Arrogate Prevails in Classic Showdown with 'Chrome' on Breeders' Cup Saturday
By Bob Ehalt, special to the Breeders' Cup
ARCADIA, Calif. – It was the stretch duel everyone expected.
But not the finish.
A $6 million showdown came down to a private battle between the two favorites, but in the end it was the younger second choice who prevailed as Juddmonte Farms’ Arrogate wore down 4-5 favorite California Chrome in the final yards to post a half-length victory in the BC Classic on Saturday at Santa Anita Park before a crowd of 72,811.
A front-running winner of the Travers by a monstrous 13 ½ lengths in just his fifth career start and stakes debut, Arrogate proved his track record-breaking effort at the Spa was no fluke in defeating the pre-race favorite for Horse of the Year honors.
Fifth after the opening quarter-mile in the $6 million BC Classic, Arrogate was not fazed by the change of tactics as he and jockey Mike Smith made up a length and a half in the final furlong on the formidable 2014 Kentucky Derby/Preakness winner and surged to victory for trainer Bob Baffert.
“I thought he had no chance to catch California Chrome,” said Baffert after winning the BC Classic for a record third straight time and posting a 14th win at the World Championships. “I didn’t think he could win until the final 20 yards. This horse is still learning how to run. I’m surprised I beat California Chrome.
“It was an incredible race by two incredible horses. This is what the Breeders’ Cup is all about.”
For Smith, the Classic was his 25th Breeders’ Cup win and a race that made him a full-fledged fan of a colt who no doubt wrapped up an Eclipse Award for the champion 3-year-old male by becoming the first horse to win both the Travers and BC Classic.
“I became a fan in the final 20 yards. I was in awe of the horse he beat,” Smith said. “This horse has so much stamina for a young 3-year-old. He’s relentless. What a talent!”
For California Chrome, the loss snapped a six-race winning streak that included victory in the Dubai World Cup and Pacific Classic but did little to tarnish his standing as a horse brilliant enough to be North America’s all-time leading money earner and the leading contender for 2016 Horse of the Year honors.
“We had no excuses,” trainer Art Sherman said. “He ran his eyeballs out.”
Some 10 ¾ lengths behind California Chrome, Keen Ice edged Hoppertunity for third by a neck.
The 9-5 second choice in the wagering, Arrogate paid $5.40 to win for covering the mile and a quarter in 2:00.11.
In other Breeders’ Cup races on Saturday:
• Tepin fell short in her bid to post back-to-back victories in the Breeders’ Cup Mile as her late rally left her a half-length behind Tourist ($26.80) at the wire.
The champion turf female of 2015, Tepin had an eight-race win streak snapped when she ran second in the Grade 1 First Lady at Keeneland and was sent off as the 7-2 second-choice in a field of 14 on Saturday. There was conjecture the loss indicated the 5-year-old mare had lost a step, but she turned in a sharp effort in a race in which having to rally four-wide on the turn cost her some valuable ground.
“She ran a huge race,” trainer Mark Casse said. “Everybody was counting her out and she showed she's still got it.”
Owned by WinStar Farm, Wachtel Stable and Gary Barber, Tourist is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott.
“He came into this one in perfect shape,” Mott said. “We got the ground we needed and the trip that we desired. And the rest is history. Just put it in the record book.”
• Wavell Avenue suffered the same fate as Tepin as Seltzer Thoroughbreds’ Finest City ($19.40) and jockey Mike Smith registered a three-quarters of a length victory over the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner.
“She sends herself out of there and Mike chose not to take her back and it was absolutely perfect,” said trainer Ian Kruljac after his first Breeders’ Cup victory. “She has high cruising speed and I could tell he was in hand. It is just such an honor to compete with all these top trainers and have a top filly.”
Wavell Avenue, who was a 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Paulassilverlining, was the third horses trained by Chad Brown who finished second in the day’s Breeders’ Cup races, joining Flintshire in the Turf and Lady Eli in the Filly and Mare Turf.
“She ran huge,” Brown said about Wavell Avenue. “She showed she's a real Grade 1 performer and last year was no fluke. She's a real good horse, especially in the fall. I’m proud of her effort. She was just second best.”
• In an exciting showdown between the American-based Flintshire and European rivals Found and Highland Reel, it was Highland Reel ($9.60), the 2016 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe runner-up, who shot out to a lengthy early lead and never looked back in taking the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf by a length and a quarter for the Coolmore Team of Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith.
“We were quite happy to make the running here,” said trainer Aidan O’Brien after his 11th Breeders’ Cup victory and sixth victory in the BC Turf. “He’s a very good horse and I’m absolutely delighted.”
Juddmonte Farms’ Flintshire, a two-time Arc runner-up and second in the 2014 BC Turf, was second once again, 2 ¼ lengths ahead of O’Brien’s 2016 Arc winner and 2015 BC Turf champ Found.
“Naturally, I'm disappointed with the outcome,” Brown said, “but I was very proud of his race today. The course is very, very firm and when you have a classy horse (Highland Reel) like that alone on the lead, it's dangerous. We had no excuses.”
• Classic Empire ($11) wrapped up an Eclipse Award as the champion 2-year-old male in capturing the $2 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by a neck for Casse over favored Not This Time.
The victory was the fourth in five starts for owner John Oxley’s colt, whose only loss came when he wheeled and lost his rider in the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga.
“This is maybe even a little more rewarding because it hasn't been easy. He'll try you,” Casse said.
• Obviously, sometimes the fifth time is the charm.
No better than third in four cracks at the Breeders’ Cup Mile, the 8-year-old Obviously cut back to 6 1/2 furlongs for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and used his early speed to control the pace and then held off the fast-closing Om by a nose in the $1 million stakes.
Owned by Anthony Fanticola and Joseph Scardino and trained by Phil D’Amato, Obviously paid $9.60 to win as the 7-2 favorite in a field of 14.
“This is tremendous,” D’Amato said. “A (first Breeders' Cup) win for me and for my old boss (the late trainer) Mike Mitchell, who had the horse before me.”
Gary Stevens, who rode Om, lamented a poor start after a narrow loss.
“He got wiped out leaving the gate, which he did to himself, and it was a tough beat,” Stevens said. “He broke completely sideways from the gate and he had to overcome a lot. Almost got it done.”
• A break of more than two months after a decisive victory in the King’s Bishop at Saratoga on Aug. 27 did little to dull Drefong’s speed as Baffert’s 3-year-old colt outdueled favored Masochistic to win the $1.5 million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint by 1 ¼ lengths.
The fleet Drefong ($9.80) and the 8-5 favorite raced as a team until the Baoma Corporation runner edged clear under jockey Martin Garcia.
“What a racehorse,” Baffert said. “What a race. He’s been getting better and better, but we didn't know how fast he was. He had trained so well coming into this race I thought he was peaking. When I saw him in the paddock I just knew he was going to get it done.”
• The most heart-warming story of the 2016 had a heart-breaking ending.
Lady Eli, who overcame a near-fatal case of laminitis, took the lead in the stretch of the Grade 1 $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf but could not stave off a strong late rally by Cheveley Park Stud’s Queen’s Trust ($18) who prevailed by a slim nose over the betting and sentimental favorite in the Grade 1 stakes.
“I was thrilled the way she ran today,” Brown said. “I was somewhat concerned to see her so far back early, because it left her with so much to do. (Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.) was hopelessly trapped early, but somehow miraculously got out in the final turn to give her a chance to win. I wasn't sure which filly got it at the wire, but the more I saw the replays, the worse it looked for us. Frankie (Dettori, on Queen's Trust) rode a fabulous race and it was just two great horses down to the finish line. Naturally, I'm disappointed, but still very proud of her.”
Queen’s Trust gave Dettori his 12th Breeders’ Cup win and trainer Sir Michael Stoute his seventh, and third in the Filly and Mare Turf.
“Thank God everything went right today,” Stoute said. “I didn’t really have to convince the owners to come here.”
Avenge was a length back in third.
• The slate of Breeders’ Cup races started with a shocker as Champagne Room chased the pace-setting Noted and Quoted and took charge in the stretch to take the 14 Hands Winery $2 million BC Juvenile Fillies at odds of 33-1.
Trained by Peter Eurton and owned by a partnership topped by Ciglia Racing, Champagne Room held off a late bid by Stonestreet Stables’ Valadorna to prevail by three-quarters of a length under jockey Mario Gutierrez.
The victory came on the heels of a fourth-place finish behind Noted and Quoted in the Grade 1 Chandelier at Santa Anita and a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante.
In the second start of her career, Champagne Room triumphed in the Grade 2 Sorrento at Del Mar.
“I wasn't feeling utterly confident (coming down the stretch),” Eurton said after his initial Breeders’ Cup win. “She was actually moving pretty well. She was getting a little tired, but there wasn't anyone catching her. I'm feeling pretty good right now. This means an awful lot to me.”
American Gal, the 4-1 favorite, had a rough trip, going wide on the first turn and ran well to finish third, 3 ¼ lengths behind Valadorna.
Watch the 2016 Breeders' Cup race replays: