Charles E. Fipke’s Perfect Shirl, winless in six prior starts this year, scored a 27-1 upset in the $1,818,000 million Emirate Airlines Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs (VIDEO).
Racing in the middle of the pack until the final turn, Perfect Shirl swung wide at the top of the stretch and collared leader Nahrain in deep stretch to win by three-quarters of a length.
John Velazquez piloted Perfect Shirl, giving the jockey his second Breeders’ Cup win on the card. Earlier in the day, Velazquez won the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT) aboard Stephanie's Kitten.
Dubawi Heights took the lead at the outset of the 1 3/8-mile Filly & Mare Turf, with Dynaslew tracking her in second and favored Stacelita in third on the inside. Velazquez kept Perfect Shirl well back of the pace in eighth, waiting patiently behind slow fractions of :25.44, :51.07, and 1:16.90 on a turf course rated "good." He then found a spot about five wide turning for home, and when Perfect Shirl saw her path clear she began to pass horses.
Perfect Shirl challenged Nahrain and took the lead in the final strides, edging away as they reached the wire in 2:18.62.
“She was aggressive early, but when we went by the wire the first time she settled right down," Velazquez said. "From there on out I had a perfect trip.
"We wanted to save something for the finish. It worked out just like we’d hoped.”
Nahrain nosed out fast-closing Misty for Me for second, with the rallying Distorted Legacy another head back in fourth.
“I’m really proud of her," trainer Roger Varian said of the runner-up. "She ran a really great race. I thought we had it off the bend.”
Misty for Me was compromised by a bad break from the far outside post and was forced to rally from last in the final quarter-mile.
“The ground knuckled out from under her (at the break)," said jockey Ryan Moore. "She was having a little trouble handling the course and did not really start running until she got into the stretch.”
Stacelita, winner of the Beverly D. and Flower Bowl Invitational (both gr. I) since transferring to the United States from France this summer, lacked racing room in the stretch and tired to finish 10th as the 19-10 pick in the 11-horse field.
"Turning for home she just didn't have the response I was looking for," said jockey Ramon Dominguez. "She just didn't find her best stride today. I can't say it was the course.”
Roger Attfield trains Perfect Shirl for owner Fipke, who also bred the 4-year-old daughter of Perfect Soul —Lady Shirl, by That's a Nice. Perfect Shirl had not won since July 2010, when she captured the Lake George Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga. Though she had previously failed to win this year, Perfect Shirl finished second once and third three times. Her runner-up effort came in her most recent start, the Canadian Stakes (Can-IIT) at Woodbine Sept. 18, when she closed much ground to finish a half-length behind Never Retreat.
“I’m ecstatic," said Attfield. "I had my doubts about running her. I was very concerned because she’s never been able to handle a soft course. Once I saw how she was moving down the backside, I could see she was moving beautifully and I became very excited.”
The Filly & Mare Turf ended up with 11 in the starting gate after the scratch of Juddmonte Farms’ Announce just a few minutes before post time. Announce acted up approaching the gate and ran into the rail, suffering a minor laceration over her right hock.
Dynaslew, who finished last, was vanned off the track as a precaution. She appeared to veterinarians to be mildly lame, though it could have been fatigue, said Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, the on-call veterinarian for the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
Perfect Shirl paid $57.60, $18.60, and $11.60. Nahrain paid $5 and $3.80, while Misty for Me paid $5.20.