The 2016 Breeders' Cup kicked off Friday at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, with the first four undercard races as part of the marquee two-day event. The day's action featured the Juvenile Turf, Dirt Mile, Juvenile Fillies Turf and Distaff.
Although the Kentucky Derby, and more generally the Triple Crown season, generates more mainstream attention in the United States, the Breeders' Cup is equivalent to the Olympics. The top horses from every discipline come together to compete for $28 million in purse and award money.
So let's check out all of the race information from the Day 1 card, which will get updated through the completion of the competition. That's followed by a recap from each of Friday's championship races.
Friday's Race Schedule
|2016 Breeders' Cup: Nov. 4 Races and Results|
|Post Time (ET)||Race||Purse||Winner|
|5:25 p.m.||Juvenile Turf||$1 million||Oscar Performance|
|6:05 p.m.||Las Vegas Dirt Mile||$1 million||Tamarkuz|
|6:50 p.m.||Juvenile Fillies Turf||$1 million||New Money Honey|
|7:35 p.m.||Longines Distaff||$2 million||Beholder|
|2016 Breeders' Cup: Juvenile Turf Results and Payouts|
|1st||13 - Oscar Performance||$15.20||$8.00||$5.60|
|2nd||1 - Lancaster Bomber||-||$11.20||$6.40|
|3rd||11 - Good Samaritan||-||-||$3.40|
Oscar Performance pulled away from the field down the homestretch to open Breeders' Cup weekend with a victory for jockey Jose Ortiz and trainer Brian Lynch. It marked the third consecutive win for the two-year-old Kentucky-bred colt.
The Breeders' Cup highlighted the final furlongs:
Lancaster Bomber and Good Samaritan both surged late after middling performances over the first three-quarters of the race. They simply didn't have enough time to chase down Oscar Performance, who never faded despite a fast early pace.
It's the latest sign the colt is on the verge of developing into something special. He's made steady progress after finishing sixth in his first career start at Saratoga.
He flashed potential in a win in the Grade III Pilgrim Stakes last time out and then upped the bar once again Friday. If he maintains this trajectory, he could be in for a special three-year-old season.
Las Vegas Dirt Mile
|2016 Breeders' Cup: Dirt Mile Results and Payouts|
|1st||8 - Tamarkuz||$25.80||$9.40||$8.00|
|2nd||9 - Gun Runner||-||$5.20||$4.60|
|3rd||5 - Accelerate||-||-||$16.00|
A picture-perfect ride from Breeders Cup' veteran Mike Smith allowed Tamarkuz to take advantage of a fading Dortmund, the heavy favorite, and Gun Runner to win the Dirt Mile.
Dortmund found himself sitting just off the pace in second behind Runhappy for a vast majority of the race. He didn't have the finishing kick he needed when Martin Garcia called for him to make his move after the final turn, however, and it allowed Tamarkuz to run by his on the outside.
Although Tamarkuz had shown signs of improvement over his last two starts, the Grade II Kelso Handicap and the Grade I Forego Handicap, this is his first win since March of 2015. And it comes against a strong field on the big stage.
The Daily Racing Form spotlighted Smith's success in the Breeders' Cup:
Meanwhile, Dortmund continued to struggle when the spotlight is brightest. While he owns eight wins in 14 career starts, his previous losses all came either when American Pharoah or California Chrome was in the field. And now he's come up short in the Breeders' Cup.
Matt Hegarty of DRF noted the surprising nature of Dortmund finishing outside the top three:
All told, there's no excuse for Dortmund or Gun Runner. The race was there for the taking after the turn for home. Having Smith, who read the race like the Hall of Famer he is, was the difference for Tamarkuz as he earned his place in the winner's circle.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
|2016 Breeders' Cup: Juvenile Fillies Turf Results and Payouts|
|1st||3 - New Money Honey||$15.00||$7.60||$5.20|
|2nd||6 - Coasted||-||$17.40||$10.20|
|3rd||9 - Cavale Doree||-||-||$10.60|
New Money Honey emerged from a crowded pack with a determined run up the middle of the track to win the Juvenile Fillies' Turf with Javier Castellano aboard.
Lull didn't live up to her name, flying out of the gate and setting an unsustainable pace early. It forced jockeys to make a decision about whether to run with her or sit back on a course that hasn't been overly kind to those who fall too much off the pace.
Castellano played the middle ground and it worked perfectly. New Money Honey never lost sight of the lead and when the time came to make the charge, she showcased effortless speed to push through the pack and nobody else could keep pace.
Ray Paulick of the Paulick Report discussed the strong start for horses from the East Coast:
TVG passed along some of the post-race festivities:
In the bigger picture, this race represented what to expect for most of the Breeders' Cup. Little separated the top 10 horses as they thundered toward the finish line and that evenly matched atmosphere is what makes this event unlike anything else in horse racing.
A lot of races by the end of Saturday are going to get decided by the jockeys' split-second decisions about when to accelerate. In both the Dirt Mile and the Juvenile Fillies Turf, the right calls being made by Smith and Castellano were the difference between winning and losing.
|2016 Breeders' Cup: Distaff Results and Payouts|
|1st||8 - Beholder||$8.60||$3.60||$3.00|
|2nd||1 - Songbird||-||$3.20||$2.80|
|3rd||6 - Forever Unbridled||-||-||$4.40|
It's often difficult for a race to match the hype. The Distaff didn't have that problem. Previously unbeaten Songbird and a resurgent Beholder put together a battle for the ages that ended with Beholder picking up the victory by the smallest of margins – probably less than the proverbial nose.
NBC Sports provided the photo finish:
The race was billed as a three-horse clash between the Songbird, Beholder and Stellar Wind. The narrative quickly changed as Stellar Wind got a dreadful break and just didn't have enough time to make up for the lost time.
It left Beholder and Songbird to fight for the top spot, and neither backed down. Every time it looked like one of them was going to start pulling away, the other fought back. It's a duel that really illustrated what Breeders' Cup racing is all about.
The Breeders' Cup passed along a replay of the entire thriller:
Racing Dudes summed it up succinctly:
All told, it was always going to take a special effort to beat Songbird, who'd won the first 11 races of her career in often dominant fashion. It doesn't get much more special than that finish.
The win is a fitting end for Beholder, who was racing for the final time. The six-year-old mare won 14 of her first 17 starts, but had gone winless over her last three with two losses to Stellar Wind and one to California Chrome in the past four months.
On Friday, however, the heart of a champion shined through at a moment where there wasn't any margin for error. A great way to end the first day of Breeders' Cup racing.