Gary and Mary West's New Year's Day utilized a ground-saving rail trip under jockey Martin Garcia to post a 1 1/4-length victory in Saturday's Grade 1, $1,840,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. The Bob Baffert trainee just got the best of a tiring Havana on the wire to stop the clock in 1:43 2/5 for 1 1/16 miles over the fast main track.
"He showed us a lot in his two races at Del Mar," Baffert said. "I know he's a two-turn horse and he's been showing us a lot here in the morning. I'm glad I skipped that two-year-old race here (FrontRunner) and trained him up to this one. He's been telling us in the mornings that he's ready.
"Martin rode a terrific race on him. I told him to take advantage of the rail and he did. I'm glad (Martin) got a chance to shine on a big day like this."
The win by New Year's Day hopeful softened the blow Baffert's stable suffered when Secret Compass broke down and had to be euthanized earlier in the Juvenile Fillies.
"This business is so tough. Here just a little bit ago I lost a two-year-old filly and now here I am winning a race like this," Baffert sighed.
Conquest Titan, Rum Point and Strong Mandate were strung across the track entering the backstretch, battling it out through fractions of :22 3/5, :45 1/5 and 1:09 3/5. We Miss Artie and Havana were tracking just in behind those three, and Havana moved up into contention on the outside as both Conquest Titan and Rum Point began to fade.
Garcia had settled New Year's Day on the inside down the backstretch, and the duo were content to save ground in midpack before forced to angle out to pass tiring rivals. That left the Street Cry colt about two wide rounding the final turn before Garcia sent him back to the rail. Havana had taken command by this point but was visibly fading, making New Year's Day's late run appear like a tour de force as he swept on by to take his stakes debut.
"My horse doesn't have that much pace. I was exactly where I wanted to be," said Garcia, who was winning his first Breeders' Cup race in this spot. "I saved ground at every corner. The rail was open and I took it. I didn't panic. My horse was ready to start running. I thought I had a lot of horse. I had never ridden him in a race, but I have been getting on him in the morning most of the time. We're starting to get to know each other. It looks like a good team."
New Year's Day paid $23 as the 10-1 fifth pick for the win, and it was another three parts of a length behind Havana to third-placer Strong Mandate.
"I thought he ran super. He just came up a little tired in the very last part there. But he ran very well," stated Havana's trainer, Todd Pletcher.
"We made the best of a bad situation (breaking from post 14)," commented D. Wayne Lukas, who saddled Strong Mandate. "I thought he had a good trip. No excuses. I'm looking forward to the three-year-old races next year with him."
"Wayne wanted me to put him in the race, which I did, he handled everything very well today," said Joel Rosario, who was aboard the third-place finisher. "When Havana went by him, it looked like he slowed down for a few steps, but then he picked it right up again. He ran a huge race."
Bond Holder rounded out the top four and was followed under the wire by Tap It Rich, Mexikoma, We Miss Artie, Dance With Fate, Diamond Bachelor, Smarty's Echo, Medal Count, Rum Point and Conquest Titan.
New Year's Day was scheduled to make his stakes bow in Santa Anita's local prep for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, the September 28 FrontRunner which was captured by Bond Holder. However, the bay colt spiked a temperature and was scratched, leaving him with just two maiden runs entering Saturday's championship race. He finished third in his initial outing sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar on August 17 before returning two weeks later to score a 1 3/4-length victory in a one-mile maiden over Del Mar's Polytrack.
New Year's Day more than earned back his purchase price as a $425,000 Keeneland September yearling with the Juvenile winner's share of $1.1 million, which boosted his earnings to $1,154,000 to go along with his 3-2-0-1 career mark.
Bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farm, New Year's Day is the first registered foal out of the Dixie Union mare Justwhistledixie, who captured the 2009 runnings of the Bonnie Miss and Davona Dale while accumulating $449,427 during her time on track. The mare is a half-sister to Grade 2 hero Chace City, and the duo's dam is herself a half-sibling to Grade 2 victress Penny's Reshoot and dual stakes scorer Twin Propeller. The latter is the granddam of multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Smooth Air and Grade 2 star Overdriven.
Farther back in this female family one can find another Breeders' Cup winner in 2010 Filly & Mare Turf heroine Shared Account, who racked up more than $1.6 million while in competition, as well as Grade 2 scorers Sapphire n' Silk and Shaniko.
For the post-race transcript featuring Baffert and the Wests, please click here.