By Kevin Martin
There are three races that most U.S.-based owners, trainers, and jockeys covet over all others. The Kentucky Derby is the Kentucky Derby and its place among the elite races requires no explanation. The Dubai World Cup, held annually since 1996 in the United Arab Emirates, is currently the richest race in the world with a purse of $10M. And, finally, the Breeders’ Cup Classic has been the climax of the American racing season since its first edition in 1984. These three dirt races make up a trio of races that stand alone in prestige. Winning any of the three is the highlight of a career for the horse and its human connections. Winning two of the three is rarefied air. Winning all three has never been done.
On Saturday, California Chrome is favored to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic and complete the unprecedented triple in thoroughbred racing. The modestly bred 2015 Kentucky Derby winner, who added the Dubai World Cup win to his resume early this year, will face nine competitors in his bid to make history. If he wins Saturday, he would become the first horse to win the Dubai World Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic in the same calendar year – a feat alone that would stamp his 2016 campaign as one of the best of this century. More importantly, he’d be the first to win the Derby, World Cup, and Classic putting him in the conversation as one of the best horses of the modern era.
His main rival is the Bob Baffert trained Arrogate. Where California Chrome has raced twenty-four times and has fifteen wins under his belt, the 3-year old Arrogate is in his first year of racing and making just the sixth start of his career. Arrogate went from an unknown to potential superstar with a sublime performance in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August when he set a New York stakes record time for 1 1/4 miles in winning by a resounding thirteen and a half lengths. While it’s hard to imagine such an inexperienced horse winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic, it is impossible to ignore his performance this summer. If he runs in the Classic like he did in the Travers, he can beat California Chrome.
Frosted is the likely third betting choice behind the top two and has two graded stakes wins this year that rank among the best performances of 2016. Both wins came in New York at one mile (Met Mile) and 1 1/8 miles (Whitney Stakes). This big question mark for Frosted is the 1 1/4 miles distance of the Classic where he is without a win from four starts and has never finished better than third. He was beaten twelve lengths by American Pharoah in last year’s BC Classic but has improved significantly this year. With all of the money bet on Arrogate and California Chrome, he will offer some value for his backers if he can spring the upset.
There are a few longshot entries that have a chance to finish in the money on Saturday. Effinex and Melatonin have performed well at the 1 1/4 miles Classic distance. Effinex has run that distance eight times in his career and has finished in the top three seven times with two wins. In his last start he finished second by a half length in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He also ran second in last year’s BC Classic behind American Pharoah. Melatonin has two wins from two starts at 1 1/4 miles and is a perfect four for four at Santa Anita Park, the California track hosting this year’s Breeders’ Cup. His trainer, David Hofmans has won three races at the Breeders’ Cup and all came at odds exceeding 19-1. While Effinex and Melatonin are unlikely winners, they are horses that could cash a nice check with a top three finish.
Breeders’ Cup Classic is a chance to witness history and the capstone to two days of world class racing at Santa Anita Park on Friday and Saturday.
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