11/04/2011 6:08PM

Breeders' Cup: Perfect Shirl springs upset in Filly & Mare Turf

Barbara D. Livingston
Perfect Shirl (second from left), with John Velazquez up, wins the BC Filly and Mare Turf.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It's true. The Americans weren't up to the task in a Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf with an international flavor. But neither were the Europeans. Perfect Shirl, in from Canada, scored the second straight Filly and Mare Turf shocker, upsetting the $2 million race at 27-1.

Perfect Shirl made first-time Breeders' Cup winners out of owner-breeder Charles Fipke and trainer Roger Attfield, the trainer a 71-year-old legend in Canadian Thoroughbred circles. Attfield had been 0-14 with his previous BC starters, while Fipke was 0-2, including a 2003 loss in the Mile with Perfect Soul, the sire of Perfect Shirl.

Ridden to victory by John Velazquez, Perfect Shirl stormed down the center of the turf course and nailed Nahrain in the final half-furlong, winning by three-quarters of a length. Misty For Me, compromised when she stumbled after the start, rallied strongly even farther outside to miss second by a nose. Perfect Shirl, out of the excellent mare Lady Shirl, paid $57.60 to win. Last year, Shared Account paid $94.

Behind Misty For Me came Distorted Legacy, Aruna, Dubawi Heights, Shared Account, Cambina, Harmonious, Stacelita, and Dynaslew, who was vanned off the track after the race in mild distress. Winning time for 1 3/8 miles on good turf was 2:18.62.

Four-year-old Perfect Shirl had gone winless in six 2011 races and had won only three times in 14 starts, her most important victory having come last year in the Grade 2 Lake George at Saratoga. But Perfect Shirl rallied for a good second – Attfield thought she might have won with a better trip – in the Canadian Stakes on Sept. 18 at Woodbine, giving Attfield the confidence to come to Louisville. The wet course worried Attfield, but he said when Perfect Shirl passed the stands the first time he could tell she was handling the going.

"As soon as I saw her come down the straight the first time, I thought, 'Oh my God, we've got a chance,' " Attfield said.

Dynaslew tried to clear from post 11 and take the early lead, but rail-drawn Dubawi Heights held her position and the pair set splits of 25.44 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and a tepid 51.07 to the half. Just in behind the leaders were favored Stacelita along the rail and Nahrain, who took heavy late betting action as the 5-2 second choice, a couple of paths wide. Positional jockeying began at the three-eighths pole, with Ramon Dominguez looking for room on Stacelita inside, and not finding it until the three-sixteenths pole. By then, Stacelita had emptied out.

"She went from being very handy, pulling, to having nothing," Dominguez told trainer Chad Brown.

Nahrain ran on, however, seizing the lead at the top of the stretch while looking like a winner. But Velazquez, still fifth at the stretch call, wheeled out Perfect Shirl, who accelerated rapidly and scored a knockout blow.

Nahrain had no excuse, jockey Frankie Dettori said, but Misty For Me was done in at the start. Jockey Ryan Moore said his mount "knuckled under" just after breaking, and also had trouble handling the second turn. Once straightened out, Misty For Me came flying – too late to catch the Canadian.

The French filly Announce, who was 6-1 at the time, was scratched by stewards on the advice of the track veterinarian with a couple minutes to post. Announce had acted up on the backstretch during the warm-up period and scraped her right hock on the rail. The scratch was precautionary, and jockey Maxime Guyon was upset when returning to the jockey's room after the race. Guyon told Alistair Donald of the International Racing Bureau that he didn't think there was anything wrong with the horse, and didn't understand why she had been scratched.