By Mark Lamport-Stokes
ARCADIA, California, Nov 2 (Reuters) - For a second year in a row at the Breeders' Cup, Wise Dan cemented his credentials as North America's top-ranked race horse while Game on Dude spectacularly failed as favourite for the showpiece Classic.
Game on Dude, whose odds shortened to 8-5 at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, finished a surprising ninth out of 11 runners after running out of steam down the stretch, effectively ending his chance of securing Horse of the Year honours.
That accolade now seems certain to fall to Wise Dan after the six-year-old gelding surged to a repeat victory in the $2 million Mile, despite an early stumble out of the gate and being ridden by a replacement jockey.
John Velazquez was initially scheduled to be on board but had to have emergency surgery after falling with his horse during a race earlier in the day. Jose Lezcano took over, and guided Wise Dan to victory by three-quarters of a length.
"He stumbled out of the gate really bad," Lezcano said of Wise Dan, who is the reigning Horse of the Year. "He tried to break so fast that he just lost his balance.
"I had to let him go. He tried to go to plan 'B', you know, waiting. He gave me a good run and won the race. He's a champion horse."
Lezcano expressed sympathy for Velazquez, who required emergency surgery to remove his spleen after he suffered internal bleeding following an accident during the $2 million Juvenile Fillies, the first race of the day.
Velazquez was riding Secret Compass when he and his horse fell as they approached the final turn. Secret Compass was later euthanised after being diagnosed with a broken leg.
"First everybody pray for Johnny and his family," said Lezcano. "You don't want to see that happen to a good horse like her, but that's the way the business happens. We're sorry."
Mucho Macho Man, a 4-1 shot, stole the limelight from Game on Dude with a storming finish to win the $5 million Classic, the concluding event at the two-day Breeders' Cup extravaganza.
Piloted by 50-year-old Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, Mucho Macho Man surged past the celebrated field down the home straight before holding off a late charge by Will Take Charge to prevail by a nose.
"He was super, super sharp today," Stevens said as he celebrated his first ever Classic win. "You need a good, clean break, and he left there like a quarter horse today and actually outbroke them.
"He's so push button. He's a big, long striding horse, and he was powerful down the back side. I knew they were coming, but he was super, super tough the last 16th of a mile."
Game on Dude, who had won all five of his previous starts this season, faded into seventh place at last year's Classic after also starting as the favourite.
Mizdirection retained her title in the $1 million Turf Sprint as her veteran jockey, Mike Smith, extended his record career total of Breeders' Cup wins to 20.
Reneesgotzip, with Edwin Maldonado on board, appeared to have the race in control coming into the home straight but was overtaken on the outside by Mizdirection as she surged to the finish line.
"I broke better this time (compared to last year's race)," said the 48-year-old Smith, who won two Breeders' Cup race on Friday.
"I took advantage of the break and I took the rail right away, which is the best place to be turning right.
"Man, she was right there. I was worried I might have been a little too close, but I'm glad I was because the lead horses weren't stopping. Reneesgotzip wouldn't give up."
Ria Antonia, a 32-1 long shot going into the starting gate, won the $2 million Juvenile Fillies in controversial circumstances after She's A Tiger was relegated into second place following a steward's inquiry.
She's a Tiger, with veteran Stevens on board, had led from the start but drifted off line coming down the home straight to bump the hard-chasing Ria Antonia, causing her to lose momentum.
"I had gotten by Gary but when he came in to me, he bumped me off stride," said Ria Antonia's jockey Javier Castellano, after crossing the line a nose behind She's a Tiger.
"It was a tough call," said Stevens. "The stewards made their call and I wouldn't disagree with that. I wouldn't have wanted to be up there in that booth with them."
Favourite Groupie Doll retained her title in the $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint, jockey Rajiv Maragh expertly guiding the five-year-old mare from the outside to win by half a length over Judy the Beauty. (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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- Horse Racing
- Wise Dan
- Jose Lezcano
- John Velazquez