John Kimmel was disheartened after the Oct. 8 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (G1) at Keeneland.
The trainer sent out Chester and Mary Broman's New York-bred Bar of Gold as the 9-5 favorite in the 1 1/8-mile test, only to watch her falter home to a sixth-place finish.
It was another story Nov. 4 at Del Mar, when the 5-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro upset the $1 million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at odds of 66-1 and gave Kimmel his first Breeders' Cup win. Her $135.40 payoff on a $2 win ticket was the largest in the history of the race.
"We left there with the 9-5 favorite in a grade 1, half-a-million-dollar race, scratching our heads, thinking 'Did she just tail off her form, or exactly what happened?'" Kimmel said. "It had been raining all day and she really didn't break sharp and was wide. It was really just a throw-out. We were all confused about whether we were going to come out here, but then we got her back to New York (from Kentucky) and she had a couple of breezes that were really impressive."
Bar of Gold had placed in nine graded stakes, including a runner-up finish in the 2015 Longines Test Stakes (G1), but had never won in open company. On Saturday, she rewarded a decision her connections made just one week prior—to give her a shot at the World Championships.
"The horse was capable of this kind of quality racing, so we might as well give it a try," Chester Broman said.
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who picked up his third Breeders' Cup win, played a significant part in Bar of Gold's preparations. He breezed her and rode her in four races before the Breeders' Cup this year, including a win on turf in the Yaddo Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
"He's got a great rapport with this filly," Kimmel said. "He's breezed her probably a dozen times. I wouldn't have come out here if Irad couldn't ride the horse, so when he told me he was open, I said, 'Let's go. Let's give it a shot.' She is getting to the end of her career and here we are. I've always liked horses cutting back in distance, especially in a sprint, and a seven-eighths sprint. ... She showed up today, and Irad gave her a great, great trip."
Bar of Gold raced next-to-last early on in the field of 14, as even-money favorite Unique Bella set fractions of :21.84 and :44.35 for a half-mile in the seven-furlong sprint, but tired to finish seventh under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
"She went so quick early," Smith said. "I guess it was too much to ask. She never really folded, though. If I could have done something different, maybe I would have taken her back a little farther, but the game plan was to go. At the top of the stretch, I was done."
Meanwhile, Bar of Gold picked off horses inside before moving to the outside around the far turn in search of racing room. Ami's Mesa, making her first dirt run, took over as the field turned for home, while Carina Mia battled on the rail. But Bar of Gold continued her rally and got up just in time to claim the victory by a nose.
The final time was 1:22.63 on a fast track. Completing the order of finish were Skye Diamonds, Princess Karen, Paulassilverlining, Unique Bella, Finest City, Finley'sluckycharm, By the Moon, Highway Star, Proper Discretion, Curlin's Approval, and Constellation.
"We knew it was in there somewhere," Kimmel said of Bar of Gold's first grade 1 win. "She pulled it out at the right moment. She's brushed on greatness a few times, and she's gotten better as the years have gone on."
For Kimmel, the Breeders' Cup win was an emotional reflection on a 40-year training career.
"Sometimes with the big training outfits out there, and guys that have a couple hundred horses, a guy like me that's been kind of struggling to get to the top echelon, it's very satisfying," Kimmel said. "Because we always know that our team puts their blood, sweat, and tears into this business, and we feel that we're capable of doing anything that anybody else can do. It's just a matter of getting that right horse."
Bar of Gold became the sixth grade 1 winner for her sire in North America this season, and later in the card Talismanic took that total to seven with his upset in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (G1T). Medaglia d'Oro is the first American stallion since Storm Cat in 1999 to reach six individual grade 1 winners in a single year. According to Darley, in graded racing history, the only American stallions with as many grade 1 winners in a single year are Mr. Prospector, Danzig, and Storm Cat.
The first foal out of the grade 3-winning Lemon Drop Kid mare Khancord Kid, Bar of Gold improved her record to 7-6-4 from 25 starts, with earnings of $1,551,000. The Bromans also bred the mare, who has a 2017 colt by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah .
"This mare shows that it's really not so much location where they're raised; it's the blood," Kimmel said.