California Chrome heavy favorite in Breeders’ Cup Classic

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The greater the buzz is about whether California Chrome can complete a historic trifecta by winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the better the odds get on the challengers to the richest horse in North American history.

California Chrome, who will start from the No. 4 post at Santa Anita racetrack under jockey Victor Espinoza, is listed as the -140 favorite for the climatic race of the season at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Chrome, the four-legged equivalent of Michael Phelps – the champion who’s kept on while most of his contemporaries have retired – is an unblemished 6-0 this season and will be trying to complete the first sweep of the world’s three biggest dirt races.

Chrome has already won the Kentucky Derby and the Dubai World Classic. The five-year-old’s odds seem to be getting less profitable by the hour; Chrome opened at even-money and was listed at -120 on Wednesday before the odds shifted again. It’s hard to imagine Chrome losing in his own backyard.

Arrogate, a Bob Baffert-trained three-year-old, draws in as the second favorite at +275 on the Breeders’ Cup Classic odds. The Classic is a 1 1/4-mile race and Arrogate set a track record at that distance while winning the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, New York, in August. However, this is only his sixth career race, so if he prevails he would be the most inexperienced winner in the Classic’s 33-year history. Arrogate is starting from the outside at the No. 10 position.

Frosted, who is listed at +750, has never finished higher than third in four lifetime starts at one mile and a quarter. His two graded stakes wins this year have each come at shorter distances.

Effinex, bred and named by Russell Cohen, offers the most realistic longshot value at +4000. Effinex, with Flavien Prat aboard on Saturday, was the runner-up in the 2015 Classic and will start on the inside from the No. 1 post. That creates the possibility of Effinex, as is his wont, biding his time and making a move for the lead on the home stretch.

Melatonin, listed at +1600 and slotted into the No. 6 post, has won four times at Santa Anita but has not raced since June. No Classic winner has ever had a four-month layoff, but the respite could help the veteran.

Two other darkhorses that rate consideration to place or show are Hoppertunity (+2200, No. 9 post) and Keen Ice (+2500, No. 3 post). Each could benefit from the blistering pace Arrogate and California Chrome could set in the first two quarter miles.

The field of 10 is filled out by Shaman Ghost (+2500, No. 8 post), Win The Space (+6600, No. 5 post) and War Story (+10000, No. 7 post).

Pegasus races planned for Gulfstream and Santa Anita in 2024

Horse racing on Opening day of the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita Park.
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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After seven Pegasus World Cup events, it’s evidently time for change.

1/ST Racing, which has hosted the entirety of the Pegasus series to this point at Gulfstream Park, is planning for two Pegasus days in 2024 – one at Gulfstream and the other at Santa Anita. Details aren’t finalized and it’s unclear how it would fit in the racing calendar, but 1/ST is planning for both dirt and turf Pegasus races as part of the Santa Anita program.

Gulfstream played host to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on the dirt Saturday, along with the $1 million Pegasus Turf and the $500,000 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf.

“I’d really love to see that we bring it to the West Coast,” 1/ST President and CEO Belinda Stronach said. “That will probably happen in 2024. What we did this year for 2023 was said, `OK, we have a number of great race days, let’s coordinate those better and call it the 1/ST Racing Tour and recognize great achievements within our own footprint.”

Saturday marked the first stop on that new 1/ST Racing Tour. Along with some of the biggest race days at 1/ST tracks – like Florida Derby day at Gulfstream on April 1, Santa Anita Derby day on April 8 and the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20 – there are a pair of days where the tour will be running simultaneously.

This coming Saturday, Gulfstream will play host to the Holy Bull while Santa Anita has the Robert B. Lewis – both of them Kentucky Derby prep races.

And on March 4, Gulfstream has the Fountain of Youth, another major Derby prep, while San Anita has the Big Cap. Plans call for coordinated post times at those two tracks on those days to provide the best racing action every 20 minutes, as well as some unique betting options.

“We can never rest on our laurels,” Stronach said. “We have to keep moving forward. We have a great team that’s really committed.”

The main Pegasus race is one of the biggest-paying races in North America. Art Collector claimed about $1.8 million from a $3 million purse with his win on Saturday. In 2022, only the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf featured bigger prizes among U.S. races, and the $3 million Pegasus purse is equal to the one offered last year at the Kentucky Derby.

Regardless of what happens with the Santa Anita plan for future Pegasus events, Stronach insisted Gulfstream will continue having Pegasus days. There has even been talk about Gulfstream playing host to Breeders’ Cup races again, something that hasn’t happened since 1999.

“This is staying here in Miami,” Stronach said. “Pegasus has a home here in Miami. We can’t move Pegasus from Miami. We have great partners here and it’s more than just a day now. We have deep roots here in Miami.”

Flightline, Pletcher, Godolphin lead way at Eclipse Awards

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Pat McDonogh/USA TODAY NETWORK
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PALM BEACH, Fla. — Flightline ran away in all six of his races, and ran away with top honors at the Eclipse Awards on Thursday night.

And trainer Todd Pletcher, for the first time in nearly a decade, received the sport’s top prize as well.

Flightline – the now-retired winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic to cap an unbeaten six-race career – won Horse of the Year as well as the Eclipse as top Older Dirt Male. It was no surprise that Flightline took home both awards, and he’s now standing stud.

“We’ll hope that his future is as bright as his past,” co-owner Kosta Hronis said.

Godolphin was also a double winner, sweeping the Eclipses as top owner and top breeder for the second consecutive year. It was also the third consecutive top-owner Eclipse for Godolphin.

“This is truly a golden era for Godolphin racing,” said Michael Banahan, the stable’s director of bloodstock. “And these awards and accolades recognize how special it is.”

It was Pletcher’s eighth Eclipse, extending his record for the most by any trainer, and his first since 2014. It was one of the few close races in the voting; Pletcher got 108 first-place votes, while four-time Eclipse winner Chad Brown got 95 and finished second.

“This really is not an individual award. This is a team award,” Pletcher said. “This is an award about the owners, and most importantly, the horses.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. won the Eclipse as top jockey for the fourth time in the last five years; he tied Pat Day and Javier Castellano for third-most in history, behind only seven-time winner Jerry Bailey and five-time winner Laffit Pincay Jr.

Ortiz led all jockeys with more than $37 million in purses in 2022.

“Wow,” Ortiz said. “It’s been an amazing year for me.”

Forte won the Eclipse as 2-year-old male, and will enter this year’s Triple Crown season as one of the early favorites.

“We’re all in this game for a horse like Forte,” said Mike Repole, the horse’s co-owner along with Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola and Teresa Viola. “We’re all in this game to one day maybe own a 2-year-old that has a chance. It’s great to have the Kentucky Derby favorite. … Forte’s an incredible horse.”

Epicenter won the 3-year-old male Eclipse, after running second at both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, then winning the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga over the summer.

Wonder Wheel was the winner as 2-year-old filly, while Nest won the Eclipse in the 3-year-old filly division. Malathaat was the Eclipse winner for older dirt female, Goodnight Olive for female sprinter and Regal Glory for female turf horse.

Elite Power was picked as the top male sprinter, Modern Games won the Eclipse for male turf horse, and Hewick was the Eclipse winner in the steeplechase division.

Jose Antonio Gomez won as top apprentice jockey.

The Eclipse Awards are voted on by members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers And Broadcasters.