Ami’s Mesa, a strong contender for Canada’s Horse of the Year, made the lead at the top of the lane only to be caught in the final stride by longshot Bar of Gold in the Grade 1 $1-million Filly and Mare Sprint on Breeders’ Cup Saturday at Del Mar Racetrack in California.

Owned and bred in Ontario by Toronto’s Ivan Dalos of Tall Oaks Farm, Ami’s Mesa is trained by Toronto-born Josie Carroll and was piloted by Woodbine’s second-leading rider Luis Contreras in the seven furlong main track sprint.

Leaving from the outside post in a field of 14, Ami’s Mesa settled comfortably in fifth position as favoured Unique Bella marked the half-mile in :44.35. Contreras urged Ami’s Mesa into contention through the turn and led the field into the stretch but could not hold off rallying 66-1 shot Bar of Gold. Carina Mia finished third, a further 2 ½-lengths back. The final running time was 1:22.63.

Carroll was proud of the filly who arrived at the Breeders’ Cup undefeated through four starts in 2017 including a pair of Grade 3 wins at Woodbine in the Ontario Matron and Seaway Stakes.

The dark bay daughter of Sky Mesa-Victorious Ami then proved her class with a score in the Grade 2 Presque Isle Masters when a length better than Breeders’ Cup rival Bar of Gold.

“I thought for a while that we were going to get it, but I could see that other horse coming. I just hoped she had enough left in the tank,” said Carroll. “She’s a gutsy filly. She fought that filly and just got out-nodded. This is a gutsy filly that gave it all and you can’t ask for more than that.”

Contreras, twice a Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s outstanding rider, was pleased with the trip he engineered for Ami’s Mesa.

“It was a really tough beat but she tried so hard. I just gave her a good trip,” said Contreras. “She was traveling perfect. She switched leads and I made my move. I tried to save as much as I could and she just got beat by a nose. That’s racing, right?”

Earlier on the outstanding Breeders’ Cup card, the promising Ontario-bred Wonder Gadot finished a strong sixth in the Grade 1 Juvenile Fillies with Patrick Husbands up for Woodbine’s leading trainer Mark Casse.


Woodbine Mile champ World Approval victorious in Breeders’ Cup Mile

Live Oak Plantation’s , an impressive winner of the Ricoh Woodbine Mile in September, drew off to a 1 1/4-length score in Saturday’s Grade 1 $2-million Breeders’ Cup Mile, at Del Mar Racetrack in California.

Trained by Woodbine’s leading trainer Mark Casse and expertly handled by John Velazquez, World Approval settled in fifth through swift splits of :22.30 and :45.65.

The handsome grey son of Northern Afleet swooped to the lead in early stretch and found another gear to notch the win in 1:34.55. Lancaster Bomber, the runner-up in the Woodbine Mile, again completed the exacta with a late rally. Sent to post as the 5-2 favourite, World Approval paid $7.40 to win.

Casse admitted to being a little worried at the quick early pace.

“I was a little concerned early on because there was so much speed. But, this horse came into this race in just great order and he was ready. Norman (Casse, his son and assistant) and his team deserve so much credit for getting him to this point,” said Casse. “This is quite a way to cap our last Breeders’ Cup together (now that Norman is going out on his own). Maybe now we’ll be running in Breeders’ Cups against each other. And, it means so much to win this race for Mrs. (Charlotte) Weber. I am so proud to train horses for her and to win this race for her. This is all really very special.”

The win marked the fourth Breeders’ Cup score for Casse, who previously won on the biggest stage with Catch a Glimpse (2015 Juvenile Fillies Turf), Classic Empire (2016 Juvenile) and Tepin (2015 Mile).