Thor's Echo rolled to the lead reaching the stretch and shook loose for a four-length upset in the $1,951,080 TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) at Churchill Downs Saturday.
Sent off at 15-1 odds, the California-bred Swiss Yodeler
gelding was in a stalking position throughout as Attila's Storm and Bordonaro fougth through early fractions of :21 2/5 and :44 2/5 for the first half-mile before the rest of the field began to close.
Thor's Echo, who broke from the rail under Corey Nakatani, settled along the inside just behind the leaders before angling three wide to challenge coming off the turn. He opened a daylight advantage by the furlong marker and won under steady right-handed urging.
"I was on the rail, so my main thing was getting him in the clear," said Nakatani, who was reunited with Thor's Echo after David Cohen rode him to a second-place finish in the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Oct. 7. "He was traveling so well beneath me and on the backside, I was just looking for the spot to go. He ran a tremendous race. I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for this guy."
The winner, who provided trainer Doug O'Neill with his second victory on the Breeders' Cup card, paid $33.20, $15.80, and $10.20.
"He had been training wonderfully coming up to the race, but Corey's ride was the key," O'Neill said. "We were joking about the post, and saying we could sell it to somebody for good money. But in the end, the post turned out to be to our advantage."
Todd Pletcher-trained longshot Friendly Island closed in the stretch to get second for Ramon Dominguez, a half-length clear of the third-place finisher Nightmare Affair, returning $50.00 and $32.80. Nightmare Affair, ridden by Edgar Prado, was a head in front of second choice Bordonaro, paying $15.20.
"He just wasn't handling the track at all," Valenzuela said of Bordonaro, who had won nine of his previous 11 starts. "He was spinning his wheels and never did get comfortable."
Favored Henny Hughes was last in the 14-horse field after stumbling at the start and encountering early traffic problems.
"He never took to the track at any time," jockey John Velazquez said of Henny Hughes. "After the first three jumps, I knew we were in trouble."
The chestnut Thor's Echo races for the partnership of Royce S. Jaime Racing Stable and Suarez Racing Inc. Bred by Fast Lane Farms & Block & Forman, the 4-year-old gelding has won four of 17 lifetime starts and earned $2,192,990.
Previous to the Sprint, Thor's Echo chased Bordonaro from start to finishing to be second, a length behind that one, in the Ancient Title. He also finished second in a restricted stake at Santa Anita before shipping to Dubai to be second in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I). After a lengthy layoff he returned to be fourth in stakes company on the Del Mar turf before the Ancient Title.
Attila's Storm, who ran third in the 2005 Sprint, finished fifth, followed by Too Much Bling, War Front, Siren Lure, Pomeroy, Kelly's Landing, Lewis Michael, Malibu Mint, Areyoutalkintome and Henny Hughes.