DEL MAR, Calif. (AP) — Forever Unbridled swept to the lead coming off the far turn and held off late-charging Abel Tasman to win the $2 million Distaff by a half-length Friday at Del Mar, capping a day of upsets at the Breeders’ Cup.
The 5-year-old mare was coming in off a 73-day layoff. She showed no rust, though, in bettering her third-place finish in the race a year ago at Santa Anita.
Ridden by John Velazquez, Forever Unbridled ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.25 and paid $9.40 to win at 7-2 odds.
Abel Tasman, a winner of three Grade 1 races this year, was second for trainer Bob Baffert. Paradise Woods finished third.
“She just got beat by a really good horse,” Baffert said.
Saturday’s card features nine Cup races, including the $6 million Classic in which Baffert will saddle four starters in pursuit of a record fourth straight victory.
In the Distaff, 2-1 favorite Elate was fourth in the eight-horse field.
Trainer Dallas Stewart earned his second Cup victory, 16 years after Unbridled Elaine’s upset win in the same race at Belmont Park. Velazquez collected his 14th career Cup win in the $2 million race.
Velazquez earned $110,000 for his winning ride. Joel Rosario will get the same amount for sitting in the jockeys’ room after Forever Unbridled’s owner Charles Fipke made a late change to Velazquez that prevented Rosario from securing another mount.
“For timing and consistency, Johnny’s the best,” said Fipke, the Canadian gemologist and prospector who discovered diamonds in the Northwest Territories.
Forever Unbridled was sixth early on, with Velazquez moving her to the outside for clear running room. She kicked into gear approaching the far turn and quickly joined the two leaders before charging past them.
“He edged that horse right up close, and just at the right time he bounced right out in front of them all,” Fipke said.
Velazquez had ridden Forever Unbridled twice before, but that was 1 ½ years ago.
“I’ve been watching her all year when she’s been running with somebody else, so I kind of knew her very well from the first time I rode her,” he said.
Fipke, who also bred Forever Unbridled, said winning a Breeders’ Cup race is harder than discovering a diamond mine.
“You don’t realize how many other horses that we…