Irish-bred Iridessa gave Joseph O'Brien his first Breeders' Cup victory as a trainer and jockey Wayne Lordan earned his initial success in the World Championships on Saturday at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., reeling in front-runner Mirth and then outdueling local favorite Vasilika in the final furlong to win the $2-million, Grade 1 Filly & Mare Turf by a neck. Sistercharlie, the 2018 Filly & Mare Turf winner and unbeaten in three 2019 starts, finished 2 1/4 lengths back in third, with Fanny Logan fourth and Just Wonderful (trained by Joseph O'Brien's father, Aidan O'Brien) fifth. Mirth, who opened a large lead while setting fractions of :23.45, :46.45, 1:09.68 and 1:34.15, tired in the stretch to be sixth.
Iridessa stopped the timer in 1:57.77 for a mile and a quarter on firm turf. She paid $28.40 for the win, the fifth in 12 career starts for the 3-year-old filly by Ruler Of the World out of Senta's Dream, by Danehill. Iridessa races for Mrs. C.C. Regalado-Gonzalez and was bred by Whisperview Trading Ltd.
“That was fantastic,” said O'Brien, who became the youngest trainer, at 26 years old, to win a Breeders' Cup race. O'Brien won previously as the youngest jockey ever, taking the 2011 Breeders' Cup Turf aboard St Nicholas Abbey as an 18-year-old riding for his father. “Wayne (Lordan) gave her a great ride and got into a really nice position early on. I've got a great team back home that work for me. This is unbelievable.”
The O'Brien-trained miss came into the Filly & Mare Turf off a third-place finish in the G1 Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket Oct. 5 but prior to that had won two G1 races: the Pretty Polly Stakes at The Curragh in June and the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown in September.
Mike Smith gunned Mirth out of the starting gate, positioned midway up the incline on Santa Anita's famed hillside turf course. The Colonel John filly quickly seized command and widened her lead as the field raced past the stands the first time.
Vasilika, the former claimer who had won 11 of 12 starts on the Santa Anita turf course and had previously been conditioned by Jerry Hollendorfer – banned from Santa Anita earlier this year after having four horses suffer fatal injuries, a move that was honored by Breeders' Cup officials – raced in second, just ahead of Iridessa in third.
Mirth's lead began shortening rounding the final turn, and Vasilika and Iridessa moved together as a team to pass the pace-setter inside the furlong pole. Lordan got Iridessa's head in front of Vasilika in the final sixteenth and never let the 5-year-old Skipshot mare pass despite aggressive handling from Flavien Prat.
“She was so tough to dig deep and hold on,” said Lordan. “It was some performance.
Said Prat: “We had a good trip. She ran a great race. No excuses. It's always disappointing to get beat by a neck, but she ran her race
“What a fantastic race,” said Dan Ward, Hollendorfer's longtime assistant who has taken over training the Hall of Fame trainer's horses at Santa Anita and other tracks owned by The Stronach Group, owners of Santa Anita. “He (Flavien Prat) rode her perfect. He had her relaxed the whole way. They weren't gaining ground on the turf so he felt like he had to be out closer (than where she usually is farther off the pace) and just put her where she was comfortable and she did not give up. She's done everything we've asked from her since the day we got her (as a claim). She's a super horse.”
Vasilika is scheduled to be sold Tuesday at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky's Night of the Stars sale.
Aidan O'Brien-trained Fleeting and Chad Brown-trained Thais – the latter entered as a pacesetter for stablemate Sistercharlie – were scratched.
Sistercharlie was trying to become the second two-time winner of the Filly & Mare Turf, following Ouija Board (2004 and 2006). Brown was trying for a fifth win in the Filly & Mare Turf, which was having its 21st running, having been added to the Breeders' Cup lineup in 1999.
“Johnny (Velazquez) said it might have been a little too firm for her,” Brown said after the race. “They weren't really coming back today. But, not a bad trip. I loved her spot on the first turn. She ran a great race. I think the two horses who finished ahead of her ran outstanding. I don't have any major excuses other than it seems like it's a pretty firm turf and if you're not in the mix turning for home it's going to be hard to win on it. This was her first time running here and this might not be her course. Not taking anything away from the top two runners. They were really finishing through the wire.”
The Filly & Mare Turf was sponsored by Maker's Mark.
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