A hotly competitive renewal made even more so by the scratch of morning-line favorite Polydream, Saturday’s $1,786,000 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) produced a thrilling finish as Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Expert Eye overtook Catapult and Analyze It in the shadow of the wire.
The Sir Michael Stoute sophomore becomes only the second British-based horse to take the Mile after Barathea (1994), trained by the retiring Luca Cumani. The common denominators for both? The Churchill Downs turf and jockey Frankie Dettori.
Oscar Performance, the top domestic hope, inherited the mantle of favoritism at 5-2. His front-running style made him dangerous on this course – if he weren’t adversely affected by the rain-soaked ground. As it turned out, he was flat-footed at the start, frittering away his advantage, and never factored in last.
Analyze It seized the initiative through an opening quarter in :24.68 on a “good” course. Briefly headed by Stoute’s other runner, Mustashry, at the half in :49.85, Analyze It soon regained command and reached the six-furlong mark in 1:15.00. By that point Catapult advanced into second, and horse-for-the-course Divisidero was uncorking a big move into contention. Analyze It dug in gamely trying to keep his head in front down the lane, but in the final yards, Catapult began to win their private war.
Meanwhile, Expert Eye was arriving on the scene. Under a patient Dettori, who set him down in a perfectly timed move, the nearly 6-1 second choice prevailed by a half-length in a final time of 1:39.80.
Catapult almost ended trainer John Sadler’s winless Breeders’ Cup record, crossing the wire a neck up on Analyze It. Divisidero was another nose way in fourth. One Master, Clemmie, Lightning Spear, Happily, Gustav Klimt, Almanaar, Mustashry, I Can Fly, Next Shares, and Oscar Performance completed the order of finish. Hunt was scratched along with Polydream, whose connections – Wertheimer et Frere and trainer Freddie Head – must feel a gnawing what-might-have-been.
Expert Eye, placed in the Sussex S. (G1) and Prix du Moulin (G1), was earning his first victory at a mile as well as in a Group/Grade 1. His resume of 10-5-2-1, $1,827,361, reflects scores in the Vintage (G2) at two and this season’s Jersey (G3) at Royal Ascot and City of York (G3).
By Acclamation and out of Exemplify, a Dansili half-sister to dual classic-winning champion Special Duty, Expert Eye hails from the family of multiple Grade 1 stars Sightseek and Tates Creek.
Quotes from Breeders’ Cup
Winning trainer Sir Michael Stoute: “He’s run a great race. Last time at (ParisLongchamp), he did not get the rub of the green. I’d like to thank James Savage, who rides him out every day. He’s done a great job with him. I thought down the back straight that Frankie (Dettori) may have just had him two slots behind, but was in control. We love coming to the Breeders’ Cup. It’s always great coming here.”
Winning jockey Frankie Dettori: “I’m thrilled with the win. (Sir) Michael (Stoute) deserves the credit for the training of the horse. He finished his race off so strongly.”
Drayden Van Dyke, who rode runner-up Catapult: “He broke sharp and put me in a good spot on the first turn. I had a clear trip from there on out. He gave me a good kick on the far turn, passed (Analyze It) late but couldn’t hold off the one on the outside (Expert Eye) in the last couple of jumps.”
Trainer Chad Brown on third-placer Analyze It: “He ran really well – he ran super. I thought Irad (Ortiz Jr.) executed a good race. The horse showed a lot of heart down the line. He just kept fighting on and just came up a little short. We’re proud of his effort.”
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. on Analyze It: “The horse was training so good. He broke good and he just ran a big race and got third. He ran his heart out. He ran so good and fought the whole way. A horse moved a little early on the backside and it didn’t bother him. He came running. He’s a three-year-old and we have a great future with him.”
Trainer Kelly Rubley on fourth Divisidero: “We have been pointing to this race all year. I am not disappointed; he ran a spectacular race. That is his personality; he tries every time. He has no idea that he was in the Breeders’ Cup. Our big test for this race was (supposed to be the Shadwell Turf Mile [G1]) at Keeneland but he got scratched at the gate. We are very proud of this effort today.”
Jockey Jevian Toledo on Divisidero: “I got into good position in the beginning after breaking from the outside. I let him pick it up early to get into position and I was kind of outside, but that’s better for him because he likes it out there. He ran so hard and he likes this track. Today he just ran so hard. I have no complaints. The other horse just came running at the end, so we have no excuse. It feels great to ride in my first Breeders’ Cup race. I’m better with that kind of horse. He always comes running hard and giving percent.”
Jockey Jose Ortiz on Oscar Performance, last as the favorite: “He completely missed the break. He’s been breaking a step slow lately, but not as bad as today. Today, he almost stood there after the gate opened. Game over after that.”