Ghostzapper dominates field in $4 million Classic
GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas -- When $4 million is on the line in the season's grand finale, you're supposed to get high drama. When it comes to the Breeders' Cup Classic, you expect a contentious race with one horse, then another, looking like the winner until something bursts out of the pack to steal it in the final strides. It's happened so many times, but not Saturday.
Frankel earlier sent out five losers, lowering his Breeders' Cup record to a depressing 2-for-62. He had no worries with Ghostzapper. He took the lead immediately and improved his position, drawing off easily under Javier Castellano, who won by three lengths on his first Breeders' Cup mount. Roses in May was second and Pleasantly Perfect finished third, four lengths farther back, but they never even hinted at threatening Ghostzapper.
"There was no question that he would go wire to wire," Castellano said. "He's that sharp."
The touted horses behind him were so dull that they need not have bothered to show up. The mare Azeri was fifth in her second loss in two tries against males. Birdstone, conqueror of Smarty Jones in the Belmont Stakes and winner of the Travers, came in seventh. Funny Cide, the hero of the 2003 Triple Crown, was 10th in his second consecutive Classic flop.
Azeri's trainer, Wayne Lukas, knew early on that he had no shot. "It was just the way the race unfolded," he said. "I thought she ran well. We took our shot, she ran hard and beat a lot of them that you guys [the media] liked."
Frankel was very confident in Ghostzapper but a bit leery because of his Cup history and flops in the Sprint (Midas Eyes, Cajun Beat), Mile (Nothing to Lose) and the Filly &Mare Turf (Light Jig, Megahertz).
"He ran the way I thought he would," Frankel said. "The way this day had been going, I thought I was going to be in for a disaster. This sure makes things better.
"This is as big a win as I've had in my career."
The surprisingly uneventful Classic capped a Breeders' Cup in which there was an entertaining mix of favorites and longshots. There were five logical, well-bet winners – Ashado (Distaff); Sweet Catomine (Juvenile Fillies); Speightstown (Sprint) and Ouija Board (Filly & Mare Turf) – but 16-1 Singletary (Mile) and two nearly impossible-to-have bombs – 28-1 Wilko (Juvenile) and 27-1 Better Talk Now (Turf)-- made sure that nobody picked six. Five correct paid $56,149.60, and getting that many right was a feat.
Throwing out all of Frankel's horses again worked brilliantly until Ghostzapper staked a claim for Horse of the Year by completing a 4-for-4 season the first time he attempted 1¼ miles. He set a stakes record of 1:59.02 and did it with ease. Ghostzapper paid $7 and earned $2,080,000 for Stronach Stables, owned by Frank Stronach, chairman of Magna Entertainment, which operates Lone Star. Awesome Again, winner of the 1998 Classic at Churchill Downs, sired Ghostzapper as well as Juvenile winner Wilko, making Stronach a very happy billionaire.
"This is the greatest thrill because I own the stallion and he had the 2-year-old colt that won the race today," Stronach said. "I consider myself extremely blessed.''
The day before Halloween, a colt named Ghostzapper wins the big race for the track's head honcho. Eerie? No. It's the most predictable story in the world: The rich get richer.
"I don't want to be a smart guy," Stronach said, "but I kind of kept saying I knew this was coming up with Halloween the next day."
Frankel expects Stronach to pick up two trophies at the Eclipse Awards dinner next winter.
"In my mind he's the best horse I've ever trained," the 63-year-old Hall of Famer said of Ghostzapper. "He's the handicap horse of the year and the Horse of the Year. It's simple."