Needwood Blade Ends U.S. Drought at 'Meadows

Six-year-old British-bred Needwood Blade, the longest shot on the board at 11-1, won his first American race in seven starts by taking the $112,500 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) in a surprise Saturday on the turf at Bay Meadows.

Ridden by Dennis Carr, Needwood Blade closed from fourth in the stretch and held off Seinne by a length in a time of 1:46 2/5 for the 1 1/8-mile test on a firm course.Balestrini finished third, three lengths behind the winner.

Ninebanks, the 2-1 choice in the field of seven, rallied from last with a furlong to go, but had to settle for fourth, 4 1/4 lengths behind the winner.

Patrick Gallagher trains Needwood Blade, a Pivotal horse who had failed to hit the board in his previous American efforts, which were all against stakes company.

Unhurried early as Carr saved ground going into the first turn, rallied quickly coming off the far turn but was blocked at the rail near eighth pole. Steadied briefly, Carr found a narrow opening between rivals and guided Needwood Blade through it. The chestnut responded gamely, to get clear and outran Seinne and Balestrini to the wire.

Night Patrol set the pace (:23, :47 2/5, 1:11 2/5) while dueling with Murano and both led to the eighth pole before fading.

Needwood Blade won eight of 31 starts in Europe before transferring to the U.S. for owners Harlequin Ranches and Richard Duggan. He ran for Kathy Walsh in his first five starts here before Gallagher took over conditioning duties before Needwood Blade's last start. He ran a closing fourth against a good field in the one-mile Live the Dream at Del Mar in that race Sept. 8.

The winning share of $55,000 pushed Needwood Blade's career earnings to $310,154.

He paid $24.20, $11.60 and $7.20. Chilean-bred Seinne returned $7.60 and $5.40, while Irish-bred Balestrini ws $5.40 to show.

After Ninebanks came Night Patrol Mananan McLir and Murano.

(Chart, Equibase)