Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt's Met Mile winner Mitole (9-5) was confidently handled to win Saturday's Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint, settling off the pace of speedy 3-2 favorite Shancelot and running down that rival in the stretch to win going away by 1 1/4 lengths. The 4-year-old son of Eskendereya, trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr., ran six furlongs over Santa Anita's fast main track in 1:09.00.
It was the first Breeders' Cup win for Santana.
“I had a lot of confidence in my horse,” Santana said. “He's a horse I've been riding since he was 2-years-old. I changed my mind today. A lot of people thought he'd go to the lead. I took him back and made one move and got to the wire first.”
Mitole was one of the quickest out of the gate for Santana, but the rider sat chilly in the tack and waited for the speed-focused Shancelot and Matera Sky to rush up to the front of the field. That left Mitole in third position down the backstretch, just to the outside of Firenze Fire through a first quarter in :21.47.
“When he broke well, I loved it,” Asmussen said. “And, Ricardo (Santana Jr.) knows the horse and the confidence he has in him. We talked about just doing whatever was right for Mitole. We have no control over who does anything or where they do it, just be sure you're happy with him and he's happy with you and the rest will take care of itself.”
Shancelot was determined to steal away with the lead and pulled away from Matera Sky by almost two lengths, with Mitole another two lengths back alongside Firenze Fire. Rounding into the far turn, Firenze Fire dived to the rail which left Santana to send Mitole three-wide around rivals.
It didn't matter to the determined bay colt. Though Shancelot had pulled away to lead by nearly three lengths at the top of the lane, Mitole caught sight of him and put his mind to running. The chase was on through the length of the stretch, but Santana had timed his rally just right and Mitole was able to catch the tiring Shancelot inside the sixteenth pole. At the wire, Mitole was 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Shancelot, while Whitmore rallied from second-last to complete the trifecta.
“No complaints,” said Shancelot's trainer Jorge Navarro. “Look at the horse who beat us. He's the top sprinter in the nation, probably the world. To be second to him, guess what I have for next year, and by himself. It was fine. We're good. I'm very proud of him. I feel like a winner. Look who he was running against. He's had an amazing year for us and he'll be by himself next year so we're happy about that. This race was a big one for him. We're going to do what's best for the horse and there's next year for him. I'm very proud of him.”
The full order of finish is as follows: Mitole, Shancelot, Whitmore, Engage, Firenze Fire, Hog Creek Hustle, Catalina Cruiser, and Matera Sky. Imperial Hint, who did make the trip to Santa Anita, was a vet scratch on Saturday morning.
Bred in Kentucky by Edward A. Cox, Jr., Mitole is out of the placed Indian Charlie mare Indian Miss. A $20,000 yearling purchase at the Keeneland September sale, Mitole was pinhooked through the OBS April sale when he commanded a final bid of $140,000. The horse ran well as a 3-year-old in listed stakes company, but really showed off his talent this year.
Mitole put together an undefeated streak of seven races from March of 2018 through the Grade 1 Met Mile in June of 2019, winning at distances from six furlongs to a mile on both fast and sloppy surfaces at four different tracks. He was defeated in the G1 Vanderbilt by Imperial Hint after hitting the gate at the start, but rebounded to win the G1 Forego by three lengths in his final Breeders' Cup prep. Overall, Mitole has won 10 of his 14 lifetime starts to earn over $3 million. He will stand stud in 2020 at Spendthrift Farm.
“I think that he is so easy to be around, nothing but class and the ability he has is just tremendous,” said Asmussen. “I don't know that people realize from where he was in the spring to stretching out to beating the field that he did in the Met Mile, to retract from that and beat the best sprinters in the world and run in the Breeders' Cup Sprint as opposed to the Mile, that's twice as much money on his way out. But, it's a very difficult job, one that a horse of his elite abilities is capable of doing.”
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