Henry Cecil has further Breeders’ Cup success in his sights after Midday ended years of hurt with an emotional victory in the Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita.
It would usually be hard to find anything to outshine the bright California sun, but Cecil managed to eclipse that as the multiple champion trainer finally scored in the American championships.
Cecil will go to war with Twice Over in this evening’s Classic with renewed vigour after Oaks runner-up Midday provided him with a Breeders’ Cup win at the seventh attempt.
Breeders’ Cup virgin Tom Queally drove the Prince Khalid Abdullah-owned filly along the rail in the backstretch to take close order and she kicked away to easily score as the 15-8 favourite.
Cecil said: “I have always dreaded the Breeders’ Cup slightly as I haven’t had great success over the years, but to win one lives up to my expectation and thrill.
“When you do win one you start to think you can win again.
“It is lovely to win for Prince Khalid as he is a friend and supporter of mine. He stuck with me through the bad times and it is great to repay him.
“I feel things are on the up. They have been for the last couple of years and I hope they can continue.”
Queally said: “This crowns my year. Even if she had run well it would have topped a great season but this is the icing on the cake.”
Abdullah’s racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe added: “I need to talk to Henry and the Prince but the plan will be to take her back to Europe and campaign her there next year.
“I hope we will then be able to come back and defend her crown in Churchill Downs.”
Aidan O’Brien’s losing run of 28 at the Breeders’ Cup stretching back to 2003 came to an end in the very first race of the day as Man Of Iron was called the winner by a nose in a desperately tight finish to the Marathon.
The 13-2 chance hit the wire in unison with Cloudy’s Knight and it took officials a long time to announce Johnny Murtagh’s mount as the successful hero.
O’Brien said: “It was great and it is super to be back winning at the Breeders’ Cup.
“I was delighted with the horse, it was his first time over the distance and the surface and Johnny gave him a great ride.
“The horse has been progressing with every race and every month that has gone by.”
Man Of Iron will continue his racing career in Dubai, and his win saw Lillie Langtry’s price go into free fall for the following Juvenile Fillies’ Turf.
But any hopes O’Brien harboured of a quick double were extinguished as the field left the backstretch.
Murtagh was pumping away on the short-priced market leader at this point and she failed to pick up the pace-setters, although she was reported lame after the race.
At the main end, the front-running Rose Catherine was just picked off by the Dale Romans-trained 12-1 chance Tapitsfly who scored by a half-length.
Romans said: “Nobody deserves a big winner more than her owner Frank Jones. He’s been in the game for 30 to 40 years and was my Dad’s primary client.
“When my Dad passed away I took over his horses – it’s an emotional winner.”
Life Is Sweet emulated stablemate Zenyatta with a thumping success for Hollywood Park handler John Shirreffs in the 2million Ladies’ Classic.
Zenyatta squares up to the boys in the Classic itself on Saturday evening but Life Is Sweet (9-1) proved a more-than-able deputy under Garrett Gomez in the female division and the four-year-old had streaked two and a half lengths clear on hitting the line.
Shirreffs said: “We were just hoping she ran like she did in the winter.
“Zenyatta is Zenyatta, but Life Is Sweet is a really great filly.
“She ran so great early in the year and she really deserves this.”
Owner Marty Wygood added: “It’s just a great feeling and John has done a great job with her.
“Her sister, Sweet Catomine, won at the Breeders’ Cup and for her to do the same, you just can’t put it into words.”
Wayne Catalano scooped the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ at Churchill Downs with Dreaming Of Anna three years ago and he doubled his Breeders’ Cup win total as She Be Wild (8-1) repeated the trick.
Catalano said: “Both she and Dreaming Of Anna are great fillies and have won me Breeders’ Cups. We might now look at the Kentucky Oaks.”
Informed Decision (3-1) denied even money favourite Ventura a repeat win in the Filly & Mare Sprint to complete a double for She Be Wild’s Jockey Julien Leparoux.