11/01/2013 5:20PM

Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile: Goldencents guns to the lead on way to victory

Tom Keyser
Goldencents scores a front-running, 2 3/4-length win in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Goldencents ran his 10 opponents off their feet, taking command in the first turn before gradually widening in a thoroughly dominating performance Friday in the seventh running of the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita.

Over a glib main track that favored speed throughout the afternoon, Goldencents put away Broadway Empire approaching the quarter pole and had plenty of cushion in prevailing by 2 3/4 lengths over a late-running Golden Ticket. It was another 3 1/2 lengths back to Brujo de Olleros in third, while Verrazano, the 5-2 favorite, was another 1 1/2 lengths back in fourth.

Goldencents, a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred trained by Doug O’Neill, is owned by W.C. Racing, Dave Kenney, and RAP Racing. He returned $9.60 as the second choice after finishing in 1:35.12 over a fast track.

The victory prompted a wild celebration down the steps leading to the Santa Anita winner’s circle among the many partners who own Goldencents. Rick Pitino, the Hall of Fame basketball coach whose University of Louisville squad won the NCAA championship in the spring, is one of the partners but was not in attendance.

“The Breeders’ Cup is the World Series of horse racing,” said a jubilant Glen Sorgenstein, who spoke to NBC Sports on behalf of the owners. “We just won the World Series. Rick, if you’re watching, we won it, brother.”

[BREEDERS' CUP FRIDAY: Video replays and race results]

Goldencents broke from the outside post in a field of 11 and was immediately contesting the lead from just outside of Broadway Empire (post 5), while Verrazano (post 9) was squeezed back a bit behind them. Going into the first turn, Goldencents put his head in front and never trailed thereafter.

“That’s why it was one of my options to send him right away from the gate,” said jockey Rafael Bejarano, adding that he wanted to “take advantage a little bit of the track” favoring front-runners. “But everything was great. I had a good trip, and I had a little pressure in the first turn, but it wasn’t that bad.”

Golden Ticket, ridden by Joel Rosario, was clearly second-best when rallying from 10th to gain second.

The win was the fourth in a Breeders’ Cup event for both Bejarano and O’Neill. Goldencents was the second 3-year-old to win the race, following Caleb’s Posse in 2011 at Churchill Downs.

Goldencents, a bay colt by Into Mischief, won for the fifth time in 12 career starts. Based in Southern California, he won the Grade 3 Sham Stakes in January at Santa Anita and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in April to stamp himself as one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby at nearly 8-1.

But he ran 17th in Derby, then was fifth two weeks later in the Preakness. Rested briefly and regrouped by O’Neill, the colt then ran in three straight major sprint races in California – the Bing Crosby, Pat O’Brien, and Santa Anita Sprint Championship – before stretching back out to two turns in the BC Dirt Mile.

“This is what we’d had in mind this summer, to sharpen him up toward this,” O’Neill said.

A field of 13 was entered in the Dirt Mile, but Taptowne was scratched earlier in the day by the state veterinarian, and an also-eligible who could have made the field, Easter Gift, did not make the trip from New York.

After Verrazano, the complete order of finish was Hymn Book, Fed Biz, Pants On Fire, Alpha, Broadway Empire, Holy Lute, and Centralinteligence.

$2 exacta (12-2), $69.80
$1 trifecta (12-2-4), $222.20
$.10 super (12-2-4-10), $83.36
$2 double (4-12), $58.40
$1 pick-3 (7-4-12), $304.60