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Horses with local connections win races at 2021 Breeders’ Cup World Championships

Life Is Good
Life Is Good, ridden by Iran Ortiz Jr., blazed his way to a wire-to-wire win in the Grade 1, $1 million Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The 3-year-old colt was bred by Gary and Mary West of Rancho Santa Fe.

(Kelley Carlson)

The 2021 Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Nov. 5-6 at Del Mar was truly an international affair, with winners from as far as South Korea and as near as the host city.

“Our team at Del Mar was thrilled to host this year’s renewal of the Breeders’ Cup,” said Josh Rubinstein, Del Mar’s president and chief operating officer. “We want to extend our congratulations to all of this weekend’s participants. They put on an amazing display of world-class competition.”

Korea Racing Authority’s Knicks Go established himself as the likely Horse of the Year with his front-running victory in the Grade I, $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic. Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit finished second, with Belmont Stakes winner Essential Quality three-quarters of a length behind him in third. Hot Rod Charlie, whose owners include Del Mar resident Bill Strauss, was fourth.

Rancho Santa Fe resident Aron Wellman
Rancho Santa Fe resident Aron Wellman, center, president and founder of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, is in the winner’s circle for the Grade I, $2 million Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint trophy presentation. The race was won by Eclipse Thoroughbred’s Aloha West.

(Kelley Carlson)

Until Nov. 6, no horse from Japan had ever won a Breeders’ Cup race since the event began in 1984, but two made history that day - Loves Only You in the Grade I, $2 million Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf; and Marche Lorraine, who sprung an upset in the Grade I, $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff at odds of 45-1.

The most controversial race was when Irish contender Modern Games was prematurely scratched after a gate incident in the Grade I, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf; then was allowed to run, but only for purse money; and subsequently finished first in the race, while bettors received no winnings.

Knicks Go, with Joel Rosario
Knicks Go, with Joel Rosario in the saddle, ran away with the Grade I, $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic and stamped himself as the top contender for the Horse of the Year title.
(Kelley Carlson)

Three horses with local connections won their Breeders’ Cup races: Ce Ce (Grade I, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint; owned and bred by Bo Hirsch, Rancho Santa Fe), Life Is Good (Grade 1, $1 million Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile; bred by Gary and Mary West, Rancho Santa Fe) and Aloha West (Grade I, $2 million Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint; owned by Del Mar-based Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, whose president and founder is Rancho Santa Fe resident Aron Wellman).

Trainer Peter Miller of Encinitas had four entries in the championships: Time to Party (Grade II, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint-11th place), Proud Emma (Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint-fifth), CZ Rocket (Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint-seventh) and Mo Forza (Grade I, $2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile Presented by PDJF-13th).

Abbondanza Racing, co-led by Del Mar attorney Bing Bush, was represented by Going to Vegas, who finished 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Total all-sources common-pool handle for the Breeders’ Cup was $182,908,409, a new record for the event. This was a 4.7 percent increase over the previous record of $174,628,986 set when the event was held in 2019 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, and a 14 percent increase from the total handle of $160,472,893 at the 2020 event at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky.

The total on-track handle for the event was $19,032,307, and two-day attendance was 47,089. Ticket capacity to this year’s event was reduced because of precautions related to COVID-19.

Del Mar hosted nine non-Breeders’ Cup stakes races since it opened Nov. 3: the Grade II, $300,000 Goldikova Stakes (won by Going Global); the Grade II, $250,000 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes (Lone Rock); the $200,000 Senator Ken Maddy Stakes (A G Indy); the $175,000 Golden State Juvenile Fillies Stakes (Big Switch); the $175,000 Golden State Juvenile Stakes (Finneus); the $150,000 Qatar Golden Mile Stakes (Astronomer); the $108,750 Let It Ride Stakes (Team Merchants); the $103,750 Seashell Stakes (Livingmybestlife); and the $100,000 Betty Grable Stakes (Bella Vita).


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