Sections

Tiznow edges Sakhee in Breeders’ Cup Classic

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There was an unmistakable European flare to the 2001 Breeders’ Cup at Belmont Park Saturday, as European-based horses had a three-race winning streak heading into the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, the finale of eight Grade I championship races.

Sakhee was determined to extend that streak to four races, as the Arc de Triomphe winner made a powerful move down the stretch of the 1-1/4 mile race to take the lead. But American-bred Tiznow showed why it is the defending Horse of the Year, beating out Sakhee by a nose in a thrilling photo finish in front of a roaring throng of 52,987 to become the first horse ever to capture back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Classics.

“His name ought to be Tiz-awesome. He’s an incredible horse. He gives us shivers and concerns, but he’s always there at the end,” said Tiznow jockey Chris McCarron, who rode the Jay Robbins-trained horse to victory past Giant’s Causeway in last year’s Classic at Churchill Downs. “To be honest, at the eighth pole I thought I was riding for second. Sakhee seemed to have all the momentum.”

The 18th running of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the first at Belmont since 1995, was the first major international sporting event since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and security around the grounds was understandably tight. Bomb-sniffing dogs searched Belmont early in the morning and twice as many Nassau and Suffolk police — about 500 total — were on duty.

Tiznow, who may now wrestle 2001 Horse of the Year honors away from Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Point Given, finished in 2:00.62 and paid $15.80 to win. Sakhee took second, while Belmont-based Albert the Great finished third. The 10-6 exacta paid $140.50 while the 10-6-9 trifecta paid $1,341. Aptitute, who went off at a 2-1 favorite, finished a disappointing eighth.

“He tried hard. He just wasn’t adapted to the surface,” said Sakhee jockey Frankie Dettori. “He just wasn’t getting the propulsion he would have if he had been on the turf. I was in the right position with him, but it just wasn't to be.”

While the stretch drive of the Classic provided a fantastic finish to the 2001 Breeders’ Cup, the afternoon got off to an ominous start when Exogenous, a three-year-old filly who was second in the betting for the $2 million Distaff — the first of the Breeders’ Cup races — reared and flipped over backward as she walked onto the racetrack.

After striking her head violently on the ground and having her hind leg wedged inside the bars of a fence, Exogenous was able to be sedated and loaded into an ambulance. While the extent of her injuries is uncertain, they do not appear to be life threatening.

“She flipped and I tried to take a hold of her,” said Exogenous jockey Javier Castellano. “I don’t know what happened. I tried to take a hold of her and get her out. This is the worst nightmare.”

Long shot Unbridled Elaine won the 1 1/8-mile race in 1:49.21 and paid $26.60 to win. Spain placed second, while Two Item Limit was third. Even-money favorite Flute, trained by Bobby Frankel from Brooklyn, finished seventh.

Another Frankel-trained horse, local favorite You, was expected to capture the 1 1/16-mile $1 million Juvenile Fillies, but it was the Godolphin Racing stable tandem of Tempera and Imperial Gesture pulling off the unlikely exacta, which paid off $768, as Frankel’s winless Breeders’ Cup streak stretched to 38 races.

Val Royal set a stakes record by winning the $1 million Mile in 1:32, following in the footsteps of his sire, Royal Academy, who also won the Mile. Val Royal paid $12.20 to win, while Forbidden Apple was second and Bach finished third.

Frankel finally got to the winner’s circle in the day’s sixth Breeders’ Cup race, as Squirtle Squirt surged past Xtra Heat to win the $1 million Sprint in 1:08.41. Caller One took third.

“This was my fourth choice to win a Breeders’ Cup race,” Frankel said. “I thought I’d win one with You and Aptitude and he was my fourth horse. You never can figure it out. I thought the inside was going to bury him. I thought the speed was going to bury him, but it just worked out.”

Banks Hill was the first of three straight European horses to win when the Bay Filly from Great Britain took the $1 million Filly and Mare Turf in 2:00.36. Spooks Express and Spring Oak finished second and third, respectively.

Johnannesburg upset previously undefeated and highly touted Officer to capture the $1 million Juvenile in 1:42.27, making him the early favorite for next year’s Kentucky Derby. After winning all six European starts, Johannesburg used a late rally to win by a length and quarter over Repent. Siphonic took third while Bob Baffert-trained Officer finished a disappointing distant fifth.

Another in the Godolphin stable, Fantastic Light, won the $2 million 1--mile Turf in 2:24.36. Milan made a late charge, but finished second, while Timboroa placed third.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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