Forever Unbridled wins Breeders’ Cup Distaff

DEL MAR, Calif. – Forever Unbridled kept her perfect record this year in tact with a victory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff as the two-day Breeders’ Cup Thoroughbred Championships began Friday at Del Mar, which is hosting the event for the first time.

The 5-year-old mare, who finished third in the Distaff at Santa Anita last year, won the 1 1/8-mile race by a half-length over her 3-year-old rival, Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman before a crowd announced at 32,278.

Another 3-year-old filly, Paradise Woods, finished third in the eight-horse field. Elate, who went off as the 2-1 favorite, finished fourth.

Forever Unbridled paid $9.40 to win, $5 to place and $3.40 to show as the bettors’ third choice.

She had a late start to her season after undergoing surgery for a bone chip following last year’s Breeders’ Cup, and came into this year’s Distaff with a victory in the Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs in June and a win by a neck over last year’s Distaff winner, Songbird, in the Personal Ensign in August.

Forever Unbridled’s trainer, Dallas Stewart, noted that owner Charles Fipke “could have retired her.”

“She was already a (Grade 1) winner but it wasn’t severe, and Chuck’s like, ‘I want to keep going on with her’ and he did,” Stewart said.

A lot of people — I mean, nine out of 10 guys, I think, would have retired her. But Chuck, being the guy he is, a sportsman and loves racing and wanted to see this happen for her, and he did it.”

Now that the daughter of 1995 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Unbridled’s Song and 2006 Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever has beaten some of the nation’s best fillies and mares, she may be pointed to race next against male horses in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park in Florida.

We’re definitely going to be considering it,” the mare’s owner, Charles Fipke, said shortly after the Distaff. That would be the goal … I don’t know how she’ll stack up against the colts.”

It was the second Breeders’ Cup victory for Fipke, who won the Filly and Mare Turf with Perfect Shirl in 2011, and for Stewart, who won the Distaff in 2001 with Unbridled Elaine, while it was jockey John Velazquez’s 15th career win in a Breeders’ Cup race.

In other Breeders’ Cup races:

— Battle of Midway bested Sharp Azteca by a half-length after a duel in the stretch in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. It was the fifth victory in 10 starts this year for the 3-year-old colt, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby in May.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said he hasn’t mapped out a plan for Battle of Midway and just wanted to enjoy his victory for a bit.

Battle of Midway paid $30.40 to win, $11.40 to place and $6.60 to show.

Favored Mor Spirit — who was coming off a nearly five-month layoff — finished eighth.

— Rushing Fall won the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, marking the second year in a row that her connections won the race. They won last year’s running with New Money Honey.

Trainer Chad Brown was so confident in the 2-year-old filly that he pledged to take her to the Breeders’ Cup seven months ago, said Bob Edwards of e Five Racing Thoroughbreds, which owns the 2-year-old filly.

“He delivered,” a happy Edwards said of the trainer after the race.

Rushing Fall — who won by three-quarters of a length — paid $8 to win, $4.60 to place and $3.40 to show. Best Performance finished second and the European filly September finished third. The favorite, Happily, was last.

— Mendelssohn, who was racing in the United States for the first time, won the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf for trainer Aidan O’Brien after four starts in Great Britain and Ireland.

The colt’s connections have hopes that the 2-year-old Kentucky-bred could race in next year’s Kentucky Derby, O’Brien said.

“We knew that he was kind of a really American dirt pedigree horse. But we felt we didn’t want to stop the progression,” O’Brien said.

“That’s why we left him on the grass rather than putting dirt in on top when he wasn’t ready for it. We had it in our head that if everything went well Friday, he could be a horse we could train for the Kentucky Derby.”

Mendelssohn, who went off as the favorite at odds of just under 5-1, won by a length over Untamed Domain and Voting Control. He paid $11.60 to win, $8.40 to place and $5.60 to show.