Malathaat (L-R), the eventual winner, Blue Stripe and Clairiere crossed the line in a photo finish in the $2 million Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff on Saturday at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Abraham/UPI | License Photo
LEXINGTON. Ky., Nov. 5 (UPI) -- Before Flightline soared to the heights of greatness Saturday at Keeneland's Breeders' Cup meeting, there were lots and lots of preliminary thrills, including a near triple dead-heat in the $2 million Distaff and ongoing mastery of the turf races by the visiting Europeans.
Here's how it went in the leadup to the big race:
Rebel's Romance romps in the Turf
Godolphin homebred Rebel's Romance capped a huge weekend for European turf runners with a sparkling win in the $4 million Longines Turf.
With James Doyle up for trainer Charlie Appleby, the 4-year-old Dubawi gelding broke slowly, worked for position and then jetted away in the stretch run to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Irish raider Stone Age.
War Like Goddess was the best of the North American entries, finishing third.
Rebel's Romance has run on turf and dirt, from Dubai to England and Germany, winning a pair of graded stakes in Germany to earn his way to Keeneland. Appleby said that experience will stand him in good stead going forward as his career horizons expand.
"He's maturing and well-traveled now," Appleby said. "He's a typical Dubawi. He gets stronger as he goes along."
Appleby said Rebel's Romance and the rest of the Godolphin team are due a well-earned break for the remainder of the year. Stone Age's trainer, Aidan O'Brien, said that one is headed to the Japan Cup and he expects to be represented in the Longines Hong Kong International Races in December, too.
Three finish in a line in Distaff
It took a long look at the photo to separate Malathaat, long shot Blue Stripe and Clairiere at the finish of the $2 million Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff, but the evidence showed them finishing in that order, just two noses apart, with the favorite, Nest, taking fourth another 3 1/4 lengths in arrears.
All of the top three rallied from far back in the eight-horse field, with Malathaat coming five-wide to barely get the job done for jockey John Velazquez and trainer Todd Pletcher.
The 4-year-old Curlin filly ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.07 to win her third straight Grade I event. She has finished in the first three, winning 10 times, in 14 career starts.
"She can be a little tricky," Pletcher said in the post-race interview. "She needs a little while to get revved up, and you can't make the lead too soon with her. I told Johnny that's timing it a little close for my liking.
"To be honest, from where I was positioned, I thought we won. Then every time I watched the replay, it seemed like it got closer and closer."
Gregory Clarke, representing the owner, Shadwell Stables, said no decision has been made about Malathaat's future.
Elite Power Overpowers Sprint Rivals
Elite Power powered down the the stretch outside the leaders and was along in plenty of time to win the $2 million Grade I Qatar Racing Sprint by 1 1/4 lengths from C Z Rocket.
The favorite, Jackie's Warrior, chased faster rivals most of the way, but finished third as Elite Power finished the 6 furlongs in 1:09.11.
Elite Power, trained by Bill Mott for Juddmonte, took four tries to get his first win, but when he did, it was a doozy -- a 9-length triumph at Churchill Downs on June 5. He hasn't lost since and the Breeders' Cup Sprint was his fourth straight win, following the Grade II Vosburgh at Aqueduct on Oct. 8.
"He had baby issues," Mott said of Elite Power's relatively light racing history of just eight starts. "Typical stuff, and it was just a matter of waiting for him to be ready. He's kept improving at every start and he's been winning at a variety of distances."
It was another bitter defeat for the connections of Jackie's Warrior, who finished sixth in last year's Sprint at Del Mar as the odds-on favorite and lost of only the third time in 18 starts.
Tuesday on Saturday
Tuesday scored her first win since this spring's Group 1 Epsom Oaks with a stretch-running victory in the $2 million Grade I Maker's Mark Filly & Mare Turf -- another jewel in the glittering weekend crown of Ireland's Coolmore partners, trainer Aidan O'Brien and jockey Ryan Moore.
Moore kept Tuesday, a Galileo filly, in the middle of the 12-horse field, well off pacesetter In Italian, through most of the 1 3/16 miles.
Kicking strongly outside rivals at the top of the lane, Tuesday got to In Italian inside the final sixteenth and won by 1 length. Lady Speightspeare was third with British raider Nashwa fourth.
Since her Oaks win, Tuesday had gone winless in four starts, though she was second in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks and a close fourth in the Group 1 Prix Vermille at Longchamp in Paris on Arc Preview weekend.
"When she won the Oaks," Moore said, "I thought she'd win Group 1's all over. Today, she showed up. ... I thought she'd win more this year. But she's won an Oaks and a Breeders' Cup and that's a pretty good double for her."
"I think there's a good chance she will stay in training next year," O'Brien said.
Coolmore, O'Brien and Moore won both the Juvenile Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf on the Friday Breeders' Cup card.
Modern Games continues Euro turf success
Europeans continued to dominate on the Keeneland turf as Modern Games, with William Buick up for Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby, rallied to win the $2 million Grade I FanDUel Mile by 3/4 length.
Woodbine-based Shirl's Speight salvaged some North American honor while finishing second, but another trans-Atlantic runner, Kinross, took third.
The winner's name is familiar to U.S. racing fans from his victory in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, where he ran for purse money only after a mix-up behind the gate in which he was scratched, then "unscratched" by Del Mar officials.
The Godolphin homebred colt by Dubawi started his 2022 campaign with a win in the Group 1 French 2000 Guineas, traveled to Canada to win the Grade I Woodbine Mile in September and was second in the Grade I QE II at Ascot in his most recent start.
For Godolphin, Appleby and Buick, it was the second win of the Breeders' Cup weekend that ended with Godolphin winning three.
"He's a great horse. He was a great 2-year-old," Buick said. "I think he's only been out of it once in his life. Today he gets the recognition he deserves."
Appleby noted Modern Games has been a bit of a substitute for other Godolphin runners this year and filled almost every gap, earning the nickname "The Substitute."
"He's just the horse he is. A true warrior," Appleby said. "For next year, we'll work backward from Royal Ascot. And I'd love to bring him back here."
In the other Breeders' Cup races on a windy, cloudy Saturday in the Blue Grass:
Heavy favorite Goodnight Olive took the lead at the top of the stretch in the $1 million Grade I Filly & Mare Sprint and ran on to win by 2 1/2 lengths over last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, Echo Zulu.
Wicked Halo was third and last year's Filly & Mare Sprint champ, Ce Ce, got home fourth.
Goodnight Olive, a 4-year-old Ghostzapper filly, ran 7 furlongs in 1:21.61 with Irad Ortiz Jr. up, winning her fifth straight race for trainer Chad Brown.
Caravel turned into the stretch in front in the $1 million Grade I Turf Sprint and held on gamely to win by 1/2 length over Emaraaty Ana, the best-finishing of a talented field of Europeans.
Two more trans-Atlantic raiders, Creative Force and Highfield Princess, were third and fourth as Caravel, a Pennsylvania-bred mare by Mizzen Mast, finished 5 1/2 furlongs on firm going in 1:01.79 with Tyler Gaffalione up for trainer Brad Cox.
The even-money favorite and last year's winner, Golden Pal, broke a step slowly and finished 10th. Caravel finished last in the 2021 Turf Sprint at Del Mar.
Cody's Wish, the sentimental favorite for his relationship with his namesake and biggest fan, disabled Kentucky teenager Cody Dorman, swept wide around rivals entering the stretch in the $1 million Grade I Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile, seized the lead and held off Arkansas Derby winner Cyberknife through the final furlong to win by a head.
Long shot Slow Down Andy was third.
Cody's Wish, a 4-year-old Curlin colt trained by the aforementioned Mott for Godolphin, was clocked in 1:35.33 on a fast track with Junior Alvarado in the irons. The win was his sixth from his last seven starts and second Grade I score following the Forego at Saratoga on Aug. 27.