LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Reuters) - Former Belmont Stakes champion Drosselmeyer scored a spectacular upset in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday while delivering a much-needed dose of redemption for jockey Mike Smith.
Smith, who suffered a gut-wrenching defeat at the wire in last year’s Classic aboard Zenyatta, piloted Drosselmeyer past the celebrated field in a dramatic stretch run to win America’s richest race.
Drosselmeyer, the 2010 Belmont winner who had fallen off form this year with just one win in six starts, finished one and one-half lengths ahead of Game on Dude, ridden by Smith’s ex-girlfriend Chantal Sutherland.
Ruler on Ice finished third in the 12-horse field at the 28th edition of the Breeders’ Cup, held on a beautiful day at historic Churchill Downs.
Drosselmeyer was 10th after a mile and seventh at the top of the stretch before finding another gear, a style much like Zenyatta.
“I felt very confident,” said Smith, a Hall of Famer whose victory was his 15th at the Breeders’ Cup, tying him with Jerry Bailey for most all-time.
“I know it’s kind of hard to say when you’re way back there last, but it was kind of Zenyatta-like, as far as the ones that she won. He felt confident. He was in a great rhythm.
“He was breathing. He was doing everything I asked him to do. Going into the far turn, he took a deep breath, and I knew he was loaded again.”
Drosselmeyer, who only prior victory in 2011 was at a $60,000 race at Belmont Park, paid $31.60 for a $2 win ticket.
“He ran a super race,” said Drosselmeyer trainer Bill Mott, who won the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic on Friday with Royal Delta. “He was mowing them down the last eighth of a mile.
“I guess his biggest attribute is his stamina, and he showed it today. When they were wearing down, he was coming. It’s great.”
Jockey Club Gold Cup champion Flat Out, the race favorite, finished fifth in the mile and one-quarter race with Alex Solis in the saddle.
The champion mare Havre de Grace, looking to follow the trailblazing path of Zenyatta as the only females to win the Classic, finished fourth but was never in contention.
Uncle Mo, last year’s Juvenile champion who was on the comeback trail after suffering a life-threatening liver ailment in the spring, was second for most of the race before fading to 10th.
“The track started breaking underneath him a little bit and he kind of lost it,” said Uncle Mo jockey John Velazquez. “He was struggling with the track for whatever reason.
“I tried to give him his head where he would feel comfortable, but he never really got into a good rhythm to get a good grip of the track.
“I didn’t want to beat him up in the stretch when everybody started going by me.”
Smith won the Classic aboard Zenyatta in 2009 but last year, with the late-running mare looking to retire unbeaten, she was edged at the wire by Blame, reducing Smith to tears.
After Saturday’s triumph with Drosselmeyer, Smith was asked how long it took for him to get over the loss in Zenyatta’s final race.
“Until now,” he said. “I mean, that’s one that will always hurt, but this sure helps, man. It really does.”