trip,” Castellano said. “I was just where I wanted to be behind the speed. Turning for home, I went to the outside and she gave me a good kick. It’s a pleasure to a part of this. Chad (Brown) gave me a great opportunity to ride her.”

Runner-up Marketing Mix ran a game race for Ocala’s Glen Hill Farm.

“The filly that won has been a good filly all year,” said trainer Tom Proctor. “Take nothing away from her. Our filly ran good; the other filly just ran better. This is an exceptional filly, and we’re proud of her. She will be going to Florida in a day or two to spend some time on the farm and she will be back in training next year.”

Calidoscopio (ARG) engineered the biggest upset of the day in winning the $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon for owner Stud Dona Pancha. The 9-year-old veteran campaigner rolled by his U.S. rivals in the lane to provide jockey Aaron Gryder with his first Breeders’ Cup win. The horse was bred by Haras La Quebrada and is trained by Guillermo Frankel. Calidoscopio’s proud connections and supporters created a jubilant and crowded post-race winner’s circle celebration.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas kicked off the stakes festivities on Saturday, saddling Hightail to an upset score over Florida-bred Merit Man in the $500,000 Juvenile Sprint. It was the 19th Breeders’ Cup victory for Lukas, 77.

“At my age it’s significant,” Lukas said. “I still have the passion for it and I train every day and ride every day. I’m not going to retire. I’m going to ride out there one morning, fall off the pony. They will harrow me under and if the harrow goes over me a couple of times that will be the end of it.”

Flotilla (FR) shipped in from France to annex the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) at one mile for owner H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani. She provided trainer Mikel Delzangles and jockey Christophe Lemaire, both from France, their initial Breeders’ Cup wins, respectively.

Beholder led all the way to defeat race favorite and OBS graduate Execitveprivilege in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Owned by Spendthrift Farm and trained by Richard Mandella, Beholder was ridden by Garrett Gomez. It was the 13th Breeders’ Cup win for Gomez and the seventh for Mandella.

Royal Delta/Benoit photo