11/02/2012 4:23PM

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint: Hightail gives Lukas 19th BC win

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Tom Keyser
Hightail (right) beats Merit Man by a nose in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The 19th will count as much as the first 18 did – even if it only took a maiden to defeat four other 2-year-olds Friday at Santa Anita in the $500,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint, the opener of the two-day, 15-race sequence.

Hightail, the first maiden to win a BC event, allowed Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas to extend his all-time win record in the Breeders’ Cup to 19. The longest shot in the field of five, Hightail and jockey Rajiv Maragh snuck through a rail opening after turning for home in the six-furlong race, then outdueled the 1-2 favorite, Merit Man, to win by a nose. The winner returned $32.80 when finishing in 1:09.75 over a fast track.

Winning a Breeders’ Cup race “never gets old,” said Lukas, 77, who in recent years has been criticized in some corners for sending out hopeless longshots.

The Juvenile Sprint was being run for just the second time after making its debut as a BC event last year. Although 10 2-year-olds were pre-entered, only seven were entered Monday – and that was before Super Ninety Nine was an early scratch and South Floyd a late scratch, leaving just five to run. Neither colt is seriously injured.

Merit Man, with Pat Valenzuela aboard for trainer Bob Hess Jr., broke swiftest but was reined in down the backstretch, with Ceiling Kitty and Hazaradous applying pressure to his outside. By the quarter pole, as Merit Man put those two away, Maragh kept Hightail closest to the rail and quickly secured position for the stretch run, wearing down Merit Man in the final furlong to narrowly prevail.

[BREEDERS' CUP 2012: Friday results and video replays]

Sweet Shirley Mae, the 7-2 third choice, finished third, another 2 1/4 lengths behind the top pair, and was followed by Hazardous and Ceiling Kitty.

A brief stewards’ inquiry into the stretch run resulted in no change in the order.

Hess held his head high in defeat.

“That’s 19 for Lukas and 0 for me,” he said with a laugh. “That’s OK. We’ll get there. My colt is just a clown, still learning. He ran hard and I’m proud of him.”

The victory for Lukas was his first in the BC since Folklore won the 2005 Juvenile Fillies at Belmont Park. Through the Juvenile Sprint, he had started a record 153 horses in the BC. Shug McGaughey is a distant second in career BC wins with 8.

Hightail, a dark bay colt by Mineshaft, is owned by the Bluegrass Hall of Brad Kelley, a wealthy businessman from south central Kentucky. Kelly’s daughter, Erin, accepted the winner’s trophy in her father’s absence. Purchased for $345,000 at Ocala in March, Hightail was making his ninth career start and had finished sixth in the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in his previous start.

The $2 exacta (1-3) paid $50.60; the $1 trifecta (1-3-7) paid $60.90; and the dime superfecta (1-3-7-6) paid $16.18.