Stronach Stable's homebred Ghostzapper jumped out to an early lead and set moderate fractions before blowing away the field in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I) before 53,717 fans at Lone Star Park.
Trainer Bobby Frankel notched his first Breeders' Cup Classic victory and his third Breeders' Cup win from 63 starters. He had saddled the beaten favorite in each of the past three years (Medaglia d'Oro in 2002-03 and Aptitude in 2001).
With a perfect 4-for-4 season, Frankel said Ghostzapper is a cinch for Horse of the Year.
"It's a no brainer," Frankel said. "Handicap horse of the year, Horse of the Year."
Ghostzapper drew off in the lane to win by three lengths over Roses in May, with Pleasantly Perfect, who was seeking to win the Classic for the second year in a row, finishing third. The final time for 1 1/4 miles was 1:59.02, bettering the Classic mark of 1:59.16 set by Skip Away in 1997 at Hollywood Park. The Lone Star Park record was listed as 2:04 3/5.
"He ran the way I thought he would," said Frankel who had not been close with five prebious starters in the 2004 Breeders' Cup. "The way this day had been going, I thought I was going to be in for a disaster. This sure make things better."
"This is as big a win as I've had in my career. In fact, it could be the biggest win I've had in my career. This is a good horse, a really good horse."
Ridden quickly from the gate while angled off the rail by Javier Castellano, the slightly favored Ghostzapper (5-2) set fractions of :23.42 and :47 while being stalked first by Azeri and then Roses in May through the first half-mile. With Ghostzapper and Roses in May continuing to lead through five-eighths of a mile :59.26 and three-quarters of a mile in 1:11.32. Rounding the far turn, the leaders were challenged by Funny Cide as the pace picked up to complete the mile in 1:35.38.
"I had all the confidence in the world," Castellano said.
"Ghostzapper is a super horse," said the trainer of Roses in May, Dale Romans. "He may be the best horse we've seen in a long time. We picked a bad year to have a top horse for the Classic."
Jockey Jerry Bailey, who rode the 5-2 second choice Pleasantly Perfect, said he had a rough trip.
"I couldn't ever get him settled and I got hung wide on both turns," he said. "The post position (12) pretty much cost me. He showed a lot of guts but you can't run 1 1/4 miles on the bridle like that. It just doesn't work."
Stronach Stable and breeder Adena Springs are owned by Frank Stronach, chairman of Magna Entertainment, which owns Breeders' Cup Classic host track Lone Star Park.
Ghostzapper, a 4-year-old son of Awesome Again , paid $7.00, $4.00, and $3.60. Roses in May was worth $8.20 and $5.20, with Pleasantly Perfect returning $3.00.
The exacta returned $46.60, the trifecta was worth $164.00, and the superfecta, with Perfect Drift finishing fourth, paid $1,297.00.
Fifth was 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri, followed by Personal Rush, Birdstone, Dynever, Fantasticat, Funny Cide, Bowman's Band, Newfoundland, and Freefourinternet.
Azeri's trainer D. Wayne Lukas, said he was satified with Azeri's race. He and owner Michale Paulson decided to run the 6-year-old mare in the Classic instead of the Distaff, where she would have been favored.
"We didn't get away as clean as we would have liked to," Lukas said. "There was a little bit of action in the first 30 yards. We wanted the three or four lane. Instead we got down on the inside, and we didn't have a choice. It was the way the race unfolded, not anything Pat (Day) did."
"It was a good effort," Day said. "There was no disgrace."
Funny Cide, who won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) to return to grade I-winning status for the first time since the 2003 Preakness (gr. I), was 10th.
"He ran terrible. He didn't handle the track," trainer Barclay Tagg said. "I don't know if it was because it (the track) was drying out, but I know he didn't want any part of it."
With Filly & Mare Turf winner Ouja Board and Ghostzapper the only winning favorites, their were no winning Pick Six tickets, with 61 consolation tickets paying $56,149.60 each.
The Classic was the fifth consecutive victory for Ghostzapper, who has now won eight of 10 starts. The victory, his third grade I of the year, was his first at 10 furlongs.
Ghostzapper's victory was worth $2,080,00 to his connections and increased the bay's career earnings to $2,996,120.
Ghostzapper was a sprinter when his career started under Frankel, but the Hall of Famer began running the horse at longer distances this year. And the decision paid off.