There’s not much that hasn’t been said about this year’s $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) favorite California Chrome that hasn’t been said about a million times. Sometimes in racing it isn’t about the wager, or beating the favorite, or touting the right horse. Sometimes it’s about enjoying the ride, and with precious little time left in his career, sitting back and enjoying the ride is what this year’s Classic is all about.
So, in the spirit of having to run the race before crowning a winner, here goes…
Dual classic winner, Dubai World Cup winner, multiple grade 1 winner, North America’s richest racehorse of all time. A world traveler, California Chrome ventured twice to the Middle Eastern desert, once to Europe and, though he called Los Alamitos home, visited tracks all over Southern California, making stops in Kentucky, Maryland and New York along the way. It’s hard to imagine him being any better than he’s been, but California Chrome has never looked or trained better going into a race. It’s not over, but a Breeders’ Cup Classic score would be close to icing on the cake for the Art Sherman trainee. He’s headed to the lead under regular jockey Victor Espinoza and once he gets there, as he’s proven time and time again, will be tough to get past.
Arrogate has been called the “Chrome Buster” all week and to say he’s been training like a freak since winning the Travers Stakes (GI) in record fashion in his stakes debut in August is an understatement. Trainer Bob Baffert knows how to win this race, having saddled the last two winners (including Triple Crown hero American Pharoah) and he’s maintained a quiet confidence leading into the big day. On paper it looks like he’ll join California Chrome on the lead, but he’s been working off horses in the mornings and learning how to close. The big, gray son of Unbridled’s Song has numbers and talent and success at the distance but he will absolutely need to be at his best to beat California Chrome.
Frosted is the fastest gun in the East and chose this race rather than the Dirt Mile (GI). He’s kind of a head-scratcher in that one day he’s a miler, one day he’s an effective distance horse. Problem is this is not the race to be in when you can’t decide what you want to be. One major thing he has going for him is a tactical ability in a race where an abundance of speed. His best puts him in the mix, but just a cut below the best we’re expecting from California Chrome. The son of Tapit is certainly textbook good looking and has trained well over Santa Anita’s surface for more than a week.
Effinex has raced six times since his second to American Pharoah a year ago and has managed a bunch of decent finishes, including Oaklawn Handicap (GII) and Suburban Handicap (GII) wins. He was in California earlier in the year and was third as the favorite in the Santa Anita Handicap (GI), but came out of the race with hives all over his body from an allergic reaction to shavings. Back in town with his own load of bedding, he’s a good off-the-pace type who figures for a larger share of the pot.
Hoppertunity is always right there, but even though he was impressive in victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last month, it was a short field and nothing like this Classic field assembled. He is a logical choice for any exotics ticket because he always runs his race.
Melatonin is a two-time grade 1 winner at this distance at this track (Big Cap, Gold Cup at Santa Anita) and has turned his decidedly sprinter pedigree into a very formidable career in routing. He’s been off a long time, which is his big concern, but he should always be considered dangerous, especially since he hails from the barn of outstanding trainer David Hofmans.
Keen Ice has one race under his belt — a third-place allowance finish — since being injured after his seventh-place finish in Dubai in late March. Good horse, probably needs a race before being a strong consideration at this level.
Win The Space is a hard-trying bugger and his best gives him a share, but this is by far the toughest field he’s ever faced.
War Story has changed trainers more than most horses run. Hard to imagine he’ll win in here, but stranger things have happened (Arcangues anyone?).