Skip to comments.LIVE THREAD: 2017 BREEDERS CUP CLASSIC
Posted on 11/04/2017 3:41:39 PM PDT by ETL
DEL MAR, Calif. -- I was talking last weekend to a friend of long standing, an outstanding handicapper and avid racing historian, about the Breeders' Cup. Almost immediately, the conversation turned to Arrogate, of whom we were of similar minds.
We agreed that Arrogate's four-race run of the Travers, Breeders' Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup, and Dubai World Cup just blew us away. He raved about how Arrogate shattered the track record in the Travers, running the fastest 1 1/4 miles ever at Saratoga, which takes in more than 150 years of history and a lot of fast horses. I raved at how Arrogate beat a horse as good as California Chrome in the Classic despite California Chrome having everything his own way, and at the positional speed Arrogate showed in the Pegasus to avoid being badly shuffled back in the short run to Gulfstream's first turn. And we both gushed at the way Arrogate overcame a godawful trip in his overwhelming Dubai Cup score.
I mentioned I invoked Secretariat as a frame of reference in a column on Arrogate's Dubai performance, and I am a huge Secretariat fan. My friend said Arrogate is better than Seattle Slew, which was stunning to hear because my friend is the biggest Seattle Slew freak on the planet.
For all that's going on in this first Breeders' Cup at Del Mar -- and there is a lot -- this Breeders' Cup is for me, and I suspect many others, mostly about Arrogate. If you don't agree, then I guess you didn't hear the collective gasp that went up from the crowd at Monday's Breeders' Cup post position draw when Arrogate drew the rail. Anyway, this is just a touch ironic because Arrogate likely won't even be the favorite in his defense of the Classic. Gun Runner is expected to be the Classic favorite.
Yet those who were a bit more reserved than the rest of us in their assessment of Arrogate when he was on his big roll, and perhaps even those who soured on him after his two surprising losses over the summer on the Del Mar main track he races on Saturday, would likely concede that if Arrogate reproduces one of his big four victories, he will win this Classic decisively.
This is the real hook to this Breeders' Cup. We are grateful for the gates full of terrific horses in many important races, but I believe this Breeders' Cup is mainly about Arrogate, and whether he will leave us with one more -- one last -- display of true greatness.
With due respect to the amazing Lady Eli in the Filly and Mare Turf, the sensational Lady Aurelia in the Turf Sprint, and the brilliant Unique Bella, who will be attempting to become the first 3-year-old ever to win the Filly and Mare Sprint, Bolt d'Oro in the Juvenile is the horse I am next most excited to see Saturday.
Bolt d'Oro, by Medaglia d'Oro and from an A.P. Indy mare, always figured to realize his full potential once he got the opportunity to stretch out in distance. So it is an indication of how good he really might be that he won his first two starts sprinting, including the Del Mar Futurity. But Bolt d'Oro exceeded all expectations when he did go two turns for the first time in the FrontRunner Stakes. He crushed his field by almost eight lengths in a raw final time for the 1 1/16 miles that was .80 of a second faster than the highly talented 3-year-old filly Paradise Woods went in winning the Zenyatta, and a gaping 2.78 seconds faster than Moonshine Memories, the favorite in the Juvenile Fillies, went in winning the Chandelier, both on the same card.
Those who made the Beyer Speed Figures did not treat Bolt d'Oro's FrontRunner Stakes at face value. If they had, Bolt d'Oro would have received a FrontRunner Beyer 13 points higher than the 100 he was given. But that would have meant some horses in the badly beaten FrontRunner field would have earned wildly improved Beyers, and the Beyer folks were not comfortable with that prospect. As a longtime speed-figure maker myself, I certainly understand this, and consider it to be one of the benefits of having humans who use seasoned judgment making figures instead of computers, which could never make such distinctions.
That said, Bolt d'Oro's FrontRunner effort was wickedly fast, no matter how you slice it, and I can't wait to see how he backs it up.
DEL MAR, Calif. -- A lot can happen in seven months. From the time Arrogate and Gun Runner last met in March in the Dubai World Cup until they face another anew on Saturday in the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar, an entire baseball season was played, champions were crowned in hockey and basketball, and Roger Federer won a record eighth title at Wimbledon.
Arrogate overcame a horrible start to beat Gun Runner in the World Cup, but since then, he has lost both his starts, while Gun Runner has never been better, winning three straight Grade 1 races.
What appeared clear on March 25 -- that Arrogate is superior to Gun Runner -- is no longer a certainty.
But the Classic will be run at 1 1/4 miles, a distance at which Gun Runner is winless in three tries. It is also the distance at which the rapidly improving 3-year-old West Coast won the Travers Stakes in August. And this year's Breeders' Cup will be run at Del Mar, where Arrogate is 1 for 3 and Gun Runner and West Coast have never raced, but where Collected won the ultimate dress rehearsal for the Classic, Del Mar's 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic.
Arrogate, Collected, Gun Runner, and West Coast are the core of the Classic, the last of 13 Breeders' Cup races to be run Friday and Saturday at Del Mar, which is playing host to the Breeders' Cup for the first time. This is one of the best fields in the 34-year history of the race, with the top four all in line to claim Horse of the Year with a victory.
"It's gonna be a tough [freaking] Classic," said Arrogate's trainer, Bob Baffert. "You've got to show up with your 'A' game."
Baffert is going for his fourth straight win in the Classic, having captured it in preceding years with Bayern, American Pharoah, and Arrogate, who is seeking to join Tiznow as two-time winners of the Classic. Baffert also trains Collected, West Coast, and Mubtaahij, giving him four of the 11 runners. This is the first time a trainer has had more than three horses in the Classic.
But does Baffert have the right horse?
Based on recent form, Gun Runner is the morning-line favorite of both Del Mar's Russell Hudak and Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper. Since finishing second in Dubai, he has scored three runaway victories while earning Beyer Speed Figures of 110, 112, and, most recently, a career-best 115. He is a far superior animal to the one who finished second in last year's Dirt Mile at Santa Anita.
"He's stronger, recovers quicker from his races, recovers quicker from his works," said Steve Asmussen, who trains Gun Runner. "He trains like a machine. He's stronger. He's a better horse at 4 than he was at 3.
"This is the stage to prove where Gun Runner is at."
Arrogate was ranked the best horse in the world when he powered through the Travers, Breeders' Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup, and Dubai World Cup in succession. Baffert holds Arrogate in high regard. After a recent work at Santa Anita, he marveled, "I've never seen a horse jump like him."
Yet, like Federer at the beginning of the year, questions remain over whether Arrogate is as effective now as in his prime. And there is the not-insignificant matter of Del Mar, where Arrogate clearly did not perform to his best this summer. Baffert insists the main track was not to blame for his losses.
"I'm not going to use that as an excuse for Arrogate," said Baffert, who believes running Arrogate in the San Diego, instead of awaiting the Pacific Classic, threw preparation off kilter.
Still, Baffert said Del Mar is "a gimmicky racetrack."
"It can be a tricky track," he said. "Some horses handle it."
Collected is one of them. He thrived here during the summer and ran to his training.
"He loves that place," Baffert said. "He's a hardy little horse, like Gun Runner."
West Coast enters this race with a five-race win streak and does not appear to have yet reached his ceiling.
"He's a true mile-and-a-quarter horse," Baffert said.
Baffert shipped his horses here from Santa Anita on Tuesday, as though the Breeders' Cup was out of state, not down Interstate 5.
"I'm treating it like shipping in," he said. "Instead of getting on a plane, they're getting on a van."
The field also includes Travers runner-up Gunnevera and a pair of Aidan O'Brien-trained runners -- Churchill and War Decree -- racing on dirt for the first time.
Churchill won the Irish 2000 Guineas in May but is winless in four starts since. He most recently was a close third in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on soft turf. O'Brien's primary rider, Ryan Moore, chose him over War Decree.
"We've always thought the world of Churchill," O'Brien said. "He had a good race at Ascot. He's trained well."
War Decree won a Group 3 race on an all-weather surface in Ireland in his last start.
"He won nicely," O'Brien said. "It was a lower-grade race, obviously."
Pavel, War Story, and Win the Space are the race's longshots.
-- additional reporting by Steve Andersen
Watch LIVE on YouTube:
Time, TV, live stream, schedule and more:
Time: 1:30-9 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN (live stream) from 1:30-8 p.m., NBC (live stream) from 8-9 p.m.
Live stream: NBC Sports
Breeders Cup Saturday schedule
3 p.m. 14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies
3:37 p.m. Turf Sprint
4:14 p.m. Filly & Mare Sprint
5 p.m. Filly & Mare Turf
5:37 p.m. TwinSpires Sprint
6:19 p.m. Mile
6:58 p.m. Sentient Jet Juvenile
7:37 p.m. Longines Turf
8:35 p.m. Classic
Also Live on NBC.
Arrogate has is a huge horse and as often happens develops physical problems. He is being retired after this race. Word is he has bad feet. Given his breeding, that’s not surprising. He may have one more good race in him.
Thanks for posting. Interesting.
Correction: The YouTube “LIVE” link above may not actually be live. It had been live (in sync with official broadcast) earlier when I tried it. But now it seems to be around 20 mins or so behind. Not sure why. However, it might be live for you.
So far the favorites have been doing just terribly. Lady Eli showed nothing, Lady Aurelia, nothing Drefong. Could be a favorite, abut so far longs have done well all day. Just not the long shots I bet.
In the upcoming BC Turf (Race 11) #12, Beach Patrol, is said to be “America’s best chance” of winning this race. Sadler’s Joy currently 18-1 with about 5 mins til start time.
“Lucky” #13, Sadler’s Joy, (R11, BC Turf) finished strongly to finish 4th, at 16-1. Was forced to go extremely wide on the final turn. If not for that, he very likely would have been right there at the finish with the top 3. Too bad he couldn’t have snuck through on the inside rail.
He was morning line 30-1. He's currently 13-1. Should be far back early. But since this field isn't too large (11 horses) he shouldn't have much trouble getting through the pack on the final turn and home stretch.
Sorry I didn’t find this thread in a timely fashion.
Nonetheless - Arrogate is certainly not the greatest since Secretariat. Ghostzapper is still the horse of the century here.
Gun Runner I hope will be the real trooper I was hoping for with Arrogate.
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