LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Christophe Clement had just lost the Breeders' Cup Mile. Gio Ponti had finished second in the Classic in 2009, and now he had been second-best in the 2010 Mile. But Christophe Clement was smiling. Everyone at Churchill Downs seemed to be smiling. Smiles, goosebumps -- the products of a Goldikova masterpiece.
"She's a freak," Clement said. "She's the best miler we've seen in a long, long time."
In fact, it's quite possible that Goldikova is the best turf miler ever to race in the United States. Goldikova on Saturday did something no horse ever had done, winning a third Breeders' Cup race, and her 1 3 / 4- length victory in the $2 million Mile might well have come easier than her wins the two previous years.
"She had a very good turn of foot," winning rider Olivier Peslier said.
Seventh around the first turn, Goldikova three furlongs from the finish still had five lengths to make up on pacesetting Sidney's Candy, who had laid down fractions of 24.02 seconds for his opening quarter-mile and 47.49 to the half. But Peslier had yet to ask Goldikova to run, and when he did, the mare quickly picked up her pace. She came into the stretch wide and in about fourth place, and changing leads perfectly on cue, Goldikova buzzed to the front in less than a half-furlong. She won going away in 1:35.16, with late-running Gio Ponti no match for the mighty mare.
"I've got so many things coming up to my mind right now," winning trainer Freddie Head said. "It's a thing I can't realize. It's something unreal. I've been thinking about it for a long time, but it looks too good to be true. I must be a very lucky person."
The BC Mile has been contested 27 times, and Freddie Head has won five. Twice he piloted Miesque to victory, and three times he has saddled Goldikova to win. Goldikova, though, has tools Miesque could not employ.
"I think she has everything an athlete can have," said Head. "She's got tremendous nerves, she's very cool, she's got great speed, and she can carry that speed a long time. She can relax. She has always another gear, she can always change gear, and finishes faster than the others. She's a real fighter."
Goldikova's owners and breeders, Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, did not rule out another year of racing.
"We have no idea what she's doing," Gerard Wertheimer said.
Goldikova's victory snapped a dry spell for European runners this Breeders' Cup: Of the previous 13 European shippers, only Midday, who was second in the Filly and Mare Turf, had finished in the top three.
Gio Ponti narrowly got up for second by a neck over The Usual Q.T., who was rank into the first turn, and ran well in defeat. The English-based Paco Boy checked in fourth in his career finale.
Goldikova, the strong favorite, returned $4.40 to win. The real payoff was watching her.