Zenyatta, in attempting to go down in history with a perfect 20 for 20, stole the spotlight but came up short by a head as she lost to Blame in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs, Kentucky. In a field of 12 overshadowed by the super mare, with a popularity reaching far beyond U.S. shores, Japan's Espoir City, winner of this year's February Stakes (G1), fought hard for his own taste of fame before the famous twin spires and a crowd of 77,000. The Gold Allure-sired 5-year-old gave it his best, but unfortunately had to settle for 10th place.
JRA jockey Tetsuzo Sato, 40, kept Espoir City up on the pace in third position or closer until the final turn of the mile-and-a-quarter race (just over 2,000 meters), but from there, Espoir City was unable to hold his ground.
The 4-year-old Blame, ridden by Garrett Gomez had a perfect trip. The colt, who had won eight of his previous 12 starts, broke running and found a pocket going through the first turn. Blame traveled smoothly down the backside and led by half a length with 200 meters to go. Blame made his run on the inside, with Zenyatta, 6, having run most of the race in far last, coming on strong on the outside but making the finish line just a fraction of a moment too late. Fly Down finished 3 1/2 lengths behind Zenyatta in third place.
Blame, by Arch, is trained by Albert Stall, Jr. Bred at Claiborne Farm and owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider, Blame clocked 2 minutes 2.83 seconds.
Sato had no excuses for either his mount or himself. "We were able to race our own race, so I guess seeing the results as they are, you'd have to say we just weren't good enough." But, the upbeat Sato said, "We'll return to Japan and give it our best again."
Espoir City's trainer, the 51-year-old, Ritto-based Akio Adachi, also admitted that his chestnut horse seemed to have simply been outclassed. "The conditions were somewhat different from those in Japan," he said, "and he did seem to be well beat in the stretch. Still, (Espoir City) worked hard just with this race in mind and I think he really ran his heart out," Adachi said in heartfelt praise of his charge.
Espoir City was carrying 126 pounds in the Classic, the same as the winner, but 3 lbs more than runnerup Zenyatta and 4 lbs more than third-place finisher Fly Down, a 3-year-old colt. Espoir City finished nearly15 lengths off the winner.
Espoir City has 11 wins in 21 starts, including both his NAR and JRA races. In addition to this year's February Stakes, Espoir City aced the Japan Cup Dirt (G1) last year and the NAR Mile Championship Nambu Hai over dirt at Morioka. The Breeders' Cup Classic was his fourth race this year and his first bid overseas.
Espoir City was bred at Ikuchise Bokujo in Hokkaido and is owned by Yushun Horse Club.
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Breeders' Cup website: http://www.breederscup.com/
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Equibase website: http://www.equibase.com/
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