Getty Images

California Chrome, Arrogate, Songbird up for Eclipse Awards

Leave a comment

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — California Chrome and Arrogate will meet once more on the track. Before that, an off-track race will be settled.

California Chrome and Arrogate were among the finalists announced Thursday for Horse of the Year, the top prize that will be awarded at the Eclipse Awards.

Those trophies will be presented on Jan. 21 – one week before California Chrome races for the final time, facing Arrogate again in the inaugural running of the $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.

California Chrome won seven of his eight starts last year. The lone loss was to Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“He’s obviously going to be missed,” Alan Sherman, the son of California Chrome trainer Art Sherman, said this week. “You can’t replace a horse like him. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime horse. We’re proud of everything he’s done, but all good things come to an end, I guess. We’re just going to enjoy it and have fun. I think he’s going to put on a really good show at Gulfstream.”

That show is scheduled to start Friday, when California Chrome is expected to ship in from California. His first workout at Gulfstream is scheduled for this weekend.

Songbird is the other finalist for Horse of the Year.

California Chrome is trying to become the eighth to win multiple Horse of the Year trophies since the Eclipse Awards were instituted in 1971. He also won as a 3-year-old in 2014, and is up for the Eclipse in the older dirt male division this year.

Arrogate never even ran against stakes company before he smashed the field – and a track record – on his way to winning the Travers at Saratoga in August. He followed that up with the half-length win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and that also could be enough to get him 3-year-old male honors even after not running in any of the Triple Crown races.

Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist and Preakness winner Exaggerator are the other finalists in the 3-year-old male race.

Songbird likely won’t leave the Eclipse Awards empty-handed – she’s also up for 3-year-old filly honors and would seem to be the overwhelming favorite there.

Javier Castellano is aiming for his fourth straight Eclipse as best jockey, with Jose Ortiz and Mike Smith the other finalists. Smith is a two-time winner, the last of those trophies coming in 1994.

Bob Baffert is one of three finalists for the trainer Eclipse, last year’s winner joined there by Chad Brown and Mark Casse. If Baffert wins, he would be the third five-time winner of the Eclipse in that division, joining only Bobby Frankel and seven-time winner Todd Pletcher.

The list of finalists, as announced Thursday at Gulfstream Park:

Female sprinter: Finest City, Haveyougoneaway, Paulassilverlining

Female turf horse: Lady Eli, Miss Temple City, Tepin

Horse of the year: Arrogate, California Chrome, Songbird

Male sprinter: A.P. Indian, Drefong, Lord Nelson

Male turf horse: Flintshire, Highland Reel, Tourist

Older dirt female: Beholder, Cavorting, Stellar Wind

Older dirt male: California Chrome, Frosted, Lord Nelson

Outstanding jockey: Javier Castellano, Jose Ortiz, Mike Smith

Outstanding apprentice jockey: Kevin Gomez, Lane Luzzi, Luis Ocasio

Outstanding breeder: Clearsky Farms, Darley, WinStar Farm LLC

Outstanding owner: Juddmonte Farms Ltd., Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, Spendthrift Farm LLC

Outstanding trainer: Bob Baffert, Chad Brown, Mark Casse

Steeplechase horse: Rawnaq, Scorpiancer, Top Striker

3-year-old filly: Cathryn Sophia, Queen’s Trust, Songbird

3-year-old male: Arrogate, Exaggerator, Nyquist

2-year-old filly: Champagne Room, Lady Aurelia, New Money Honey

2-year-old male: Classic Empire, Not This Time, Practical Joke

Native River gets wire-to-wire win in Cheltenham Gold Cup

Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHELTENHAM, England (AP) Native River delivered an exhibition in front-running to outlast favorite Might Bite in a thrilling duel to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Britain’s most prestigious jumps race, on Friday.

Ridden by champion jockey Richard Johnson, 5-1 shot Native River took the lead right from the start and was never passed in the race over 3 miles and 2 1/2 furlongs in front of a crowd of 70,000.

After they jumped the last fence, Native River and Might Bite were neck and neck, but Johnson got a kick out of the Colin Tizzard-trained horse on the uphill finish and Native River won by 4 1/2 lengths – a year after finishing third in the race.

For Johnson, it was a second victory in the Gold Cup – 18 years after his first on Looks Like Trouble.

“It’s been a long 18 years,” Johnson said. “To be honest, I was a passenger.

“The more I asked from him, the better he jumped.”

Might Bite’s handler, Nicky Henderson, was looking to become the first trainer to capture the Cheltenham Festival’s three signature races in the same year – the Champion Hurdle, the Champion Chase, and the Gold Cup.

It was Might Bite’s first defeat over fences, and Henderson said the heavy going didn’t do the horse any favors – especially against a rival who is a past winner of the Welsh National and the Hennessy Gold Cup

“It was the right thing to track Native River because no other horse got into the race, he had to be in the right place,” Henderson said of the 4-1 favorite.

“On better ground, stamina wouldn’t have been an issue. But in that ground you have to work so much harder. The winner is a Welsh National winner and the reason I’ve never won that race is because I can’t find horses that go in that ground.”

Native River won his owners 369,822 pounds ($515,000).

Anibale Fly, a 33-1 shot, was third.

Jockey Ruby Walsh to miss rest of Cheltenham Festival

Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHELTENHAM, England (AP) Jockey Ruby Walsh will miss the remainder of the Cheltenham Festival after aggravating a leg injury when falling off his horse during the RSA Insurance Novices’ chase on Wednesday.

Walsh, the most successful jockey in the festival’s history with 52 wins, had only recently returned to competition after a four-month layoff due to a broken leg. He was taken to a hospital for X-rays and his sister Jennifer said in a statement that “unfortunately he has aggravated a recent leg injury and will see his consultant in Dublin next week for further assessment.”

Walsh had been set to ride Killultagh Vic in Friday’s Gold Cup.

On Wednesday’s second day of the festival, Altior extended his unbeaten record over jumps to 13 in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Altior had a slow start eventually powered seven lengths clear of the Willie Mullins-trained Min.

It was also a good day for trainer Gordon Elliott who took home three wins, headlined by Samcro in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

The 8-11 favorite beat Black Op by two and three-quarter lengths.