Mongolia earns 1st victory at Breeders’ Cup horse race
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Mongolia made a splash at the Breeders’ Cup when a longshot horse with an owner and trainer from the central Asian nation won the $1 million Turf Sprint at Keeneland on Saturday.
It was the landlocked country’s first representative in the 32-year history of the world championships.
Sent off at 15-1 odds, Mongolian Saturday won by a neck and paid $33.80 to win.
The winner’s circle was a jubilant scene with owner Ganbaatar Dagvadorj, who races as Mongolian Stable, and his relatives and friends dressed in colorful traditional garb and headgear. He was joined by his wife, a former Miss Mongolia.
“It’s a big dream as Mongolians to participate in this big event,” Dagvadorj said. “And as a Mongolian, we ride horses starting at age four. It’s part of our tradition.”
Known as the “Land of the Horse,” Mongolians by reputation are considered some of the best horsemen in the world.
“Some people say Mongolian people are born to ride,” trainer Enebish Ganbat said. “Everybody was raised on horses and our horses are field horses.”
Dressed in robin egg blue silks with “MGL” in red letters on the back, jockey Florent Geroux and the 5-year-old gelding broke from post 14 on the far outside and immediately challenged for the lead. They took the lead at the top of the stretch and then needed an all-out drive to the wire to hold off Lady Shipman in a photo finish.
“Everybody is crying over this celebration,” Ganbat said of the reaction 6,475 miles (10,421 kilometers) away in the capital of Ulan Bator.
Five years ago, Ganbat switched from the long-distance training done in Mongolia to thoroughbred training in the U.S.
“From last year I begin to understand this is how to feed, how to train, how to breed,” he said. “It’s totally different.”
At an event that celebrates the breeding industry, Mongolian Saturday is, ironically, a gelding. He was bred in Kentucky and was purchased for $60,000 at a Keeneland sale.
The victory was worth $550,000 or just over 1 billion tughriks in Mongolian currency.