ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) Trainer Wesley Ward had one of the biggest days of his career Friday at the Breeders’ Cup and wasn’t there to enjoy it.
Ward had a more pressing sporting event on the calendar: his son’s cross-country race in Florida.
Ward watched the Breeders’ Cup from the barn area at Gulfstream Park. He finished 1-2 in the $1 million Juvenile Turf with Hootenanny beating Luck of the Kitten by three-quarters of a length.
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It was his first win in the season-ending world championships.
Two races later, Ward’s Sunset Glow finished second to Lady Eli in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf, completing a lucrative haul for a trainer thousands of miles away.
He was represented at Santa Anita by his father, Dennis Ward.
The only blemish on the day was his son’s track meet.
”He may not have run as well as Hootenanny, but it meant a lot to be there,” Ward said.
Michael Tabor, co-owner of Hootenanny, appreciated the work Ward has done with the talented 2-year-old. In span of only five career starts, Ward has raced the colt in California, Kentucky, Maryland, England and France.
”He obviously knows how to train,” Tabor said. ”To do what this horse has done is a fantastic performance.”
COMEBACK: Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens returned from a total knee replacement a little over three months ago to ride Sivoliere in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
He finished fifth in his comeback and felt his mount might have needed more distance than the one mile.
”I think she might actually want to go farther,” Stevens said. ”She’s so kind, she’ll do what you want.”
The Hall of Fame rider finally got to do what he wanted: return with a pain-free right knee.
The 51-year-old last rode on July 25, ending his first comeback. He came back last season and had success winning the Preakness win aboard Oxbow, and a pair of Breeders’ Cup triumphs: Mucho Macho Man in the Classic and Beholder in the Distaff.
The knee initially forced Stevens into retirement in 2005.
PINCH HIT TRAINER: Leandro Mora might be an unfamiliar name to most racing fans but he put his name in the record book as a winning Breeders’ Cup trainer when Goldencents took the $1 million Dirt Mile for a second straight year.
Doug O’Neill was the trainer last season. O’Neill was banned from this year’s Breeders’ Cup while serving a suspension for equine medication violations.
So O’Neill turned the stable over to Mora, an assistant in his barn since 2002.
It’s been a long climb for Mora who started as a stablehand for Gary Jones at Del Mar in 1977.
This was the final race for Goldencents who heads off to stud duty.
”Goldencents is going to be missed,” Mora said. ”He’s been a nice horse to be around.”
MIXED RESULTS: The crowd was bigger but the handle dropped for the first day last year at the Breeders’ Cup, also held at Santa Anita.
The attendance was 37,205, up almost 4 percent.
The total handle on the 10-race card that included four Cup races fell 11 percent to $45.8 million. Part of the drop can be attributed to the fact there were 11 races and five Breeders’ Cup championships on last year’s Day 1 card.