Don Lucarelli’s eyes were were wet and his voice cracked Saturday as he dedicated Shanghai Bobby’s gripping victory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Shanghai Bobby completed an undefeated season and locked up an Eclipse Award by beating He’s Had Enough by a head at Santa Anita Park. The two colts hooked up in a terrific battle through the stretch that was one of the high points of the 29th Breeders’ Cup.
After the trophies were presented and television interviews completed, Lucarelli, a Duanesburg resident, put the win in perspective, whispering a few emotion-filled sentences.
“I’m glad that we won it for everybody on the East Coast, especially people that were involved with the storm,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s a little bit of consolation for them. And this is for everybody back in the Capital District, especially everybody at the OTBs. That’s got to be No. 1 in my mind. All those guys that follow it. Everybody is cashing tickets now.”
Lucarelli stopped, took a deep breath and composed himself.
“It’s really sweet,” he said. “We’ve come in second and third in the Breeders’ Cup. I really felt that this was our time. Thank God, it was.” Lucarelli is a partner in Starlight Racing with Jack Wolf, a summer resident of Saratoga Springs. Starlight purchased the Harlan’s Holiday colt and watched him win his first four starts. They took on the Coolmore breeding and racing powerhouse from Ireland as partners in the week leading up to the colt’s win in the Juvenile.
Under jockey Rosie Napravnik, Shanghai Bobby delivered a gritty performance for the expanded team of owners. He attended hot early fractions of 22.28 and 44.55 and had a one-length lead through six furlongs in 1:10.28.
Napravnik and Shanghai Bobby briefly spurted away by a couple more lengths in the second turn. He’s Had Enough made a run and caught him at the top of the stretch, but Shanghai Bobby bravely responded to the challenge.
“He went from a big lead to no lead, and it looked like he might be in trouble,” trainer Todd Pletcher said, “but in his second start, the Track Barron at Belmont, it was a similar scenario. When they engaged him, he dug down and found more. That’s exactly what he did today.”
Shanghai Bobby completed the 11⁄16 miles in 1:44.58 and paid $4.60. Capo Bastone was third.
Lucarelli said he was having trouble describing his emotions. Talking about what he saw on the track was easy, though.
“It was exhilarating, the way he battled on in the stretch,” Lucarelli said. “He had every right to give it up, being on a hot pace like that. We knew that he was a fighter. This proves it. There can’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind right now who is the Eclipse Award winner for 2-year-olds.”
Pletcher agreed, and said the victory is “huge.”
“It’s a special race,” Pletcher said. “It’s great to have an undefeated 2-year-old and go all the way through from April to November. It’s pretty hard to do, to stay perfect and run at Aqueduct and Belmont and Saratoga and Santa Anita. It’s a real feather in his cap.
“He’s got everything you’d want. He’s fast and he’s courageous. He’s handled everything we’ve thrown at him, from 41⁄2 [furlongs] to a mile and a sixteenth, and he just keeps coming.”