- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 26, 2003

ARCADIA, Calif. — The Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships was supposed to crown the Horse of the Year. Instead, it was a coronation for trainer Richard Mandella who was given the moniker “King Richard” by grateful grandstand bettors.

Mandella won a record four Breeders’ Cup races yesterday — the $4million Classic, $2million Turf and both 2-year-old races. Mandella’s runners earned a U.S. record $4.56million while Action This Day became the 2004 Kentucky Derby favorite. Mandella matched his four victories at the 1993 Breeders’ Cup, however two of those were minor stakes on the undercard.

“I’m still in shock,” said Mandella, whose Pleasantly Perfect ridden by Alex Solis won the Classic. “I didn’t believe it could happen again.”

It was a shocking Breeders’ Cup as none of the Horse of the Year contenders emerged to force one of the closer balloting in years. Classic runner-up Medaglia d’Oro might have earned the overall title with a win. Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide (ninth) collided with Ten Most Wanted (eighth) on the Classic’s first turn and eliminated both from Horse of the Year contention and possibly 3-year-old colt honors.

The 20th Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park felt like Dante’s Inferno.

Ninety-nine degree temperatures and raging wildfires on both sides of the track left the nearby San Gabriel Mountains barely visible and many of the 51,648 racegoers covered with ash. Several horses, wearing cooling blankets used to treat human burn victims, were carted off the track with heat exhaustion.

The fall championship diverse card that offers everything from sprints to turf races for all ages and sexes was reflected by its widespread winners. Solis was the only two-time victor among jockeys while Mandella was the only multi-win trainer.

The home track bias was clearly evident as five California-based horses won on the hard track. European horses swept the three turf races. East Coast horses were blanked.

Four long shots and two favorites scored and that left one South Dakota simulcast bettor hitting the Pick 6 for $2,687,611. Adoration topped the long shots, paying $83.40 in the opening $2million Distaff that was traditionally dominated by favorites. Cajun Beat soon followed with a $47.60 payoff in the $1million Sprint while Action This Day returned $55.60 in the $1.5million Juvenile.

Pleasantly Perfect needed three years to fulfill Mandella’s expectations. The 5-year-old son of 1981 Derby winner Pleasant Colony didn’t race until last year because of a heart inflammation. He won five of 12 entering the Classic, taking consecutive races only once but never losing two straight.

But Pleasantly Perfect handled a roughly run first turn with savvy. Solis avoided the bumping between Funny Cide, Perfect Drift and Ten Most Wanted. Pleasantly Perfect went inside traffic and rallied from eighth to fifth midway and third entering the stretch.

“At all times he was ready for my command,” Solis said. “At the quarter pole, I got him out in the clear. When I asked him in the stretch, I knew he was going to give me a big kick like he always does. He just blew by those two horses.”

One year after being denied entry in the Classic because of medication rules, Pleasantly Perfect beat favorite Medgalia d’Oro by 1 lengths. The winner covered 1 miles in 1:59 4/5, paying $30.40.

The Turf was the day’s most thrilling race. Jockeys Michael Kinane and Solis refused to dismount in concession outside the winner’s circle during the nine-minute photo finish review. Neither needed to in the first Breeders’ Cup dead heat that left defending Turf champion High Chaparrel and Johar co-winners and Falbrav just a head back for third.

“I’m happy it was a dead heat,” said Johar owner John Magnier. “I don’t think it would be fair to either side to have either horse lose.”

Mandella also became the third trainer to sweep the 2-year-old races with a long shot and favorite. Action This Day, 27-1 long shot, won the $1million Juvenile while Halfbridled took the $1million Juvenile Fillies as the 5-2 choice.

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