Fort Larned wins Breeders’ Cup Classic
Fort Larned wins Breeders’ Cup Classic
Game On Dude, unbeaten in five prior starts on the dirt track at Santa Anita, was the overwhelming favorite to give trainer Bob Baffert a first victory in the $5 million Classic — the richest race in North America.
Instead, he trailed in seventh, piling on the misery for Baffert, who had 10 runners over two days of Breeders’ Cup racing and departed without a winner.
“It really was a tough week, but what are you going to do,” Baffert said.
“When these things happen, when things are hard, you’ve just got to move on,” added Baffert, who received words of encouragement from Game On Dude co-owner Joe Torre, the former World Series-winning manager of Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees.
“A few minutes ago Joe Torre told me that you’ve got to forget it,” Baffert said. “Things that happened five seconds ago, you’ve got to let them go and move on. That’s what will happen.”
As Baffert went back to the drawing board, Fort Larned trainer Ian Wilkes and jockey Brian Hernandez were celebrating their first Breeders’ Cup triumph — and in the race that capped the two-day, 15-race slate worth a total of $25 million.
Hernandez and Fort Larned took the lead into the first turn, extended it on the backstretch, then held on in a furious duel in the final straight to beat Mucho Macho Man by half a length.
“He was gaining on us, but our horse wasn’t going to let him by,” said Hernandez, who called the win a perfect 27th birthday present.
Flat Out was third as Game On Dude, never beaten in five prior starts on the dirt track at Santa Anita, finished seventh in the 12-horse field in the 1 1/4-mile race.
It was just one of the upsets produced in nine races at the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday.
Little Mike was the big surprise in the $3 million Turf. Sent off at 17-to-1, the five-year-old gelding reminded observers he is a multiple grade one winner this year, holding off fancied home hope Point of Entry as well as St. Nicholas Abbey — who had won at Churchill Downs last year to continue Europe’s run in the 1 1/2-mile race.
Joseph O’Brien, whose victory last year aboard St. Nicholas Abbey had made him the youngest jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup race, said his horse ran well, but just didn’t have quite enough for unheralded Little Mike.
“When I asked him, he responded. We had to go a bit wide on the turn, but nonetheless he ran very well,” O’Brien said.
Tapizar, dismissed at odds of 15-1, triumphed in the $1 million Dirt Mile and journeyman jockey Willie Martinez garnered the first Breeders’ Cup victory of his career when he piloted 13-1 Trinniberg to victory in the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
Filly Mizdirection, who hadn’t raced since May, showed her male rivals how it’s done with a big stretch run to win the $1 million Turf Sprint by half a length.
While trainer Aidan O’Brien couldn’t repeat in the Turf with St. Nicholas Abbey, he and jockey Ryan Moore teamed up for a second straight win in the $1 million Juvenile Turf with George Vancouver.
A year after the same duo brought Wrote to victory, Moore piloted George Vancouver through a tightly packed field to a 1 1/4-length win.
There were no real surprises in the Mile, the Juvenile and the Filly and Mare Sprint.
US turf star Wise Dan, trained by Charles Lopresti and ridden by John Velazquez, won the $2 million Mile in a course record 1min 31.78sec ahead of 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.
Excelebration, racing just a fortnight after a victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, was the best of the Europeans but finished out of the money in fourth.
In the $2 million Juvenile, traditional pointer to next year’s Kentucky Derby, Shanghai Bobby lived up to his favorite’s status, using a determined stretch run to earn his fifth win in five starts and cement his claim to champion two-year-old colt honors.
In the Filly and Mare Sprint, it was Groupie Doll who stretched her winning streak to five graded stakes races this year, three of them in grade one events.
IPL final will pitch batting might of Chennai against bowling mastery of Sunrisers
- Seven-times finalists Chennai go up against 2016 winners
- Chennai have beaten Sunrisers three times already this season
On paper, the Indian Premier League (IPL) final on Sunday evening is a clash between the batting prowess of Chennai Super Kings, who will be contesting their seventh final, and the bowling might of Sunrisers Hyderabad, winners back in 2016.
At first glance, the stats would bear that out too. Four Chennai players — Ambati Rayudu (586), MS Dhoni (455), Shane Watson (438) and Suresh Raina (413) — have topped 400 runs for the season. And while Kane Williamson, Hyderabad’s captain, sits atop the run charts with 688, only Shikhar Dhawan (471) among his teammates has crossed 300.
On the bowling side, Hyderbad’s Rashid Khan and Siddharth Kaul both have 21 wickets, while Shakib Al-Hasan has 14. Not one of them has gone for more than eight runs an over. Chennai’s leading wicket-takers, Shardul Thakur (15) and Dwayne Bravo (13) have both conceded more than nine an over.
Such numbers, however, don’t really tell you how things have gone at the business end of the tournament. Chennai’s campaign has been invigorated by the inclusion of South Africa’s Lungi Ngidi, who had left for home earlier in the competition after the death of his father. He has 10 wickets from six games at a stellar economy rate of 5.9. The new-ball pairing with Deepak Chahar, who can swing it at decent pace, has transformed the team’s fortunes.
Hyderabad have lost four of their last five, and reached the final only after a monumental implosion from Kolkata Knight Riders in front of their home crowd. And it wasn’t a team effort either, with Rashid’s brilliance — 34 off 10 balls, 3 for 19, two catches and one run-out — dragging an underperforming side past the finish line.
Chennai have won all three of their meetings this season, though each game has gone to the wire. After being taken for 49 in the first game between the two sides, Rashid has returned figures of 0 for 25 and 2 for 11. It goes without saying that his intervention will be crucial if Hyderabad are to win a second title.
Chennai lead 8-2 in the head-to-head stakes, and have six players in their likely starting XI who have won the title before. But you have to go all the way back to 2011 for Chennai’s last success, and four losses in the final suggest that they are susceptible to big-match pressure. For that pressure to be felt, Hyderabad need runs. Williamson and Dhawan have scored at a decent clip when they’ve got starts, but there’s been a noticeable lack of oomph in the middle order. Manish Pandey has been dropped after a dreadful season, and Yusuf Pathan seems a shadow of the player who once bullied bowlers. Shakib, too, has failed to play an innings of substance.
It will also be interesting to see who Hyderabad pick for their playing XI. The decision to bench the steady Sandeep Sharma — 11 wickets at an economy rate of 7.02 — in favor of Khaleel Ahmed backfired spectacularly, as he was taken for 38 in three overs. Carlos Brathwaite held his nerve against Kolkata, but Chennai will doubtless target his medium pace after Faf du Plessis took him apart in the first qualifier.
Chennai will likely keep faith in du Plessis. Sam Billings, who he replaced for the first knockout game, started the season with a dazzling 23-ball 56, but has not been able to kick on from that. When Chennai plumped for a squad high on experience but relatively low on youthful vigour, there were more than a few skeptics. This run to the final, Dhoni’s eighth as captain (one of them was with Pune), has changed many of those minds, but the biggest hurdle remains to be crossed.
For Chennai, the IPL final has often been as hard to surmount as Becher’s Brook is for many horses at the Grand National.