GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas — Bobby Frankel had a simple explanation for Ghostzapper’s record-setting win during Saturday’s $4 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“He’s just faster,” the trainer said after Ghostzapper cruised to victory over a stellar field that included defending champion Pleasantly Perfect, Belmont winner Birdstone and the great mare Azeri.
Frankel, who had two wins with 62 Breeders’ Cup starters before the Classic, saddled the beaten favorite the past three years — Medaglia d’Oro in 2002-03 and Aptitude in 2001.
This time, his favorite didn’t fail at Lone Star Park. Ridden by Javier Castellano, the 4-year-old colt sprung from the gate and was in control all the way around the track, winning by three lengths over Roses in May.
Ghostzapper, a sprinter when he began his career, covered the 1 1/4 miles in 1 minute, 59.02 seconds, bettering the Classic record of 1:59.16 set by Skip Away in 1997 at Hollywood Park.
Azeri was a non-threatening fifth in a 13-horse field considered the deepest in the 21-year history of the Breeders’ Cup. Pleasantly Perfect placed third, Birdstone seventh and Funny Cide 10th.
With a 4-for-4 season, Frankel said Ghostzapper is a cinch for Horse of the Year.
“It’s a no brainer,” Frankel said. “Handicap horse of the year, Horse of the Year.”
Ghostzapper was moved to longer distances this year, a decision that paid off. The lightly raced son of Awesome Again won the Iselin Handicap and the Woodward Stakes, both at 1 1/8 miles, and the trainer was confident his colt could go even farther.
The buildup to the race took on more intrigue when Azeri was entered by trainer D. Wayne Lukas. A few days before the race, Frankel dismissed Azeri, saying the only way she could win was if the gate didn’t open for the other 12 horses.
The winner paid $7, $4 and $3.60. Roses in May, ridden by John Velazquez, paid $8.20 and $5.20, and Pleasantly Perfect returned $3 to show.
Ghostzapper earned $2,080,000 and boosted his earnings to $2,996,120.
In the other Breeders’ Cup races, trainer Todd Pletcher ended a 0-for-12 run with two winners, Ashado in the $2 million Distaff, and Speightstown in the $1 million Sprint; and there were three major upsets: 17-1 long shot Singletary won the $1.54 million Mile; 28-1 shot Wilko took the $1.37 million Juvenile; and 28-1 choice Better Talk Now won the $1.83 million Turf after surviving a foul claim.
Also, Sweet Catomine captured the $1 million Juveniles Fillies, and Ouija Board took the $1.29 million Filly & Mare Turf.
Ashado, the 2-1 favorite in the Distaff, gave Pletcher his first Breeders’ Cup victory and likely earned the Eclipse Award as 3-year-old female champion. Ashado won for the fifth time in eight starts this year.
Sweet Catomine clinched the 2-year-old female championship by overcoming traffic problems on the turn for home and posting a 3 3/4 -length win over Balletto in the Juvenile Fillies.
Singletary, named for ex-Chicago Bears linebacker Mike Singletary, bulled his way into the lead and held off Antonius Pius by a half-length for an upset at odds of 17-1 in the Mile.
Pletcher won his second race of the day with Speightstown ($9.40), who took control in the stretch and beat Kela by 1 1/4 lengths in the Sprint, a 6-furlong dash.
Ouija Board skipped the tougher Turf in favor of racing against her own sex and the move paid off with a 1 1/2 -length victory over Film Maker in the Filly & Mare Turf.
European invader Wilko stole the show in the Juvenile. The colt upset Bob Baffert’s 2-1 favorite Roman Ruler, Nick Zito’s Sun King and Lukas’ Consolidator in the race that usually determines the early Kentucky Derby favorite.
Long shot Better Talk Now ($57.80) surviving a foul claim for a 1 3/4 -length win over odds-on favorite Kitten’s Joy in the Turf.