ARCADIA, Calif. — The result of the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) might have been determined a handful of strides after the break.
Favored Covfefe and third choice Bellafina didn’t break great but came out about even in the seven-furlong dirt race. It didn’t take long for their trips to change.
Jockey Joel Rosario encouraged Covfefe into the race from post 1, then got her off the rail to stalk just off longshot pacesetters Danuska’s My Girl and Heavenhasmynikki, while Bellafina—who came into the race undefeated in four starts at Santa Anita—got squeezed back between horses.
It’s hard to say how many lengths Bellafina lost in the chute because of the incident, but the pair was only three-quarters of a length apart at the wire, as LNJ Foxwoods’ Covfefe took command late in the turn, kicked away from the field and just held off Bellafina late.
“Coming out of the one hole, there were a couple horses that showed more speed out of there,” Rosario said. “I was able to work my way out and get her in the clear. After that, she did all the work.”
While Covfefe settled on the outside, Flavien Prat and Bellafina advanced on the rail from the back of the pack. She found herself behind a wall of four horses in the turn, and by the time she got outside for the stretch run, Covfefe had the jump. Covfefe had a 2 1/2-length advantage at the eighth pole.
“I decided to drop in. From there she was travelling well,” Prat said. “She made a good move, I thought, turning for home. I thought I was going to catch (Rosario), but as soon as the winner saw me, she re-engaged.”
Bellafina’s trainer, Simon Callaghan, said Prat’s decision to go inside early, instead of around the field on the outside, may have been the difference.
“I think Flavien didn’t make the right move at a vital point,” Callaghan said. “I think if he goes outside, I think she wins. She ran great. It’s disappointing.”
Covfefe hit the wire in 1:22.40 for seven furlongs and the top pair finished 7 3/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Dawn the Destroyer, who closed from last in the nine-horse field at odds of 22-1.
The puzzling effort of the group came from 2-1 second choice Come Dancing, who got a good tracking trip but never kicked in and finished a far-back sixth.
“I don’t think she liked this track surface,” said Come Dancing’s jockey, Javier Castellano. “I was in the perfect spot behind the leaders, and they were going fast. … But at the three-eighths pole, when I asked her, there was nothing. She never got into the bridle. She is such a consistent filly. This just wasn’t her.”
The Filly & Mare Sprint victory caps a standout campaign for the Covfefe, and her trainer Brad Cox feels she has earned a championship.
“She’s a champion, hopefully,” Cox said. “I feel like championship honors were on the line for champion filly and mare sprinter. I hope she locked that up.”