Finest City, a 4-year-old filly by City Zip, outlasted last year’s winner Wavell Avenue to win the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I). The seven furlongs went in 1:22.37. Paulassilverlining finished third. Finest City prevailed by three-quarters of a length. Wavell Avenue had 11/4 lengths on Paulassilverlining.
Finest City, owned by Seltzer Thoroughbreds and named for the city of San Diego, is a 4-year-old trained by Ian Kruljac and was ridden by Mike Smith.
Kruljac, 28, has been a trainer less than two years and now has a Breeders’ Cup winner on his resume.
Gloryzapper got the first jump on the field at the break and quickly got to the front with Paulassilverlining getting a prominent spot just off her flank with Finest City, from post 12, getting a wide trip. As the well-bunched field made their way around the bend, Finest City was wide, but in the clear and struck the front as the field turned for home.
Wavell Avenue was able to mount a furious challenge in the stretch but could not get past the winner.
“She sends herself out there and Mike chose not to take her back and it was absolutely perfect,” said Kruljac. “She has a high cruising speed and I could tell he was in hand. It is just such an honor to compete with all these top trainers and have a top filly.”
Sent off at 8-1, she paid $19.40, $10, and $6.60. Wavell Avenue returned $13.80 and $8.80. Paulassilverlining paid $9.20.
Finest City returned to the dirt off a pair of turf starts at Del Mar going longer. She was second, beaten a head by Avenge in the John C. Mabee Stakes (gr. IIT) Sept. 4 (Avenge ran third earlier today in the Breeders' Cup FIlly & Mare Turf, gr. IT). This summer Finest City was pitched at the highest level and ran third, beaten just 23/4 lengths by Beholder and Stellar Wind in the one-mile Vanity Stakes (gr. I).
"The old handicapping angle of 'turf to dirt' and a long turf race to a middle-distance sprint is really a good way to get a horse ready for a race like this," said Smith. "They learn to relax a little better and it's easier on them."
Her efforts at seven furlongs came in Santa Anita’s grade I La Brea Stakes in which she finished sixth, and the Jan. 23 Santa Monica Stakes (gr. II). Having the lead early she missed by a head to 64-1 shot Lost Bus.
Finest City, out of the Lemon Drop Kid mare Be Envied, was bred in Pennsylvania by HNR Nothhaft Horseracing.
Sold by HNR Nothhaft Horseracing to Cobra Farm for $50,000 at the 2012 Keeneland November sale by Hunter Valley Farm, Seltzer Thoroughbreds purchased the Filly & Mare Sprint winner through agent Eric Kruljac (Ian’s father) for $85,000 as a yearling at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale from Bluewater Sales.