Vino Rosso captures Breeders’ Cup Classic — but tragedy follows

Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. celebrates after riding Vino Rosso to a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. celebrates after riding Vino Rosso to a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.Frederic J. Brown

ARCADIA, Calif. — A victory by Vino Rosso in the Breeders’ Cup Classic was overshadowed by a fatal injury to a 15-1 long shot in the $6 million race at Santa Anita on Saturday night.

Cup officials said in a statement about two hours after the race that Mongolian Groom had been euthanized after sustaining a serious fracture to his left hind leg.

It’s the 37th horse death at Santa Anita since December and it occurred in the season-ending championships in front of 67,811 fans and a national prime-time television audience.

Mongolian Groom was part of the early pace in the 1¼-mile race. But jockey Abel Cedillo sharply pulled up the 4-year-old gelding near the eighth pole as the rest of the field charged toward the finish line.


Vino Rosso won by 4¼ lengths, drawing away from 5-2 favorite McKinzie down the stretch.

The deaths prompted track owner The Stronach Group to implement changes to rules involving medication and training.

The Breeders’ Cup also beefed up its own prerace exams and observations of runners. Four horses were scratched Saturday after vets found issues.

It almost worked, too, with the only injury coming in the last of the 14 Cup races over the two days of racing.

‘‘Everything had been going so great,’’ trainer Bob Baffert said before the death was announced. ‘‘You just don’t know when it is going to happen. We try to keep them as safe as we can.’’

A green screen was rushed onto the track to block Mongolian Groom from view. He was loaded onto an equine ambulance and taken to a hospital on the backstretch.

Four veterinarians were consulted before the decision was recommended to euthanize.

Cup officials said they have hired Dr. Larry Bramlage to conduct an independent evaluation with the results to be made public when completed.


Mongolian Groom had three wins in 17 career starts and earnings of $579,141. He was coming off a victory over McKinzie in the Awesome Again Stakes on the same track in September that earned him a berth in the Classic.

Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, Mongolian Groom was trained by Ganbat Enebish and owned by Mongolian Stable, the name of Ganbaatar Dagvadorj’s racing operation. His best horse was 2015 Turf Sprint winner Mongolian Saturday, who like Mongolian Groom was a 15-1 shot in the Breeders’ Cup.

Mike Repole, winning co-owner of Vino Rosso, said before the death that an injury is ‘‘the worst part of this game.’’

‘‘For us, horse safety is very, very important. Prayers for the horse. Prayers for the connections of the horse. It’s got to be really, really tough. It’s very sad,’’ Repole said.

Vino Rosso went off at 9-2 odds for trainer Todd Pletcher , who won his first Classic.

‘‘It’s one thing that was missing,’’ Pletcher said. ‘‘It feels great.’’

Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. earned his fourth victory of the weekend. McKinzie, the 5-2 favorite, finished second for Baffert. Higher Power was third.

Vino Rosso covered the distance in 2:02.80 and paid $11.20, $5.80, and $4.

Pletcher said he was concerned about horse safety at Santa Anita coming into the season-ending world championships.

‘‘We were anxious, not only for running in huge races like this, but hoping everything would go smoothly and safely,’’ he said. ‘‘Everyone took every precautionary measure they possibly could.’’


In the $4 million Turf, Bricks and Mortar completed a perfect season and moved solidly into contention for Horse of the Year honors.

Bottled up in traffic for most of the race, Bricks and Mortar shook loose at the top of the stretch to launch a relentless rally down the center of the track. He beat 50-1 shot United by a head. Bricks and Mortar is 6 for 6 this season and has won seven straight dating to last year.

Bricks and Mortar paid $4 to win as the even-money favorite.

Blue Prize rallied from second-to-last on the backstretch to win the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff by 1½ lengths.

She upset even-money favorite Midnight Bisou, who lost for the first time in eight races this year. A victory would have put Midnight Bisou into the discussion for Horse of the Year honors; instead she finished second under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.

Blue Prize paid $19.80 to win at 8-1 odds.

The 6-year-old mare bred in Argentina — the oldest runner in the race — ran 1⅛ miles in 1:50.50. Blue Prize is trained by Ignacio Correas IV, an Argentine who won his first Cup race, and ridden by Joe Bravo, who snapped a 0-for-20 skid in the event.

In the $2 million Mile on the turf, Uni gave trainer Chad Brown and jockey Joel Rosario their second victories in this year’s Breeders’ Cup.

It was a strong showing for the fillies as they finished 1-2 against the boys, with Uni beating 3-1 favorite Get Stormy by 1¼ lengths. Without Parole was third.


With the victory, Uni might have wrested the distaff turf championship from Sistercharlie, who earlier ran third in the Filly & Mare Turf. It capped an excellent season for Uni, who had three wins in four starts.

Brown continues to climb the all-time Breeders’ Cup trainer standings with 14 wins, one behind second-place Bob Baffert. D. Wayne Lukas is the leader with 20.

Uni paid $9.20 to win as the 7-2 second choice. She ran the distance in 1:32.45.

Mitole closed out his racing career in style, winning the $2 million Sprint.

The 4-year-old colt defeated 3-2 favorite Shancelot by 1¼ lengths, giving Mitole his sixth victory in seven starts this year. He’ll stand at stud next year. Trainer Steve Asmussen earned his seventh career Cup win; it was the first for jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. Mitole paid $5.60 to win at 9-5 odds. The colt ran six furlongs in 1:09.00 coming off a two-month layoff.

Iridessa won the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf, giving Europe its first victory in this year’s Breeders’ Cup. Iridessa and jockey Wayne Lordan continued the string of upsets by edging Vasilika by a neck at 13-1 odds.

It was a record-setting win for trainer Joseph O’Brien, too. He joins Freddie Head as the only person to train and ride a Breeders’ Cup winner. O’Brien guided Nicholas Abbey to victory in the 2011 Turf during his riding days.


At 26, O’Brien also becomes the youngest trainer to win a Cup race. He beat his father, Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien, in the race. The elder O’Brien saddled Just Wonderful to a fifth-place finish after his other entry, Fleeting, was scratched by the veterinarians.

Iridessa paid $28.40 to win. The time was 1:57.77 for the 1¼ miles.

In the $1 million Dirt Mile, Spun to Run won at 9-1 odds, upsetting even-money favorite Omaha Beach. Irad Ortiz Jr. guided Spun to Run down the middle to a 2¾-length victory. The 3-year-old colt paid $20.20 to win.

Omaha Beach was this year’s Kentucky Derby favorite that was forced to scratch days before the race day. In another upset, 14-1 Belvoir Bay won the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

Breaking from the outside post in the 12-horse field, Belvoir Bay led all the way with Javier Castellano aboard to win by 1¼ lengths. She was the only female horse running against males in the race. Trainer Peter Miller enjoyed a 1-2 finish as Om edged Shekky Shebaz by a nose for second.

Covfefe opened the racing Saturday by winning the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint. The 3-year-old filly broke poorly but rallied under Joel Rosario to win by three-quarters of a length.