Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Vino Rosso rallied through the stretch to a convincing victory in Saturday's $6 million Longines Breeders' Cup Classic, defeating the favorite, McKinzie, while capping the two-day Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita.
Although 13 earlier championship races were run without incident over two days, the Classic was marred by the stretch breakdown of Mongolian Groom, a promising 4-year-old who was transported from the track by horse ambulance. Track veterinarians said the colt suffered a "serious injury to his left-hind ankle" and later announced he was euthanized.
Vino Rosso, with Irad Ortiz Jr. up for trainer Todd Pletcher, raced several lengths behind the leading trio down the backstretch, moved to the lead around the turn and took full command of the Classic in the final furlong, drawing off to win by 4 1/4 lengths. Higher Power and the only female in the field, Elate, finished third and fourth behind McKinzie. Vino Rosso ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.80 over a fast track.
"I can't remember coming into a face of this magnitude with a horse we were so confident it," Pletcher said. "It was the strongest performance I've seen from any horse this year."
Pletcher said he and the owners sent Vino Rosso to the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita in May with the Breeders' Cup in mind. When he won that, Pletcher said, "It gave us confidence the horse handled the track."
Vino Rosso also finished first in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park but was disqualified to second. He ran his record to three wins from six starts on the season with the Classic victory.
With the two wins at the top level, the 4-year-old Curlin colt will attract some support in the Horse of the Year balloting, which now seems to lean the way of turf specialist Bricks and Mortar, who won the $4 million Longines Breeders' Cup Turf one race earlier and remains undefeated in 2019.
The other main-track races on the second day of the Breeders' Cup World Championships:
Blue Prize got the big prize in the $2 million Longines Distaff, overcoming a bad start to take a daylight lead turning for home and then holding off one of the day's biggest favorites, Midnight Bisou, to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress was third, followed by Ollie's Candy and Dunbar Road. With "Jersey Joe" Bravo up, the 6-year-old, Argentine-bred mare ran 9 furlongs in 1:50.50.
For Blue Prize, it was a third straight win. In her previous start, she defeated the highly regarded Elate in the Grade I Spinster at Keeneland. For Midnight Bisou, who finished third in last year's Distaff, it was the first loss of the year after seven straight wins and did no favors for her Horse of the Year campaign.
"She has beaten Elate and Midnight Bisou in two months. What else do you want to ask of a horse?" said Blue Prize's ebullient trainer, Ignacio Correas IV. "She's a champion and all the credit is for her. We have been blessed to have her. It's been a great ride. We have great owners who let us plan and execute. But it's all about this filly."
Midnight Bisou's trainer, Steve Asmussen, noted she continued to run after being bottled up behind horses. "There is no give up in her," he said. "For her to keep coming under those circumstances is unbelievable because around the turn she looked hopeless. But, she just showed her class. She kept coming."
The $2 million Sprint came down to a stretch battle between the favorite, Shancelot, and the second-favorite, Mitole, with the latter getting by on the outside to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Whitmore, who was second in last year's Sprint and eighth a year earlier, finished third this time around. Mitole, a 4-year-old colt by Eskendereya, allowed Shancelot to make all the early pace and did not get by that rival until they were inside the sixteenth pole. He finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.00 with Ricardo Santana Jr. up for trainer Asmussen.
Mitole was coming off a two-months layoff after winning the Grade I Forego at Saratoga. Earlier in the year, he won the Grade I Met Mile at Belmont and the Grade I Churchill Downs. Saturday's victory was his sixth in seven starts in 2019 and, with some other potential contenders coming up short in the Breeders' Cup, will earn him some Horse of the Year votes. "That's a loaded question," Asmussen said about that issue. "I'm not sticking my neck out there."
Asmussen clearly was campaigning, though, as he said, "I don't know that people realize from where he was in the spring to stretching out to beating the field that he did in the Met Mile, to retract from that and beat the best sprinters in the world in the Breeders' Cup Sprint ... it's a very difficult job, one that a horse of his elite abilities is capable of doing."
Spun to Run spun first out of the gate in the $1 million Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile and just kept on running, winning by 2 3/4 lengths. The favorite, Omaha Beach, was slow away from the gate and never got there with a late effort, effectively ending his long shot Horse of the Year chances. Blue Chipper was third.
Spun to Run, with Irad Ortiz riding, finished 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.59. The 3-year-old Hard Spun colt, trained by Juan Carlos Guerrero, was a 9-1 long shot in Saturday's race despite finishing third in the Grade I Haskell at Monmouth and winning two of his last three starts at Parx Racing, including the Grade III Smarty Jones.
I really expected him to win wire-to-wire today, said Guerrero, who won his first Breeders' Cup race. "I just wanted my rider to let him run and show how he can run." Guerrero said Spun to Run's fortunes turned around with the addition of blinkers before the Haskell. "He was a different horse after that," the trainer added.
Big Ass Fans, a Lexington, Ky.-based concern, is a first-year Breeders' Cup sponsor specializing in large-scale ventilation solutions, including big fans for horse barns.
In the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint, Covfefe hit the front entering the stretch and then held off a late bid from Bellafinia to win by 3/4 length, her third straight win and fifth from her last six starts.
Dawn the Destroyer trailed the field early, then ranged up to nip Spiced Perfection for show money. The winner is from the same ownership group that handled Country House, the official winner of this year's Kentucky Derby.
Covfefe, a 3-year-old Into Mischief filly, ran 7 furlongs in 1:22.40 with Joel Rosario riding for trainer Brad Cox. She won the Grade I Test Stakes at Saratoga and the Dogwood at Keeneland en route to Santa Anita. "I thought there was no shot of her not running her race," Cox said, noting the Covfefe's No. 1 gate had not been productive in past runnings. "I knew she was going to run her race."