x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Wise Dan and Animal Kingdom reverse European hopes in the Breeders' Cup

American horses sent a defiant message to their rivals at Santa Anita with strong performances ahead of next year's Dubai World Cup.

Jockey John Velazquez, centre, stands up as he rides Wise Dan across the finishing line at the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Jockey John Velazquez, centre, stands up as he rides Wise Dan across the finishing line at the Breeders' Cup Mile.

American horses put in defiant performances in the Breeders' Cup turf races at Santa Anita last night with Wise Dan and Animal Kingdom repelling the European raiders in the Mile.

For good measure Little Mike caused a huge upset in the Turf, denying last year's champion St Nicholas Abbey and the well-regarded American horse Point Of Entry.

Wise Dan, Little Mike and Animal Kingdom all remain on course to race in Dubai on the World Cup card in March, with Animal Kingdom the most intriguing contender for the world's most valuable race after he shrugged off a 259-day layoff to finish second to Wise Dan.

Wise Dan put in a scorching performance for trainer Charles Lopresti by breaking the track record under John Velazquez to hold off Animal Kingdom by a length and a half.

Excelebration, Europe's great hope, had to concede third place in a photo-finish to Obviously to give America a clean sweep in the $US 2 million contest.

Velazquez had been handed the choice to ride Wise Dan or Animal Kingdom, and was relieved he had made the correct decision.

"I always thought he was going to run really good but I thought Animal Kingdom was going to be the horse to beat today," Velazquez said. "With age he has gotten much better."

The Americans also dominated the Turf, which historically is Europe's banker of the two-day meeting when Little Mike outpointed Point Of Entry for trainer Dale Romans. St Nicholas Abbey, trained in Ireland by Aidan O'Brien, could only finish third.

Romans, who won the Dubai World Cup in 2005 with Roses In May, also saddled 2013 Dubai World Cup hope Dullahan, who finished down the field. Japanese raider Trailblazer was fourth in the 12-furlong event.

Romans revealed afterwards that either the Dubai Duty Free or the Dubai Sheema Classic next year was on the agenda for Little Mike.

"He's a spectacular little horse," Romans said. "He just runs hard all the time. It looked like the horses in the Mile would outpoint him so we decided to stick to the plan and run him here."

There were no European challengers in the Classic, which was won by Fort Larned after thrilling duel down the straight with Mucho Macho Man under Mike Smith.

The four-year-old colt was ridden by Barry Hernandez, who celebrated his 27th birthday with only his second ride at the Breeders' Cup meeting.

"Fort Larned has given me the greatest birthday present anyone could ever have, Hernandez said.

"He's one of the best, and he showed it today."

The favourite, Game On Dude, barely featured, while Godolphin's Alpha could not land a blow, either.

In all there was little joy for Godolphin yesterday after Questing was pulled up in the Ladies Classic on Friday night.

Artigiano made little impression in the opening Breeders' Cup Sprint, won by Aidan O'Brien's George Vancouver.

Trained by Mahmoud Al Zarooni, Artigiano finished unplaced under Frankie Dettori.

"He missed a beat at the start and the track was a bit tight for him," Al Zarooni said.

"Frankie said he enjoyed the ground and that he needs further."

Later in the night Emcee was sixth in the Dirt Mile, while Fortify was fourth in the Juvenile.

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