William K. and Suzanne Warren's Saint Liam, sent off at 2-1 odds, won a stretch duel with Flower Alley to win Saturday's $4,680,000 Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I).
Ridden by Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey, who is the all-time leading rider by victories in Breeders' Cup history (15) and was winning his fifth Classic, Saint Liam was positioned in fifth behind the early leaders as longshots Sun King and Suave set moderate early fractions of :23.98, :47.68, and 1:12.23.
Bailey and Saint Liam picked it up coming out of the turn in the 1 1/4-mile race as Flower Alley also rallied from third, where he had been since the break. Saint Liam, after breaking from post 13, raced on the outside all the way as he edged past Flower Alley to win by a length in final time of 2:01.49.
The winner, a 5-year-olds son of Saint Ballado trained by Richard Dutrow (who also took the TVG Sprint when Silver Train upset Lost in the Fog), has won nine of 20 career starts. Saturday's victory, worth $2,433,600, ran Saint Liam's career earnings to $4,456,995 and helped the horse stake a strong claim to the 2005 Horse of the Year award.
"We have the best horse around," Dutrow said. "We didn't duck any kind of horse.
"This horse started in February and danced every dance, and he showed up today," he added. "In fact, I thought he'd win easier than he did. We had a plan, but you have to have the horse. It's all about the horse. Oh my God, what a day!"
Saint Liam has won four of six this year, including three other grade I races – the Donn, the Stephen Foster and most recently, the Woodward. Bred in Kentucky by Edward P. Evans, Saint Liam has been retired to stud at Lane's End Farm in Kentucky.
The 48-year-old Bailey, who failed to win aboard three earlier favorites on Saturday, came up big at the right time. The jockey has been considering retirement and this could be his last Breeders' Cup race.
Bailey said it wasn't an easy race, although he was confident that he had Flower Alley's measure in the run for the wire.
"When he broke, he broke out sharply and stayed there for 20 or 30 yards, so instead of saving ground for the first few jumps, I was losing ground," Bailey said. "I was trying to keep him off the leaders as long as I could to leave him with a target."
"I knew I had (Flower Alley). You just don't want anybody to come flying up. I knew Borrego can really come with a strong run but it was going to take a magnificent effort to beat him."
He paid $6.80, $5.10, and $4.20. Flower Alley was worth $8.70 and $7.10 and Perfect Drift was third, paying $7.80. Fourth was Super Frolic, followed by Suave, Choctaw Nation, Starcraft, Sir Shackleton, Sun King, Borrego, Oratorio, Jack Sullivan, and A Bit O'Gold.
"We had a good position," Velazquez said of the runner-up. "I was where I wanted to be – when I asked him, he responded. The winner was just a little better today."
The 6-year-old gelding Perfect Drift ran a huge race to finish third, said jockey Mark Guidry.
"Turning for home, I said 'I got it.' I guess I should not have thought that. He ran his heart out."
Borrego, who came into the race off back-to-back victories in million-dollar races (Pacific Classic, Jockey Club gold Cup) was the biggest disappointment with his 10th-place finish.
"I felt a little pressure on the backside and I had to let a horse go ahead of me," said jockey Garrett Gomez, who won his first two Breeders' Cup races of his career earlier in the day. "But he got rolling again and I dropped him down inside on the turn. He came up firing, but then he when he was empty. I don't know what happened. He was just flat."
Trainer Beau Greely had no regrets.
"He's a great horse and it's been a great run," he said. "I'm really happy and it's been wonderful. We are all still healthy and everything is well. The horse who won may be the Horse of the Year. He certainly deserves it. Mine might have been a touch over the top but that's horse racing."
Saturday's on-track handle of $14,742,520 is a Belmont Park record, surpassing the old mark of $14,461,402 set on June 5, 2004 (Belmont Day when a track record crowd of 120,139 saw Smarty Jones' bid for the Triple Crown fail to Birdstone). The attendance Saturday was 54,289.