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Arrogate upsets California Chrome to win BC Classic

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ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) California Chrome was cruising along on the lead, looking every inch the lauded veteran ready to polish his resume with another big victory. Trailing behind was Arrogate, the youngest horse in the field, brilliant but inexperienced.

In a thrilling finish to Breeders’ Cup weekend, racing’s newest star emerged.

Arrogate chased California Chrome through the stretch, leaving the rest of the field in the dust. The highly anticipated showdown was on.

With Mike Smith first whipping Arrogate left-handed and then right, the 3-year-old colt caught California Chrome in the final 100 yards to win the $6 million Classic by a half-length Saturday at Santa Anita.

“When I did that, he gave me another jump,” Smith said. “That is what got us on by.”

The victory elevated Arrogate to heir apparent to California Chrome, who at age 5 likely has one race left in his storybook career.

For Arrogate, the future is limitless. His potential is untapped, having not competed as a 2-year-old and making just his sixth start in North America’s richest race.

It was California Chrome’s first loss in seven starts this year; Arrogate won his fifth straight.

“I was surprised I beat him,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “I didn’t think I could beat him going in.”

Smith earned his third Cup victory of the weekend and leading 25th of his career. Baffert won his record third consecutive Classic in front of an announced crowd of 72,811, third-highest in the event’s 33-year history.

Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Arrogate ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.11 and paid $5.40, $2.80 and $2.60 as the 8-5 second choice.

California Chrome set an unchallenged pace, with Melatonin second and Arrogate loping along on the outside in third down the backside.

“I was cruising on the lead. He was doing it so easy, so comfortable,” Espinoza said. “Maybe I should have opened it up a little bit early.”

Around the final turn, Arrogate cut inside of Melatonin and shifted to the outside, taking dead aim on California Chrome, the 2014 Horse of the Year who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness that year.

“Once I switched over and dropped into the far turn, he really picked it up at that point,” Smith said. “Then he was relentless, this horse. He never stops. He’s got some stamina.”

California Chrome still had an advantage in the upper stretch until Arrogate closed steadily to pull off the upset.

“You saw two champions run,” said Art Sherman, California Chrome’s 79-year-old trainer. “What can I say? We got outrun on the fair. No excuses. He ran his eyeballs out.”

California Chrome returned $2.60 and $2.40. Keen Ice was another 10 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $5.80 to show.

Late-developing Arrogate first gained notice in August at Saratoga, winning the Travers by 13 1/2 lengths with the fastest time in the track’s 147-year history.

Then he proved in the Classic he’s not a one-race wonder.

“This horse is just learning how to run. California Chrome is a champion,” Baffert said. “To run down California Chrome, that’s what the Breeders’ Cup is all about, watching races like that.”

Hoppertunity, also trained by Baffert, was fourth. Melatonin finished fifth, followed by Frosted, Effinex, War Story and Win the Space, who didn’t finish.

Shaman Ghost was scratched.

In other races:

– Classic Empire won the $2 million Juvenile by a neck, making him the winter favorite for next year’s Kentucky Derby.

Ridden by Julien Leparoux, Classic Empire ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.60 and paid $11 to win as the 9-2 second choice.

Trained by Kentucky-based Mark Casse, Classic Empire has won four of five career starts, losing only when he tossed his rider in the Hopeful at Saratoga in September.

Not This Time, the 5-2 favorite, was second and Practical Joke third. Lookin At Lee finished fourth in the 11-horse field.

– Baffert won his fifth career Sprint race with Drefong, who scored by 1 1/4 lengths.

– Smith scored an upset victory in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint with 8-1 shot Finest City.

– Highland Reel held off favored Flintshire by 1 3/4 lengths to win the $4 million Turf for Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien.

– Tourist held off a late charge from defending champion Tepin to win the $2 million Mile by a half-length.

– Obviously became the first favorite to win on the weekend, taking the lead shortly out of the starting gate and holding off Om by a nose in the $1 million Turf Sprint.

– Champagne Room got the day started with a 30-1 upset in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies.

– Queen’s Trust caught 8-5 favorite Lady Eli at the finish line to win the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf by a nose, the first victory for Europe on the weekend.

Wood Memorial boosts purse to attract top horses

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NEW YORK — The Wood Memorial purse could increase to $1 million as part of a bonus created to entice the top 3-year-olds to run in the Kentucky Derby prep on April 7.

New York Racing Association officials said Saturday that the presence of any horse in the field with a previous Grade 1 or Group 1 victory would increase the purse from $750,000 to $1 million if the qualifying horse starts. In that case, the winner would receive $590,000, the runner-up would earn $190,000 and third would be worth $90,000.

The Wood is run at 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct. The race is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby prep series that awards 100 points to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth. The top 20 horses on the leaderboard earn starting spots in the Derby on May 5.

Jack Van Berg dies at 81

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Jack Van Berg, a Hall of Fame trainer who oversaw Alysheba to victories in the 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, died Wednesday. He was 81.

He died in a Little Rock, Arkansas, hospital, according to a spokeswoman for Oaklawn Park, where Van Berg had relocated his training base after leaving Southern California in 2013. No cause was given.

Van Berg ranks fourth all-time among trainers in North America, with 6,523 victories from 41,164 starts, according to Equibase. He had career purse earnings of $85,925,482.

In the Derby, Alysheba and jockey Chris McCarron were nearly knocked down at the top of the stretch by Bet Twice. Alysheba recovered and won despite having just one career victory before the Run for the Roses. Alysheba won the Preakness to set up a try for the Triple Crown but finished fourth in the Belmont.

As a 4-year-old, Alysheba won the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Classic and went on to earn the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.

Van Berg saddled Gate Dancer to victory in the 1984 Preakness. That same year, he earned the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer.

Van Berg was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1985. His father, trainer Marion Van Berg, already was there, having entered in 1970.

From 1959-77, Van Berg was the leading trainer at Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1976, he won a record 496 races and was the nation’s leading trainer, with $2,976,196 in purse earnings.

In 1987, Van Berg became the first trainer to win 5,000 races when he saddle Art’s Chandelle to victory at Arlington Park outside Chicago.

He trained in Southern California for 41 years until moving to Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Arkansas, after Hollywood Park closed in December 2013. Van Berg blamed the cities of Inglewood and Los Angeles and the state of California for the track’s closure.

“I just think it’s a pathetic thing,” he said at the time. “It’s ridiculous to let something like this that so many people love and thrive on close. They did everything they could to kill racing. I’ve had enough. I don’t like California racing anymore. I don’t like the way they run it and what they do.”

Van Berg mentored Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who began as an assistant to him.

Born June 7, 1936, in Columbus, Nebraska, John Charles Van Berg began training for his father in the 1960s. The elder Van Berg trained nearly 1,500 winners but was more successful as an owner, winning 4,691 races and $13,936,965. He was the first inductee of the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame, and his son followed him.