Only two of the 14 runners in Saturday’s $920,000 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) were listed at higher odds than Chester and Mary Broman’s homebred Bar of Gold when the gates opened.
The New York-bred mare was sent off at 66-1 but put in a winning rally under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. to just get her nose in front of Ami’s Mesa on the wire of the seven-furlong sprint.
Neither Bar of Gold nor Ami’s Mesa were near the front early as heavy even-money favorite Unique Bella set the pace in :21.84 and :44.35. Princess Karen, sent off at 87-1, and defending race winner Finest City tracked that gray sophomore through the opening half-mile.
Suddenly, Unique Bella began backing up, falling from first to sixth, and Ami’s Mesa appeared, ready to take command. The four-year-old lass surged to the front after running five wide early and powering around the turn, opening up in the lane as the rest of the field closed behind her.
Ami’s Mesa looked a winner in the shadow of the wire, but Bar of Gold was storming down the lane. The John Kimmel-trained mare had saved ground on the backstretch and made her way to the outside nearing the quarter-pole, then kicked into high gear late to run down Ami’s Mesa on the line.
Bar of Gold rewarded her backers with a win payout of $135.40 for earning her first graded victory in this spot. Ami’s Mesa suffered a tough beat here, but was still best of the rest, a length up on Grade 1 winner Carina Mia. It was another 2 1/2 lengths back to Skye Diamonds, who got her head in front of Princess Karen to take fourth.
Completing the order of finish were Paulassilverlining, Unique Bella, Finest City, Finley’sluckycharm, By the Moon, Highway Star, Proper Discretion, Curlin’s Approval and Constellation.
Bar of Gold showed three other stakes wins prior to this one, scoring in last year’s Empire Distaff Handicap and Critical Eye Stakes as well as this season’s Yaddo Stakes, all against state-bred company. The Medaglia d’Oro mare has placed in nine black-type contests, including the 2015 Test Stakes (G1), Prioress Stakes (G2) and Raven Run Stakes (G2); the 2016 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (G2), Distaff Handicap (G3) and Bed o’ Roses Handicap (G3); and this year’s Presque Isle Downs Masters and Ruffian Stakes (G2).
Bar of Gold entered the Breeders’ Cup off a subpar sixth-place effort in the Spinster Stakes (G1) going nine furlongs over Keeneland’s sloppy main track on October 8. She now boasts a 25-7-6-4 career mark and has banked $1,551,000 in lifetime earnings.
Bar of Gold is the first registered foal out of the Grade 3-winning Lemon Drop Kid mare Khancord Kid. Her third dam is Grade 1 heroine Key Phrase, who foaled stakes-winning successful sire Yankee Gentleman, Grade 3-placed stud Key Deputy and the dam of Grade 2-scoring stallion Half Ours.
This female family also includes ill-fated champion Shared Belief.
BREEDERS’ CUP FILLY & MARE SPRINT QUOTES
Winning trainer John Kimmel (Bar of Gold)
“We knew it was in there somewhere. 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. Her last race (Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland) was weird. At the track 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. Irad (Ortiz, Jr.) said she felt great. 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. I’ve won the Test a couple of times with that tactic. She showed up today, and Irad gave her a great, great trip.”
Winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. (Bar of Gold)
“I got a perfect trip. She broke good, put me in good position and I just saved her. She made a good run on the inside and when I took her to the outside, she responded pretty good.”
Second-place trainer Josie Carroll (Ami’s Mesa)
“I thought for a while that we were going to get it, but I could see that other horse coming. I just hoped she had enough left in the tank. She’s a gutsy filly. She fought that filly and just got out-nodded. This is a gutsy filly that gave it all and you can’t ask for more than that.”
Second-place jockey Luis Contreras (Ami’s Mesa)
“It was a really tough beat but she tried so hard. I just gave her a good trip. She was traveling perfect. She switched leads and I made my move. I tried to save as much as I could and she just got beat by a nose. That’s racing, right?”
Third-place jockey Javiar Castellano (Carina Mia)
“She did everything right. She split horses. She ran hard. I just wish I had a better post. In the one hole you have to use a little bit to get a good spot, but she ran great.”
Jockey Mike Smith (beaten favorite Unique Bella, 7th)
“She went so quick early. I guess it was too much to ask (today). She never really folded though. If I could have done something different, maybe I would have taken back a little farther, but the game plan was to go. At the top of the stretch, I was done.”
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer (beaten favorite Unique Bella, 7th)