By Ben Everill
ARCADIA, California (Reuters) - Kentucky bred colt Shanghai Bobby maintained his perfect record by holding off a surprise challenge from He's Had Enough to claim the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park on Saturday.
The 6-5 favorite with four previous wins from as many starts, Shanghai Bobby appeared to have bolted to the lead too early on the final turn and was being swamped by challengers.
But jockey Rosie Napravnik summoned another surge from the Todd Pletcher trained colt and he kicked again to win by a head over the one and one-sixteenth of a mile distance in 1:44.58.
"He went pretty fast early and it looked like he was in trouble, but when horses engaged him he fought on and found more," said Pletcher, who claimed his seventh Breeders' Cup triumph.
"It's great to have an undefeated two-year-old and go all the way from April to November; it's pretty hard to do. It's a real feather in his cap.
"He's got everything you want. He's fast and he's courageous. He's handled everything we've thrown at him from four and a half furlongs to one and one-sixteenth miles. He just keeps coming."
He's Had Enough, a 19-1 long shot, almost stole the show before finishing second while Capo Bastone, who started the race at 9-1, claimed third.
With the race long seen as a precursor to the following season's Kentucky Derby, Shanghai Bobby will now carry expectation into the 2013 Triple Crown campaign although his connections would not confirm the horse would suit up for next May's Derby.
Having faced a chaotic week in the lead up with a flight delay out of New York due to superstorm Sandy and running for the first time without the controversial diuretic drug Lasix, some were softening on the exceptional horse's chances.
But Napravnik guided him home to become just the second female to take out a Breeders' Cup race, handing the colt the divisional championship in the process.
"Shanghai Bobby is a cool horse to be around. He's talented and that's all part of what my dream has been, to be able to ride this type of athlete and compete in the world championships, so it couldn't be a better feeling," Napravnik said.
"I guess what I proved to myself the most is that I really have worked hard to get to this stage in my career, and as long as you've got the horse underneath you, you can get the job done."
Napravnik refused to become overly excited about the possibility of being the first female to win a Kentucky Derby.
"A horse like this makes it more real, but I was shown firsthand that you're not in the Derby until you're in the gates," she said.
"Last year I had a horse withdraw the day before the day of entry… there is a lot that happens between now and May.
"So it's one race at a time, but as far as talent goes, they've got a real contender."
(Editing by Gene Cherry)