Bob Baffert

Arrogate heads field for Breeders’ Cup Classic

Leave a comment

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.

Arrogate remains on course for Pacific Classic at Del Mar

Getty Images
Leave a comment

DEL MAR, Calif. (AP) Bob Baffert wasn’t beating himself up a day after Arrogate’s upset loss in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar that snapped the seven-race winning streak of the world’s top-ranked horse.

The Hall of Fame trainer said Sunday that other than getting a lot of dirt in his eyes and mouth the 4-year-old colt emerged in good physical condition after finishing fourth, beaten by 15 \ lengths as the 1-20 favorite.

Baffert says that as long as Arrogate continues working out well and nothing comes up, the colt will run in the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 19 at Del Mar. Baffert says Arrogate “will be ready next time.”

Arrogate was never better than fourth among the five-horse field during the race. Accelerate led all the way and won by 8 + lengths.

143rd Kentucky Derby is as wide open as ever

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Bob Baffert is sitting out the Kentucky Derby, and not by choice.

Having the four-time Derby-winning trainer without at least one horse in the race for just the second time in 11 years indicates what an unpredictable winter it’s been leading to the start of the Triple Crown.

Baffert’s best horse, Mastery, got hurt after crossing the finish line first in the San Felipe Stakes. None of his other 3-year-olds developed into Derby material. Instead, he’ll aim for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks for fillies on Derby eve.

This year’s road to the 143rd Derby derailed other contenders because of injuries, including now-retired Not This Time, Klimt and Syndergaard.

“The amazing thing of getting a horse to the Derby is keeping him injury free,” said Doug O’Neill, who trained last year’s winner Nyquist.

For the first time in four years, the winner likely won’t be from California.

“It’s as wide open as we’ve seen in a long time. You’re going to have some big odds on whoever the favorite is,” said Dale Romans, who trains Gotham Stakes winner J Boys Echo. “It could be any horse this race. I don’t think this really means it’s a bad group of horses, I think it’s an even group of horses.”

There’s Classic Empire, who boasts an impressive resume as last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and champion 2-year-old. He won the Arkansas Derby and finished third in the Holy Bull Stakes, his only two starts this year.

His path to Churchill Downs hasn’t been smooth, however. He had a foot abscess and a back issue that prevented him from working out for a while. Twice in recent months, Classic Empire refused to train.

“I’ve never once counted him out. I know a lot of people have,” trainer Mark Casse said. “I feel that ability wise, he is the most talented horse out there right now.”

Casse also trains State of Honor, the Florida Derby runner-up.

Todd Pletcher has four horses set to run May 6 in the 1 \-mile race, with Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming as his leading contender.

Of course, big numbers are nothing new for the New York-based trainer.

He had five runners in 2013 and 2007. Yet for his 45 career starters, Pletcher has never had a Derby favorite. That could change this year with Always Dreaming, who had the fastest time among 35 horses going 5 furlongs at Churchill Downs on Friday.

“He’s got the right style to be really tough,” O’Neill said.

Pletcher’s lone victory came in 2010 with Super Saver. He is set to surpass mentor D. Wayne Lukas (48) for most career starters.

“Our Derby record is not as good as we’d like it to be,” he said. “We’ve had some horses overachieve on their way to getting there and in some cases, underachieve in the race itself.”

Besides Always Dreaming, Pletcher’s other horses are: Battallion Runner, Patch and Tapwrit. He almost had five again, but Malagacy isn’t expected to run.

There’s Girvin, the Louisiana Derby winner in a race against time to mend a crack in his right front hoof. His 32-year-old trainer Joe Sharp, the husband of retired jockey Rosie Napravnik, is doing everything he can to heal the colt in time to saddle his first Derby starter. Girvin had a similar crack earlier in the year and responded quickly to treatment.

“I’m not saying that I think I’m going to win the Derby, but I definitely wouldn’t trade places with anybody,” Sharp said. “He’s always consistent and he’s got the kind of running style that wins big races.”

As usual, a full field of 20 is expected. The final lineup won’t be known until Wednesday, when entries are drawn and post positions assigned.

Graham Motion, who trained 2011 Derby winner Animal Kingdom, is back with Irish War Cry, the Wood Memorial winner. His sire is Curlin, a two-time Horse of the Year who finished third in the 2007 Derby.

Still looking for his first Derby win is Steve Asmussen, who will saddle Hence and Untrapped. The trainer has two starters waiting in the wings, too. Lookin At Lee would be the next horse into the race if there are any defections, while Local Hero is No. 24 in the point standings.

Olympic skier Bode Miller recently bought into his first Derby starter, Fast and Accurate, winner of the Spiral Stakes. For years, Miller has been a guest of his pal Baffert during Derby week, but now he’s got some skin in the race.

For the fifth straight year, the field is determined by points from designated prep races. The top 20 earn a spot in the starting gate.