01/08/2014 1:00AM

2013 Eclipse Awards: Ria Antonia

photo by: Tom Keyser

If sheer confidence by itself could somehow directly influence the numbers on the odds board, then Ria Antonia would have been a rather short 3-2 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies instead of a big longshot.

From the beginning of their association, Ria Antonia elicited a confidence in co-owner Ron Paolucci that she might not have stirred with many other people. After three performances at the start of her career on Woodbine’s Polytrack for owner/trainer Ricky Griffith that are best described as nondescript – a fifth of eight in the My Dear Stakes in her debut; a maiden victory over only four opponents, albeit males, in her second start; and a fourth of seven, again against males, in the Swynford Stakes – Paolucci, along with Christopher Dunn, purchased Ria Antonia privately for “under $200,000.”

Ria Antonia’s new connections believed so much in her that she made her first start for them in the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes. And after Ria Antonia finished an even fifth of seven in the Frizette, Paolucci was convinced that his filly not only deserved a chance in the biggest event for her division, the Juvenile Fillies, but also could win it with the addition of blinkers.

Of course, confidence does not always translate to the numbers on the tote board, and Ria Antonia went off at 32-1 in the Juvenile Fillies, the second longest shot in the field of 10. But odds aside, the confidence of Paolucci, et al, proved well founded. Ria Antonia sprung the biggest upset of the 2013 Breeders’ Cup, winning a prestigious prize that also proved responsible for her becoming a finalist for the Eclipse Award for champion 2-year-old filly.

Although, not without some controversy. Ria Antonia actually finished second in the Juvenile Fillies, beaten a nose by She’s a Tiger after making a sustained rally from off the pace. But She’s a Tiger drifted out late and brushed Ria Antonia, and in a call that really could have gone either way – it should be noted that the stewards’ decision was a majority one, not a unanimous one – Ria Antonia was placed first via disqualification. This was only the second time in Breeders’ Cup history that a winner’s number had been taken down, making Ria Antonia only the second horse in Breeders’ Cup history to have her number moved up to first.

“Gary Stevens was inside,” Javier Castellano, who rode Ria Antonia in the Breeders’ Cup, said right after the Juvenile Fillies. “He drifted all the way out to the six path, and he touched my horse very light on the shoulder. My horse lost momentum, and I think that cost me the race.”

Ria Antonia, by Rockport Harbor-Beer Baroness, by Mr. Greeley, was bred in Kentucky by Lynn Schiff, and provided trainer Jeremiah Englehart with by far the biggest victory of his career. The 37-year-old Englehart grew up in the game as the son of trainers Chris and Sheila Englehart. Jeremiah Englehart worked on the starting gate crews at Finger Lakes and Saratoga, and in addition to working as assistant trainer to his father, he also served in the same capacity to trainers Mike Hushion and Ken McPeek.

“Being in this business, the Breeders’ Cup is really special,” Englehart said soon after the Juvenile Fillies. “To get a win is just amazing.”