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California Chrome, Arrogate, Songbird up for Eclipse Awards

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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

Baffert hoping Arrogate gives him third Dubai World Cup win

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Having taken over the mantle as the world’s best racehorse from California Chrome, Arrogate will attempt on Saturday to wear another crown that last fitted his illustrious American compatriot, the Dubai World Cup.

All eyes are on the 4-year-old Arrogate, who lost on debut 11 months ago but hasn’t lost since.

He’s won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup this year to stretch his unbeaten streak to six. In both races, Arrogate defeated Chrome, who won the Dubai World Cup last year at Meydan Racecourse by five lengths despite jockey Victor Espinoza hanging on to a loose saddle for most of it.

Under jockey Mike Smith, Arrogate has forged a winning combination in his last three Group 1 races: Travers Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup.

In Dubai, they have drawn stall nine among 14 contenders, a position which fails to douse the confidence of his trainer Bob Baffert.

“Nine is fine,” said Baffert, who also trained 2015 U.S. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

“He’s settled in pretty well. As long as he shows up, that’s the key. If he runs his race, we know what he can do.”

Smith was all praise for his mount, ranked the No. 1 racehorse in the world.

“I have been blessed with some really, really good horses, but I am not sure I have ever sit on one like this,” Smith said.

“Everything about him, his disposition, his mechanics, the way he gets over the ground … at times you feel as if you are running downhill instead of a level ground. What amazes me most is when the race is over, it looks as if he did not put much effort into it. His recovery time is so quick.”

Arrogate’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup wins came over 2,000 meters on dirt, the same distance and conditions as the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

Baffert hopes Arrogate can give him a third Dubai World Cup victory after Silver Charm (1998) and Captain Steve (2001).

He suffered a heart attack during his last visit to Dubai in 2012, and watched the World Cup five nights later with stents in two of his blocked arteries. He also watched from even farther afield last year as his other horse, Hoppertunity, finished third behind Chrome and Mike de Kock’s Mubtaahij.

He’s giving Hoppertunity another chance.

“Both my horses are happy and healthy,” Baffert said. “He (Hoppertunity) should be collecting a check again. That is what he does, picks up the pieces in these big races. He reminds me of Pac-Man, he just keeps going. A Dubai World Cup 1-2, that would be something.”

Mubtaahij is also back, although he will start under Christophe Soumillon from the widest of stalls.

“Like everyone, we wanted low,” the Belgian jockey said. “I will have to … hope for some luck.”

The Dubai World Cup features a nine-race card offering $30 million across six Group 1 and three Group 2 races on turf and dirt.

Six three-year-olds nominated late to Triple Crown series

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thunder Snow, winner of the UAE 2000 Guineas, is among six 3-year-olds made eligible to compete in the Triple Crown series during the late nomination period.

The late nominees, which required a payment of $6,000 each, raise the total nominations to 425 for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. The late nomination period closed Monday. The early nomination window closed in January and required a payment of $600.

Ireland-bred Thunder Snow, owned by Godolphin Racing, is set to run Saturday in the $2 million UAE Derby in Dubai. The colt has three wins in seven career starts for trainer Saeed bin Suroor.

The other late nominees are Hollywood Handsome, trained by Dallas Stewart; More Than Words, trained by Charlie LoPresti; Parlor, trained by Eddie Kenneally; Rapid Dial, trained by Ingrid Mason; and Stretch’s Stone, trained by Bruce Levine.

Thoroughbreds that weren’t nominated to the Triple Crown have one final chance by paying a supplemental fee. The fee for the Derby is $200,000; $150,000 for the Preakness; and $75,000 for the Belmont.