ARCADIA, Calif. — Mucho Macho Man won the $5 million Classic by a nose Saturday, making Kathy Ritvo the first female trainer to win North America’s richest race at a Breeders’ Cup that began tragically with the death of a horse in the first race.
Gary Stevens capped his comeback at 50 in stellar fashion, surviving a photo finish in the Classic after winning the $2 million Distaff with Beholder on Friday for a sweep of the biggest races at the two-day world championships at Santa Anita.
‘‘I didn’t know the photo was as close as it was,’’ said Stevens, who had never won the Classic in his long career.
Ritvo became the fifth female trainer to win a Breeders’ Cup race and got to celebrate a year after seeing Mucho Macho Man finish second by a half-length to winner Fort Larned.
‘‘Thrilling,’’ she said.
First, though, Ritvo had to sweat out the results.
Mucho Macho Man stretched his neck at the finish to narrowly edge Will Take Charge, trained by 78-year-old Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.
‘‘I was just hoping he got it,’’ Ritvo said. ‘‘When I saw Gary shake his stick, I was confident. He ran a great race.’’
Game On Dude, the 8-5 favorite who was 5-0 this year, finished ninth on his home track for trainer Bob Baffert and co-owner Joe Torre, the retired Dodgers and Yankees manager.
Mucho Macho Man ran 1¼ miles in 2:00.72 and paid $10, $4.60, and $3.60 as the 4-1 second choice. The victory likely earned him champion older male honors.
The 30th Breeders’ Cup got off to a troubling start, with a rare disqualification in the opening race and Secret Compass euthanized because of a broken leg.
The $2 million Juvenile Fillies went from strange to tragic over several minutes. The DQ was announced after a green screen went up in a spot approaching the final turn to shield injured Secret Compass from the crowd.
‘‘When you lose a horse like that, it just took all the wind out of our sails,’’ Baffert said. ‘‘I've never had something like that happen on a big day. We’re all still in shock.’’
John Velazquez, who rode Secret Compass, had emergency surgery to remove his spleen after internal bleeding was discovered shortly before he was to be released from a Pasadena hospital.
Ria Antonia finished second but was declared the winner of the 1 1/16-mile race after She’s a Tiger was disqualified by the stewards.
They ruled that She’s a Tiger and Stevens drifted out late, bumped Ria Antonia and Javier Castellano, slowing her momentum.
Running third at the time, Secret Compass’s front legs collapsed, slamming Velazquez hard into the dirt. Baffert’s 2-year-old filly was euthanized after sustaining a lateral condylar fracture, according to on-call veterinarian Dr. Wayne McIlwraith.
Baffert was smiling later when 10-1 shot New Year’s Day rallied on the rail to win the $2 million Juvenile by 1¼ lengths. The colt paid $23 to win, with jockey Martin Garcia earning his first Cup victory.
Baffert earned his third win in the Juvenile, whose winner is typically tagged as the early Kentucky Derby favorite. His other entry, Tap It Rich, finished fifth.
Current Horse of the Year Wise Dan repeated in the $2 million Mile, winning by three-quarters of a length under Jose Lezcano, a late replacement for Velazquez. He paid $3.60 to win as the 4-5 favorite.
After the early drama, 3-2 favorite Dank restored order by winning the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf by a half-length over Romantica.
Another favorite, 3-1 Groupie Doll, won the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint for the second straight year.
Mizdirection defended her title in the $1 million Turf Sprint . She ran 6½ furlongs in 1:12.25, improving to 7-0 on Santa Anita’s downhill turf course and paying $7.40 to win as the 5-2 favorite.