ARCADIA, Calif. - It was like a French magic trick. At the eighth pole in the 25th Breeders' Cup Mile, the blue and white silks of Alain and Gerard Wertheimer were blocked behind a wall of horses. And then, voila! In an instant, they were two lengths in front. And with that brilliant turn of foot, Goldikova won the Mile by 1 1/4 lengths over defending champion Kip Deville, and raised even higher the reputation of her trainer, Freddie Head.
Head became the first person to both ride and train a Breeders' Cup winner, and it took him exactly one attempt to break through in the Breeders' Cup. Moreover, Goldikova calls up memories of Head's Breeders' Cup riding glory - Mile wins two years in a row with the filly Miesque. If all goes well, Goldikova will have her chance to equal Miesque's feat, since the Wertheimers said she will race next season, and Head said if she were able, Goldikova would return to Santa Anita for the 2009 Mile.
"It's something you don't imagine," Head said of his BC riding-training double. "Life's been good to me."
And Goldikova - what a filly. She became the first female to capture the Mile since Six Perfections won over this course in 2003, and she did so with a breathtaking move. The race unfolded not quite as expected, as Thorn Song crossed over from his outside draw to take the early lead. But Daytona, who looked like another main pace factor, didn't come close to the front until hitting the backstretch, and it was Goldikova out of the gates second, dropping in right behind Thorn Song, with Olivier Peslier taking a light rating hold.
The pace was moderate early, 23 seconds for the opening quarter, and 46.52 to the half, and, as usual, the jockeying for position began in earnest on the far turn. The mare Precious Kitten made the first serious bid, ranging up three wide coming into the stretch to challenge the pacesetters. Kip Deville was right in behind the front-runners, going well between horses. But there was Peslier, holding his position, Goldikova waiting along with him. Thorn Song threw in the towel first, and for a moment, Goldikova had nowhere to run, blocked by Daytona and Precious Kitten, with Kip Deville moving outside those two. Then a crack opened, and Peslier said "go." Goldikova slipped between Daytona and Precious Kitten, and in 10 strides, she went from even with Kip Deville to two lengths in front. Game over.
"My horse, he ran as well as last year," said Cornelio Velasquez, who was trying to pilot Kip Deville to his second straight mile victory. "But that filly. . ."
Kip Deville was clearly second best, finishing 2 1/2 lengths in front of late-running Whatsthescript, who edged Precious Kitten for third. Goldikova paid $5.60 to win, and - making her first start on a left-handed course, ran one mile in 1:33.40.
While Miesque still gets regularly mentioned as one of the best performers in Breeders' Cup history, Goldikova might be closing in on her.
"I think she could be as good," said Head, and who would know better than the trainer of one and the jockey of the other?
Oak Tree at Santa Anita, 4th Race - October 25, 2008