November 2011–Prior to Saturday, Drosselmeyer’s biggest claim to fame came when he won the 2010 Belmont Stakes. Fast forward one year and five months later, and the WinStar Farm colorbearer can add a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to his resume following an upset score under jockey Mike Smith.
Game on Dude tried to lead the field all the way home, dolling out fractions of :23 3/5, :47 4/5 and 1:12 4/5 while tracked by Uncle Mo and So You Think. Drosselmeyer was well back near the rear of the field and swung out in the middle of the track rounding the turn. That didn’t deter the Bill Mott charge from setting his sites on Game on Dude and running down the pacesetter to win by 1 1/2 lengths in a final time of 2:04 1/5 for 1 1/4 miles on the fast track.
What a difference year makes, not only for Drosselmeyer but for his jockey. The Classic gave Smith his 15th Breeders’ Cup victory, tying him with Jerry Bailey as the winningest jockey in Breeders’ Cup history, but came one year after getting nosed out aboard Horse of the Year and supermare Zenyatta in the same race.
“Last year I sat here just devastated, thought my life was over,” Smith admitted. “Just to come back and have a day like I did today and to win the race that I got beat by a nose in last year, it’s just amazing. Thank God.
A jubilant Mike Smith celebrated Classic victory aboard Drosselmeyer one year after Zenyatta’s heart breaking loss (Breeders’ Cup Ltd.)
“Until now,” he added when asked how long it took him to get over Zenyatta’s loss. “I mean, that’s one that will always hurt, but this sure helps, man. It really does. As soon as I found out I was riding Drosselmeyer, I kept praying about it. Wow, this could really take the sting away. It did. It really did. I feel very happy and content. Can’t wait to celebrate.”
Drosselmeyer was sent off as the 14-1 eighth choice in the 12-horse field, returning $31.60, $13.20 and $8.80 to his faithful backers.
“(Drosselmeyer) ran an awesome race right from the first jump. Right out of the gate, he got into a great rhythm,” Smith said. “The key to this horse is to keep him moving. If you put on the breaks it messes him up. I knew I was going to wheel out, so I just kept him going.”
“He ran a super race. He was mowing them down the last eighth of a mile,” Mott agreed. “I guess his biggest attribute is his stamina, and he showed it today. When they were wearing down, he was coming. It’s great.”
Game on Dude was a length in front of Ruler on Ice, this year’s Belmont conqueror who upheld the “Test of the Champion” form when taking third. Havre de Grace managed to get her head in front of 7-2 favorite Flat Out for fourth on the wire.
“We didn’t get the trip we wanted,” explained Havre de Grace’s trainer, Larry Jones. “The 11-horse (Headache) leaned on us pretty good from the start, but she ran well. (Owner) Rick (Porter) likes to run where the gusto is. No regrets about running here. She didn’t do anything to tarnish herself. She has another year ahead of her.”
“No excuse, he just got outrun. That’s it,” horseman Scooter Dickey said of Flat Out.
So You Think faded to sixth, with To Honor and Serve, Ice Box, Rattlesnake Bridge, Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty and Headache completing the order under the wire. Prayer for Relief was an early scratch.
Drosselmeyer entered the Classic owning just one win this season, with that coming in Belmont Park’s One Count Stakes going the Classic distance of 10 furlongs. That was actually just his second black-type score as he wasn’t seen in competition following his Belmont Stakes victory until March of this year. The four-year-old ran fourth in that seasonal debut, the Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, before filling the fifth spot in the Grade 3 Skip Away Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Drosselmeyer ran a one-paced second in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap after his One Count win, then was given one-month layoffs between a seventh in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational and a runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.
“We backed out of the horse after the Belmont last year,” Mott explained. “We gave him a lot of time. He had a couple of easy months off, didn’t do anything. We brought him back the beginning of the year. He was fat and really kind of didn’t get in the rhythm the first two or three races. As the year progressed, he seemed to get a little better and a little better.
“Really midway through Saratoga, after we ran him in the Sword Dancer, it was kind of like somebody had flipped a switch, and he just turned around. He was moving great. He was into his training. There again, he ran a big one in the Jockey Gold Cup to be second.”
The chestnut colt opened his racing career with a 2-2-1 mark from five starts against maiden and allowance rivals before suffering his first off-the-board run when fourth by 1 3/4 lengths in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes last year. He made two more starts before the Belmont Stakes, missing by a length when third in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and finishing second in the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes.
“He was coming on,” Mott continued. “We didn’t beat the winner (in the Jockey Club), but it looked like — really, (WinStar President) Elliott (Walden) kind of made the decision, I think, to lean towards the Classic with him after that race. Really, it was a great decision, and we’ve been here for a month, and the horses have had good work on the racetrack. I think it really paid off.
The winner’s share from the Classic purse of $4,545,000 skyrocketed Drosselmeyer’s career earnings to $3,728,170. His lifetime mark now reads 16-5-5-2. The Classic could wind up being Drosselmeyer’s swan song.
“We’re probably going to retire him, but we’ll sit down and huddle up tomorrow and talk about making that decision then,” Walden said. “But the plans were to retire him after this race. Horses in this day and age don’t run a lot of starts. He’s had 15. A lot of them don’t have stamina, and he will get you the Classic-type horse. So that’s an exciting thing for his breeding credential, and we’ll just sit down and huddle and see how that is.”
Bred in Kentucky by Aaron and Marie Jones, Drosselmeyer is a son of the Moscow Ballet mare Golden Ballet, who captured six stakes including the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks and Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes during her time on the track. In the breeding shed Golden Ballet would produce Stage Luck, winner of the 2008 Affectionately Handicap and second in that year’s Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap. The broodmare is a half-sister to Gilded Gem, who scored in the Grade 3 Las Flores Stakes and ran second in the Grade 1 Santa Monica Stakes this year.