The frustration ends for trainer Bobby Frankel with his colt's record win in America's richest race.
GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Bobby Frankel had a simple explanation for Ghostzapper's record-setting win in the $4-million Breeders' Cup Classic.
"He's just faster," the trainer said after Ghostzapper cruised to victory over a stellar field that included defending champion Pleasantly Perfect, Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone and the great mare Azeri.
Frankel, who had just two wins with 62 Breeders' Cup starters before the Classic and was 0-for-5 Saturday before the final event, saddled the beaten favorite the past three years: Medaglia d'Oro in 2002-03 and Aptitude in 2001.
This time, his favorite didn't fail. Ridden by Javier Castellano, the 4-year-old colt sprung from the gate and was in control all the way around Lone Star Park, winning by 3 lengths over Roses in May in front of a crowd of 53,717.
Ghostzapper, a sprinter when he began his career, covered the 11/4 miles in 1:59.02, bettering the Classic record of 1:59.16 set by Skip Away in 1997 at Hollywood Park.
Azeri was a nonthreatening fifth in a 13-horse field considered the deepest in the 21-year history of the Breeders' Cup. Pleasantly Perfect was third, Perfect Drift was fourth, Personal Rush sixth, followed by Birdstone, Dynever, Fantasticat, Funny Cide, Bowman's Band, Newfoundland and Freefourinternet.
With a 4-for-4 season, Frankel said Ghostzapper is a cinch for horse of the year: "It's a no brainer. Handicap horse of the year, horse of the year."
Smarty Jones, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner who was retired in August, appears, however, to have the inside track on horse of the year.
Castellano was a winner in his first Breeders' Cup race.
"I had all the confidence in the world," he said. "He broke well, and Bobby said it was okay to take him a little bit off the rail. There was no question he could go wire to wire."
Ghostzapper was moved to longer distances this year. The lightly raced son of Awesome Again won the Iselin Handicap and the Woodward Stakes, both at 11/8 miles, and Frankel was confident his colt could go even farther.
"He ran the way I thought he would," Frankel said. "This is as big a win as I've had in my career."
The buildup to the Classic took on even more intrigue when Azeri was entered by trainer D. Wayne Lukas. A few days before the race, Frankel dismissed Azeri, saying the only way she could win is if the gate didn't open for the other 12 horses.
Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day said Azeri overcame some early trouble and had a shot at making a move - but couldn't.
"When they took off at the three-eighths pole, she wasn't able to track them down," he said. "It was a good effort. There was no disgrace."
"I thought she ran well," said Lukas, who was 0-for-3 Saturday. "We took our shot, she ran hard and beat a lot of them."
Azeri fell to 0-for-2 against boys. She was eighth in the Met Mile at Belmont Park.
Fillies are 0-for-3 in the 21-year history of the Classic.
Said Nick Zito, Birdstone's trainer, who lost with both of his starters Saturday: "At this track, you have to be closer to the pace, which is not his style. It's been a beautiful season. I'm proud of him."
Ghostzapper is owned by Magna Entertainment Corp. chairman Frank Stronach, who operates Lone Star Park and owns Santa Anita and Gulfstream.
"I think it was a perfect day," Stronach said. "Sometimes a guy gets lucky, and you have a perfect day throughout."
The winner paid $7, $4 and $3.60. Roses in May, ridden by John Velazquez, paid $8.20 and $5.20, and Pleasantly Perfect, with Jerry Bailey aboard, returned $3 to show.
"I couldn't ever get him settled," said Bailey, who had three second-place finishes and two thirds on the day. "And I got hung wide on both turns."
Ghostzapper earned $2.08-million and boosted his earnings to $2,996,120 on eight victories in 10 career starts.
THE FINISH LINE: Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien went 0-for-5, with his best finish provided by second-place Antonius Pius in the Mile. O'Brien's record is 3-for-30 in the Cup. ... Trainer Bob Baffert lost with his only starter: Roman Ruler finished fifth in the Juvenile. ... Lone Star Park is the ninth track to host the event and, at 7 years old, the newest.FILLY & MARE TURF
Ouija Board skipped the tougher Turf in favor of racing against her own sex and the move paid off with a 11/2-length victory over Film Maker.
Ouija Board followed the pace set by Moscow Burning, with jockey Kieren Fallon waiting until the stretch to move into the lead.
Wonder Again was third and Moscow Burning was fourth.
Winner of the Irish and English Oaks, the 3-year-old filly was third against the boys in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in her previous start.
The 9-10 favorite paid $3.80 and earned $733,200 for owner Lord Derby, a descendant of the earl whose name became a worldwide racing term by virtue of a coin flip won 225 years ago.
Fallon won this event last year aboard Islington.
This marks the fourth straight year a European horse has won the newest race on the Breeders' Cup card.SPRINT
Speightstown gave trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez their second victories of the day. The winner defeated Kela by 11/4 lengths.
The champion sprinter, however, likely will be Pico Central, who beat Speightstown in the Vosburgh at Belmont Park this month and did not run in the Breeders' Cup. Speightstown, with Pletcher's regular rider, John Velazquez, aboard, had won four in a row before the loss to Pico Central.
It was Velazquez's sixth career Cup win.
"There was so much speed in the race and I didn't know how he would handle the dirt in his face," Velazquez said. "I wanted to be as close as I could without being too far back. As soon as he got in the clear, he switched leads. He just picked it up."
Eugene Melynk, who owns Speightstown with wife Laura, also owns the NHL's Ottawa Senators.
Champali, named for boxing great Muhammad Ali, finished seventh.
Singletary bulled his way into the lead and held off Antonius Pius by a half-length for an upset at odds of 17-1.
Named for former Chicago Bears linebacker Mike Singletary, the 4-year-old colt gave jockey David Flores a win in his only mount of the day.
"It doesn't get any better than this," winning trainer Don Chatlos said. "Here I am, just a poor kid from the South Side of Chicago where there aren't any horses, on top of the world!"
Singletary earned $873,600 for the exuberant owners at Little Red Feather Racing, led by Billy Koch, a film producer whose grandfather, Hollywood producer Howard W. Koch, owned thoroughbreds. Koch picked the name for this horse because of his love for the Bears, the team he began rooting for while attending Northwestern. Flores' silks are patterned after the logo on the Bears' helmets.JUVENILE
European invader Wilko stole the show from Derby-driven trainers Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas and Nick Zito: The colt upset Baffert's 2-1 favorite, Roman Ruler, Zito's Sun King and Lukas' Consolidator in the race that usually determines the early Kentucky Derby favorite.
Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Wilko covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.09 and paid $58.60 - the third-biggest upset in the 21-year history of the Juvenile. Dismissed at odds of 28-1, Wilko beat Afleet Alex by three-quarters of a length.
"I can't believe it," said Dettori, who thrilled the fans with his usual flying dismount in the winner's circle.
Bred in Kentucky, Wilko was running in the United States for the first time and on dirt for the first time. He had two victories in 10 previous starts, all in England. His sire is Awesome Again, the 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic winner.
The biggest Juvenile upset was 41-1 shot Action This Day last year at Santa Anita. Anees was 30-1 when he won in 1999 at Gulfstream Park.JUVENILE FILLIES
Sweet Catomine all but clinched the 2-year-old female championship by overcoming traffic problems on the turn for home and posting a 33/4-length win over Balletto.
Seventeen of the first 20 winners of the race took home an Eclipse Award.
Jockey Corey Nakatani had to check Sweet Catomine when she ran up behind several horses, but the big filly regained her composure for her third win in four starts for trainer Julio Canani.
"I was in a little tight but she was able to overcome that," Nakatani said after his sixth Breeders' Cup win.
"This is a very special filly," Canani said after his third Breeders' Cup win.
Sweet Catomine earned $520,000 for owners Pam and Martin Wygod of New York.
Sis City, co-owned by New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, was fourth.DISTAFF
Ashado, the 2-1 favorite, gave trainer Todd Pletcher his first Breeders' Cup victory and likely earned the Eclipse Award as 3-year-old female champion.
In winning for the fifth time in eight starts this year, Ashado grabbed the lead in the stretch and beat Storm Flag Flying by 11/4 lengths. Stellar Jayne was third in the 11-horse field.
As Ashado came flying down the stretch, the usually reserved Pletcher pumped his fist, urged on jockey John Velazquez with a "Go, Johnny, go!" and exchanged high-fives with family and friends in the box seats.
"That was a special one," Pletcher said after ending an 0-for-12 Breeders' Cup losing streak. "You're always anxious to get that first one out of the way."
The complexion of the race changed last week when the great mare Azeri, who would have been the heavy favorite, was entered instead in the $4-million Classic, where she finished fifth.
Better Talk Now, a 28-1 shot, survived a foul claim for a 13/4-length win over Kitten's Joy.
Better Talk Now bothered Magistretti and Kitten's Joy in the stretch as he made his move to the front. Better Talk Now drifted into the path of Magistretti and bumped Kitten's Joy, the 7-10 favorite, who was trying to angle off the rail.
The stewards took no action after several reviews of the stretch run.
"There were some problems but we felt the five horse (Better Talk Now) was obviously going to win," state steward Chuck Nuber said. "We didn't think it would affect the final placing."
Better Talk Now gave jockey Ramon Dominguez and trainer Graham Motion their first Breeders' Cup victories.
"I really felt that I just held my ground," Dominguez said.
It was a disappointing outcome for Kitten's Joy. The 3-year-old colt had won six of his seven starts this year coming into the Turf and could have been a factor in the voting for the divisional championship with a victory.