Jockey Flavien Prat aboard Storm the Court on the way to victory in the 2019 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa AnitaJockey Flavien Prat aboard Storm the Court on the way to victory in the 2019 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita (AFP Photo/Joe Scarnici)
Arcadia (United States) (AFP) - Storm the Court stormed to a 45-1 upset win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Friday at Santa Anita, where the $28 million festival opened amid heighted concerns over horse safety.
Odds-on favorite Dennis' Moment stumbled early from the inside post and was never a factor in the 1 1/16-mile race on the dirt track.
Eight Rings, sent off at 3-2, pushed early but faded late and Storm the Court, ridden by US-based French jockey Flavien Prat, held off a charging Anneau d'Or to win by a neck.
"He really battled through the stretch," Prat said. "I always thought he was going to win.”
It wasn't the only upset on "Future Stars Friday," five races featuring two-year-olds that served as the curtain-raiser to Saturday -- when nine races will include the $4 million Turf and the $6 million Classic.
And even with three turf races on the card, European invaders were shut out.
Structor gave trainer Chad Brown a victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, Sharing pulled off an upset for Graham Motion in the Juvenile Fillies Turf and Four Wheel Drive, trained by Wesley Ward, won the Juvenile Turf Sprint.
Structor's victory was Brown's 13th Breeders Cup win, but his first in the Juvenile Turf.
With Jose Ortiz in the irons, the 5-1 shot remained unbeaten in three career races.
"He broke alertly and I was able to save ground all the way around," said Ortiz, who brought Structor four wide at the top of the stretch to power to the front in the one-mile race.
"I wanted to ask him to run sooner, but I had nowhere to go at the three-eighths pole," Ortiz said. "Once we got into the clear, he really finished strong."
Arizona, trained by Ireland's Aidan O'Brien, went off the 2-1 favorite under Ryan Moore but he failed to find room early and finished fifth as Billy Batts and Gear Jockey -- 50-1 and 60-1 respectively -- finished second and third.
"With him getting a bit slowly away, Ryan had to accept the position in which he found himself," O'Brien said, adding that he was "not too disappointed.
"He's going to be a lovely three-year-old and I'd imagine he'll go straight to the Guineas now."
There was a scare as pace-setter Graceful Kitten appeared to hit the rail and nearly stumbled in the straight, but he collected himself to cross the line.
It was a sobering moment at Santa Anita, where 36 horse deaths this year have sparked calls for change.
No single cause has been pinpointed, but Santa Anita's owners the Stronach Group have instituted restrictions on allowed medications and beefed up veterinary scrutiny of horses at the track -- measures that are in force for the Breeders' Cup.
Vitalogy, trained by Brendan Walsh, was a race-day scratch from the Juvenile Turf after pre-race vet examinations.
Brown's Thais has also been ruled out of the Filly & Mare turf by the veterinarians.
- Protesters turn out -
Anti-racing protesters, who have been a presence at Santa Anita throughout the year, were again stationed at one of the gates with signs denouncing the sport on Friday, their numbers likely to swell on Saturday.
But 41,243 spectators saw some lively action.
Sharing, whose dam Shared Account won the 2010 Filly & Mare Turf at 46-1, went off at 13-1 on the way to victory in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
She powered to the lead in the upper straight and held on to beat European favorite Daahyeh by 1 1/4 lengths.
"If they had gone faster, we would have been able to attack them," Varian said. "The winner got first run on us, which eventually won them the race. Our filly was learning to bend as well as trying to quicken. Unfortunately, she hasn't quite got there."
Four Wheel Drive, a son of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, opened the proceedings with his victory in the Juvenile Turf Sprint -- holding off late-charging Chimney Rock by three-quarters of a length.
British Idiom, trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Javier Castellano, out-dueled Donna Veloce to win the Juvenile Fillies on the dirt track.