Agent Jim Pegram called Friday to inform Valdivia he had picked up the mount on Turf Cup favorite Champs Elysees and the Peruvian-born jockey made no mistakes in the Grade I Turf Cup, earning his first graded and richest victory of the year.
In the Turf Cup, Valdivia gave Champs Elysees a perfect ground-saving trip, moving into contention along the rail on the turn for home before swinging out and assuming command early in the stretch en route to a half-length victory over Obrigado. Kentucky-based Julien Leparoux originally was named to ride, but he is on vacation in Hawaii.
Great Britain-bred Champs Elysees, second in the Grade I event while making his North American debut for Juddmonte Farms a year ago, gave Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel a record fourth Turf Cup win while covering 1 ½ miles on the Lakeside Turf Course in 2:27.71.
French-bred Obrigado held off Church Service by three-quarters of a length to earn second money. New Zealand-bred mare Black Mamba was another three-quarters of a length back in fourth place in the field of nine, followed by Mr. Chairman, Winchester, High Heel Sneakers and Rush Rush.
"I got the call yesterday morning from my agent that I was going to ride this horse,” Valdivia said. “I was working a horse here at Hollywood and before that Bobby had said it would probably be between me and (David) Flores. How many times do you get to pick up a horse that's 9-5 in a Grade 1?
“This is a very special animal,” Valdivia added. “I think he's just been a little hard luck. He broke very good and put me in a comfortable spot. The pace was very slow, but he was fairly close and I didn't give him too much ground to make up. It was just a matter of biding my time and waiting for a hole to open. I had a lot of confidence with this horse. Even though this was my first time riding him I worked him many times in the morning and watched him win a couple of times. So I know the class that he has. I got to save ground all the way around. I felt like Street Sense in the Kentucky Derby."
Champs Elysees, eighth on Santa Anita Park’s synthetic surface last outing in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, won for the for the third time in ten North American starts.
“He likes each surface equally,” Frankel said. ”He waits on horses, but when that horse got to him he went on again. I was afraid he made the lead too soon. He got sick in the middle of the summer so I think that’s why he had those two bad races, but he was really going into this race really well. I told Jose to try and make him break good, but don’t worry about rushing him or anything.”
Champs Elysees, a winner of five of 21 starts overall, banked $150,000 to increase his earnings to $1,354,761. A 5-year-old son of Danehill, he paid $5.60, $3.20 and $2.60. Obrigado returned $14.40 and $7, while Church Service paid $3.40.
In the Native Diver, Slew’s Tizzy pulled away in the final yards to register a 1 ½-length victory in a Cushion Track record 1:46.78 for 1 1/8 miles.
"He ran huge two races back, so I'm not surprised he ran so good today,” said Rosario, who has had five-win days at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields. “Last time in the Breeders' Cup (Dirt Mile), I got bumped real hard by the horses inside me and outside me. My horse wanted to go, but it was a big field and they were going real fast. Today he was much more relaxed and more confident. It's harder to race between horses because you're under pressure the whole time, but he handled it great."
Slew’s Tizzy, a 4-year-old son of Tiznow owned by Joseph Lacombe Stable, is trained by Doug O’Neill, who sent out Sky Jack to post a seven-length victory in the 2000 Native Diver.
“We put a line through that race, but at the same time you’re always worried what a race like that does to their confidence,” O’Neill said of the Breeders’ Cup. “It obviously didn’t affect him in a negative way. Today’s race came up in a perfect spot and there’s not a ton of options really. We definitely didn’t think the mile and one-eighth would be a problem. The dream goal is the Santa Anita Handicap. We’ll figure out how he comes out of this and the proper way to get there.”
Slew’s Tizzy the fifth choice in the field of six older horses, paid $16.40, $6.80 and $4. Past the Point returned $3.40 and $2.80, while the show payoff on Ball Four was $2.60.
The victory — worth $68,200 — boosted the Kentucky-bred’s earnings to $619,619. He has won five of 19 starts.