News and STORIES

Vino Rosso Takes Breeders' Cup Classic

Author: Don Mckee
Published: Tuesday November 05, 2019
Vino Rosso was victorious in the much anticipated $6 million Longine Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita Park on Saturday. He ran ahead of the favored and talented McKinzie for owners Mike Repole of Repole Stable and Vinnie Viola of St. Elias Stable. Vino Rosso's trainer is the seven-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher, who had never won the race before.

"This is unbelievable. Indescribable," Repole said. "We've won so many graded stakes, but this one feels different. Winning with Uncle Mo (in the 2010 Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile, G1) was amazing, and I knew it would take a special race to get a feeling even bigger than that. This is the one. This is the pinnacle."

Pletcher, who has the most all-time earnings in the sport, was excited about his first Breeders' Cup Classic win. 

"Mike and I have been together for a long time, and this was one that we hadn't won," Pletcher said. "It's special."

Lead Up To Classic

Back in May, Vino Rosso won the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1), which served as a preparation for the Classic.

"I think as much as getting out over the track, it gave us confidence that the horse handled the track. We knew he would love a mile and a quarter," Pletcher said. "But also, for me, you're always trying to figure out, like, when's the best time to ship: Do we want to ship five days out? Do we want to work over the track? But we had a blueprint in place that worked. 

"So we tried to follow that pattern exactly, and we did. And, like I said, the horse, he was just crawling out of his skin, literally, and the way he was breezing, coming into it, you're just so anxious for the moment to get here."

As a 3-year-old, Vino Rosso took the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G2) last year. After the Gold Cup, he finished third in the Whitney Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course. 

He then finished a nose ahead of Code of Honor in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park, but he was disqualified to second behind Code of Honor, the winner of the Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1). 

In the Classic, Vino Rosso and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. moved ahead from fourth in the final turn.

McKinzie tried to fend him off, but he pushed forward in the final furlong to cross the line 4 1/4 lengths ahead in 2:02.80 for the 10 furlongs. 

"He ran great," said Joel Rosario, who rode McKinzie. "On a couple of occasions, we got slightly stopped in the run and had to take back. At the top of the stretch, I thought we might have had enough to get home, but he just got tired toward the end. I let him run a little bit on the backside just to get my spot. That might have cost him a little bit. He ran his heart out, so we can't be too disappointed. We were just beaten by the best horse on the day."

The 5-2 favorite McKinzie, trained by Bob Baffert and owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, finished 4 1/4 lengths ahead of Hronis Racing's Higher Power for second. 

The Classic was Vino Rosso's sixth win in 15 starts, and his earnings are now at $4,803,125. He will stand the 2020 season at B. Wayne Hughes' Spendthrift Farm. 

Mongolian Groom

The race also involved a sad loss. Mongolian Groom, the winner of the Sept. 28 Awesome Again Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita, suffered a fracture to his left hind limb in the stretch. The 4-year-old was later euthanized. 

"The death of Mongolian Groom is a loss to the entire horse racing community," Breeders' Cup officials said in a statement. "Our equine and human athletes' safety is the Breeders' Cup's top priority. We have worked closely with Santa Anita leading up to the World Championships to promote enhanced equine safety. Santa Anita has implemented numerous industry-leading reforms to enhance the existing health and safety measures with the intent of providing a safe racing environment.

"In addition, Breeders' Cup always observes the most thorough up-to-date medication practices and restrictions, testing protocols, equine security and surveillance program, veterinary exams, injury management protocols, and racing surface testing. These measures are in place to ensure our athletes are racing under the safest and most transparent conditions possible."

Dr. Larry Bramlage will conduct an independent evaluation, and the results will later be published.