Arrogate, Highland Reel, Drefong, Oscar Performance, Lady Eli, Champagne Room, Queen's Trust, Finest City and Mongolian Saturday
OffTrackBetting.com - This year's Breeders' Cup features nine returning or former champions: Arrogate, Highland Reel, Drefong, Oscar Performance, Lady Eli, Champagne Room, Queen's Trust, Finest City and Mongolian Saturday.
The $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic, the climactic event of the Championships, will be run on the main track at 1 ¼ miles with a first-place owner's prize of $3.3 million with purse payouts down to eighth place. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has pre-entered five horses for the Classic, which would be a record for a Breeders' Cup trainer if all start, breaking the mark of three each for Bill Mott in 2012 and the late Bobby Frankel in 1993. Baffert, who has 14 Breeders' Cup wins, will be shooting for his fourth consecutive Classic, having trained the last three winners with Bayern, American Pharoah and Arrogate.
Juddmonte Farm's 4-year-old Arrogate defeated California Chrome in a dramatic finish in the 2016 Classic at Santa Anita and was later voted Champion 3-year-old male, and was named the Longines World's Best Racehorse. This year Arrogate rolled to consecutive victories in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) and the Dubai World Cup (G1), which made him Thoroughbred racing's all-time money earner, now with $17,302,600. But since returning from Dubai, the gray son of 1995 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Unbridled's Song has two lost two straight races, finishing fourth at 1-20 odds in the San Diego (G2) at Del Mar in July and second there Aug. 19 to stablemate COLLECTED in the TVG Pacific Classic (G1). Arrogate, ridden by all-time Breeders' Cup winning jockey Mike Smith, will try to win the Classic in consecutive years, which has only been achieved by Tiznow in 2000-2001.
Speedway Stable's Collected, 8 of 11 lifetime, went wire to wire over Arrogate in the Pacific Classic to earn a "Win and You're In" berth into the Classic. The 4-year-old son of City Zip has won all four of his starts this year with victories in Santa Anita's Californian (GII) in April and Precisionist (GIII) in June.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum's 5-year-old MUBTAAHIJ (IRE) earned a Classic berth with his win in Santa Anita's "Win and You're In" Awesome Again (GI) Sept. 30. A son of Dubawi (IRE), who has been with trainers Mike De Kock and Kiaran McLaughlin, has peaked under Baffert, and is a much- improved horse than the one who was a distant fourth behind Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup. Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith's CUPID, winner of the Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita, has also been pre-entered by Baffert as a second choice with the Dirt Mile as first preference.
Baffert's fifth pre-entry for the Classic is the front-running 3-year-old WEST COAST for owners Gary and Mary West. West Coast, who has emerged as a clear divisional leader off lopsided Grade I wins in Saratoga's Travers in August and Parx Racing's Pennsylvania Derby Sept. 23. The son of Flatter is 6-for-8 lifetime.
Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm's GUN RUNNER finished second to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup, but has ascended to the top of the division since then, reeling off consecutive Grade 1 wins starting with Churchill Downs' "Win and You're In" Stephen Foster in June. He followed that win with a big score in Saratoga's Whitney, another Classic "Win and You're In" in August, and will enter off a dominant 10 ¼-length victory in the Woodward on Sept. 2. Trained by Steve Asmussen, who saddled Curlin to victory in the 2007 Classic, Gun Runner is a 4-year-old son of Candy Ride (ARG) who is 10-for-17 overall, but is 0-for-3 at 1 ¼ miles.
Lauren and Ralph Evans' front-running 4-year-old New York bred DIVERSIFY earned the last of seven automatic berths into the Classic when he won the Win and You're In" Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park for trainer Rick Violette. Paul Reddam's PAVEL was a close third in the Gold Cup and will also head to the Classic for trainer Doug O'Neill, as will Peacock Racing Stable's deep closer GUNNEVERA, who was second in the Travers for trainer Antonio Sano and won the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream back in March.
Aidan O'Brien has pre-entered two for the Classic, beginning with Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith's CHURCHILL (IRE). The bay son of Galileo scored back-to-back Group 1 wins in the English and Irish 2000 Guineas, and was runner-up stretching to 1 5/16 miles in the Juddmonte International (G1) at York before a seventh-place finish in the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes (G1). Churchill, who has a second preference in the Breeders' Cup Mile, finished second in the one-mile Queen Elizabeth II (G1) last Saturday at Ascot. O'Brien's other Classic pre-entry is Andrew Rosen, Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith's Kentucky-bred WAR DECREE, who won the 10.5-furlong Koffy Diamond Stakes (G3) on the all-weather surface at Dundalk on Sept. 29.
Donegal Racing and Calumet Farm's KEEN ICE, who was third in the Classic last year for trainer Todd Pletcher and defeated Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh in the 2015 Travers Stakes, has also been pre-entered.
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On Championship Friday, Hronis Racing's STELLAR WIND will hope the third time's the charm when she headlines the $2 million Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff at 1 1/8 miles. The 5-year-old daughter of Curlin was second in the Distaff at Keeneland in 2015 and fourth at Santa Anita last year for trainer John Sadler, but has taken her game to a new level and will enter undefeated in three Grade I starts this year. Stellar Wind, 10 of 15 lifetime, won the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park in April, the Beholder Mile at Santa Anita in June and then earned a berth for the Distaff with her win in the "Win and You're In" Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar July 30.
Charles Fipke's homebred FOREVER UNBRIDLED qualified automatically for the Distaff with her victory in Churchill Downs' "Win and You're In" Fleur de Lis (GII) in June, then won Saratoga's "Win and You're In" Personal Ensign (GI) over last year's 3-year-old filly champion Songbird on Aug. 26. The 4-year-old daughter of 1995 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Unbridled's Song was third in the Distaff last year for trainer Dallas Stewart, and, like Stellar Wind, has clearly developed into a much more finished product this year.
G. Watts Humphrey's homebred ROMANTIC VISION earned a berth into the Distaff by taking the Juddmonte Spinster (GI) at Keeneland for trainer Rusty Arnold.
Pamela and Martin Wygod and Steven Sarkowsky's PARADISE WOODS earned a Distaff berth when she was victorious in Santa Anita's "Win and You're In" Zenyatta (GI) Sept. 30 for trainer Richard Mandella and looms a dangerous front runner. The 3-year-old daughter of Union Rags won the Santa Anita Oaks (GI) by 11 ¾ lengths, but had two subpar performances when 11th in the Kentucky Oaks (GI) and sixth at 1-5 in her return in Del Mar's Torrey Pines (GIII) in August.
Other 3-year-olds that will garner plenty of support, are China Horse Club and Clearsky Farm's ABEL TASMAN and Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider's homebred ELATE. Abel Tasman surged to the division lead off a trio of Grade I wins this year in the Kentucky Oaks, Belmont Park's Acorn and Saratoga's Coaching Club American Oaks for trainer Bob Baffert, and will enter off a second-place finish in Parx Racing's Cotillion (GI) Sept. 23. The Bill Mott-trained Elate was beaten by a head in the Coaching Club American Oaks, but then dominated the Alabama by 5½ lengths and was even more brilliant defeating older fillies and mares in the Beldame (G1) at Belmont by more than eight lengths. Tommy Town Thoroughbreds' IT TIZ WELL upset Abel Tasman in the Cotillion for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is also pre-entered. Ciaglia Racing's CHAMPAGNE ROOM, who won the 14 Hands Winery Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last year at Santa Anita for trainer Peter Eurton, and a recent winner of the Remington Park Oaks, has also been pre-entered.
The U.S.-based horses have won five of the last six renewals of the $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile and could add to that run this year, as Live Oak Plantation's homebred WORLD APPROVAL takes on a bevy of European Group 1 winners. Trained by Mark Casse, the 5-year-old son of Northern Afleet has won four of five starts this year. He most recently won Saratoga's Fourstardave (GI) in August, and then earned a berth into the Mile with his win in the "Win and You're In" Ricoh Woodbine Mile (GI) Sept. 16.
George Turner and Clipper Logistics' SUEDOIS (FR) was an upset winner of the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland on Oct. 7, and earned a berth into the Mile for trainer David O'Meara. The 6-year-old son of Le Havre (IRE) entered off a win in the Boomerang (GII) at Leopardstown on Sept. 9. Calumet Farm's BAL A BALI (BRZ) secured a berth into the Mile when he won Santa Anita's "Win and You're In" Shoemaker Mile (GI) in June for trainer Richard Mandella.
Godolphin's RIBCHESTER (IRE) has been Europe's top miler this year, with three Group 1 wins in six starts. The 4-year-old son of Iffraaj (GB) won the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in May, the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot in June and the Qatar Prix du Moulin at Chantilly Sept. 10 for trainer Richard Fahey. Ribchester finished second by one length in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot last Saturday. Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar's DECORATED KNIGHT (GB) earned a berth into the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf when he won the "Win and You're In" QIPCO Irish Champion (GI) Sept. 9, but trainer Roger Charlton has pre-entered the 5-year-old son of Galileo into the Mile as his first choice after running in primarily middle distance races in Europe most of the year.
In contrast to American success in the Mile, the Europeans have won seven of the last nine runnings of the 1 ½-mile, $4 million Longines Turf. Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor's front running Highland Reel is the defending champion. A Group 1 winner on three continents, the 5-year-old son of Galileo led the Turf from start to finish last year. He has bankrolled more than $8.8 million in his 25-race career, which leads all of the 20 horses pre-entered for the Turf. This year, Highland Reel won the Investec Coronation Cup (G1) at Sandown and the Prince of Wales's Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot. However, he comes into this year's race off a fourth-place finish in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1), and a third-place finish in last Saturday's QIPCO Champions Stakes (G1) at 1 ¼ miles.
Sir Michael Stoute has won the Breeders' Cup Turf four times and could make it a fifth score with Flaxman Stable's (Niarchos Family) homebred ULYSSES (IRE). The 4-year-old son of Galileo (IRE), who finished fourth in last year's Turf at Santa Anita, won the 1 ¼ mile Coral-Eclipse (G1) at Sandown in June, and earned a berth into this year's Turf when he won York's "Win and You're In" Juddmonte International (GI) in August. In his last two starts, Ulysses was second to Enable in Ascot's "Win and You're In" King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (GI) in July and third to her in Chantilly's Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (GI) Oct. 1.
Three American runners earned automatic berths into the Turf this year, headlined by James Covello, Sheep Pond Partners and Head of Plains Partners' BEACH PATROL for trainer Chad Brown. The 4-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid won the "Win and You're In" Arlington Million (GI) in August to earn a berth, then was even more impressive winning the 1 ½-mile Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (GI) at Belmont Park by five lengths on Sept. 30. Woodslane Farm's homebred SADLER'S JOY rallied from last to win Saratoga's "Win and You're In" Sword Dancer (GI) in August for trainer Tom Albertrani. Michael House's HUNT (IRE) won the "Win and You're In" Del Mar Handicap (G2) in August, but finished seventh in the John Henry Turf Championship (G2) on Oct. 17 to Red Baron's Barn 5-year-old gelding ITSINTHEPOST. Amerman Racing's 3-year-old OSCAR PERFORMANCE, last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner, earned back-to-back Grade 1 victories by taking the Belmont Derby in July and the Secretariat at Arlington Park in August.