Red Rocks, rated far off an honest pace, rallied boldly in the stretch under Frankie Dettori to win the $2,748,000 John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. I) over fast-closing Better Talk Now.
Owned by J. Paul Reddam and trained by Brian Meehan, Red Rocks, a 3-year-old Irish-bred colt by Galileo out of the Machiavellian mare Pharmacist, rated patiently in the back of pack as 77-1 shot Icy Atlantic set fractions of :24.13 for the opening quarter-mile, :47.87 for a half-mile, and 1:12.40 for six furlongs. The field began to bunch up on the far turn, and in the stretch, Red Rocks emerged from the pack on the outside to take the lead and hold off Better Talk Now, the 2004 Turf winner, by a half-length.
English Channel, who was wide throughout, held a slight advantage in upper stretch but checked in third, 2 3/4 lengths behind the winner, with Rush Bay fourth. The time for the 1 1/2 miles on the grass was 2:27.32, less than a second off the course record at Churchill Downs.
"I wasn't planning on being that far back," said Dettori. "They couldn't keep up the pace. They were going ridiculous fractions so I let them fight and I caught them at the end."
Hurricane Run, the 5-2 favorite, was hung extremely wide on the far turn and did not respond in the stretch to finish sixth.
The lone 3-year-old in the field, Red Rocks most recently finished third in the St. Leger Stakes (Eng-I). Four starts back, he finished second to eventual Prix l'Arc de Triomphe winner Rail Link in the Grand Prix de Paris (Fr-I). Red Rocks was bred by Ballylinch Stud in Ireland.
"It's just a culmination of a lot of hard work," Meehan said. "It's a marvelous feeling, and a marvelous achievement for our whole operation. Frankie rode a wonderful race.
"They went really quick (up front). I was a little concerned down the back (stretch), but once they got to the bottom (far) turn, I thought Frankie had them well covered, and I knew if the horse was right, he would finish."
The victory, his third in 10 lifetime starts to go with four seconds and two thirds, was worth $1,620,000 and bumped Red Rock's bankroll to $2,042,018.
Sent off as the sixth choice in the field of 11, Red Rocks paid $23.60, $11.20, and $6.20 across the board. Better Talk Now, ridden by Ramond Dominguez, returned $17.40 and $10, while English Channel, with John Velazquez astride, paid $4.20.
The Turf gave Dettori his second win of the day; earlier on the card he won the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) with Ouija Board.
"I'm having a fabulous Breeders' Cup," Dettori said before launching his famed flying dismount in the winner's circle.
"He's so game this horse," trainer Graham Motion said of the runner-up Better Talk Now. "Everyone had written him off. This is not a fluke. He's just that good. We finally got what we needed. We got pace. We got the distance. We got a great ride."
Rush Bay was followed by Scorpion, Hurricane Run, Go Deputy, T. H. Approval, Silverfoot, Cacique and Icy Atlantic.