Arrogate heads field for Breeders’ Cup Classic

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Defending champion Arrogate heads a full field of 14 horses for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, with the world’s all-time leading money earner facing off against a horse that has beaten him twice in a row in the $6 million race that includes five runners trained by Bob Baffert.

The Classic won’t include Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, Preakness winner Cloud Computing and Belmont winner Tapwrit.

Pacific Classic winner Collected, who handed Arrogate his last two losses, Whitney and Suburban winner Gun Runner, Ireland-bred Mubtaahij and Travers winner West Coast are among the 14 horses expected to run in the 1 1\4 mile Classic. The Nov. 4 race will be shown live in prime time on NBC.

The Classic field is among a total of 187 horses pre-entered Wednesday for the $28 million, 13-race Breeders’ Cup world championships at Del Mar spanning two days. The track north of San Diego is hosting the event for the first time.

A record 46 foreign horses were pre-entered, including a leading 14 by Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien. New York-based Chad Brown is second with 13 horses. Coolmore Stud leads all owners with 14 pre-entries.

Baffert is going for his fourth consecutive victory in the Classic, after winning the last three years with Bayern, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and Arrogate. It would be a record if all five of his horses start in the Classic. Besides Arrogate and Collected, his other runners are Cupid, Mubtaahij and West Coast.

Final entries and the post-position draw will be Monday at Del Mar.

Besides Arrogate, there are eight returning or former champions pre-entered: Highland Reel, Drefong, Oscar Performance, Lady Eli, Champagne Room, Queen’s Trust, Finest City and Mongolian Saturday.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Arrogate will try to become the first horse since Tiznow in 2000-01 to win the Classic in consecutive years.

O’Brien’s two Classic entries are Churchill and War Decree.

Stellar Wind makes a third attempt at trying to win the $2 million Distaff at 1 1/8 miles. She was second in 2015 and fourth last year, and comes into this year’s edition undefeated in three Grade 1 starts.

U.S.-based horses have won five of the last six runnings of the $2 million Mile, and could do it again. World Approval, winner of four of five starts this year, takes on several European Group 1 winners.

The Classic winner will earn $3.3 million. For the second straight year, purses will be distributed down to the eighth-place finisher in all 13 races.

The event will open with four races on Nov. 3, followed by nine races on Nov. 4.

A maximum of 14 are allowed in each race, except the Dirt Mile, which is capped at 12. Seven of the races drew more than the allowable limits.

Bob Baffert sweeps Futurity and Starlet at Los Alamitos

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LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. (AP) Bob Baffert became the first trainer to win the $300,000 CashCall Futurity and $294,000 Starlet in the same year at Los Alamitos on Saturday.

McKinzie won the Futurity for 2-year-olds via disqualification after Solomini, Baffert’s other entry in the race, was cited by the stewards for interference in deep stretch and dropped from first to third.

In the next race, 2-5 favorite Dream Tree won the Starlet by 3 1/4 lengths to improve to 3-0 for the Hall of Fame trainer.

Baffert has won the Futurity a record 10 times, including the last four at Los Alamitos, where it was moved from now-closed Hollywood Park, where he won it six times.

McKinzie, named for Baffert’s late friend and Los Alamitos executive Brad McKinzie, was carried wide into the first turn and kept clear by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. McKinzie rallied approaching the stretch in tandem with Instilled Regard while Solomini started to gain outside of that pair.

The three horses came together and with a sixteenth of a mile to go, Solomini came in and bumped Instilled Regard before going on to finish three-quarters of a length in front of McKinzie, who was a head in front of Instilled Regard.

Baffert was surprised when the three stewards voted 2-1 to disqualify Solomini.

“It’s really too bad they took him down,” he said. “He was the better horse today.”

McKinzie returned $3 and $2.40. Instilled Regard paid $6.80. There was no show wagering because of the small field.

The final time for the Futurity was 1:42.57. McKinzie earned $180,000, increasing his career earnings to $210,000.

In the Starlet for 2-year-old fillies, Dream Tree and jockey Drayden Van Dyke covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.87 and paid $2.80 to win. It was Baffert’s fourth career win in the race.

Yesterday’s News was second and Piedi Bianchi was third.

Trainers rushed to save terrified horses as flames closed in

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BONSALL, Calif. — A routine day at an elite training center for racehorses transformed into terror and chaos in minutes, with hundreds of thoroughbreds stampeding out of their stalls in a desperate attempt to flee a Southern California wildfire that set their barns ablaze.

Turned loose by their trainers in a last-ditch effort to save their lives, the huge, muscular animals, their eyes wide with fear, charged through thick smoke and past dancing flames.

While hundreds made it to the safety of a nearby racetrack, others galloped in circles, unsure which way to run. Still others, too frightened to leave their paddocks, stayed there and died.

Workers at San Luis Rey Downs said an estimated 30 to 40 horses perished Thursday in the wildfire still raging out of control north of San Diego on Friday. At least two stable workers were injured, and their conditions were not immediately known.

Trainers described a terrifying scene that erupted at the facility Thursday afternoon, recalling how only minutes after smelling smoke, they saw flames roaring down a nearby hillside.

“I was heading to my barn to drop my equipment off and I smell smoke,” trainer Kim Marrs said Friday as she stood outside the still-smoldering facility. “Within two minutes, I look up the hill and you could just see it come up over the ridge.”

She and others tried to turn back the flames with hoses and fire extinguishers before firefighters arrived. But when embers from burning palm trees began igniting the roofs of barns, they realized they had no other alternative than to turn loose the approximately 450 horses stabled there.

“The next thing, there’s a stampede of 100 horses coming through here,” said Marrs, who was trying to lead one of the horses she trains, a 5-year-old named Spirit World, through a tunnel. “We almost got trampled to death.”

At one of the center’s many barns, video showed a group of trainers frantically tearing down a wooden fence and shouting at their horses to run.

One large black horse, its forelocks wrapped in white leggings, bolted toward safety but then spooked by the burning palm trees, turned and fled back toward its stable. Scores of others charged through thick smoke to safety.

Trainer Cliff Sise suffered burns on his chest and arm trying to get a 2-year-old filly named Scat Home Lady out of her stable. She wouldn’t budge, and he said she burned to death there.

“She was one of my favorites,” Sise said as he sat outside the facility.

Trainer Jerry Contreras said one of his best friends, a fellow trainer, was hospitalized.

“He was trying to get his horses out and was burned,” Contreras said.

At San Luis Rey Downs, the phone rang unanswered and the owners quickly barred outsiders from the sprawling facility.

It is Southern California’s premier training center for thoroughbreds, with a competition-sized racetrack, a smaller one for training, numerous trails for horses to relax on and even a swimming pool for them to work out in.

The center can house as many as 500 horses and states proudly on a sign out front that it is the “Home of Azeri,” racing’s U.S. Horse of the Year in 2002.

Other thoroughbreds that have trained there include Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand.

The facility sits among rolling hills, picturesque vineyards and farms down a winding, two-lane road just a few miles off busy Interstate 15, the main thoroughfare connecting Southern California to Las Vegas.

The horses that fled were quickly rounded up, and many were taken to the nearby Del Mar racetrack, where a veterinary center was set up for the injured.

The tragedy resulted in an outpouring of support from the racing community, with Southern California’s Los Alamitos Race Course canceling its daytime thoroughbred program Friday out of respect.

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and the Stronach Group, owners of San Luis Rey Downs, have set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for hospital and rehab costs.

Santa Anita racetrack officials in the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia collected clothes and other items for stable workers who lost their possessions.

“I lost everything. Forty years. I lost all my tack, all my machines, my webbings. It was all burned. My whole livelihood. I feel like quitting,” the 66-year-old Sise said.