DEL MAR, Calif. -- Bar of Gold was one of five starters in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint with at least $1 million in earnings, but boy, was that misleading. The 5-year-old New York-bred mare entered the $1 million race with records of 0-for-15 in graded stakes and 0-for-11 on dry dirt tracks, which helped to explain her 66-1 odds as a rank outsider in a full gate of 14.
So what happened on a Breeders' Cup Saturday filled with surprise winners? Bar of Gold won, of course, nailing Ami's Mesa on the wire in the second-biggest upset in Breeders' Cup history. Her $135.40 payoff for a $2 win bet is surpassed only by the $269.20 returned by Arcangues in the 1993 BC Classic.
"We've always liked horses coming out of longer races" was one of the reasons that trainer John Kimmel could muster afterward in trying to explain the stunning result.
Exiting a sixth-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Spinster last month at Keeneland, Bar of Gold reversed form at the most opportune time. Getting a sensational ride from Irad Ortiz Jr., she saved ground in the turn without getting stopped, then angled widest for the drive before getting up in the final jump in a frantic finish.
"I got a perfect trip," Ortiz said. "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."
Chester and Mary Broman are the owners-breeders of Bar of Gold, a dark bay daughter of Medaglia d'Oro. Mary Broman said during the winner's presentation: "I'm elated. My husband has put his heart and soul in this sport."
Bar of Gold finished seven furlongs in 1:22.63 over a fast track. Carina Mia was just a length back in third, with Skye Diamonds another 2 1/2 lengths back in fourth. Unique Bella, who led to the quarter-pole as the 11-10 favorite, faded to seventh.
Bar of Gold had run so poorly in the Spinster that Kimmel and the Bromans were left scratching their heads. They ultimately decided to send her west from their New York base -- along with another Broman homebred for the Filly-Mare Sprint, Highway Star -- but only after an encouraging half-mile workout at Belmont on the Saturday before the race.
"We were kind of disheartened after [the Spinster]," Kimmel said, "but she did seem to rebound the way we wanted to see."
This was the 11th running of the Filly-Mare Sprint. With the defeat of Unique Bella, ridden by Mike Smith, still no 3-year-old has ever won it.
"She went so quick early," said Smith, referring to fractions of 21.84 and 44.35. "I guess it was too much to ask. 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."
The narrow defeat was particularly tough to swallow for the connections of Ami's Mesa, an 18-1 shot owned by Ivan Dalos and trained by Josie Carroll. Luis Contreras was aboard when the 4-year-old filly -- unbeaten in four starts this year but making her first-ever start on dirt -- circled rivals from her No. 14 post to overtake Unique Bella to become the obvious one to catch down the stretch.
"This is a gutsy filly that gave it all," said Carroll. "You can't ask for more than that."
After the top four, the order was Princess Karen, Paulassilverlining, Unique Bella, Finest City, Finley'sluckycharm, By the Moon, Highway Star, Proper Discretion, Curlin's Approval, and Constellation.
The victory was the first in the Breeders' Cup for Kimmel, a non-practicing veterinarian who has had nearly 1,300 winners since opening a stable in 1985.
The $2 exacta (5-14) paid $2,060.40, the 50-cent trifecta (5-14-1) returned $6,926.75, and the 10-cent superfecta (5-14-1-13) was worth $17,636.95.