It was sweet redemption for jockey Mike Smith who suffered the most crushing defeat of his riding career in this race last year on Zenyatta. On a day full of upsets, Smith stormed down the middle of the track with 2010 Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic at 14-1. Game on Dude tried to take the field wire-to-wire and held on gamely for second. Ruler on Ice split horses late for third. The lone filly in the race Havre-de-Grace finished fourth. Drosselmeyer’s margin of victory was 1 1/2 lengths and paid $31.60 to win.
Last year, Smith was beaten with Zenyatta by a nose by Blame in the Classic, the only loss in the great mare’s career. Smith was heavily criticized and even blamed for coming from so far off the pace that Zenyatta ran out of track. Smith was well off the pace this year with Drosselmeyer but rated the four-year-old perfectly storming home with plenty to spare. Smith had only riddem Drosselmeyer one before and that was in the 2010 Belmont. It was Smith’s record 15th Breeders’ Cup win.
Chantel Sutherland, Smith’s ex-girlfriend, almost became the first woman to win the classic with a gutsy ride on Game on Dude who led all but the final 50 yards. Game on Dude set honest fractions and then turned back the challenge of Uncle Mo who faded to 10th. Flat out who went to post as the 7/2 favorite, never fired and finished fifth.
Drosselmeyer’s Classic victory left Horse of the Year wide open. Fillies Rachel Alexander and Zenyatta took home HOY honors the last two years and Havre de Grace could have locked up the title with a win in the Classic. She had dominated her kind during the year and beat the boys in the Woodward but was a non-menacing fourth at the wire. It was the first time in her 15 race career that she had finished out of the money. To her credit, she probably would have won the Ladies Classic easily but her owner’s are made of better stuff.
Goldikova, third in the Horse of the Year balloting last year and looking for an unprecedented fourth straight win in the Mile, could only manage third. The great French mare will retire to the breeding shed.
The 3-YO and aged horse Eclipse awards are also up for grabs. Uncle Mo who missed the Triple Crown season due to an infection has a good summer but didn’t seem to like the track at Churchill Downs. Animal Kingdom won the Kentucky Derby and finished second in the Preakness, but ran out in the Belmont sustaining a season ending fracture. Shackleford won the Preakness and raced every race but faded from a tough early schedule. Belmont winner Ruler on Ice raced credibly throughout the summer and fall.