Dangerous Midge made sure European jockey Frankie Dettori didn't go home empty handed when he wore down pacesetter Champ Pegasus in deep stretch to win the $2,727,000 Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) (VIDEO) Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs.
It was the fourth Breeders' Cup Turf win for the popular Dettori, who, in spite of aging knees, performed his familiar flying dismount after returning Dangerous Midge to be unsaddled following his 1 1/4-length triumph.
The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred colt successfully made his first United States start for owner Iraj Parvizi and trainer Brian Meehan. Winner of the Arc Trial (Eng-III) in his only prior group tally in his last start Sept. 17 at Newbury, the son of Lion Heart--Adored Slew, by Seattle Slew, donned blinkers for the first time.
"He was just a horse that kept getting better and this is a race we began thinking of in the spring," Meehan said.
Champ Pegasus, ridden by Joel Rosario, finished second. Behkabad, the even-money favorite in the absence of Arc winner Workforce, who was scratched on the morning of the race, finished a no-excuse third with Christophe Lemaire aboard. He was 3 1/4 lengths behind the winner.
The final time for the 1 1/2-mile journey was was 2:29.40 over firm going.
Dangerous Midge was fractious in the post parade, running off at one point. But once the gates opened, he was completely professional.
It was a merry-go-round race for most of the trip. Champ Pegasus, breaking from the rail, took command over his six rivals shortly after the outset. The son of Fusaichi Pegasus led the 8-1 shot Dangerous Midge and Behkabad through easy fractions of :50.17 for the first half-mile, six furlongs in 1:15.91 and a mile in 1:40.88, Champ Pegasus opened up a bit on his rivals rounding the final turn and took a two-length advantage into the stretch.
Dangerous Midge took aim on the leader in the lane, gradually drawing closer before getting the advantage on the outside past the sixteenth pole. The big bay edged away from Champ Pegasus in the final strides.
“I had a great trip," Dettori said. "The blinkers kept him alive, but he didn’t handle the corners very well. He’s such a big horse. I kept him balanced and we had no pressure all the way. In the straight it took him a long time to motor, but we got there in the end. It felt really good to get this one."
Behkabad, a French-bred 3-year-old colt who finished fourth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe after a troubled trip last month, had an opening at the hedge in the lane but failed to take advantage.
Winchester, winner of the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Belmont Park in his last start, finished fourth, followed by Debussy, Telling and Al Khali.
Dangerous Midge was bred by Tony Holmes and Dr. Walter Zent and cost $120,000 as a yearling at Keeneland in September 2007. He did not begin his career until June of his 3-year-old season. He has now won six of 11 starts, earning $1,620,000 for the victory. He had won just $170,324 previously.
"We know he was quick enough on the straight and Frankie kept him balanced on the bends," Meehan said. "He’s talented and has been improving and improving. We’ve always liked this horse and we’ve just been developing him all the way through. This is a big galloping track.I wanted to be one off the lead, so he was ridden perfectly.”
Trainer Richard Mandella was pleased with the effort of Champ Pegasus, who has just eight starts and developed quickly, winning Oak Tree's Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park in his last start.
“He ran great," Mandella said. "Everybody in the race realized there was nobody that wanted to do the lead. My horse doesn’t have a lot of experience and I thought I didn’t want him buried behind a slow pace, being in the one-hole. I said, `he breaks good, don’t be afraid to go to the lead and just nurture him.’ He did a great job and he ran his heart out.”
Dangerous Midge paid $19, $9.80 and $5.20. Champ Pegasus returned $9 and $4.80. Behkabad was $2.40 to show.