ARCADIA, Calif. – Bob Baffert got beat again in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Bill Mott settled for half of a repeat sweep in the weekend’s two biggest races.
The Hall of Fame trainers could only wince as 9-1 long shot Fort Larned won North America’s richest race on Saturday night, capping a weekend of upsets in the world championships at Santa Anita.
Fort Larned ran the race of his life, leading all the way to win by a half-length over Mucho Macho Man.
The highly anticipated Classic was strictly a two-horse race to the finish in front of 55,123 fans.
Game On Dude, the 7-5 favorite, ran what Baffert said was “probably the worst race of his life” in finishing seventh. Game On Dude was fourth in the 2010 Belmont Stakes.
Mott’s trio of Flat Out (third), Ron the Greek (fourth) and To Honor and Serve (10th) came up short.
“I don’t think we have any huge excuse,” he said.
Mott, unlike Baffert, didn’t leave empty-handed. Royal Delta successfully defended her title in the $2 million Ladies’ Classic on Friday as one of only four favorites to win in 15 races over two days.
After Tony Bennett sang “The Best Is Yet to Come” as the horses were led onto the track, the spotlight belonged to an unheralded entry named for an old post in Kansas that protected the Santa Fe Trail, a jockey who rides in racing’s minor leagues, and a low-profile trainer.
“The prestige of winning this race in front of the world is unbelievable,” jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. said.
He celebrated his 27th birthday with the biggest victory of his career. Trainer Ian Wilkes could say the same.
“Fort Larned just gave us the greatest birthday present ever,” said Hernandez, the leading rider this year at Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs.
Fort Larned ran 11/4 miles in 2:00.11 in the showcase race of the two-day world championships at Santa Anita that was shown in prime time for the first time.
The 4-year-old colt paid $20.80 to win.
“I knew we were good when he broke sharp,” Wilkes said. “That’s where Brian won the race. We broke sharp and Game On Dude broke bad.”
Baffert went 0-for-9 on the weekend, with Game On Dude failing to deliver the Hall of Famer his first win in the Classic.
It was the end of a bummer year for him after surviving a heart attack in March and finishing second in each of the Triple Crown races.
“It was a tough day for me, but I’ve had tougher,” the white-haired trainer said. “Joe Torre told me that you’ve got to forget it.”
Torre, the retired manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, co-owns Game On Dude, who could never employ his favored front-running style under Rafael Bejarano.
Other winners were:
• Wise Dan (in 1:31.78, a course record) beat Animal Kingdom, the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile on the turf.
• Shanghai Bobby held off a late charge by He’s Had Enough to win by a head in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Jockey Rosie Napravnik joins Julie Krone as the only female jockeys to win a Breeders’ Cup race.
“As long as you’ve got the horse underneath you, you can get the job done,” said Napravnik, who started her career riding under her initials A.R. so no one would realize she is a woman.
• Trinniberg, a 13-1 betting choice, sprang an upset in the $1.5 million Sprint. Defending champion Amazombie, the 7-2 favorite, was eighth.
• Little Mike sprung a 17-1 upset over some of the world’s top distance grass runners in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf, including 2-1 favorite Point of Entry and St Nicholas Abbey, the defending Turf champion.
He paid $36.60, the highest win price for this year’s event.
• Filly Mizdirection beat the boys by a half-length in the $1 million Turf Sprint, giving sports talk radio host and co-owner Jim Rome his first Breeders’ Cup victory.
• Tapizar took advantage of an early stumble by Shackleford, last year’s Preakness winner, to pull off a 15-1 upset in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita.
• Groupie Doll, a 3-5 favorite, charged down the middle of the track to win the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint.
• George Vancouver, a 9-1 shot, found a narrow opening in the lane to win the $1 million Juvenile Turf.