Overlooked at 30-1 after stealing the Pilgrim (G2) last out, Fire at Will reminded bettors that he’s not reliant on that scenario by delivering the biggest upset in the 13-year history of the $920,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). Jockey Ricardo Santana engineered a stalk-and-pounce trip aboard the Mike Maker trainee who rolled by three lengths on Future Stars Friday at Keeneland.
Three Diamonds Farm’s Fire at Will was perched on the inside tracking the pace set by Outadore through fractions of :23.64, :48.12, and 1:12.60 on the good turf. Gretzky the Great attended on the outside, but began to retreat entering the stretch, and that gave Fire at Will all the room he needed. Angling out and taking off, the Declaration of War colt pulled away to finish the mile in 1:35.81 and paid $62.40.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained Battleground, the lukewarm 3.80-1 favorite, unleashed a strong rally to collar Outadore for runner-up honors. The son of War Front and Found, heroine of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) on this course, was coming off a three-month layoff, and he reiterated his promise for next year.
Fellow Irish shipper Cadillac, who had a shoe repair in the paddock and lashed out before entering the gate, checked in another half-length away in fourth. Next came Sealiway, Gretzky the Great, The Lir Jet, Devilwala, Ebeko, Mutasaabeq, Go Athletico, Public Sector, Abarta, and an eased New Mandate who pulled too hard as Frankie Dettori tried to settle him early.
Ironically, Fire at Will is a three-quarter brother to Decorated Invader, a wide, closing fourth as the 3.10-1 second choice in last year’s Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita. Fire at Will’s superior tactical ability was evident here.
“I got a beautiful trip,” Santana said. “I had plenty of horse in the tank. Thank God everything played out perfect.
“He put me where he wanted to be and that’s why we won.”
Maker was scoring his third Breeders’ Cup win, following Furthest Land in the 2009 Dirt Mile and Hansen in the 2011 Juvenile (G1).
“I tell you we have been high on him since day one, and with each race he’s got better,” Maker said. “It’s very satisfying to get Three Diamonds Farm their very first Breeders’ Cup win.”
Battleground’s jockey, Ryan Moore, was effusive by his normally reticent standards.
“My horse ran super. Very happy with him,” Moore said of the Coolmore blueblood.
Third-placer Outadore likewise pleased trainer Wesley Ward, who earlier won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) with hot favorite Golden Pal.
“He ran great,” Ward said of Outadore. “I thought that the fractions were decent to where he could kick on. Talking to Jose (Ortiz), he said when he turned for home he dropped into another gear as we expected. But take nothing away from that winner. He ran away from us. (Fire at Will) ran a big, big race.”
Cadillac didn’t have the smoothest passage en route to his fourth, but trainer Jessica Harrington took the positives from his effort.
“He ran a great race,” Harrington offered. “Shane (Foley) said he got into a bun fight early on which pushed him back to eighth and messed the race up for him. But I’m really pleased with his run and especially the way he stayed on to the line.”
Fire at Will’s scorecard reads 4-3-0-0, $657,932. A wide-trip sixth in his Aug. 8 debut in the 1 1/16-mile Saratoga turf maiden won by American Monarch, he broke his maiden by going last to first in the off-the-turf With Anticipation. His front-running coup in the Oct. 3 Pilgrim back on turf at Belmont turned out not to be a victory purely of convenience after all.
Bred by Troy Rankin in Kentucky, Fire at Will sold for $97,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. The dark bay is the first foal from Flirt, a Kitten’s Joy half to aforementioned Grade 1 winner Decorated Invader (by Declaration of War, like Fire at Will). This is the family of successful sire Stormy Atlantic, tracing to the blue hen *Rough Shod II.