Longshot Fire At Will springs upset in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Fire At Will shot down European hopes with an upset triumph in the $1 million Juvenile Turf on Saturday as the opening day of the Breeders' Cup at Keeneland showcased a wealth of two-year-old talent.

With Ricardo Santana in the irons, the 30-1 longshot gave trainer Michael Maker the victory, tucking in behind early leaders Outadore and Gretzky the Great and gliding through a gap on the final bend to power to a three-length victory over Irish raider Battleground, trained by Aidan O'Brien and ridden by Ryan Moore.

"I got a beautiful trip," Santana said. "I had plenty of horse in the tank. "He put me where he wanted to be and that's why we won."

Outadore, ridden by Jose Ortiz, settled for third ahead of Irish trainer Jessica Harrington's Cadillac, who had to have a shoe tightened in the paddock and then balked at the starting gate before producing a steady effort under Shane Foley.

Battleground, winner of the Chesham Stakes and Vintage Stakes in England this year, went off the favorite to give O'Brien a fifth victory in the Grade One race.

In the middle of the pack rounding the turn for home, Battleground closed well to grab second from Outadore.

"My horse ran super," Moore said. "Very happy with him."

Foley said Cadillac was running well at the finish, but couldn't recover from getting shuffled back early.

"He had a bad trip after the first bend," Foley said. "He got a nice run later on and he hit the line really well."

The opening day dubbed "Future Stars Friday" featured five races for two-year-olds, the curtain-raiser to Saturday's nine-race slate highlighted by the $6 million Classic and the $4 million Turf.

No fans were in attendance at the Lexington, Kentucky, track, where the shadow of Covid-19 fell with the announcement that France-based Belgian jockey Christophe Soumillon had tested positive for coronavirus and would miss out on scheduled rides in the Turf and the Mile on Saturday after going into isolation.

Golden Pal kicked off the action with a convincing victory in the $1 million Juvenile Turf Sprint.

Breaking from the 14th post under jockey Irad Ortiz, Golden Pal surged to the lead, lost a little ground as he battled Ortiz's efforts to slow the pace, then kicked it into high gear when given the go-ahead to win the 5 1/2-furlong race by 3/4 of a length over fast-closing Cowan -- trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Ricardo Santana.

Ubettabelieveit, trained in England by Breeders' Cup newcomer Nigel Tinkler, was third with jockey Rowan Scott aboard.

"I got a little worried on the back side," admitted Golden Pal trainer Welsey Ward, who notched his second straight win in the event after Four Wheel Drive's victory at Santa Anita in California last year.

"He lost momentum there when (Ortiz) took a pretty good hold of him, then he just accelerated down the lane. When he accelerated past the quarter-pole, I knew we were OK."

Ward said Golden Pal would be pointed at next year's Breeders' Cup via Royal Ascot, where the colt was runner-up behind The Lir Jet in the Norfolk Stakes this year.

"Here we come," Ward said. "He's going to get them this year."

Vequist, trained by Robert "Butch" Reid and ridden by Joel Rosario, won the $2 million Juvenile Fillies, following in footsteps of her sire Nyquist -- winner of the 2015 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the 2016 Kentucky Derby.