November 2011--When Goldikova muscled out for room in the stretch and strode to the lead in Saturday's $1,818,000 Breeders' Cup Mile, an unprecedented fourth straight title appeared to be within her grasp. But the dream was soon shattered. Court Vision, unplaced in the past two runnings of the Mile for former connections, made it third time lucky to cause the biggest upset in the race's 28-year history. Ignored as the 64-1 longest shot on the board in his second time out for Dale Romans, the Spendthrift Farm color-bearer rallied from near the tail of the field to pass Goldikova, then just lasted by a nostril from the frantic late charge of Turallure.
Court Vision furnished record Mile payouts of $131.60, $48.60 and $21.40. He surpassed the old Mile mark set by 35-1 shot Last Tycoon, who paid $73.80 to win in 1986. Court Vision's mutuels were the second biggest in the history of the entire Breeders' Cup, behind only the 133-1 Arcangues in the 1993 Classic.
The objection sign flashed shortly after the race, fingering Goldikova. The transatlantic champion hadn't been too punctilious when angling out down the lane, and a chain reaction of bumping and colliding ensued. The stewards reviewed the film, but decided to let the order of finish stand. Goldikova's sparkling career thus ended with a third in the race that she had owned.
Ironically, Court Vision is a full brother to Kipling, the sire of Kip Deville, the last American-based winner of the Mile in 2007. Kip Deville was second to Goldikova in her first Mile win in 2008. Court Vision picked up the mantle the next two years, finishing fourth in 2009 and fifth in 2010 when trained by Rick Dutrow for IEAH Stable and partners. A four-time Grade 1 winner in his heyday, he lost his way in the interim, was sold privately to Spendthrift over the summer and transferred to Romans.
Court Vision made his debut for new connections in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile on September 18, closing for seventh as the defending champion. Few expected him to exceed his past glories on Saturday, which was scheduled to be his career finale before beginning a stud career in Canada. But he actually crashed the retirement party for Goldikova.
With his usual rider Robby Albarado in the saddle, Court Vision was anchored near the rear for much of the way. Just behind him was an unhurried Turallure, the winner of the Woodbine Mile. For a time, the top two finishers were last and second to last.
The speedy Get Stormy hustled to the front and reeled off fractions of :24 and :48 under pressure from Jeranimo. Goldikova broke alertly from the hedge draw and sat a perfect trip just in the leader's slipstream. Sidney's Candy chased on the outside, and Courageous Cat was prominent between horses.
Swinging for home, after six furlongs in 1:12 2/5, Sidney's Candy grabbed a slim lead from Jeranimo. Goldikova was full of run, only needing room. Jockey Olivier Peslier made his own room by barging out from the pocket. Among those battered in the melee was Courageous Cat, who dropped back to last. His rider Patrick Valenzuela lodged the claim of foul against Peslier, to no avail.
For a few glimmering strides, Goldikova wrested control from Sidney's Candy, but did not clear away with authority as she had in the past. That left the door ajar for a closer. Court Vision suddenly charged into the frame on the outside. To the shock of the crowd, he stormed past Goldikova.
Even wider out came Turallure, flying fastest of all. He drew alongside Court Vision, but couldn't get his head down at the wire. Court Vision prevailed on the bob in a final time of 1:37.
"I was far back early," Albarado said, "but I knew they were going quick and I figured that gave me a chance. Dale told me to be sure to keep him running at the end. I worked him the other day on the grass and I just loved what he did. It just felt great for me (winning at my home track) but it's great for Dale too -- him being a homeboy."
"I've been saying all week how good this horse was doing," Romans said. "When I saw how easy he was running down the backside, I thought if they just back up a little we've got a hell of a shot. It's just been an incredible year. All my best horses have been running well."
Turallure's connections sustained a heartbreaking near-miss.
"What a race -- doggone it, I thought we had it," Turallure's trainer Charles Lopresti said.
"Tough -- I thought I won," jockey Julien Leparoux said. "It was a good trip. From the 13 post I knew just to take back and make one run. He likes to run like that anyway. I did have to just ease back and that's what I did. After the race, I thought for sure that I won. It's disappointing. He couldn't do much more."
Turallure checked in a length ahead of Goldikova, whose connections were gracious in defeat.
"I'm very proud of her," trainer Freddie Head said. "Today, she just got beat by a better horse.
"I knew it was going to be hard. I knew for the Breeders' Cup, it's not something like that. I mean, it's very difficult to do. For myself I'm very proud of her. Maybe the blues will come a little later."
"She ran well," Peslier said. "She always runs well. I'm fine with her race. No regrets. When we came on the turn (for home) there was no place to go. But she got through with good acceleration. I heard the other rider (Valenzuela on Courageous Cat) yell, but I was already past. She's been a wonderful mare to ride. I am very lucky. Right now (knowing it is her last race) I am full of emotion. I hope she does well and that someday I will ride her baby."
Three-time Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti reported home fourth in what now appears likely to be his swan song as well. He was trailed by Mr. Commons, Sidney's Candy, Jeranimo, Byword, Zoffany, Strong Suit, Compliance Officer, Get Stormy and Courageous Cat.
"I thought (Gio Ponti) ran a very good race," trainer Christophe Clement said, "but he finished up a touch flat. It will be up to (owner) Shane Ryan (of Castleton Lyons) to decide where he goes next, but I think he's done enough to retire. He's been a wonderful horse for me for many years."
Court Vision's last hurrah increased his earnings to $3,746,658 from his 31-9-4-4 mark. A onetime Kentucky Derby hopeful trained by Bill Mott, he captured the Grade 2 Remsen and Grade 3 Iroquois as a juvenile. He stayed on the classic trail after thirds in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Grade 1 Wood Memorial, but trudged in 13th in the Run for the Roses. Court Vision prospered when switched to the turf, just missing to Gio Ponti in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby and upending that rival in both the Grade 1 Jamaica and the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.
Victorious in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile in his first start for Dutrow in 2009, he added the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf and the Woodbine Mile to his resume in 2010. He has also placed in the 2009 Gulfstream Park Turf, the 2010 Grade 1 Maker's Mark Mile, and the 2009-10 editions of the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.
Bred by W.S. Farish and Kilroy Thoroughbred Partnership in Kentucky, the son of Gulch brought $180,000 as a Keeneland September yearling and $350,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Florida juvenile. The royally-bred six-year-old is a full brother to the aforementioned Kipling and to multiple Hong Kong stakes winner Garcia Marquez. He is also a half-brother to Canadian Grade 3 victress Smart Surprise, Grade 1-placed stakes scorer Lord Snowdon, multiple Canadian Grade 2-placed Hailstone, and the stakes-placed pair of City Weekend and Weekend Strike.
Court Vision is out of Weekend Storm, an unraced full sister to Grade 1 Preakness hero and sire Summer Squall. She is a half-sister to Hall of Famer and influential sire A.P. Indy. Court Vision's second dam is Broodmare of the Year Weekend Surprise.
"We've already made plans for him to go to Canada, and that's what he'll do," Spendthrift Manager Ned Toffey said. "He'll come to the farm. We'll let the breeders take a look at him during the November Sale, and then he'll ship up to Canada and Park Stud."