The first part of the $1 million Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) unfolded mostly as expected Nov. 4 at Santa Anita Park. The 2015 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner Runhappy went speeding along on the lead, with 3-5 choice Dortmund and multiple graded stakes winner Gun Runner in close pursuit.
The finish? That's another story.
Shadwell Stable's Tamarkuz , under all-time leading Breeders' Cup jockey Mike Smith, ranged up wide outside as Runhappy and then Dortmund faded, and rolled past Gun Runner, who had taken the lead coming off the final turn. The 6-year-old Speighstown runner cleared by 3 1/2 lengths at 11-1 odds to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin his first win at Santa Anita, his first Breeders' Cup victory since Lahudood took the 2007 Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), and his third overall Breeders' Cup win, added to the Classic (gr. I) score of Invasor (ARG) in 2006. All three were Shadwell runners.
After Runhappy ran fractions of :22.45, :45.37, and 1:10, the final time for the mile was 1:35.72.
"It set up. There was a lot of pace. Tamarkuz has speed himself and right away they opened two, three, four (lengths), so I knew they were going fast," said Smith, who picked up his 23rd Breeders' Cup win. "After that it was just a matter of getting him into a comfortable rhythm and a happy place. When I called on him, he finished like he's been finishing for me. I really thought he had a good shot today."
Tamarkuz, bred in Kentucky by John D. Gunther out of the Lemon Drop Kid mare Without You Babe, won for the first time in the United States. His campaign last year in Dubai was what stamped him as a quality runner. He won four in a row there in 2015, capped by a victory in the Meydan Sobha Godolphin Mile (UAE-II).
"When they put him on the dirt in Dubai is when we really figured out what he was about, and that's why Sheikh Hamdan sent him back to us," said Shadwell racing manager Joe DeSantis. "We felt he was sitting on a big race and the two turns were what we were really excited about. That's what we were looking for."
"Now all the media knows why Frosted 's running the Classic. We had one good enough to win the (Dirt) Mile already," McLaughlin added with a laugh. "Last year it was a real honor to get him in America because he won the Godolphin Mile, and now we've added to that."
The winner returned $25.80, $9.40, and $8, while Gun Runner brought $5.20 and $4.60. Accelerate, who made up ground inside, nabbed third ($16) by a neck over Dortmund. Tom's Ready, Point Piper, Vyjack, Runhappy, and Texas Chrome completed the order of finish.
Tamarkuz came in off back-to-back seconds, in the Oct. 8 Kelso Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park and the Aug. 27 Priority One Jets Forego (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course. He was a $325,000 Keeneland September yearling sale buy from the Glenwood Farm consignment and is the only stakes winner out of his dam, who produced three winners from as many to race. She has a Frankel yearling colt and this season foaled a filly by Kingman. With the Dirt Mile victory, Tamarkuz improved his record to eight wins and four seconds from 20 starts, for earnings of $1,840,444.