Trainer Todd Pletcher won his first Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 2 when Vino Rosso surged past tiring favorite McKinzie in the stretch and pulled away late to win by 4 1/4 lengths.
Owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable, Vino Rosso did his best work late in the 1 1/4-mile race, while others struggled over the deep, tiring Santa Anita main track.
The 4-year-old Curlin colt easily passed tiring pacesetter War of Will before the quarter pole, then had to take on McKinzie and Mongolian Groom. McKinzie kept on, but with a few flicks of the tail, he too began to tire in the final furlong. Vino Rosso finished off the distance in 2:02.80.
Mongolian Groom did not finish. He was pulled up by jockey Abel Cedillo near the top of the stretch, where the Hightail gelding sustained a hind-leg injury. The Breeders’ Cup later confirmed in a statement that Mongolian Groom was euthanized due to the extent of his injuries.
“Breeders’ Cup has engaged world-renowned veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage to conduct an independent evaluation, the results of which will be published when completed,” the statement said.
McKinzie finished another 4 1/4 lengths clear of Higher Power, who made a move from seventh after a slow break, but never threatened to get close to the top two finishers. Elate, Math Wizard, Seeking the Soul, Code of Honor, Yoshida, War of Will and Owendale completed the order of finish.
The Classic was the third time Vino Rosso crossed the wire first in a Grade 1 race this year. He won the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) in May, then was disqualified from first in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park on Sept. 28 for interference, and Code of Honor was elevated to first.
“We sensed it early on this year, that he was a little more mature, more focused (and) more into his daily training,” Pletcher said of the colt who was on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail but didn’t win in four 3-year-old starts after his 2018 Wood Memorial (G2) victory. “I think it’s really a case of him getting time to develop and mature. We always felt he would be a better 4-year-old than 3-year-old. Just happy it turned out to be right.”
McKinzie, who left the gate at 5-2, beat everyone else to the wire, and his connections felt he ran his race.
“At the top of the stretch, I thought we might have had enough to get home, but he just got tired toward the end. … He ran his heart out, so we can’t be too disappointed,” said McKinzie’s jockey, Joel Rosario. “We were just beaten by the best horse.”