Drosselmeyer came flying down the center of the track to sweep past pacesetter Game On Dude just before the wire, winning the 2011 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at odds of 14-1 Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs (VIDEO).
The 1 1/2-length victory in the $4,545,000 event was a Classic redemption for winning jockey Mike Smith, who narrowly lost last year's race on the same track with Horse of the Year Zenyatta in the only defeat of her career. Smith, who blamed himself for that loss, earned his 15th Breeders' Cup win, which tied him with Jerry Bailey for the most ever.
Smith won the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) earlier on the card aboard Amazombie.
"Compared to last year this is incredible. Last year still hurts like nothing ever before in my life," Smith told ESPN immediately afterward. "The key to this horse is you gotta' keep him moving, gotta' keep pedaling. He can run all day."
And for fans of the former reality television show "Jockeys," Smith, in defeating Game On Dude, edged his former girlfriend, Chantal Sutherland, who was aboard the hard-luck runner-up.
For the second day in a row, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott stood in the winner's circle after the biggest race of the day. Mott won the Ladies' Classic (gr. I) with Royal Delta the previous evening.
“He ran a super race," said Mott, the all-time leading trainer at Churchill Downs. "He was mowing them down the last eighth of a mile. I guess his biggest attribute is his stamina, and he showed it today. When they were wearing down, he was coming. It’s great. Maybe they’ll want to run him another year.”
Drosselmeyer, registering his first graded stakes win since taking the 2010 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), is owned by WinStar Farm. The 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor --Golden Ballet, by Moscow Ballet, was bred in Kentucky by Aaron and Marie Jones.
The winning time was a slow 2:04.27. Game On Dude held on well for second, with Ruler On Ice third. Havre de Grace, attempting to beat males for the second time this year and wrap up Horse of the Year honors, finished fourth.
Mott previously won the Breeders' Cup Classic with 1995 Horse of the Year Cigar. Smith won the race in 2009 with Zenyatta and in 1997 aboard Skip Away.
Smith was aboard Drosselmeyer for the first time since they teamed to win last year's Belmont Stakes, which was the only previous time Mott had paired them. Drosselmeyer had raced six times since the Belmont, winning once in an overnight stakes at Belmont Park in May.
But it was Drosselmeyer's runner-up finish in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) Oct. 1 when he rallied well to finish 2 1/4 lengths behind Flat Out that convinced Mott to give him a shot in the Classic.
In a race that was supposed to decide Horse of the Year honors, his victory in the Classic certainly muddles the picture.
Drosselmeyer paid $31.60, $13.20, and $8.80. Game On Dude, also sent off at 14-1 odds, returned $13.60 and $9.20. The exacta was worth $444.80. Ruler On Ice, the 2011 Belmont Stakes winner sent off at 17-1, paid $9.80 to show while rounding out a $5,427.40 trifecta. The $2 superfecta was $47,631.80.
Flat Out was made the 7-2 favorite in the field of 12 and finished fifth.
“No excuse, he just got outrun," said his 70-year-od trainer Scooter Dickey. "That’s it.”
Game On Dude, as expected, popped the gate and went to the front prompted by Uncle Mo with So You Think, To Honor and Serve, and Stay Thirsty in stalking position. Game On Dude carved sensible fractions of :23.61, :47.84, and 1:12.82 while maintaining about a length's advantage over Uncle Mo.
Rounding the final bend, To Honor and Serve, also trained by Mott, ranged into contention along with So You Think, the world traveler with group I wins in Great Britain, Ireland, and Australia.
As the field hit the top of the stretch, it appeared Game On Dude would be swallowed up by the rivals to his outside. But Sutherland went to the stick early and the resilient gelding, who showed similar grittiness in winning the Santa Anita Handicap and Goodwood Stakes (both gr. I) this season, put away Uncle Mo and spurted away to a short lead. He held sway over the rest of the field to mid-stretch, unaware of the challenge to come on his far outside.
Drosselmeyer, unhurried in ninth or 10th to the quarter pole, accelerated under urging from Smith while angling six paths wide for the drive. Still seventh at mid-stretch, he reached even terms with Game On Dude just past the sixteenth pole and edged away in the final strides with a well-timed victory.
“He ran an awesome race right from the first jump," Smith said. "Right out of the gate, he got into a great rhythm. The key to this horse is to keep him moving. If you put on the brakes it messes him up. I knew I was going to wheel out, so I just kept him going. And I was able to save ground on both turns.”
Game On Dude, a 4-year-old son of Awesome Again trained by Bob Baffert, finished a solid second, with Ruler On Ice, ridden by Garrett Gomez, arriving late for third, one length farther back.
“He ran a great race," Baffert said of Game On Dude. "Chantal came back clean; that's a great race. She should be proud of herself. That horse (Drosselmeyer) came down the middle. What a shame that we missed, but what a horse (Game On Dude is). He’s run some big races. He just didn't see that horse."
"He was running well up front and Johnny (Velazquez on Uncle Mo) was pushing on us," Sutherland added. "He really gave us a run. But when he came to us, my horse dug in and tried harder than he ever has before. He really dug in. He ran every inch of the way and he was really tired at the end. I’ve never seen him that tired. I am so proud of him. He ran great.”
Havre de Grace, who had won five of her prior six starts this year including the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) over males and the Apple Blossom (gr. I) and Beldame (gr. I), was a half-length behind Ruler On Ice in fourth.
“We didn’t get the trip we wanted," trainer Larry Jones said. "The 11-horse (Headache) leaned on us pretty good from the start, but she ran well. (Owner) Rick (Porter) likes to run where the gusto is. No regrets about running here. She didn’t do anything to tarnish herself. She has another year ahead of her.”
Uncle Mo, last year's juvenile champion attempting to cap his comeback from a serious liver disease during the spring, finished 10th.
"He was struggling with the track for whatever reason," Velazquez said of Uncle Mo. "I tried to give him his head where he would feel comfortable, but he never really got into a good rhythm to get a good grip of the track. I didn’t want to beat him up in the stretch when everybody started going by me.”
So You Think, making his first start on dirt for trainer Aidan O'Brien, weakened to sixth, with To Honor and Serve seventh. Then came Ice Box , Rattlesnake Bridge, Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty, and Headache.
A $600,000 Keeneland September yearling in 2008, Drosselmeyer had started once previously at Churchill Downs when he broke his maiden by six lengths in a one-mile off-the-turf event in November 2009. He improved his career mark to 5-5-2 in 16 starts. He banked $2.7 million for the victory, pushing his lifetime earnings to $3,728,170.