Two horses, two wins. Britain couldn’t have done better at the 21st running of the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday when Ouija Board and Wilko both claimed a victory.
Ouija Board (pictured) produced a late run to win the $1m (£544,000) VO5 Filly & Mare Turf at the Lone Park Star track in Texas. Owner Lord Derby and trainer Ed Dunlop considered having the filly race with the big boys in the 12-furlong John Deere Turf but opted for the 11-furlong Filly & Mare instead.
The winner of the British and Irish Oaks was heavily favoured but punters held their collective breath when it looked like victory would smile on early leader Moscow Burning — still ahead after one mile — and, later, Film Maker. But Kieren Fallon kicked Ouija Board at the final bend and pushed her on with a furlong left to run. She surged forward to claim the win a length-and-a-half ahead of Film Maker.
“I was very concerned the first half because the pace was so slow,” admits Dunlop. “She was coming from 1 mile back to 1 3/8 miles and I was afraid that slow pace might get her beat. Kieren rode a great race and had her in the right spot and the result was just what we wanted.”
Fallon thinks the draw helped him bag the race. “I was in the box seat. That’s where I like to be, with not too much ground to make up. I was always confident. I knew she was the best filly and she proved herself.”
Frankie Dettori and Wilko beat all odds to win the next race, the $1.5m (£816,000) Bessemer Trust Juvenile. The two-year-old colt — who is trained by Jeremy Noseda and co-owned by Canadian-born J Paul Reddam and Britons Paul and Susan Roy — was an unknown quantity on dirt at 20-1.
But American favourite Roman Ruler was never really in the race and the Juvenile was dominated by longshots since the very beginning. Jockey Victor Espinosa pushed Twice Unbridled into an early lead, with Dettori and Wilko in hot pursuit. Dettori let Wilko drop back before pressing ahead to bag the race three-quarter length ahead of Afleet Alex.
Dettori was as surprised as anyone at his mount’s unexpected victory: “I can’t believe it. I mean the horse worked well on the dirt but we were just hoping to hit the board. And then . . . I was just speechless,” he says.
Wilko will now stay in the United States to train in California with Craig Dollase.
The aptly-named Ghostzapper beat stiff competition to win the top race of the Halloween weekend, the $4m (£2.175m) Breeders’ Cup Classic. Jockey Javier Castellano guided Ghostzapper straight into the lead and kept him there, despite being pressed hard by John Velazquez on Roses In May.
Ghostzapper cleared the 1 1/4 miles dirt race in a record 1:59.02 to win by three lengths over Roses in May. Last year’s winner, Pleasantly Perfect, was third and Horse of the Year 2002 Azeri fifth.
“I wanted [Javier Castellano] to ride this horse like he was on the best horse and he did. And he was.” says an elated Bobby Frankel, who trains Ghostzapper. “This is as big a win as I’ve had in my career. In fact, it could be the biggest win I’ve had in my career.”
The Classic was Ghostzapper’s fifth consecutive victory and he is now a hot contender for the 2004 Horse of the Year accolade.