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Hollywood Derby Day
Jockey Frankie Dettori and Red Rocks after the race.
The $3 million John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) is the richest turf race in North America, a 1 1/2 mile marathon around 3 turns of the Matt Winn Turf Course at Churchill Downs. A contentious field of 11 went to the gate in this year’s running, with top European Hurricane Run sent off as the 3-1 lukewarm choice despite losing his last 3 starts including a 4th in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and a 3rd in the Champion Stakes last time out. Top American hope English Channel was the 7-2 second choice, winner of the United Nations and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic in his final prep. Man o’War Stakes winner Cacique was the 4-1 third choice, while 2004 winner Better Talk Now was all but dismissed at 19-1.
As the field moves into the clubhouse turn, eventual winner Red Rocks and second place finisher Better Talk Now are at the back of the pack. There was one horse farther back, but he doesn't show here.
When the race got underway, as expected 77-1 longest shot Icy Atlantic went to the front, as the Todd Pletcher trainee was the assigned "rabbit" for his stablemates English Channel and 10-1 Go Deputy. While allowed an uncontested lead of as many as 3 lengths, Icy Atlantic set a respectable pace of 24.13, 47.87, 1:12.40, and 1:37.76 while being chased by 33-1 Rush Bay for the first mile. Rounding the last of the three turns, Icy Atlantic began to fade as Rush Bay inherited the lead through 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.89. English Channel, who settled in fourth down the backstretch, closed well around the turn to grab a short lead with a furlong to go. However, 11-1 Red Rocks and Better Talk Now still had plenty left in the tank, as they ran him down in deep stretch. Red Rocks held off Better Talk Now in the final strides to prevail by 1/2 a length in a time of 2:27.32 over the "firm" course. Rush Bay was fourth, while Hurricane Run raced wide throughout and lacked any rally to finish sixth.
Red Rocks wins over Better Talk Now in the Turf.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 9 Red Rocks Dettori 23.60 11.20 6.20 8 Better Talk Now Dominguez 17.40 10.00 10 English Channel Velazquez 4.20 Winning Time: 2:27.32 $2 Exacta 9-8 450.80 $2 Trifecta 9-8-10 2501.80 $2 Superfecta 9-8-10-5 32,038.00Results chart
Owner J. Paul Reddam leads Red Rocks to the winner's circle. Winning jockey Frankie Dettori, who won 2 races on the card having won the Filly and Mare Turf with Ouija Board earlier, said, "I'll be honest with you, to win one is a miracle and two goes beyond that. So, it feels very surreal right now. I wanted to ride him cold so I could pick up the pieces at the end. I didn't expect a furious pace like it did go today, and when I looked up and I thought, well, there is no way they can keep this up and actually go all the way around, they were taking each other on and I knew it was going to fall in my lap. So I took him on the wide outside, and it was just a matter of picking horses one by one but I forgot that Better Talk Now was behind me also playing the same game. Last furlong we had to get serious but the rest is history."
Red Rocks returns to the stable to the applause of his connections. Winning trainer Brian Meehan said, "They went really quick up front. I was a little concerned down the backstretch but once they got to the bottom turn I thought Frankie had them well covered, and I knew if the horse was right he would finish. It’s just a culmination of a lot of hard work. A marvelous achievement for our whole operation."
Second place finisher Better Talk Now in the post parade. His jockey Ramon Dominguez said, "He tried really hard. At the 1/8 pole (Red Rocks) tried to run away from up but (Better Talk Now) picked it up again. He really wanted to win." Trainer Graham Motion added, "Tough day at the office! He ran huge. Everyone had written him off. This is not a fluke, he’s just that good. We finally got what we needed: pace, distance, and a great ride."
Third place finisher English Channel in the post parade. His trainer Todd Pletcher said, "He had to take the overland route (from post 10). He ran hard like he always does. Icy Atlantic did his job." Jockey John Velazquez added, "I had a beautiful trip. He kept getting hit by the horse inside of him and that made him a little rank. He kept throwing his head around and once he did that it was going to be tough to win."
Sixth place finisher and beaten favorite Hurricane Run in the paddock before the race. His jockey Christophe Soumillon said, "He really likes a long stretch and when I asked him to kick it in, he did not really respond as he did in the past."
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