Filly & Mare Turf Continued

Petrushka left the inside gate the 7-5 favorite, with Perfect Sting held at 5-1, Tranquility Lake at 7-1, Colstar at 9-1, and Snow Polina, winner of the Beverly D (gr. IT), at just under 10-1. The remaining nine were at double digits. Japanese import Maltese Superb sprang out quickest to tackle the first of the three turns. With the main track playing as fast as a NASCAR layout, perhaps rider Yutaka Take thought the grass would be kind to frontrunners as well. Maltese Superb clicked out :24 quarters like a metronome, but was gone halfway through proceedings. Spanish Fern, trained by turf specialist Bobby Frankel, was pulled up mere jumps out of the gate after rider Victor Espinoza heard a "crack."

That left Orseno's Collect the Cash, a close-up second past the grandstand, to inherit the lead on the middle turn, attended closely by Tranquility Lake. Chris McCarron enjoyed a ground-saving trip with Tout Charmant from the get-go and was laying a competitive fourth. Petrushka was unhurried from the bell and remained content to sit the hedge in mid-pack. The surprising early lick put Perfect Sting much farther back than planned. She gave them almost six panels off the second bend, but Bailey had her outside of any trouble and always in position to run.

The first serious move came from Pat Day and Snow Polina, making a determined drive the length of the backstretch and picking off runners while traveling four-wide. Bailey saw the opportunity to draft behind that one, and he put Perfect Sting in the game right on Snow Polina's heels in what proved to be the fast lane. Meanwhile, up front coming off the final curve with three-eighths of a mile to run, Tranquility Lake ascended to the lead and momentarily looked dangerous. "She was running easy and I thought she'd go on," Delahoussaye noted. "She was nice and relaxed. But when that horse outside hooked her, she flattened out."

That was Snow Polina looming large outside Tranquility Lake, with Collect the Cash down on the rail but beginning to give way. Slinging past those three were the black colors of the Stronach Stables' Perfect Sting, hitting her best stride as she got first run on all of them straightening for the wire. Petrushka failed to quicken once getting angled for an outside run, but Catella, a multiple-stakes winner in Germany, was beginning to unwind from far back. Sitting ninth at the mile marker, she and Kent Desormeaux had to wait momentarily for room, then exploded. "Petrushka came out and I had to snatch Catella up and lost momentum," Desormeaux said. "But as soon as her feet hit the ground she was coming at them again. She can beat these. She was really digging for the wire."

Perfect Sting opened up by better than a length on the straight, waiting for a challenger. That was going to be the lone horse to finish in front of her all year, Tout Charmant. Having saved all the ground the entire route, McCarron found himself behind three fillies who were moving well, but not quite well enough. Collect the Cash was down at the rail, Tranquility Lake in the middle, and Snow Polina alongside. But Perfect Sting had already blown by them all, and now McCarron had to take precious moments angling his mount to the outside of the trio and set sail after the leader. Accomplishing all that, Tout Charmant began cutting into Perfect Sting's advantage. But in a perfect mirror image of the race at Keeneland, this time it was Perfect Sting more than equal to the challenge, and spurting away again to gain the glory by three-quarters of a length. Tout Charmant was a similar margin in front of Catella, with Snow Polina making Petrushka settle for fifth.

The final time of 2:13.07 when rounded to fifths of a second, equaled the course mark for 1 3/8 miles on the grass. The splits were incredibly consistent throughout, with the last eighth going in :12.14. Those who backed Perfect Sting with win tickets got $12 back for a $2 investment. The $629,200 winner's share made the Red Ransom--Valid Victress 4-year-old a millionaire twice over, pushing her career earnings to $2,082,042. She has entered the winner's circle a remarkable 13 times from 19 lifetime starts, and five-for-six for 2000.

Orseno, winning his first Breeders' Cup race in his fifth try (he was to win his second 30 minutes later with Macho Uno in the grade I Juvenile), seemed poised and expectant more than surprised. "You run horses who you think belong. You work all year, and you hope the outcome is this," he said. "To accomplish something like this, there aren't words. She proved she was a champion just like we thought. She's been exceptional all year and done everything we asked. We expected her to win but you still have to run the race, and we're all proud of her."

Bailey, unlike Orseno, is no stranger to winning Breeders' Cup events. Perfect Sting marked his 10th such winner, and Macho Uno became his 11th, tying him with Pat Day for the all-time lead. Bailey, who piloted Soaring Softly to victory in the inaugural running of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Gulfstream last year, remains the only jockey to win the race. "I didn't know how effective she was going to be going a-mile-and-three," Bailey noted. "I rode her conservatively in the beginning. There was more speed than I anticipated so I was further back than anticipated. But when I felt she had enough to get us to the wire, I cut her loose. She's got a lot of ones by her name for a reason. Every time they came to her she gave me a little more."

The embattled Stronach, who led his champion into the winner's circle, doubles as her breeder and triples as the owner of seven racetracks nationwide. Embroiled in controversy after pulling his properties out of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association just a week earlier, Stronach appeared happy yet preoccupied all at once, as if events were moving too quickly. "It's written in the stars that good horses will win if they get the luck," Stronach said. "Sometimes you have to dream. I am the leading owner this year and it takes a great trainer to accomplish that--Joe has done a great job. Perfect Sting is just perfect. The only race she lost she gave weight, and weight has a bearing on things."

As for Spanish Fern, attending veterinarian Dr. Ken Reed observed swelling in her left rear leg back at her Churchill Downs barn, and she was transported to Lexington's Rood & Riddle Clinic. There, a fracture was found on the left side of her pelvis. After being stabilized for a time, Spanish Fern began hemorrhaging, and died from internal bleeding at 9:30 p.m.

Stronach and his son Andy will make the determination as to whether Perfect Sting will be brought back to the racetrack as a 5-year-old, or taken to the breeding shed. It is a perfect position to be in, although those who saw her championship form on this day will likely think it a crime if the bay beauty doesn't return to pull off another caper or two.