Longshot Vale of York stuns at Breeders' Cup
The 2-year-old colt streaked down the straight stride for stride with Lookin At Lucky at Santa Anita, and stamped himself as an early Kentucky Derby favorite.
Only Street Sense has pulled off the Juvenile-Derby double since the Breeders' Cup began in 1984, but that's not going to dissuade Vale of York's connections from showing up on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs.
"Every time he's come for a race he's handled everything really well," said trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "He's a tough horse, and next year we'll bring him for the Kentucky Derby."
Ridden by 27-year-old Ahmed Ajtebi, Vale of York went off at 30-1 odds and paid $63.20 to win. It was the third victory in six tries for Vale of York, and the first Breeders' Cup victory for Ajtebi.
"Today it all went well," Ajtebi said. "When I shifted him out, he just went and he was strong enough at the finish to get it done."
Trainer Bob Baffert was denied a repeat win in the Juvenile with Lookin At Lucky, who ran a game second. Baffert won last year's race with Midshipman, also owned by Godolphin.
"It's just frustrating to know you have much the best horse and to come up short like that," Baffert said. "At least you know that you can look forward to the Derby."
Godolphin, led by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, has never struck Derby gold. The barn sent out two contenders last year - Regal Ransom and Desert Party, who finished eighth and 14th, respectively. Regal Ransom was set to run in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday.
One of Godolphin's most highly touted Derby prospects, Worldly Manner, finished seventh in the 1999 Derby.
But when it comes to winning the Derby, anything is possible. Mine That Bird finished last in the 2008 Juvenile before winning the Derby at huge odds.
Vale of York's connections said the horse will be shipped back to Dubai, Godolphin's home, with an eye toward a couple of stakes races before the Kentucky Derby.
"We need to make it through the next stage first before we can make any firm commitments," said Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager. "But of all the 2-year-olds we have right now, he would be the one we're looking at for Churchill Downs."
Some of the more notable 2-year-old colts that skipped the Juvenile were the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Dublin, who won the $300,000 Hopeful Stakes in September at Saratoga Race Course, and Homeboykris, who won the Champagne Stakes last month at Belmont Park.