Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Smith wins battle of the exes

Outrides 'Peg's Sutherland down stretch to win Breeders' Classic

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- "Battle of the Sexes" was sooooo last year.

"Battle of the Exes" is how this year's Breeders' Cup Classic played out when Mike Smith, dressed in white to ride Drosselmeyer under the lights, appeared out of nowhere like a ghost and beat his front-running Winnipeg ex to the wire aboard Game On Dude.

"I saw white and I said, 'You've got to be kidding me. Mike Smith. Ugh,"' said Chantal Sutherland of Winnipeg.

Drosselmeyer, a 14-1 long shot, won the $5-million Classic by 11/2 lengths Saturday at Churchill Downs, capping a weekend of upsets in the season-ending championships.

A year ago, Smith walked off the track in tears after losing the same race by a head on superstar Zenyatta.

"Last year I sat here just devastated, thought my life was over," he said. "Just to come back and have a day like I did today and to win the race that I got beat in last year, it's just amazing."

Smith and Sutherland, together on and off for six years and once engaged, broke up in 2010, but remain civil, even taking part in a "Battle of the Exes" match race at Del Mar in August to promote the sport.

Then, and now, Smith was the winner.

Smith said: "I turned the page a long time ago. I wish everyone else would."

Still, Smith congratulated Sutherland as they came off the track. The exacta of exes paid $444.80.

"She should hold her head up," he said. "She did a great job and ran second in the Classic first time ever riding in it. I think it's incredible. I think she's pretty proud. She should be happy."

Drosselmeyer ran 11/4 miles in 2:04.27 and paid $31.60 to win. Ruler On Ice, this year's Belmont Stakes winner, was third.

"He was mowing them down the last eighth of a mile," Mott said. "I guess his biggest attribute is his stamina, and he showed it today."

Filly Havre de Grace, the 4-1 second choice, finished fourth against the boys. Flat Out, the 7-2 favourite, was fifth for 70-year-old trainer Scooter Dickey.

So You Think, the 5-1 co-third choice with Uncle Mo, was sixth. To Honor and Serve was seventh, followed by Ice Box, Rattlesnake Bridge, Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty and Headache.

Mott swept the weekend's top two races, winning the $2-million Ladies' Classic with Royal Delta on Friday. Smith tied Jerry Bailey with his 15th Breeders' Cup victory after winning the Sprint earlier Saturday.

Sutherland appeared on her way to becoming the first female jockey to win North America's richest race.

Instead, the sometime model and actress was aced out by the guy whose ring she once wore. After their split, Sutherland gave back the engagement ring and Smith returned it, getting 75 per cent of his money back.

"I'm very happy for Mike because he taught me so much," she said. "That's his 15th Breeders' Cup so he's a pretty good rider."

Bob Baffert, who trains Game On Dude, said, "I can't believe she got beat by Mike Smith."

As expected, Game On Dude went right to the front and fought off a challenge from Uncle Mo on the turn for home. Uncle Mo, last year's BC Juvenile winner, was making a comeback from a life-threatening liver disease that knocked him out of the Triple Crown races.

After Uncle Mo briefly got his head in front, Game On Dude dispensed with him and had the lead in the stretch. There was only one challenger left.

Smith and Drosselmeyer, the 2010 Belmont winner, were back in 10th with a quarter-mile to go. They angled to the far outside and unleashed a powerful run down the centre of the track, with Game On Dude hugging the rail.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 6, 2011 B16

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