A Classic upset for Invasor

Published November 5, 2006

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Born in Argentina, a hero in Uruguay, and now a champion in America.

Invasor beat Bernardini in the $5-million Breeders' Cup Classic Saturday, delivering a performance worthy of horse of the year honors.

When the two went eyeball-to-eyeball in the stretch at Churchill Downs and the crowd of 75,132 cheering, it was Bernardini who blinked as Invasor blew past for a 1-length victory.

"For sure, he's the older horse of the year. Maybe the horse of the year," Invasor's trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, said. "He's a great horse to have in your stable, that's for sure."

Invasor's win in America's richest race was the ninth in 10 career starts for the 4-year-old colt, whose only loss was in the UAE Derby in Dubai after he was purchased by Sheik Hamdan's Shadwell Stable. But when he arrived here under McLaughlin's care, the colt won the Pimlico Special, Suburban Handicap and Whitney Handicap.

He was supposed to meet Bernardini Oct. 7 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but spiked a fever. It was 91 days between races, but it didn't bother Invasor, bred in Argentina and Uruguay's Triple Crown winner.

"We were lucky to keep him on schedule," McLaughlin said. "He missed one work and one race. He gets a lot out of his gallops and we felt very good. He has come on a lot in the last 90 days."

With Brother Derek setting the pace, Bernardini made a bold move for the lead around the far turn, and seemed to take charge entering the stretch.

But Invasor, with 18-year-old Fernando Jara of Panama aboard, roared past the 3-year-old colt, whose six straight wins by a combined 40 lengths included the Preakness, Travers and Gold Cup.

An objection was lodged by Brother Derek's jockey, Alex Solis, claiming Bernardini banged into his colt in the stretch, but stewards let the finish order stand.

Javier Castellano, Bernardini's regular rider, said his fall aboard Pine Island in the Distaff two races earlier didn't affect his ride aboard Bernardini.

"I'm not disappointed at all. You can't win all the races," he said. "I had to ask him for the first time today. He passed the other horses easily. He gave me everything. He's a fighter and didn't want to get beat. He has a good heart. I feel really lucky."

Trainer Todd Pletcher was not so lucky. He sent out a record 17 horses and was shut out. He had second-place finishes in three races and still finished with more than $3.4-million in earnings.

Invasor covered the 1¼ miles in 2:02.18 and returned $15.40 as the second betting choice. Lava Man, the best of the West Coast with a 7-for-7 record this year, was never a factor and finished seventh.

Invasor won $2.7-million and boosted his career earnings to $3,904,070.

Shadwell, McLaughlin and Jara, the youngest rider to win a Breeders' Cup race, teamed to win their first Triple Crown race earlier in the year - taking the Belmont Stakes with Jazil in June. In addition, Sheik Hamdan won the Classic duel with younger brother Sheik Mohammed, who owns Bernardini.

The Breeders' Cup crowd was the third-highest in the event's history. The top five have all been at Churchill Downs. The record is 80,542, set in 1998. The total handle for the day from all sources was a Breeders' Cup record $136,726,378. The mark was $123,978,241, set last year at Belmont Park. The Ultra Pick-Six covering the winners of the Filly and Mare Turf, Sprint, Mile, Distaff, Turf and Classic returned $1,450,707.