You could hardly miss the Mongolian contingent. They wandered the grounds in traditional dress. They posed hopefully near the paddock alongside the Breeders’ Cup statue. Soon afterward they let it be known why they were at Keeneland, when their Mongolian Saturday won the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint by a neck over Lady Shipman in a $33.80 upset.
The 3-1 favorite, Undrafted, ran fifth.
Mongolia had not received so much attention since that docudrama named "The Story of the Weeping Camel," all about saving a rare white camel, made its way through art theaters.
Mongolian Saturday is no camel, but a prime $60,000 Keeneland sales product sold four years ago when owner Ganbaatar Dagvadorj (Mongolian Stable) acquired the Kentucky-bred son of Any Given Saturday out of Miss Hot Salsa, with Normandy Farm the breeder.
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The 5-year-old gelding’s Breeders’ Cup win gave the day an international flavor more far-reaching than when owners from Canada, Dubai, England, and other European nations have won Breeders’ Cup races.
A French national, Florent Geroux, was the winning jockey. The trainer, Enebish Ganbat, is Mongolian-born and has been living in the United States for five years. Mongolian Saturday has raced all over the United States including Keeneland, running second in the Woodford Stakes on Oct. 3.
The winning margin was tight: a neck.
Mongolian Saturday stalked Ready for Rye through the early furlongs, had a 2-length lead at the top of the stretch and held off Lady Shipman, who had worked her way up from fourth. Finishing third was Green Mask, in the 51/2 furlongs run over “good” turf in 1:03.19.
Dagvadorj, the winning owner, is in construction, mining, food production, hotels, and oil. He said everyone in Mongolia was watching the race on television.
“Everybody is crying over this celebration,” he said. But no weeping camel this time.
Something better for Mongolia. And for the Breeders’ Cup.