Sent off at 41-1, Afleet Again ran down Birdrun and Giant Oak in deep stretch to pull a shocker in the $454,500 Breeders' Cup Marathon (gr. II), the opening race on Day 2 of the World Championships Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs (VIDEO).
The 4-year-old son of Afleet Alex broke a 13-race losing streak for trainer Robert Reid Jr. and the owners, Robert and Susan Krangel's Kasey K Racing Stable. The longest shot on the board, he had not won since April 2010 when scoring his lone previous stakes win in the Withers (gr. III) at Aqueduct.
The race was marred by the injuries of European shipper Meeznah and favorite A. U. Miner, last year’s fourth-place finisher. Reports from the veterinarians after the race were that Meeznah was eased by jockey Thomas Queally due to fatigue and was expected to be fine. A. U. Miner suffered bilateral sesamoid fractures in the left front fetlock joint. There was no immediate word on his status.
The official margin of victory for Afleet Again was 2 1/4 lengths. He completed the 1 3/4 miles on the fast main track in 3:00.39.
Afleet Again, ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, raced eighth in the field of 11 in the Marathon while Pleasant Prince set the pace. With Joel Rosario aboard and being pressed by Baryshnikov and Birdrun, Pleasant Prince carved out quick fractions for the distance of :23.47, :48.05, 1:12.65, and 1:38.97.
Cease, ridden by Garrett Gomez, made a big move around the final turn and took a lead into the stretch. But a host of horses were right on his tail, including Birdrun and Giant Oak, who eventually passed the leader. But both of them were about to be run down by Afleet Again, who was fourth and widest of all at the furlong pole but won going away under right-handed urging from Velasquez.
"He needs a strong ride," said Velasquez, who rode Afleet Again last year when they were fourth in the Travers (gr. I) and fifth in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II). "In the last five-sixteenths I had a lot of horse. The jockey on (Pleasant Prince) sent his horse at the quarter pole. At the three-eighths I pulled the trigger."
“He ran fabulously," Reid said. "It’s so rare to get this kind of distance, so we decided to take a shot. We always thought he could go this far. There’s no limit to how far he can run. When I saw a 48 (fraction) for the first half and we were only seven or eight lengths out of it, I thought we were in pretty good shape.”
Birdrun outfought Giant Oak by a neck for second.
Afleet Again was winless in eight starts this year, finishing second in three of those starts. He improved to 4-5-3 from 24 career starts. His earnings stand at $686,470 with the winning purse of $270,000.
The gray/roan colt was bred in Kentucky by Roll Z Dice Stable and is out of the Wild Again mare Lucky Again.
He paid $85.20, $35.80, $13.80 across the board while keying a $668.40 exacta with Birdrun, who returned $7.20 and $5.80. Giant Oak, $6.80 to show, completed a $4,147.40 trifecta. The superfecta, with Pleasant Prince fourth, was $39,533.20 for a $2 ticket.