11/06/2010 10:10AM

A chaotic Breeders' Cup Friday sets stage for a big Day 2

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Justin N. Lane
Unrivaled Belle's Ladies' Classic win was partially overshadowed by the other events of the day.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Churchill Downs was still abuzz on Saturday morning over the first nighttime card in Breeders’ Cup history on Friday, which began with a fight between jockeys Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano following the Marathon, had a brief comical interlude when horses were improperly loaded in the gate before the Juvenile Fillies Turf, and ended in controversy, when Life At Ten never put forth any effort in the Ladies’ Classic, just minutes after jockey John Velazquez told ESPN2 she was not warming up to his satisfaction.

There apparently was a disconnect between what Velazquez told Jerry Bailey on the nationally televised show, and what he told, or did not tell, track veterinarians. Velazquez apparently never brought his concerns to the on-track veterinarians, and none of them noticed anything amiss. So, Life At Ten, the second choice at 7-2, was loaded in the gate, but was disinterested as soon as the gate opened. Normally on or near the lead, she quickly dropped well back, obviously out of sorts. She finished last in the field of 11, nearly a furlong behind the rest of the field, including the victorious Unrivaled Belle.

“Life At Ten, along with all of the other horses that started in the Ladies’ Classic, was observed on the track prior to entering the starting gate by three veterinarians,” Dr. Larry Bramlage, the on-call veterinarian for the American Association of Equine Practitioners, said in a statement Friday night. “The vet team did not observe any physical problems. She was examined again after the race and again no physical problems were observed.”

In the winner’s circle immediately following the race, Bramlage said, “None of the vets saw anything wrong with her. Velazquez didn’t say anything to the vets before the race.”

Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Life At Ten, said Saturday morning that Life At Ten had an electrolyte imbalance which caused her to tie up, or cramp.
Pletcher said that blood work taken on Life At Ten confirmed that her muscle enzymes were elevated.

“The best we can deduce it probably was an electrolyte imbalance as a result of an adverse reaction to Lasix which has never been an issue with her,” Pletcher said.

Pletcher said that he had noticed before the race that Life At Ten was “abnormally quiet,” and he warned Velazquez about it. In hindsight, Pletcher said following the race, Life At Ten “should not have run.”

Kentucky state steward John Veitch said the stewards are looking into the Life At Ten incident.

"We will contact jockey John Velazquez and trainer Todd Pletcher to get as much information as we possibly can about the performance of that filly in the race," Veitch said.

Life At Ten ran once under the lights, in her fourth lifetime start, on Nov. 21, 2008, at Hollywood Park, and finished third of five in a first-level allowance race.

Pletcher said that Life At Ten was to have been withdrawn from Sunday’s Fasig-Tipton November Breeding Stock sale at the Newtown Paddocks.

“We’ll give it a few days to dissect it all to see whether she’s fine to put back in training if they decide to do that, or if not it’s possible she could show up at a later sale,” Pletcher said.

Borel and Castellano met with the track stewards Saturday morning. No ruling had been released as of Saturday afternoon. They fought near the scales after the Marathon, on national television and in full view of the public, and again in the jockeys’ room minutes later.

In the Marathon, Castellano’s mount, Prince Will I Am, was disqualified for an incident at the three-furlong pole in which he came out, severely interfering with Romp, whose jockey, Martin Garcia, came out of the saddle and was lucky to land back on the saddle. Romp, in turn, interfered with Borel’s mount, A.U. Miner.

Prince Will I Am initially finished second, A.U. Miner fourth, and Romp 10th in the field of 12. Prince Will I Am was placed 10th by the stewards.

Borel was uncontrollable when the fight first broke out. He repeatedly shouted, “I’m going to kill you,” towards Castellano, and it took a number of people, including his brother, trainer Cecil Borel, to manhandle him and haul him away, still clearly agitated, his eyes wild with fire.

Later, when Borel came out for a subsequent mount, he was surrounded by a phalanx of eight security guards, from Churchill Downs, the local sheriffs department, and the Louisville police department.

One race after the Marathon, the horses were improperly loaded in the gate for the Juvenile Fillies Turf. The starting gate crew put the first horse in the second stall, apparently believing there were 13 runners in the race, not a full field of 14; the inside stall is often left open under such circumstances.

Only when two stalls were left, and three horses were still behind the gate, did they notice the math was off. All the horses were backed out of the gate, then loaded properly before the race.

All those incidents somewhat overshadowed a thrilling finish to the $2 million Ladies Classic, in which Unrivaled Belle ($17) held off Kentucky Oaks winner Blind Luck to win by 1 3/4 lengths, with Havre de Grace another length back in third.

Unrivaled Belle was timed in 1:50.04 for 1 1/8 miles. She sat fifth during the early going, then surged to the lead three furlongs from the wire.

Kent Desormeaux rode the winner for Bill Mott, who trains Unrivaled Belle for owners Gary Seidler and Peter Vegso.

Unrivaled Belle was winning for the sixth time in 12 starts. Her biggest previous win came here in the La Troienne Stakes on April 30, when she beat the reigning Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra. She had finished second in four previous Grade 1 races, including her last three starts. The Ladies’ Classic marked her first Grade 1 victory.

“We were disappointed it took awhile to get to the Grade 1 winner’s circle, but she did it at the right time,” Mott said. “The key was that she relaxed a little better today. When she put it in gear, she left them for dead at the eighth pole. It was over.

“She obviously showed an affinity for the Churchill Downs racing surface. That’s a large part of it.

Both attendance and wagering were up markedly from last year’s Friday Breeders’ Cup card.

A crowd of 41,614 was on hand at Churchill Friday, an increase of 10.5 percent over the 37,651 who attended the 2009 program at Santa Anita. Handle for the day’s 10 races was $53,010,624 a 9.4 percent increase over the $48,439,459 wagered last year.

- additional reporting by David Grening and Mike Welsch