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Breeders’ Cup Roundup: Day 1

While attendance at Churchill Downs for the 2011 Breeders’ Cup was slightly down on Friday, spirits were high once the sun popped out and the races started heating up. It was to be an even split between favorites and long-shots as three of each would be standing in the winner’s circle before the day was done.

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint got the day started on Friday as heavily-favored Secret Circle held off a late-charging Shumoos for the win. Trinniberg set the pace but it didn’t take long for jockey Rafael Bejarano to guide Secret Circle into the front position. Coming around the turn, Secret Circle bolted for home but seemed to struggle near the end before finally righting himself for a one length victory over Shumoos. The win keeps Secret Circle undefeated (3 for 3) and gives Bob Baffert his eighth Breeders’ Cup win.

The second race of the day was the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Elusive Kate went off as the 5-2 favorite but was never a factor. Stopshoppinmaria set the early pace and seemed to have things well in hand until local favorite and recent Darley Alcibiades Stakes winner, Stephanie’s Kitten, charged by in the final furlong to
snatch the victory away. Stephanie’s Kitten was bred in Kentucky by Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trained by Wayne Catalano. The victory gave John Velazquez his first win of the day and his 10th Breeders’ Cup win.

Next up was the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. Favorite Turbulent Descent managed to be in the running near the end despite a bumpy ride but couldn’t pull through as 20-1 Musical Romance pulled off the 1 1/4 length upset. Musical Romance is a 4-year-old filly who made an improbably comeback after suffering a nearly career-ending injury only days into her training after purchase. She was ridden by rookie Juan Leyva and trained by Bill Kaplan. The victory was a first for both in the Breeders’ Cup Championships.

The $2 million Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies was next in line for Breeders’ Cup fans on Friday and might have given those in attendance a sneak peek at a potential Kentucky Derby horse. Bred in Kentucky out of Stonestreet Stables and trained by Steven Asmussen, My Miss Aurelia, the favorite, stayed undefeated as she pulled away from the pack to notch a 3-length victory. The 2-year-old filly will likely be champion in her class as she has won all four of her races this year. She broke her maiden at Saratoga in July, won the Grade 2 Adirondack, and then took the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont last month. She covered the 1 1/16 mile in 1:46.00 and paid $6.20.

Next to last was the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf which provided another long-shot winner. Four-year-old filly, Perfect Shirl, went off at 27-1 after coming into the race having lost all six of her races this year and having only won one other graded stakes race in her career, the Grade 2 Lake George in Saratoga. Jockey John Velazquez scored his second victory of the day as he came from the middle of the pack to win by three-quarters of a length over Nahrain. The victory gave owner Charles Fipke and trainer Roger Attfield, their first Breeders’ Cup victories.

Last, but certainly not least, was the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. The $2 million Grade 1 race was 1 1/8 miles on dirt and featured a nice matchup between Alabama Stakes winner, Royal Delta, American Oaks winner, It’s Tricky, and Kentucky Oaks winner, Plum Pretty. Plum Pretty set the pace while It’s Tricky and Royal Delta were never far from the lead. Plum Pretty rode an inside line but ran out of gas near the middle of the stretch as she was passed easily by Royal Delta and It’s Tricky who were neck-and-neck at the time. Jockey Jose Lezcano then found another gear as he guided Royal Delta, another favorite, to a 2 1/2 length victory in the Ladies’ Classic. The win gave Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott his fourth victory in the Ladies’ Classic.