LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Game Winner surged down the stretch and pulled away from Knicks Go after a bump to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile by 2 1/4 lengths Friday at Churchill Downs, giving trainer Bob Baffert an early Kentucky Derby favourite just five months after winning his second Triple Crown with Justify.
The race favourite broke from the No. 9 post and lagged in the middle of the 14-horse field before pushing forward on the outside and into contention at the top of the stretch. Game Winner and Knicks Go brushed before the colt got away for the win to improve to 4-0 lifetime. Signalman was a length back in third.
"He likes Churchill Downs, and that's a good sign," Baffert told NBCSN.
The thrilling finish in the US$2 million, Grade 1 race capped a first day devoted to 2-year-olds at the season-ending world championships. Game Winner also emerged as one of the year's top Juveniles.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, Game Winner covered 1 1/4 miles in 1:43.67.
Said Rosario, "I just wanted to put him in the right spot he wanted to be."
Game Winner's victory provided some irony for Baffert, who didn't race Justify as a 2-year-old but struck gold last spring when the colt went on to become racing's 13th Triple Crown winner. An ankle issue forced Justify to retire unbeaten in July, leaving Saturday's marquee Breeders' Cup Classic without the sport's most notable horse.
Going forward, Game Winner just threw his name in the mix as the next possible star.
His victory comes just over a month since winning the Grade 1 American Pharoah, named for the 2015 Triple Crown winner that Baffert also trained. This one required more work before 42,249 on a cold, overcast day on a track that was fast after two days of heavy rain.
It ended with Baffert's fourth Juvenile victory and 15th Breeders' Cup overall.