Trainer Peter Miller and owner Gary Hartunian enjoyed a home-track advantage at Breeders’ Cup XXXIV like no one else. The Californians combined for two upsets on Saturday’s star-studded program at Del Mar.
In the $1 million Turf Sprint, Stormy Liberal ($62.40) – who had not run since June – nosed out stablemate Richard’s Boy to give the connections a 1-2 finish. The exacta paid $277.50 for a $1 bet, but was worth $720,000 to Hartunian’s Rockingham Ranch, which is based in the Santa Monica hills.
“I claimed Stormy Liberal for $40,000,” Hartunian said. “So, those people (who bet against him) right now are jumping off the Coronado Bridge.”
Miller, 51, trains year-round at nearby San Luis Rey Downs.
“I live 10 minutes away (from Del Mar) in Encinitas,” Miller said. “To run one-two in my first Breeders’ Cup and here at home – it doesn’t get any better than this.”
Until three races later when his Roy H, owned by Hartunian with David Bernsen of San Diego, toppled the nation’s best sprinters in the $1.5 million Sprint. Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Roy H paid $11.80. Defending Sprint champion Drefong, who is trained by Bob Baffert, finished sixth.
“I feel like Bob Baffert,” Miller said. “It’s just a dream come true.”
Huge payoffs – In what’s become a Breeders’ Cup tradition, long shots lit up the tote board, including a $135.40 shocker by New York-bred Bar of Gold in the Filly & Mare Sprint. In that race, Jerry Hollendorfer’s Unique Bella, the even-money favorite, finished seventh after setting a hot pace.
Other Saturday upsets included Good Magic (Juvenile, $25), Caledonia Road (Juvenile Fillies, $36.60), Talismanic (Turf, $30.20) and Wuheida (Filly & Mare Turf, $24.40). Both Talismanic and Wuheida are owned by Dubai’s Godolphin Stable.
Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington.