Eighteen-year-old Joseph O'Brien rode St Nicholas Abbey to a driving win in the $2,727,000 Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs for his father, trainer Aidan O'Brien (VIDEO).
Joseph O’Brien, at 18 years, 5 month, becomes the youngest jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup race. Fernando Jara won the 2006 Classic with Invasor at the age of 18 years, 10 months.
“This is very special. Unbelievable," said his understated father. "It was a wonderful race. He is an amazing rider. It’s been a great day. It’s been a great day. Thank you very much.”
Await the Dawn, also trained by O’Brien and ridden by Julien Leparoux, jumped out to the early lead in the 1 1/2 mile Turf over a course rated good. Await the Dawn led Dean's Kitten and Ramon Dominguez through most of the race. The pair, stalked on the inside by Juddmonte Farms Midday, who was second in the 2010 Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), set pedestrian fractions of :50.09 for a half mile, 1:39.93 for a mile.
As the compact nine-horse field rounded the second turn for the second time, longshot Brilliant Speed charged to the front for John Velazaquez but was soon met by a cavalry charge in the stretch. O’Brien wheeled St Nicholas Abbey to the outside and the pair put in an aggressive drive to win by 2 ¼ lengths in final time of 2:28.85.
The winner, fifth in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Oct. 2, returned $15.60, $7.20, and $5.40.
“It’s a dream come true," said Joseph O'Brien. "I rode him twice before and this is my first time winning on him. He relaxed lovely. We had a nice pace and he picked up where it mattered. It wasn’t a mad pace and he was comfortable and relaxed great.
"Obviously today it’s an easier track for him (than Longchamp). I think he was a little better going left-handed here than right-handed in the Arc. The Arc was a rough race and sometimes the best horse doesn’t always win. He traveled well today and looked great and picked up great.”
Juddmonte’s Sea Moon closed well under Ryan Moore to challenge Brilliant Speed for the lead but was unable to match strides with the winner, settling for second by one length. He paid $5 and $4.20.
Brilliant Speed held on for third, paying $7 to show.
The rest of the field was completed by 2-1 favorite Sarafina, Stately Victor , Midday, Await the Dawn, Teaks North, and Dean’s Kitten.
A 4-year-old colt by Montjeu—Leaping Water, by Sure Blade, St Nicholas Abbey was bred in Ireland by Barton Bloodstock & Villiers Syndicate. The bay races for the Coolmore Stud connections of Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier, and Michael Tabor.
The win, worth $1,620,000, was the sixth in 11 starts for St Nicholas Abbey, who has now earned $2,596,656. As a 2-year-old, the colt was undefeated in three starts, including the group I Racing Post Trophy Stakes. Last year, he was sixth, beaten 3 ½ lengths, in a group I in his only start. The colt returned this year to win a group III stake and the Investec Coronation Cup (Eng-I) in six starts previous to the Breeders’ Cup.
In addition to being a family affair, Turf win also provided trainer O’Brien with his second win of the day, the first coming with Wrote in the Juvenile Turf (gr. IT).