Hightail upsets Juvenile Sprint by a nose

Bluegrass Hall's Hightail kicked off the Breeders' Cup card on Friday with an upset at Santa Anita in the second running of the $454,500 Juvenile Sprint. The D. Wayne Lukas trainee not only pulled off the upset as the 15-1 longshot but more surprisingly broke his maiden in a Breeders' Cup race.

"At my age it's significant," the 77-year-old Hall of Fame trainer admitted when asked about capturing his 19th Breeders' Cup victory, easily a record in the series. "I don't know how many there are, but I always thought we could get one more. But I still have the passion for it and I train every day and ride every day and if they will give us something to work with we got a chance and we have a great owner in Mr. Brad Kelley who wants to be in the main arena as well as I do.

"It's exciting. I don't know if I got that excited in some of the previous ones. I got my grandson here with me from the Air Force Academy and it's just special. It will be that way all day long for everybody and it is the Breeders' Cup and it is the championship series, and it has to mean everything. You've beaten the best that show up on that day."

Merit Man, the 1-2 favorite, exploded out of the gate, argued the pace with the filly Ceiling Kitty through fractions of :22 2/5 and :45 4/5. In the stretch it looked as if Merit Man was going pull away from the field as he reached five furlongs in :57 4/5, but jockey Rajiv Maragh and Hightail had other plans. The two-year-old colt launched a rail bid in the stretch and was able to run down the favorite to win by a nose. 

In deep stretch, Hightail and Merit Man brushed. The stewards posted the inquiry sign to review the slight bump, but let the order of finish stand.

"I had a great trip, saved ground and just waited behind horses," Maragh said. "He showed a lot of courage coming through the narrow opening between the rail and the other horse (Merit Man). I was not worried about the foul claim because the 3 (Merit Man) initiated the contact."

Sweet Shirley Mae, the other filly in the race, was swung four wide in the stretch but could not make up the needed ground and finished another 2 1/4 lengths back in third. Hazardous and Ceiling Kitty rounded out the order of finish. Super Ninety Nine was scratched earlier, while South Floyd was a vet scratch at the gate because he reportedly appeared off in his left front.

Hightail covered the six furlongs in 1:09 3/5 over the fast main track. The son of Mineshaft had gone 0-for-8 in his career before finally breaking his maiden in this ninth attempt. He returned $32.80, $7.20 and $3.40 to his supporters. He increased his lifetime earnings to $309,979 and now has a career line which reads 9-1-1-2.

Although Hightail had yet to break his maiden until Friday, he was already a veteran on the graded stakes scene. Fourth in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor and seventh in the Grade 2 Sanford going six furlongs on the main track, he later switched to turf, finishing sixth in the Grade 2 With Anticipation in his two-turn debut. Hightail tried again in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity over 1 1/16 miles on Keeneland's Polytrack and checked in a decent sixth last time out.

"We all live the dream and that is the one -- and other than these Breeders' Cup which have been very kind to me -- that is the one that I still cherish," Lukas said when asked about Hightail possibly competing in next year's Kentucky Derby. "I hope there is still one of those left, too.

"He has the pedigree and enough tactical speed, he's a big strong horse, sound and hell, we'll nominate him, you know that!"

Bred in Kentucky by Green Hill Farm, the dark brown colt was sold for $100,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Hightail was then sold again for $345,000 at the 2012 OBS March as a two-year-old in training.

Hightail is the first registered foal from the winning Storm Cat mare Stormy Renee. His second dam, Fleet Renee, boasts wins in the Grade 1 Ashland and Grade 1 Mother Goose. His third dam, Darien Miss, is a multiple Grade 3 winner. Also in this colt's family is multiple Grade 2 winner Jungle Wave, as well as Future Quest, winner of the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity and Grade 2 Norfolk. 

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