Friday, December 15, 2017
Sports

Distaff drama tops Day 1

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Stopchargingmaria won the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff by a neck, giving trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Javier Castellano their second victories Friday on the opening day of the world championships at Keeneland.

The last of the day's four Cup races was the most suspenseful, with the stewards needing several minutes to sort through a foul claim and an objection before declaring the results official.

Stopchargingmaria ran 1⅛ miles in 1:48.98 and paid $16.20, $8.40 and $6 at 7-1 odds.

Stellar Wind returned $9.20 and $6.60, and Pletcher-trained Curalina was another 3½ lengths back in third and paid $7 to show.

The stewards examined video of the stretch run, when Stopchargingmaria slightly bumped Stellar Wind and carried her wide toward the grandstand. Victor Espinoza, aboard Stellar Wind, filed the objection against Castellano, saying he was forced to check his horse.

"I almost run into his heels because he took my spot in there," Espinoza said. "From then I switched my lead to the left; I thought we could give her a little extra room. He just continued to move out and move out. I had no choice. I just had to switch back to my right."

With the crowd of 44,947 clutching their tickets, the stewards made no change in the order of finish, citing insufficient evidence.

"It cost me the race when he moved out and check right there," said Espinoza, who will ride Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the $5 million Classic today.

Castellano denied any wrongdoing, saying his filly drifted as a result of the crowd noise and light from the video board.

"You always get scared when this happens because it's such a big race and you don't want to get taken down," he said. "My horse ran a great race, and I kept a straight path and was keeping the horse straight."

Wedding Toast, the 5-2 favorite, finished 11th in the 14-horse field.

Keeneland is hosting for the first time in the event's 31 years. The attendance of 44,947 was a record for Friday Cup racing since the Breeders' became a two-day event in 2007.

Pletcher and Castellano teamed with odds-on favorite Liam's Map to win the $1 million Dirt Mile by 2½ lengths, the lone favorite to reach the winner's circle.

Long shots triumphed in the Juvenile Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf, both $1 million races.

At 7-1 odds, Hit It a Bomb rallied late to win the Juvenile Turf by a neck over 5-2 favorite Airoforce.

Catch a Glimpse, a 6-1 shot, prevailed by three-quarters of a length in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, ending Canada-based trainer Mark Casse's 0-for-25 skid in the Cup. Alice Springs was second as the 5-2 favorite.

Pharoah's farewell: Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert believes he has done everything possible to bring American Pharoah into his final race in peak form. Now it's up to the Triple Crown winner to deliver a final dynamic performance in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic today (5:35, Ch. 8).

The colt who ended the 37-year Triple Crown drought this year is heading to stud after the Classic. He's coming off a narrow loss in the Travers Stakes in August at Saratoga, his lone defeat in seven races this year.

American Pharoah looks like the probable pacesetter in the 1¼-mile race largely devoid of speed horses. If he breaks cleanly from post No. 4 and establishes a commanding lead, the rest could be chasing for second money.

"My job is to have him at peak performance," Baffert said.

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