“He has a really big heart," Jara said. "I wasn’t worried. The horse found his own space. I had a lot of horse to go on and a lot of horse left at the end.”
The 5-year-old Argentine-bred Invasor soared past the $4 million mark in earnings for owner Shadwell Stable with his fifth successive grade I triumph since arriving in the United States last spring. The Donn is to be used by trainer Kiaran McLaughlin as a prep for the $6 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) next month.
Racing near the rear of the eight-horse field in the 1 1/8-mile Donn, Invasor rallied smartly on the far turn Saturday for Jara but ran out of room as the pacesetter Barcola began to back up. The champion tried to angle off the rail a bit but was blocked and Jara was forced to check severely while clipping heels with Barcola. As they moved into the stretch Chatain and Hesanoldsalt surged to the front on the outside. Invasor was able to get a little room in upper stretch and squeezed through along the inside of Barcola. He showed a tremendous amount of courage after that, digging in through the stretch run to get the lead inside the sixteenth pole and win going away by two lengths. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile event was 1:48 4/5 on a track that favored inside speed for most of the day.
"He showed what a superior horse he is," McLaughlin marveled. "He finds a way to win every time. I was worried when Fernando came up the inside, because when you’re 1-to-5, everybody knows who you are, and nobody wants to open the door for you. Even though it was my brother-in-law's horse (Barcola, Mark Hennig), it all worked out. It was scary, but he showed why he was Horse of the Year.
"I thought he would be off the pace today because on this speed-favoring track, the outside horses would gun for the front. We’ll leave for Dubai on March 15. It’s going to be exciting. This horse wants the mile-and-a-quarter, and will be at equal weights with Discreet Cat this year.”
Invasor's only loss came to Discreet Cat in the UAE Derby (UAE-II) last March.
The 35-1 shot Barcola led the field through lively fractions of :22 4/5, :46 2/5 and 1:10 2/5.
Hesanoldsalt, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, got second at odds of 16-1 by a head over A.P. Arrow, who edged Hal's Hope (gr. III) winner Chatain by one-half length for third.
Invasor banked $300,000 for his 10th win in 11 lifetime starts and has earned $4,204,070. The son of Candy Stripes won the Pimlico Special, Suburban and Whitney handicaps and the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge -- all grade I victories -- to win Eclipse Awards as the nation's top performer and leading older horse.
The winner carried high weight of 123 pounds, nine more than the runner-up and from five to 11 more than the rest of the field.
Sent off at odds of 2-5, Invasor paid $2.80, $2.40 and $2.10. Hesanoldsalt, coming off an optional allowance/claiming race at Gulfstream Park at nine furlongs Jan. 12 for trainer Nick Zito, returned $5.80 and $2.10, completing a $20.20 exacta.
"He’s (Hesanoldsalt) a gutsy horse," Zito said. "I’m very proud of him running second to the Horse of the Year. He gives a good effort every time. As far as his next start goes, we’ll play it by ear. He loves Gulfstream, so it will most likely be something here.”
A.P. Arrow, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, was $2.10 to show. After Chatain came Halos Sailing, Tap Dancing Mauk, Barcola and Magna Graduate, the second choice who faded from third leaving the far turn.