BREEDERS' CUP SPRINT | PURSE: $1,500,000 | GRADE 1 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP| 6 FURLONGS
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Amazombie, the horse nobody wanted, gave trainer Bill Spawr his first Breeders' Cup victory when he rallied to a neck victory over Force Freeze in Saturday's $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs.
Amazombie is owned by Spawr in partnership with Tom Sanford and gave jockey Mike Smith his 14th Breeders' Cup win.
"I was visiting the farm that breaks my yearlings and the manager told me he had a couple of horses by Northern Afleet for sale," said Spawr. "I love Northern Afleet as a stallion but I didn't have any money. He made me watch them train anyway then asked me to make an offer. I said `$5,000' for 'him', referring to the one who had already started, figuring that would make him go away, and he said 'sold' thinking I meant both of them. The other one was Amazombie so you might say he turned out to be sort of a throw- in."
The "throw-in" went on to win 9 of his 22 starts coming into the Breeders' Cup, including the Grade 1, Win and You're In Ancient Title on Oct. 8 to earn his way into the Sprint.
"If he hadn't won the Ancient Title, I was thinking of running him in the California Cup," said Spawr, referring to the day of stakes races restricted to California-breds that was run at Santa Anita last weekend.
As expected, Amazombie dropped more than a half-dozen lengths off the pace in the run down the backstretch, eased out while advancing into the stretch, wore down Force Freeze near the sixteenth pole, and after taking the lead had to be fully extended to prevail. Force Freeze stalked the pace, moved readily to command on the final turn, drew clear, but could not resist the winner while hanging in gamely.
"I had a lot of horse, my main concern was that when he hits the front he tends to wait on horses," said Smith. "But he dug back in when the other horse came to him and I was never worried that he would pass us."
Jackson Bend, the 5-2 favorite, rallied belatedly to finish third, 2 1/4 lengths behind Force Freeze. Big Drama, the defending Sprint champion, finished a tiring seventh after racing forwardly to the stretch.
Amazombie completed six furlongs in 1:09.17 and paid $17.80.
"I feel very fortunate and very lucky," said Spawr, who saddled his first Breeders' Cup winner in his seventh try. "There are no words to describe the feeling."
Peter Walder, who trains Force Freeze, said he was pleased with his horse's effort even in defeat.
"He got a great trip, took the lead under a hold but maybe inherited it just a bit too early," said Walder.
Trainer Nick Zito said he wished the race was a little longer for Jackson Bend.
"He just ran out of real estate," said Zito.