Arrogate upsets California Chrome to win BC Classic

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ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) California Chrome was cruising along on the lead, looking every inch the lauded veteran ready to polish his resume with another big victory. Trailing behind was Arrogate, the youngest horse in the field, brilliant but inexperienced.

In a thrilling finish to Breeders’ Cup weekend, racing’s newest star emerged.

Arrogate chased California Chrome through the stretch, leaving the rest of the field in the dust. The highly anticipated showdown was on.

With Mike Smith first whipping Arrogate left-handed and then right, the 3-year-old colt caught California Chrome in the final 100 yards to win the $6 million Classic by a half-length Saturday at Santa Anita.

“When I did that, he gave me another jump,” Smith said. “That is what got us on by.”

The victory elevated Arrogate to heir apparent to California Chrome, who at age 5 likely has one race left in his storybook career.

For Arrogate, the future is limitless. His potential is untapped, having not competed as a 2-year-old and making just his sixth start in North America’s richest race.

It was California Chrome’s first loss in seven starts this year; Arrogate won his fifth straight.

“I was surprised I beat him,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “I didn’t think I could beat him going in.”

Smith earned his third Cup victory of the weekend and leading 25th of his career. Baffert won his record third consecutive Classic in front of an announced crowd of 72,811, third-highest in the event’s 33-year history.

Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Arrogate ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.11 and paid $5.40, $2.80 and $2.60 as the 8-5 second choice.

California Chrome set an unchallenged pace, with Melatonin second and Arrogate loping along on the outside in third down the backside.

“I was cruising on the lead. He was doing it so easy, so comfortable,” Espinoza said. “Maybe I should have opened it up a little bit early.”

Around the final turn, Arrogate cut inside of Melatonin and shifted to the outside, taking dead aim on California Chrome, the 2014 Horse of the Year who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness that year.

“Once I switched over and dropped into the far turn, he really picked it up at that point,” Smith said. “Then he was relentless, this horse. He never stops. He’s got some stamina.”

California Chrome still had an advantage in the upper stretch until Arrogate closed steadily to pull off the upset.

“You saw two champions run,” said Art Sherman, California Chrome’s 79-year-old trainer. “What can I say? We got outrun on the fair. No excuses. He ran his eyeballs out.”

California Chrome returned $2.60 and $2.40. Keen Ice was another 10 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $5.80 to show.

Late-developing Arrogate first gained notice in August at Saratoga, winning the Travers by 13 1/2 lengths with the fastest time in the track’s 147-year history.

Then he proved in the Classic he’s not a one-race wonder.

“This horse is just learning how to run. California Chrome is a champion,” Baffert said. “To run down California Chrome, that’s what the Breeders’ Cup is all about, watching races like that.”

Hoppertunity, also trained by Baffert, was fourth. Melatonin finished fifth, followed by Frosted, Effinex, War Story and Win the Space, who didn’t finish.

Shaman Ghost was scratched.

In other races:

– Classic Empire won the $2 million Juvenile by a neck, making him the winter favorite for next year’s Kentucky Derby.

Ridden by Julien Leparoux, Classic Empire ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.60 and paid $11 to win as the 9-2 second choice.

Trained by Kentucky-based Mark Casse, Classic Empire has won four of five career starts, losing only when he tossed his rider in the Hopeful at Saratoga in September.

Not This Time, the 5-2 favorite, was second and Practical Joke third. Lookin At Lee finished fourth in the 11-horse field.

– Baffert won his fifth career Sprint race with Drefong, who scored by 1 1/4 lengths.

– Smith scored an upset victory in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint with 8-1 shot Finest City.

– Highland Reel held off favored Flintshire by 1 3/4 lengths to win the $4 million Turf for Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien.

– Tourist held off a late charge from defending champion Tepin to win the $2 million Mile by a half-length.

– Obviously became the first favorite to win on the weekend, taking the lead shortly out of the starting gate and holding off Om by a nose in the $1 million Turf Sprint.

– Champagne Room got the day started with a 30-1 upset in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies.

– Queen’s Trust caught 8-5 favorite Lady Eli at the finish line to win the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf by a nose, the first victory for Europe on the weekend.

Flightline, Pletcher, Godolphin lead way at Eclipse Awards

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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.

Trainer Bob Baffert’s ban from racing in New York is over

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Bob Baffert can once again enter horses at New York’s major tracks.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s one-year ban by the New York Racing Association ended Wednesday, allowing him to enter horses as soon as Thursday.

“I was disappointed they even did it, but it’s water under the bridge,” Baffert told The Associated Press by phone.

He was suspended last June for repeated medication violations, although none of them occurred in New York. He was barred from Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. A panel credited Baffert for time served for an initial suspension, which allowed him to return this week.

Aqueduct is currently holding its 44-day winter meet that runs through March 26. Baffert doesn’t typically run horses this time of year in New York; he targets the biggest stakes races at Belmont in the spring and Saratoga in the summer.

Baffert remains under a two-year ban by Churchill Downs Inc., which sidelined him after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that is not allowed on race day. The penalty expires shortly after the Kentucky Derby in May. However, Baffert is fighting the suspension in federal court.

The Southern California-based trainer has a big weekend coming up around the country, although not in New York.

He has horses running at three tracks on Saturday.

Defunded is entered in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in Florida, where Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes will be on hand.

Arabian Knight goes into the $750,000 Southwest Stakes as the early favorite at Oaklawn in Arkansas. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby prep race a record-tying five times and will travel to Hot Springs to watch the 3-year-old colt.

“It’s going to be a good test for him. The only way to find out is to run him long,” he said. “It’s going to take a superior horse to do that and I’m hoping that he is.”

The Southwest offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top five finishers. Arabian Knight won’t receive any points regardless of his placing because of Baffert’s Derby ban.

Hopper will run in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

On Sunday at the same track, Baffert has entered four of the five horses set to run in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds.