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By Ben Everill
ARCADIA, California, Nov 2 (Reuters) - New Year's Day produced a stunning late spurt on the inside rail to claim the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park on Saturday.
The 10-1 shot stunned the 5-2 favorite Havana, who looked the most likely to win after taking the lead from Strong Mandate on the final. But Havana was blitzed as jockey Martin Garcia urged his ride into a higher gear after the sixteenth pole for a length and a quarter victory.
Garcia refused to get caught up in the fast pace early and made his run when it counted most.
"My horse doesn't have that much pace. I was exactly where I wanted to be," the winning jockey said.
"I saved ground at every corner. The rail was open and I took it, I didn't panic."
Havana, who had Gary Stevens aboard after slated rider John Velazquez was hospitalised from an earlier-race fall, had to settle for second with Strong Mandate third.
Velazquez underwent emergency surgery to have his spleen removed.
The win was a welcome one for trainer Bob Baffert, who also trained Secret Compass, the horse euthanized after the earlier fall.
Baffert now has three Juvenile titles and nine overall Breeders' Cup wins.
"I told Martin, don't get distracted. Ride this horse. We know he's a really good horse. He's steady. He just bided his time and didn't get caught up in all the speed tactics," Baffert said.
"He showed today what he's made of. It takes a pretty tough animal to take all of that kickback the way this track is and still come on and win. And really, he wasn't really that tired."
The long time trainer hinted the horse could be a runner in next year's Kentucky Derby but could not hide the emotion of the earlier tragedy.
"Not only is it exciting to go win a Breeders' Cup race, but you know the minute he hit the wire, I started thinking the first Saturday in May," Baffert added.
"But it's a very emotional win. When you lose a horse (Sweet Compass) like that, it just takes all the wind out of our sails.
"This business is so tough. These horses are so close to us, and when a tragedy happens like that, we're all still in shock.
"Just the win is exciting, but still, in the back of my mind, I'm thinking about that filly."
Todd Pletcher, trainer of Havana, refused to use the jockey change as an excuse.
"I thought he ran super," Pletcher said.
"I thought he actually settled in beautifully. Gary said he got a little bit lost when he made the lead turning for home.
"Then he just got tired the last 100 yards."
The $2 million Juvenile was the fifth event of nine on the closing day of the two-day Breeder's Cup carnival. (Editing by Gene Cherry)