AP Racing Writer
ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) _ Well Armed held off fast-closing Tiago to win the $500,000 Goodwood Stakes by a length at Santa Anita on Saturday and earn a shot at a much bigger payday, the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic.
The victory gave Well Armed an automatic berth into the Classic, where Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown _ and BC officials hope Curlin _ awaits on Oct. 25 over the same new synthetic surface.
John Velazquez notched career victory No. 3,999 in the $400,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes, riding even-money favorite Wait a While to a three-quarters of a length win over Vacare in front of an on-track crowd of 17,789.
A record six Grade 1 stakes were run at Santa Anita on the same day Curlin became North America's richest thoroughbred, going over the $10 million mark with a victory in the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at New York's Belmont Park.
Curlin will be shipped to Santa Anita on Sunday, starting the countdown clock on owner Jess Jackson's decision whether to take on Big Brown and some of Europe's best horses in the Classic.
In the 10-horse Goodwood, Well Armed was third in the early going under Aaron Gryder while Hollywood Gold Cup winner Mast Track and Informed traded the lead. Smith had Tiago, half brother to 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, in last before they started their move entering the stretch turn.
They were pushed to the far outside, moving three steps sideways instead of forward, when another horse also took the same path.
``I would have liked to have seen what those three steps might have become,'' Smith said. ``Maybe the outcome would have been the same. But it certainly would have been a lot closer. Nevertheless, he ran good. He's back on track.''
Well Armed gave trainer Eoin Harty two likely Classic starters, including Colonel John.
``I've managed to dodge land mines along the way, but they're both very sound horses,'' he said.
Well Armed ran 1 1-8 miles on the turf in 1:47.11 and paid $5.40 to win. Albertus Maximus was another three-quarters of a length back in third.
``What's impressed me the most about him is how much he's changed from a year ago,'' Gryder said about Well Armed. ``He's relaxing so well. He's just a much better horse.''
Wait a While's Yellow Ribbon victory made her 3-0 on Santa Anita's turf course and earned the mare an automatic spot in the BC Filly & Mare Turf. The $240,000 winner's purse pushed her career earnings to $2,181,917.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, whose Red Giant won the $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship earlier, Wait a While ran 1½ miles in 1:59.16.
"When Vacare came to her outside, she dug in and got it done," Velazquez said. "She's going to be real tough (in the Breeders' Cup) on this course."
Wait a While ran 1¼ miles on the turf in 1:59.16 against nine rivals and paid $4 to win. Black Mamba was another length back in third.
Zenyatta won for the sixth time this year and earned an automatic berth in next month's BC Ladies' Classic on Oct. 24.
"I just can't describe her," Smith said. "She leaves me speechless. Her race today was incredible."
Three races later, Smith rode Stardom Bound to another 3½-length victory over Palacio de Amor in the $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes and a guaranteed spot in the BC Juvenile Division.
Zenyatta covered 1 1-16 miles in 1:40.30 and paid $3.40 and $2.10 as the slight wagering favorite on a sunny day with highs in the low 90s.
"She just seems to be sent from heaven, man," Smith said. "She does things horses aren't supposed to do. She went by them like ... well, the last quarter of a mile, she was just galloping."
Hystericalady brought a three-race winning streak into her first meeting with Zenyatta, but the 5-year-old mare failed again on a synthetic track, where she is 0-for-5.
"The trip over the racetrack should set her up for the Breeders' Cup," said jockey Garrett Gomez, who rode two winners to get to No. 2,998. "She had a soft trip on the lead early. Maybe it would have been better to go a little faster because when she went to sprinting, she kind of misplaced her feet a little bit."
Zenyatta certainly seems to like the artificial footing underneath her, with two wins on it at Hollywood Park and another at Del Mar this year. It was her third Grade 1 victory this year, having won the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn and the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park.
She was fourth behind leader Hystericalady most of the way until moving up to the lead on the stretch turn. Zenyatta is owned by Jerry Moss, co-founder of A&M Records who also owns Tiago, who was set to run later Saturday.
Hystericalady returned $2.10 in losing the Lady's Secret for the second consecutive year. She was beaten by a nose last year.
The matchup was a preview of the Ladies' Classic, where the duo is set to meet again.
"Right now, it looks like the filly (Zenyatta) is the very best," said Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains Hystericalady. "But I don't take anything away from my horse. I really love her. She ran really well, and I think she'll make a good account of herself in the Breeders' Cup."
Smith compared Zenyatta to Azeri, the mare he rode who earned 2002 Horse of the Year honors.
"I'm really starting to think she might be the best horse I've ever ridden," he said. "Without a doubt, she would be a deserving Horse of the Year if things continue to go well. She's flawless. I mean, what else can you do beyond flawless?"
In the Oak Leaf, Stardom Bound stretched out to two turns for the first time and improved to 4-0 in her brief career. Her first three wins came this summer at Del Mar, including a 4¼-length victory in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante, when she rallied from last to first.
"She's my baby Zenyatta," Smith said.
Stardom Bound, a 2-year-old gray filly, ran 1 1-16 miles in 1:42.44. She was kicked on the inside of her right hind leg by an outrider's pony after galloping Friday.
Tyler Baze guided Cost of Freedom to a half-length upset in the $240,000 Ancient Title Stakes and a berth in the BC Sprint. They covered six furlongs in 1:07.53.
Street Boss, who will make his final start in the Breeders' Cup before retiring, was second as the 9-10 favorite and In Summation third.
Red Giant edged Out of Control by a head in the Hirsch, the day's only stakes without an automatic Breeders' Cup berth going to the winner.
Ridden by Velazquez, Red Giant covered 1¼ miles in 1:57.16, a world record for the distance on turf that bettered the old mark of 1:57.40 set by Double Discount in the Carleton F. Burke Handicap on Oct. 9, 1977.