Unrivaled Belle first in Ladies' Classic

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Unrivaled Belle, returning to the scene of her biggest victory this year, won the $2 million Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic on Friday night at Churchill Downs.

Unrivaled Belle ($17) held off Blind Luck, the Kentucky Oaks winner and 3-2 favorite, to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Blind Luck finished one length in front of third-place Havre de Grace. Unrivaled Belle sat fifth during the early going, then surged to the lead three furlongs from the wire.

Kent Desormeaux rode the winner for Bill Mott, who trains Unrivaled Belle for owners Gary Seidler and Peter Vegso.

Unrivaled Belle won for the sixth time in 12 starts. Her biggest previous win came in the La Troienne Stakes here on April 30, when she beat the reigning Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra. She had finished second in four previous Grade 1 races, including her past three starts. The Ladies' Classic marked her first Grade 1 victory.

"We were disappointed it took a while to get to the Grade 1 winner's circle, but she did it at the right time," Mott said. "The key was that she relaxed a little better today. When she put it in gear, she left them for dead at the eighth pole. It was over.

"She obviously showed an affinity for the Churchill Downs racing surface. That's a large part of it."

Life At Ten, the second choice at 7-2, finished last in the field of 11, nearly a furlong behind the rest of the field. Her trainer, Todd Pletcher, said after the race that he was concerned while saddling in the paddock because Life At Ten was acting, in his words, "abnormally quiet," and he warned jockey John Velazquez about it.

Velazquez, during the warm-up, told Jerry Bailey on ESPN2's telecast that he was not happy with the way Life At Ten was warming up. But Velazquez did not ask the track veterinarian for an opinion, and Life At Ten raced. As soon as the gate opened, Life At Ten was obviously out of sorts. Normally on or near the lead, she quickly dropped well back.

Dr. Larry Bramlage, the on-call veterinarian for the American Association of Equine Practitioners, said Life At Ten was sound immediately after the race and minutes later back at the barn.

"None of the vets saw anything wrong with her," Bramlage said. "Velazquez didn't say anything to the vet before the race."

This was the first time the Breeders' Cup was run under the lights, and there is the distinct possibility Life At Ten was compromised by them.

Life At Ten ran once under the lights, in her fourth lifetime start, on Nov. 21, 2008, at Hollywood Park, and finished third of five in a first-level allowance race.

Additional reporting by David Grening and Mike Welsch.