By Bob Ehalt
Owner Charles Fipke made his initial fortune in Canada’s diamond industry.
On Friday, he mined yet another jewel in Forever Unbridled, who surged past tiring leader Paradise Woods in mid-stretch and then held off a late bid from Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman to post a half-length victory in the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).
The victory, Forever Unbridled’s third in as many starts this year, closed out the Breeders’ Cup portion of Day One of the World Championships at Del Mar, where a crowd of 32,278 turned out for the series’ first visit to the track where “The Turf Meets The Surf.”
All-sources wagering of $52,273,883 on the program marked a 5.3% increase from last year and on-track handle jumped 29% to $9,280,504. “I actually think maybe (winning the) Breeders' Cup might be a little more difficult (than finding a diamond mine) because you breed these horses, and you don't realize how many other horses that we pay for the oats and the training bills and everything just to get the one (like her),” Fipke said.
Forever Unbridled was surely the one Friday as the homebred 5-year-old mare avenged a third-place finish in last year’s BC Distaff behind Beholder and Songbird and wrapped up the Eclipse Award for the outstanding older dirt female.
“I’m just blessed,” said trainer Dallas Stewart after winning his second Breeders’ Cup race. He also won the 2001 BC Distaff with Proud Elaine. “She’s such a great filly. A championship was on the line and she’s three-for-three (this year). She ran great and I’m proud of (jockey) Johnny (Velazquez) and how he rode her. She’s had that spacing (her last race was Aug. 26 when she beat Songbird in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga) and she’s been very successful with that.
“Last year she had an injury (after the Breeders’ Cup) and we gave her plenty of time. Chuck (Fipke) was right about putting her back in training. He didn’t have to. He could have just retired her already a Grade 1 winner. He opted to bring her back and the injury wasn’t bad and she was never sore. We brought her back and put her back in training and she’s so good when you space those races out. She’s the best I’ve trained.”
For Velazquez, the victory was the capper to a wild chain of events that saw Fipke take jockey Joel Rosario off Forever Unbridled, despite Rosario riding her in her last six races and being 2-for-2 on her this year, and putting Velazquez back on her. Velazquez last rode Forever Unbridled when she won the Apple Blossom in April 2016.
“Every time since I've rode her, she's pretty much the same. And I've been watching her all year when she's been running with somebody else, so I kind of know her very well from the first time I rode her,” said Velazquez, who won his 14th Breeders’ Cup stakes, the third-highest total behind Mike Smith and Jerry Bailey. “She actually is much bigger and stronger now, for sure. I got into the paddock, and I said to him, wow, she looks awesome. Thank you. She looked really, really good.”
The victory also added more sparkle to Fipke’s breeding program as his mare Lemons Forever is the dam of Forever Unbridled and the Grade 1 winner Unbridled Forever.
“The family is special,” Fipke said.
The 7-2 third choice in a highly competitive field of eight, Forever Unbridled returned $9.40 to win.
She covered the mile and an eighth in 1:50.25 and might target males in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup for next start, according to Fipke.
Abel Tasman, the 9-2 fourth choice, was last after the opening half-mile and sliced about 2 ½ lengths off Unbridled Forever’s lead in the final furlong, but the 3-year-old owned by China Horse Club and Clearsky Farm settled for second.
“She really ran her heart out and just came out a touch short,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “It was a great performance by going against older horses, and it was a great performance by the winner. She ran her race. She just got beat by a really good horse.”
Paradise Woods, the Zenyatta winner sent off at 5-1, dueled with Champagne Room for the early lead and held on for third, a length ahead of Elate, the 2-1 favorite, who failed to fire.
“She was a little dull today; a little flat,” said Bill Mott, who trains Elate for Adele B. Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm. “Maybe it’s just late in the year and she ran like she is just getting a little tired.”
The BC Distaff capped a Pick 6 payoff of $146,053.20, with a consolation payout of $684.80 for five winners.
Day Two of the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday features a 12-race card at Del Mar starting at 10:10 a.m. (PDT). The first Breeders’ Cup is the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at noon (race four).
The featured Breeders Cup Classic (G1) will be contested at 5:35 p.m. and can be seen on NBC.
The rest of the Breeders’ Cup card will air on NBCSN.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf
As a half-brother to four-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder, Mendelssohn has a pedigree that screams out “dirt.”
But grass is definitely greener for him, at least for now. The story might be different come the first Saturday in May.
In his first United State start, Mendelssohn confirmed his promise on turf in Europe by grabbing the lead in the stretch and cruising to a length victory under jockey Ryan Moore in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) over West Point Thoroughbreds’ Untamed Domain.
The victory was fourth in the BC Juvenile Turf for both trainer Aidan O’Brien and Moore, who gave winning owners Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith their eighth Breeders’ Cup victory.
“He's a late foal, so physically he's very big and strong, and every week he's getting better,” said O’Brien, who won his 12th Breeders’ Cup race. “We knew that he has an American dirt pedigree horse. But we felt we didn't want to stop the progression, that's why we left him on the grass when he wasn't ready for (dirt). We had it in our head that if everything went well today, he could be a horse we could train for the Kentucky Derby. Especially now when we have the Kentucky Derby trials at home. So hopefully he's an exciting horse.”
Moore said Mendelssohn has a bright future, be it on turf or dirt.
“I think there's more to come from him,” said Moore, who guided the son of Scat Daddy across the wire in 1:35.97. “He's a big, very raw horse still, and I think he will improve with racing and with experience. Today went very well for him.”
Mendelssohn, who was fourth after the opening half-mile, paid $11.60 as a 9-2 favorite.
Untamed Domain gave West Point Thoroughbreds runner-up finishes in both of Friday’s juvenile turf stakes.
Voting Council was third, a half-length behind Untamed Domain, and Catholic Boy was fourth.
Las Vegas Dirt Mile
Battle of Midway has displayed flashes of brilliance in his career.
He won the Affirmed (G3) by 4 ¼ lengths and posted a dominant 6 ¼-length victory in the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar. He was also third against the best horses of his generation in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Yet in between all that, he was sixth in the Haskell (G1) and in his final prep for the Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, he was second as the beaten favorite in the Oklahoma Derby (G3).
Yet in spite of that inconsistency, his connections never lost faith in him and their faith rewarded when their 3-year-old colt outdueled Sharp Azteca in the final furlong to win the $1 million BC Dirt Mile by a half-length under jockey Flavien Prat “We used the Oklahoma Derby as a prep for this race and we got a little unlucky in the first turn,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “He got bounced around, but he still ran a very game race and never gave up. So we never gave up on him, either.”
Owned by WinStar Farm and Don Alberto Stable, Battle of Midway won for the fifth time in 10 career starts and improved his earnings to $1,249,944.
Dismissed at 14-1, Battle of Midway paid $30.40 to win and covered the two-turn mile in 1:35.20.
Awesome Slew was third, 4 ½ lengths behind Sharp Azteca, the 5-2 second choice.
Mor Spirit, the 2-1 favorite, was eighth in the field of 10 while making his first start since a 6 1/4-length romp in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) on June 10.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
All that “new money” continues to pay off for owner Bob Edwards and his e 5 Racing Thoroughbreds, propelling them to the winner’s circle at the Breeders’ Cup for a second year in a row.
It was back in 2015 that Edwards took a portion of the pot of gold he received for selling his share of a prosperous pharmaceutical company and entered the horse racing industry. Among the first package of horses he bought at sales that year was a yearling filly for $450,000 that he named New Money Honey, who won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) for him and trainer Chad Brown in her third start at two. Ridden by four-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Javier Castellan that day, she won the $1 million Belmont Oaks earlier this year and has earnings of $1,362,017.
Then in 2016, Edwards returned to the sales and among his purchases was the $320,000 he spent on a yearling filly out of More Than Ready that now carries the name of Rushing Fall and who has ably followed in her stablemates’ hoofprints.
Rallying from ninth under Castellano, Rushing Fall charged to the front in mid-stretch and posted a three-quarters-of-a-length victory over West Point Thoroughbreds’ Best Performance in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf to give the happy triumvirate of Edwards, Brown and Castellano back-to-back to wins in the Grade 1 stakes.