Gary Hartnunian and David Bernsen's Stormy Liberal has now won the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint two years in a row, giving trainer Peter Miller his third victory at the World Championships. Sent to post at 7-1 odds, the 6-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic came out on top of a stretch-long battle with 2-1 favorite World of Trouble to hit the wire a neck in front. Ridden by Drayden Van Dyke for his very first Breeders' Cup victory, Stormy Liberal took his winning stream to four in a row by completing 5 1/2 furlongs over Churchill Downs' “good” turf course in 1:04.05.
“The emotions and the highs and lows I have gone through in this game in the past year are indescribable,” Miller said. “I am just thankful to be back here. It is amazing to win this race two years in a row with this horse. It is a dream come true.”
Stormy Liberal is the first since Beholder in 2016 to win the same race twice and the first to do it in back-to-back years since 2013, when three different horses did it that year.
Stormy Liberal broke sharply and actually had the lead at the first point of call, but World of Trouble gunned to the front to mark the first quarter in :22.50 over the rain-soaked turf course. World of Trouble held Richard's Boy, last year's runner up, at bay by a length through the turn, but Stormy Liberal angled out and re-engaged to be just 1 1/2 lengths behind at the top of the stretch.
World of Trouble was dead game, battling Stormy Liberal through the length of the stretch, but Van Dyke had his opponent measured and switched to a hand ride at the sixteenth pole. Stormy Liberal crossed the wire a neck in front of World of Trouble, and it was 7 1/4 lengths back to Disco Partner in third. Ruby Notion checked in fourth.
“He broke really sharp,” Van Dyke said. “I knew there were a few who were going to be a little bit faster than me. I bided my time and let them get by me, then just tipped him outside. From there on, it was up to him to do the running. Stormy Liberal likes to hang on horses and not pass them, but he got him. It was awesome.”
Bred in Kentucky by Dapple Bloodstock & Gryphon Investments, Stormy Liberal was a $100,000 juvenile purchase at the OBS June sale. He broke his maiden in his second career start, and Miller claimed the gelding for $40,000 in October of 2016. His major accomplishments include now a pair of Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint wins, as well as a second in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan. Overall, Stormy Liberal owns 12 lifetime victories from 30 starts, with earnings just shy of $2 million.
Second-place trainer Jason Servis (World of Trouble, beaten favorite) –“He ran really hard and he tried. He's a 3-year old. He'll get better.”
Second-place jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. (World of Trouble, beaten favorite) –“He had no excuse. He just got beat by a nice horse. He wanted to fight, but he lugged in a little bit so I wanted to be close to Stormy Liberal so he could feel (the competition). No excuse.”
Third-place jockey Joel Rosario (Disco Partner) – “He broke well and then took a little bit of time to find his stride. It looks like the turf was a little soft for him, but he came with a late run in the end. They got away, so it was hard to catch up.”
Jockey P J McDonald (Havana Gray, 12th) – “The first half of the race went great. I had a really good position, but they forced me to the inside. They went really quick. Turning for home, I knew we were beaten.”
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