Authentic wins Breeders' Cup Classic as European raiders dominate on turf

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Authentic won the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic as Bob Baffert capped a troubled 2020 with two victories at Keeneland, where European raiders won all four turf races on Saturday in sometimes sensational style.

Baffert's Kentucky Derby winner Authentic was a wire-to-wire winner in the Classic under John Velazquez, cruising to his third Grade One victory over elder stablemate Improbable in the marquee event of the 14-race, $30 million Breeders' Cup slate at the Keeneland track in Lexington, Kentucky.

There were no fans in attendance, but the coronavirus pandemic didn't stop a determined contingent of more than two dozen runners from Europe, who came up big on Saturday after being shut out in Friday's five races.

Order of Australia, a 73-1 longshot who was in the $2 million Mile only after One Master was scratched because of injury, led a sweep of the board for Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien under jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot -- who was only aboard because Christophe Soumillon tested positive for Covid-19 this week.

Boudot made the most of his chance, grabbing his second win of the day after piloting Audarya to victory in the Filly & Mare Turf -- a mount he inherited after Ioritz Mendizabal was unable to make the trip from Europe because of a positive coronavirus test.

"It's just unbelievable," Boudot said. "It's a dream come true for me. It is my first win during the Breeders' Cup week with Audarya.

"I had an opportunity because Ioritz had a positive test of Covid and his trainer give me this fabulous mare and today she makes her perfect job.

"A chance again because One Master is non-runner and Christophe had a positive Covid test again and I pick up this ride."

Order of Australia broke from the outside post and was running second entering the final straight, where he overtook Halladay and held off the late-charging Circus Maximums. Lope Y Fernandez finished third to complete the sweep for O'Brien.

O'Brien wasn't in attendance in Lexington, but his 13th Breeders' Cup win, and his first in the Mile, was a welcome reversal of fortune after his English Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck was euthanized on Tuesday after breaking down in the Melbourne Cup.

That followed disappointment in October when O'Brien withdrew four runners from the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe after contaminated feed put them afoul of anti-doping regulations.

Dermot Weld likewise wasn't on hand to see Tarnawa -- with replacement rider Colin Keane aboard in place of Soumillon -- win the $4 million 1 1/2-mile Turf.

It was a first Breeders' Cup victory for Weld in his 17th attempt.

"It doesn't get any bigger than this," said Weld's son, Mark. "I'm sad that my dad's not here, but this Covid situation is what it is."

Glass Slippers had got the ball rolling for the European raiders with a victory in the Turf Sprint with Tom Eaves in the irons.

It was a monster meeting for Kentucky trainer Brad Cox, who saddled Dirt Mile winner Knicks Go and Distaff winner Monomoy Girl to take his tally for the 2020 Breeders' Cup to four.

It was an especially sweet victory for Monomoy Girl, who won the 2018 Distaff as a three-year-old but was sidelined for more than a year after colic surgery.

"I'm very proud of her, I thought she was better than ever coming into this, I really, really did and I think she proved that," Cox said.

The 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares was billed as a showdown between Monomoy Girl and rising star Swiss Skydiver, who this year became just the sixth filly to win the Preakness Stakes ahead of Authentic.

But Swiss Skydiver stumbled out of the gate and was never a factor.

- Brilliant 'Gamine' -

Another star filly, Baffert's Gamine, underlined her credentials as a speedster with her victory under Velazquez in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint.

Gamine came from off a blistering pace set by Serengeti Empress, surging to the front at the top of the stretch and pulling away for the victory.

"She is just brilliant," Baffert said. "She is the fastest filly going one turn I've ever trained.

"I wanted it bad for her. What she's gone through, she deserved it," added Baffert, the two-time Triple Crown winning trainer who has come under scrutiny this year after having four horses produce positive tests for banned or regulated substances.

Gamine was among them, testing positive twice, including for an illegal level of a corticosteroid used legally as an anti-inflammatory.

Both Baffert and Velazquez called her victory a "vindication."

"The headlines don't sound well, but when you get to the facts, they were contamination, one was an overage," Baffert said of the drug violations.

He had released a statement on the eve of the Breeders' Cup outlining measures he would take to prevent similar incidents in the future.

"I always thought I ran a tight ship, I have to run a tighter ship," Baffert said. "We run it like a barn and we have to run it more like a hospital and that's the new norm now.

"I'm just happy that she showed what a wonderful filly she is and there was no doubt today."