Juvenile Story (Cont.)

As they straightened for home, Siphonic put a head in front down on a rail that had played dead all day. Officer was there but was coming under a ride and clearly struggling. After the race he was found to have displaced his soft palate. Came Home and Johannesburg made it a quartet just heads apart. When Kinane angled the son of Hennessy out wide for clear running, however, matters were decided quickly. Johannesburg fired down the lane and was never going to be beaten. After a mile in 1:36.01, he crossed the line in 1:42.27, 1 1/4 lengths clear of the late-running Repent, the lightly raced Ken McPeek trainee who acquitted himself impressively. Siphonic ran a bang-up third, followed by Publication, Officer, French Assault, Came Home, Saarland, Ibn Al Haitham, It'sallinthechase, Jump Start, and Essence of Dubai. Jump Start, the A.P. Indy colt who ran a good second to Officer in the Champagne, was pulled up quickly after the Juvenile by jockey Pat Day. Dr. C. Wayne McIlwraith reported that radiographs showed Jump Start incurred a displaced lateral condylar fracture in his left front fetlock joint. He underwent surgery the following day. If he recovers sufficently, Jump Start is expected to stand at Overbrook Farm.

Moments after Johannesburg crossed the wire, the celebratory parade on the scale of a St. Paddy's Day soiree unfolded in the stands and out on the track. Somewhere in the midst of it was the leading trainer in Ireland, Aidan O'Brien, the professorial, soft-spoken conditioner who has dominated racing on the Emerald Isle much like Baffert has stateside. He has won titles there three of the past four years, training horses such as Stravinsky, the European sprint champion of 1999, and Giant's Causeway, who was pipped at the wire by Tiznow in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). O'Brien, a champion amateur jump rider-turned-champion jumps trainer before heading to the flat, was winning for the first time in Breeders' Cup competition. Forty minutes after the Juvenile, he nearly made it back-to-back triumphs when Milan came away second-best to Fantastic Light by less than a length in the Turf (gr. IT).

The big question following Johannesburg's tour de force was whether the colt would be brought back across the Atlantic for the first Saturday in May. If he does, it will undoubtedly constitute the most ballyhooed invasion since Arazi attempted the still uncompleted Juvenile/Kentucky Derby (gr. I) double in 1991-92.

"No doubt that will be given serious consideration," O'Brien said in one of his longer speeches. And why wouldn't owners Tabor and Magnier consider the Kentucky Derby? Their horse had just proven the first big jump in distance was no obstacle. Nor was his first look at dirt. "We had a lot of concerns about the dirt, but he handled it well," O'Brien stated. "You're never really sure how far they'll go, but he proved today he is a serious colt. He's a natural in everything he does. He has speed, and the way he travels is something beautiful."

"We always thought he was the right horse for this," said Kinane. "As far as going a mile and a quarter, I wish I had a crystal ball. But we thought he was made for the dirt, and he proved it today. He has been a champion every step of the way this year."

Kinane, 42, rode a masterful race, waiting for the leaders to suck the air out of one another before pouncing forcefully. It ended a streak of 16 futile attempts at a Breeders' Cup win for the rider. "I've had a couple of good go's at it and I finally got one. I'm like fine wine--getting better with age."

Of the celebration after his win, Kinane noted, "It's great to see people enjoying sport. Hopefully, we give people relief and allow them to forget (the recent tragedies). Sport is great for that."

Baffert took Officer's defeat in stride. He noted the colt came back with paint on his shoulder from banging into the side of the starting gate. "He jumped into a speed duel into a head wind, and that cooked him," he said. "With an inside post and a young horse, I knew he was going to get into the race right away. The horse was really keen. You need luck to win a Breeders' Cup race, and it wasn't our day. The winner was awesome and had the perfect style today."

Baffert was momentarily buoyed by the fact the Juvenile/Derby jinx was now someone else's worry.

But as darkness descended on New York and the celebratory night stretched ahead with no end in sight, a young horse who was sold twice in Kentucky and given an African name by his European connections did more to unite Ireland than years of negotiations ever could.