Once the Southern California hope for the Triple Crown, Goldencents emerged again spectacularly in the $1-million Dirt Mile on Friday in the opening day of the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita.
The Doug O'Neill-trained horse, under a strategically perfect ride by Rafael Bejarano, started in the 11th spot of 11 starters, raced to the front under Bejarano's urging and held on well down the stretch, as Joel Rosario and Golden Ticket chased.
Goldencents ended up winning by a decisive 23/4 lengths, and principal owner Glenn Sorgenstein said afterward that he had never doubted the horse, even after Goldencents won the Santa Anita Derby and then didn't measure up in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, where the horse finished 17th and fifth.
"At the Derby, we had a track that turned into peanut butter, as Doug called it," Sorgenstein said. "At the Preakness, he was just away from home. He needed some home cooking."
Since the Preakness, Goldencents has finished second in three straight races, and Sorgenstein said Goldencents was clearly ready for this one. This was O'Neill's fourth Breeders' Cup victory. He has also won the Derby and the Preakness with I'll Have Another.
Goldencents is owned, in part, by Louisville basketball Coach Rick Pitino.
Three of Friday's five Breeders' Cup races were won by horses that predominantly race in Europe. London Bridge, who primarily runs in Britain and France, won the 13/4-mile Marathon by a length with Mike Smith aboard.
In the Juvenile Turf, Outstrip, also with Smith in the saddle, rallied for a half-length win. Outstrip races in Britain.
And, Chriselliam won the Juvenile Fillies Turf by 21/2 lengths over French import Testa Rossi. Chriselliam is an Irish-bred and typically races in Britain and France. The connections of that horse brought in jockey Richard Hughes to ride.
Though bettors like to turn their attention to the pick six, on Saturday its smaller counterpart is likely to get more of the attention. There was a $891,813 carryover to the pick five, and track officials expect the pot to swell to nearly $4 million. It should generate some early traffic to the racetrack. The pick five encompasses Races 1-5, including two Breeders' Cup races — the fourth race, Juvenile Fillies, and fifth, the Filly and Mare Turf.
The pick six (Races 7-12) has a $2.5-million guaranteed payout.
Horse injury update
Racing's most lucrative two days got past the first day without any serious injury to any Breeders' Cup horses. Centralinteligence was vanned off after the Dirt Mile. The horse was eased and jockey Victor Espinoza immediately jumped off as he reached the finish line. Track veterinarians said the horse suffered a hairline fracture near the bottom of the right front leg on the outside of the cannon bone. The horse will probably undergo surgery Saturday, but the injury is not considered life- or career-threatening.
Ever Rider was pulled up on the backstretch of the Marathon. An examination showed nothing more than the horse got tired. He left the track under his own power.
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