Regardless of the outcome in Sunday's $500,000 Grade I Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland, Garrett O'Rourke and Dr. John Chandler knew they were going to play a part in the post-race ceremonies.
As the farm manger and president of Juddmonte posed during the trophy presentation, however, they were still digesting the turn of events that forced them to hand over the main prize rather than claim it as their own.
The 54th running of the 11⁄8-mile Spinster produced an ironic result when Mushka, who crossed the wire in second, was elevated to first after Juddmonte's homebred filly Proviso interfered with her late in the stretch.
In her first U.S. start for trainer Bobby Frankel, Proviso — a Group III winner in France — put in a huge effort for red-hot jockey Rajiv Maragh, rallying from eighth in the 11-horse field between horses to gain the lead with about a furlong remaining.
Proviso looked to be drawing clear, only to swerve severely toward Mushka, who was making a bid on the extreme outside.
Though it appeared no contact was made, jockey Kent Desormeaux yanked his filly's head to the right to avoid the erratic Proviso. Shortly after Proviso hit the wire 11/4 lengths in front, Desormeaux lodged a claim of foul in addition to the steward's inquiry.
"I know just by the way her momentum had changed, I was definitely going to catch (Proviso)," Desormeaux said. "But when she made me stop as well, not to run over her, she made me lose my momentum and that cost me from beating her."
Maragh, who won the Grade I Darley Alcibiades aboard Negligee on Friday, said his filly was acting as if she was startled in the lane.
"She split horses decisively and I thought I was going to go on to win it, but her head came up as soon as she straightened up and she made a sharp right turn," Maragh said. "She was still much the best. She still ended up pulling away. I'm disappointed, but that's the call."
The final time for the race was 1:49.01. Teamgeist made a good charge from last to get third while Grade I winner Swift Temper looked uncomfortable over the Polytrack and came home tenth.
That Proviso showed such ability in her first time over the synthetic surface was enough to get her connections thinking about a start in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.
"We'll have a discussion about (the Breeders' Cup) after, but we'll swallow the big lump first," said O'Rourke, manger of Juddmonte's Lexington-based farm. "She's got a great future ahead of her but it's always hard to get taken down in a Grade I, and she hasn't won a Grade I before."
Though the circumstances were not the best, Mushka's first career Grade I victory validated expectations for the 4-year-old filly.
The daughter of Empire Maker was originally purchased by Zayat Stables for $1.6 million as a yearling before selling to Betty Moran's Brushwood Stable for $2.4 million at the 2008 Keeneland November sale.
After making four of her first five career starts on dirt and winning the Grade II Demoiselle in 2007, Mushka switched to turf and synthetics for good and now has won six of 16 lifetime starts.
"She seems to like (the synthetics)," said trainer Bill Mott. "She's 2-for-2 on it now and ... I've got to be thinking (Breeders' Cup) for sure.
"We don't like to win that way, but we're going to have to take it."