By Dick Downey
Paying $32.80 as the highest-odds entry in the five-horse race, Hightail won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint. Merit Man, favored at 3-5, finished second, and Sweet Shirley Mae, a filly, was third.
The winner is trained by D. Wayne Lukas for his nineteenth Breeders' Cup win. Rajiv Maragh rode Hightail, who came up the rail to overtake Merit Man.
Hightail, a maiden after eight lifetime starts going into the race, is owned by Brad Kelly's Bluegrass Hall and was bred in Kentucky by Green Hills Farm. He's by Mineshaft, out of the Storm Cat mare Stormy Renee.
The winning time was 1:09.75. Kelly will receive $270,000 of the $500,000 purse.
Rajiv Maragh (jockey, Hightail, 1st) – “I had a great trip, saved ground and just waited behind horses. He showed a lot of courage coming through the narrow opening between the rail and the other horse (Merit Man). I was not worried about the foul claim because the 3 (Merit Man) initiated the contact.”
D. Wayne Lukas (trainer, Hightail, 1st) – “I just thought that we had a great shot. These races are historically very fast up front. We’re a good closer and I thought we had a shot.
“It hasn’t been that long (since my last Breeders’ Cup win – 2005 Juvenile Fillies with Foklore). They don’t come that easy. “
Bob Hess Jr. (trainer, Merit Man, 2nd) – “(Jockey) Patrick (Valenzuela) said he (Hightail) came out and bumped him a couple times. He dropped back a neck or so and came back to be beat a nose. It is what it is.
“This guy needs a target. He had no target. When South Point came out of the race (late scratch at gate), it was almost a negative. He’s a very nice 2-year-old. We’re proud of him.”
Patrick Valenzuela (jockey, Merit Man, 2nd) – “I thought I was on the best horse. He shot out of there and we were there most of the way. The stewards made the decision, but I still thought I was on the best horse.”
Joel Rosario (jockey, Sweet Shirley Mae, 3rd) – “I thought they (Hightail and Merit Man) were going to go the way they did. She ran a good race. They were just a little better. It was a good race for her.”
Edwin Maldonado (jockey, Hazardous, 4th) – “He broke a little sharper than I expected. When we came around the turn, he grabbed the bridle and I thought we were going to get there. He ran a big race.”
Thomas Dascombe (trainer, Ceiling Kitty, 5th) – “There you go. I was quite encouraged going down the backstretch. Maybe she didn’t like the dirt and maybe she didn’t stay.”
John Velazquez (jockey, Ceiling Kitty, 5th) – “I think I maybe asked her to do a bit too much early on. She broke well and we were laying second. She was not getting any dirt in her face at all. When I asked her, she kept the same pace and the others were just faster.”
An Interview with:
D. WAYNE LUKAS
THE MODERATOR: Joined live in the interview room with the first Breeders' Cup race of 2012, Hightail in the Juvenile Sprint Division, with us is Rajiv Maragh, the first win of this year. And next to him is a stranger to no one who has ever paid attention to the Breeders' Cup, Hall of Fame D. Wayne Lukas, it's win 19 in the Breeders' Cup.
That's by far a record, more than twice the number anyone has, second most is Shug McGaughey with 9. So Wayne you have a nice 10win as the years go on.
Congratulations on today's win and one might ask why you thought Juvenile Sprint Division for a horse who is coming out of a twoturn race at Keeneland and was closing in that race.
D. WAYNE LUKAS: A lot of things went into it, first of all we thought he was able to adapt to a shorter race and we look a run at the Breeder's at Keeneland, even though he ran 4th I thought we ran a good race, we could have done a little better.
We agonized and found out that this race was light and that the Juvenile tomorrow was light also and we probably could have gotten him in either place and I thought they might give me the little purse not the big one so I decided to go with this one.
It's not real difficult, especially with two years old, to shorten horses up and get them to accelerate in sprint. The hard thing is to get the two years old that be going 6 if you are longs every year to get them to stretch out and do over a mile. This is not that big of a deal, they get happy, they run and clock that speed and it's always too much speed, always. All the sprints when you watch them, you clock it and then you get a fearless rider that gives you room on the rail and you say come on out here we'll get that done. That simple.
Q. Rajiv, you took the shortest route home saving all the ground down the rail, take us through the trip and recap whatever slight bumping there might have been that precipitated the steward's inquiry.
RAJIV MARAGH: My horse broke and was up close and the speed developed in front of him and I wanted to pick a horse that I thought was going to finish well if I had to follow and the favorite was right in front of me so it kinda worked out good for me to stay on the rail and follow the horse that I thought was going to kick in during the stretch.
I had to wait a moment to see what Patrick Valenzuela was going to do, and I had to go up on the inside. Once I got up on the inside he saw that I got there, but he established the position and he initiated contact with my horse.
But I just tried to stay straight and ride hard to the finish and I don't think I did anything wrong it was more of the outside horse coming in and making the contact. That was the only contact made throughout the race.
D. WAYNE LUKAS: I don't think that the inquiry in the stretch run after watching the replay three or four times had any bearing on the race and I think the steward has concurred to that, but I haven't seen watching it live your excitement you don't know and when they throw up the ejection sign you are always concerned but I don't think it had any bearing on the race.
I don't blame the connections for trying to file an objection, that's what they're supposed to do. But I felt like the best horse won.
Q. Wayne, you've held the record already but what does it mean to have a 19th win?
D. WAYNE LUKAS: At my age it's significant. I don't know how many there are, but I always thought we could get one more. But I still have the passion for it and I train every day and ride every day and if they will give us something to work with we got a chance and we have a great owner in Mr. Brad Kelley who wants to be in the main arena as well as I do.
It's exciting. I don't know if I got that excited in some of the previous ones. I got my grandson here with me from the Air Force Academy and it's just special. It will be that way all day long for everybody and it is the Breeders' Cup and it is the championship series, and it has to mean everything. You've beaten the best that show up on that day.
Q. Wayne, does this mean you will push retirement back another 10 years?
D. WAYNE LUKAS: At least, at least. I'm not going to retire, Bill, I'm going to ride out there one morning, fall off the postseason, they will harrow me under and if the harrow goes over me a couple of times that will be the end of it.
Q. Wayne, you talked about shortening the horse up, can you project to the first Saturday in May? Is this a horse that has that ability?
D. WAYNE LUKAS: We all live the dream and that is the one and other than these Breeders' Cup which have been very kind to me that is the one that I still cherish. Like Bill said, I hope there is still one of those left, too.
We will look at this horse seriously because I think he's versatile. A deer friend of mine appointed this horse out, actually bought him as a yearling, John McKay at Little Rock Arkansas.
He pointed that horse out in a sale and we bought him because of that and nothing would please me more to do than what you're saying, and instead we will stretch him out to a mile and a quarter.
He has the pedigree and enough tactical speed, he's a big strong horse, sound and hell, we'll nominate him, you know that!
THE MODERATOR: Gentleman, congratulations on a 151 upset in our first Breeders' Cup weekend. Maragh and D. Wayne Lukas, congratulations.
D. WAYNE LUKAS: We would like to see you all back here at 3:15. Rajiv and I want to be back!
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, gentleman.
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