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Raven's Pass leaves Curlin behind in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
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Rick Samuels

Stunner! Raven's Pass Upsets Curlin

European challengers Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator beat Curlin.

Raven’s Pass, a European-based 3-year-old who had never raced beyond a mile, followed Horse of the Year Curlin  around the turn, then swept past him in the lane to win the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) (VIDEO) Oct. 25 at Santa Anita Park. Ridden by Frankie Dettori for Princess Haya, Raven’s Pass held off a late move inside by fellow British invader Henrythenavigator to win by 1 3/4 lengths.

Tiago rallied for third, three-quarters of length back, finishing a neck ahead of a tiring Curlin, North America’s all-time leading earner and defending Classic winner. It was Curlin’s first start over a synthetic track.

Raven’s Pass’s victory put an emphatic exclamation point for Europe on the Saturday Breeders’ Cup card. European-based horses won five of the nine World Championship races (Muhannak, Marathon; Goldikova, Mile; Donativum, Juvenile Turf; and Conduit, Turf).

A son of Elusive Quality, out of the Lord At War mare Aschutney, the 13-1 winner was bred in Kentucky by Stonerside Stable. The $1 exacta with Henrythenavigator returned $159.50 and the 8-5-3 trifecta with Tiago paid $2,395.

Raven’s Pass, trained by John Gosden, was content to relax off the early pace set by Casino Drive and Fairbanks in the 11/4-mile Classic. Duke of Marmalade gave chase along with Go Between. The early splits were :23.77, :47.60, and 1:11.64. As the field bunched up around the far turn, Curlin came with a bold move under Robby Albarado. Following along behind Curlin was Raven’s Pass and Dettori.

“I was delighted the way he rated,” Gosden said. “He relaxed throughout the race, and he just picked him off one by one. He's well the best, and that's the way it should be.”

Dettori and Raven’s Pass hit the wire in 1:59.27, a track record on the Pro-Ride surface.

Turning for home, Curlin had the lead in the center of the track to the roar of the 51,331 in attendance, but a host of horses were hot on this trail. He was overtaken by Raven’s Pass to his outside while Henrythenavigator went to inside to challenge.

“(Trianer) John (Gosden) said, ‘Don’t worry; just find yourself a pitch, and once I got behind Curlin, I said that's half the job done,” said Dettori. “He's going to take me there, and sure he did.

“Then it was a worry moment for a split second when I asked him--would he pick up or would he falter on the distance--but he did pick up,” he said “ And the last furlong was a pretty long one, but I could feel that he was still galloping strong and millions of emotions went through my head.  When I crossed the line, I didn't really know if it was true or a dream, just that fake reality.  But I realized straightaway it was true, and I'm delighted.”

Tiago, who was content to lope along in next-to-last position in the early stages, rallied well under Mike Smith. Behind Curlin came Go Between, Colonel John, Smooth Air, Champs Elysees, Duke of Marmalade, Fairbanks, Student Council, and Casino Drive.

“It was a turf race,” said Steve Asmussen, trainer of Curlin. “It absolutely was the Pro-Ride surface (that beat him). He ran his heart out and gave it all he had. He's a great horse. He's made over $10 million.”

Robby Albarado said Curlin ran well.

“Maybe he’s not a synthetic surface specialist,” he said. “He was paddling around. These horses (Raven’s Pass and Henrythenavigator) are great turf horses and it seemed like the synthetics played like a turf course. Raven’s Run is an exceptional horse who ran an exceptional time. Curlin’s been in that position turning for home, and he’s never lost.

“I was content with where I was,” he said. “Curlin did what he does - going by horses - and he made his run but got a little late in the stretch. He ran hard. I can’t answer whether or not the surface had anything to do with it.”

Raven’s Pass has now won three of eight career starts. He came to the United States off a one-length win over Henrythenavigator in the Sept. 27 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I) at Ascot going a mile. In his only other win this year, he took the Aug. 23 Totesport Celebration Mile (Eng-II) at the Glorious Goodwood meeting.

Raven’s Pass raced earlier in his career for Robert and Janice McNair’s Stonerside Stable, but they sold their Thoroughbred holdings to Sheikh Mohammed earlier this year. Princess Haya, Sheikh Mohammed’s wife, leases the horse from his Darley Stable. Another Stonerside horse, Midshipman, won the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) earlier on the day.


Ascutney, dam of the Classic winner, won the Miesque Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park in 1996. Her second foal was Gigawatt (by Wild Again), a $500,000-earner and winner of the Miami Mile Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) in 2006. She was barren to Elusive Quality this year, and has been bred back that sire for 2009. Ascutney is a full sister to multiple stakes winner Words of War (dam of E Dubai and Del Mar Oaks, gr. IT, winner No Matter What) and a half-sister to stakes winner Words o Ransom.
Stonerside purchased her for $775,000 while carrying Gigawatt at the 2000 Keeneland January mixed sale from Longfield Farm, agent.

Elusive Quality sired dual classic winner Smarty Jones in his first crop. The son of Gone Weststands at Darley near Lexington.

Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I)
Horse Win Place Show
1. Raven's Pass $29.00    $15.80    $8.00   
2. Henrythenavigator   $22.00  $11.20
3. Tiago     $7.00