Adoration, the longest shot on the board, went wire-to-wire to take the Breeders' Cup Distaff – Presented by Nextel (gr. I) by 4 1/2 lengths, a shocking beginning to the 20th Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Santa Anita.
With Azeri out of the Distaff, the bettors made Sightseek an even bigger favorite than they would have had last year's Horse of the Year run. Without her presence, the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships began with a heavy favorite.
In just a seven-horse field to begin the card, Juddmonte Farm's Sightseek was sent to the post at 1-2 in the $2 million nine-furlong race. But it was all Adoration and jockey Pat Velanzuela.
Sightseek, ridden by Jerry Bailey, struggled home fourth, never in contention after being squeezed back a bit at the start.
Other fillies that previously had shown speed allowed Valenzuela to make an easy pace, going :23.08, :47.08, 1:11.01, 1:35.89, and 1:49.17. On a track that has been speed-favoring all week, Adoration was able to coast along, open a two-length advantage heading into the turn, and then romp home as the rest of the field struggled.
"We weren't surprised," Valenzuela said. "She had run a great race against Elloluv, Got Koko and Azeri (in the Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup). I only got beat three lengths that day and I had to check pretty hard. The trainer took the blinkers off and she relaxed. This is only her third race back and I guess the third time is the charm."
Elloluv was second or third for much of the running, and finished second, followed by Got Koko and Sightseek.
Trainer Bobby Frankel was extremely confident heading into the Distaff with Sightseek, who came into the race off of four consecutive grade I races by a combined margin of more than 25 lengths.
"I have no idea what happened," Frankel said.
Bailey said, "Actually, she broke well today but got pushed in behind a wall of horses going into the first turn, although that is where I wanted to be. I wanted to save ground and track in behind the speed. I sensed the slow pace and that's when I pulled her out on the backside, but I didn't have any horse. I never had a confident feeling."
Adoration paid $83.40, $33.40, and $25.80. Elloluv returned $9.20 and $12.20, and Got Koko was worth $6.80. It was obvious from the show prices that Sightseek had taken the majority of the money bet in the Distaff.
Adoration, a 4-year-old filly by Honor Grades -- Sewing Lady, by Key to the Mint, was bred in Kentucky by Lucy Bassett. She races for John and Jerry Amerman's Amerman Racing and is trained by David Hofmans.
"The plan was to go to the front all along," Hofmans said. "When I saw the make-up of the race. I told Pat (Valenzuela) to come out riding hard if everyone gave you a length (clear). I know she loves this racetrack."
She is the second Breeders' Cup winner for Hofmans, who trained 1996 Classic (gr. I) winner Alphabet Soup.
Valenzuela was winning his seventh Breeders' Cup races but his first since he won two in 1992.
Adoration was unraced at two and a graded stakes winner at three, but she had won only four of 13 races before the Breeders' Cup. In her last start, she ran fourth but was placed third in the Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II).
She earned a winner's share of $1,040,000 to increase her career bankroll to $1,413,856.
Buy the Sport was fifth, followed by Take Charge Lady and Lady Tak.