10/31/2014 6:29PM

Hootenanny gives Ward first BC win

Nikki Sherman
Hootenanny and jockey Frankie Dettori win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf by three-quarters of a length Friday.

ARCADIA, Calif. – If Wesley Ward can regularly train winners at Royal Ascot, it was only a matter of time before he trained a Breeders’ Cup winner. After a second, five thirds, and three fourths in Breeders’ Cup races, Ward’s wait ended Friday, when Hootenanny swept past another Ward-trained 2-year-old, Luck of the Kitten, to win the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Hootenanny was a winner for Ward at Royal Ascot this year, beating 23 rivals in the Windsor Castle Stakes. At least as impressive was a close second-place finish in the Group 1 Prix Morny over soft ground on Aug. 24 at Deauville in France. Hootenanny hadn’t raced since, and he was making his first start beyond six furlongs in the one-mile Juvenile Turf. Many questioned Hootenanny’s suitability to this longer two-turn trip, and his backers were rewarded with a generous $14 win payoff.

Riding the first Breeders’ Cup winner for Ward, a champion apprentice jockey, was Frankie Dettori, who won his 10th Breeders’ Cup race. Hootenanny is a fast horse, but Dettori took a hold of his mount in the run to the first turn, and when Hootenanny came back to him, Dettori’s confidence soared.

“Once I got him to relax the first half of the race, I knew,” said Dettori.

Luck of the Kitten went a fast opening quarter-mile, 22.71 seconds, but jockey Mike Smith slowed the pace down the backstretch, his second quarter in 24.20 for a 46.91 half-mile split.

“I tried to pick a spot on the turn to go, to open up, and not give the closers a chance to catch me,” Smith said.

The strategy almost worked, in part because Hootenanny wasn’t making up ground around the bend. Dettori said Hootenanny didn’t turn well, and at the five-sixteenths pole, it was hard to say whether the colt was going forward or backward. But once Hootenanny hit the homestretch, with Dettori getting seriously busy with his crop, Hootenanny closed authoritatively, seizing command at eighth pole and going on to a three-quarter-length victory.

The top two were much better than the other 12, with Luck of the Kitten 1 1/2 lengths clear of a blanket show photo, won narrowly by Daddy D T. Behind him came Conquest Typhoon, Faithful Creek, Lawn Ranger, Commemorative, Danny Boy, International Star, Imperia, Startup Nation, 7-2 favorite War Envoy, Offering Plan, and Wet Sail. Hootenanny was timed in 1:34.79 over firm turf. Aktabantay was an early scratch.

Hootenanny is by Quality Road and out of the Hennessy mare More Hennessy. He was bred in Kentucky by Barrontown and was privately purchased this year by Coolmore. He won for the third time in five starts, and the $550,000 winner’s share of Friday’s purse increased his earnings to $751,985.