Triple Crown champion American Pharoah took charge out of the gate, winning the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic by 6½ lengths Saturday in his final race before retirement.
The 3-year-old colt ran 1¼ miles in a track-record 2:00.07 as the sentimental 3-5 favorite among the crowd of 50,155 at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky. Fans stood 20 deep all along the rail, cheering and snapping cellphone photos of the superstar horse and jockey Victor Espinoza.
"This was for Pharoah," trainer Bob Baffert said. "We wanted him to go out the champion he is."
He paid $3.40, $3 and $2.40. Effinex, a 33-1 shot, returned $14.20 and $6.60. Honor Code was another 4½ lengths back and paid $3.40.
American Pharoah took on seven rivals after Smooth Roller and champion mare Beholder dropped out. Beholder had the speed and the class to potentially make the race a contest, but a lung ailment sidelined her.
It probably didn't matter how many faced American Pharoah on a cloudy, cool day in the cradle of American horse country. He smashed the track record of 2:05.36 by more than five seconds.
"The winner is one of the most amazing things I've seen," said Irishman Aidan O'Brien, who trained last-place Gleneagles.
It was a feel-good moment for a sport that has been battered and bruised — worries over declining attendance and drug controversies were wiped away in two magical minutes.
After easing across the finish line, Espinoza took the colt far up the first turn before slowly walking past the grandstand, accompanied by raucous cheers. The champion even had a military escort back to his barn.
American Pharoah won nine of his 11 career starts, including the first sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 37 years.
"It's a horse racing fairy tale, and I just happen to be in it," Baffert said.
Left 'em behind: Ashley Wagner, U.S. skater who easily won the Skate Canada title in Lethbridge, Alberta. She scored 202.52, far beyond the 188.89 for second-place Elizaveta Tuktamysheva.
Made it back: Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields, who won a middleweight bout by unanimous decision at the U.S. trials in Memphis and took a spot in the Rio Games.
Returned a winner: Canada's Patrick Chan, who won Skate Canada's men's title in his first event since taking a break after the Sochi Olympics. He scored 271.14 points.
Federer, Nadal to meet again
Roger Federer will face Rafael Nadal in a final for the first time in two years on Sunday.
The tennis greats both had straight-sets wins to set up a Swiss Indoors title match in Basel that will be their first meeting since January 2014, and first final since May 2013.
The top-seeded Federer eased to a 6-3, 6-4 win against unseeded American Jack Sock. The third-seeded Nadal beat Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-6 (7).
Kvitova drops Sharapova at WTA Finals
Petra Kvitova will chase her second WTA Finals title after outplaying third-seeded Maria Sharapova 6-3, 7-6 (3).
The fourth-seeded Kvitova, who won this title in 2011, plays fifth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska in the final.
Radwanska advanced to the final by beating second-seeded Garbine Muguruza 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-5.
AROUND THE HORN
Minnesota Scene: St. Olaf won the MIAC men's cross-country title for the fourth year in a row. The Oles, who had 34 points to 96 for second place St. John's, were led by senior Jake Campbell, who won the 8K race at Como Golf Course in 25 minutes, 36.1 seconds. Carleton won the women's title for the third year in a row with 61 points, 11 fewer than runner-up St. Thomas. Kimber Meyer of Macalester was the individual winner, finishing the 6K course in 22:14.2.
Truck racing: Matt Crafton won his fifth Truck Series race of the season, at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Women's golf: Candie Kung and Sei Young Kim shared the lead in the Blue Bay LPGA in Hainan Island, China, after Kung shot 1-over 73 and Kim 74 in the third round. Weather has been so difficult that their total is even par.
Men's golf: Justin Thomas birdied the final two holes to shoot a 5-under 67 at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and share the lead with American compatriot Brendan Steele (66). … Duffy Waldorf shot an 11-under 60 at Newport Beach (Calif.) Country Club and took a three-stroke lead in the Champions Tour's Toshiba Classic.
4China's Fan Yilin, Russia's Viktoria Komova and Daria Spiridonova and Madison Kocian of the U.S. made history at the world gymnastics championships in Glasgow, Scotland, tying for gold in the uneven bars. It's the first four-way tie for first place in history, though five athletes tied for silver on the pommel horse in 1922.