For the first time in Breeders' Cup history, a race ended in a dead-heat. In a thrilling three-horse stretch drive, High Chaparral and Johar finished on even terms, with Falbrav just a nod behind those two in the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. I).
Under Mick Kinane, High Chaparral was winning the race for the second straight year. Or you could say he has now won the 1 ½-mile turf race one and a half times.
Last year at Arlington Park, High Chaparral kicked away to win by 1 ¼ lengths. This time, he joined the fray between horses. Johar, with Alex Solis aboard, was pounding home on the outside and Falbrav was along the hedge as they hit the wire together.
It took a long time for the photo-finish results to be posted. Both horses circled in front of the stands for 10 minutes. Finally, it was posted as a dead-heat.
"This is incredible," Solis said. "He broke real relaxed, and I just had to be patient. I got him into the race, and at the quarter pole, I swung him out, and he came flying. He's a game little horse, and he beat some of the best horses in the world. I'm very proud of him."
"I thought the judge was on a tea break, but I knew it was very close," Kinane said. " And then the longer it went, well, I said, half a loaf is better than no fish, you know."
Aidan O'Brien, trainer of High Chaparral, said, "We were delighted to be involved (in the dead-heat). Obviously he's an exceptional colt. He was a little tight down the backside but he came home real well."
Balto Star led the field for much of the running. He took the lead from Toccet as the group came down the hillside portion of the turf course. Those two were in front, with High Chaparral in third as they went by the stands for the first time.
In the clubhouse turn, Sulamani took a bad step and lost position.
Balto Star surrendered the lead to The Tin Man as the field turned for home, with Falbrav on the hedge. High Chaparral and Johar came flying to make for a dramatic finish.
Falbrav was ridden by Darryll Holland, who said he thought he was on the winner after disposing of The Tin Man.
"He just exploded turning into the stretch and I just thought we were going to roll to the finish," Holland said. "He's a brave horse but I could feel him tiring on me the last 20 yards."
High Chaparral, the 9-2 fourth choice in the field of nine, is owned by Michael Tabor and Susan Magnier. Johar, 14-1, is owned by The Thoroughbred Corp. The winning connections both collected a winner's share of $763,200.
High Chaparral now boast career earnings of $5,331,231 with a line 10-1-2 in 13 starts.
Johar, who missed eight months this year with a shoulder fracture, was making his third start on the comeback trail. He more than doubled his bankroll to $1,494,496 with six wins, four seconds and two thirds in 15 career outings.
The win by Johar was the third of the day for Mandella. He won the Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) with Halfbridled and the Bessemer Trust Juvenile (gr. I) with Action This Day.
Interestingly, Mandella had two previous Breeders' Cup wins and those came on the same day. In 1993, he scored with Phone Chatter (Juvenile Fillies) and Kotashaan (Turf).
High Chaparral paid $6.40, $6.20, and $3.80. Johar returned $13.60, $9, and $5.40. Falbrav was worth $4.20.
Mandella became the second trainer to win three races on a single Breeders' Cup card. D. Wayne Lukas accomplished the feat in 1988.
"I'm having a very good day," he joked. "Johar ran fabulous. Alex said I had him a little short."
The time of the race was 2:24.24 after fractions of :48.73, :1:11.42, 1:35.76, and 2:00.04.
Gary Stevens, aboard 2-1 favorite Storming Home, was scratching his head after his seventh-place showing.
"We had a smooth trip other than getting bumped around early on," he said. "He just flattened out on me. I don't know why."
Frankie Dettori, aboard Sulamani, refused to blame the bad step for Sulamani's fifth-place finish.
"He didn't stumble but he checked on the clubhouse turn," he said. "They ran steady fractions in the middle of the race. The short straight and firm going didn't help him. He prefers a softer going. He didn't show his usual burst of speed. No great turn of foot today."
The Tin Man, ridden by Mike Smith, held on for fourth. Bright Sky was behind Sulamani in sixth, with Toccet and Balto Star bringing up the rear.