McKinzie is early favorite in Breeders’ Cup Classic

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ARCADIA, Calif. — McKinzie, with a new jockey replacing Hall of Famer Mike Smith, is the 3-1 favorite for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic this weekend at Santa Anita.

The track is hosting the world championships for a record 10th time Friday and Saturday. A total of 36 horses have died at Santa Anita since December, including two since last Friday.

That hasn’t deterred an international group of horses from gathering to chase over $30 million in purse money.

The Classic will be shown in prime time Saturday on NBC.

How to watch the Breeders’ Cup Classic

“I hate to really say anything,” McKinzie’s trainer Bob Baffert said Monday when asked about the deaths. “I don’t want to jinx myself.”

McKinzie drew the No. 8 post on Monday in the 11-horse field for the 1 1/4-mile Classic. He’ll be ridden by Joel Rosario, who replaced Smith after McKinzie finished second as the favorite in the Awesome Again on his home track last month.

“He looks like he’s doing well. Really no excuses,” Baffert said. “The break is the whole key. You have to get away first and then you can have a plan. If not, you have to scramble for a plan.”

McKinzie has two wins and four seconds in six starts this year. The 4-year-old colt won the Whitney at Saratoga in August.

Baffert is going for his fourth victory in the Classic. He won it from 2014-16 with 3-year-olds Bayern, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and Arrogate. He’s never won it with an older horse.

Smith will ride Japan-bred Yoshida, an 8-1 shot.

Code of Honor and Vino Rosso are the co-second choices at 4-1 odds.

Elate, taking on males for the first time 10 years after superstar mare Zenyatta beat the boys in the Classic over the same track, is the co-third choice at 6-1 with Higher Power. Elate drew the No. 6 post.

She is undefeated in three races at 1 1/4 miles.

“It’s hard to be comparable to her,” Elate’s Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said about Zenyatta. “She was obviously a very special horse and one of the very best.”

Preakness winner War of Will is a 20-1 shot in the Classic and will break from the No. 4 post.

Others in the Classic field are: Mongolian Groom, 12-1; Owendale, 15-1; Seeking the Soul, 20-1; and Math Wizard, 30-1.

Friday’s five-race card features all 2-year-olds, with the winner of the $2 million Juvenile typically tabbed as the winter-book favorite for the Kentucky Derby.

The early Juvenile favorite is 8-5 shot Dennis’ Moment, trained by Kentucky-based Dale Romans. Baffert has an entry, too: 2-1 shot Eight Rings.

Other favorites in Friday’s races:

– Four Wheel Drive at 3-1 in the $1 million Juvenile Turf Sprint.

– Ireland-bred Arizona at 5-2 in the $1 million Juvenile Turf.

– Donna Veloce at 3-1 in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies.

– Ireland-bred Albigna at 9-2 in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Saturday’s card features nine races with results figuring into year-end honors for Eclipse Awards.

The $4 million Turf is led by 9-5 favorite Bricks and Mortar, trained by New York-based Chad Brown. Ireland-bred Anthony Van Dyck is the second choice at 3-1.

Midnight Bisou tops the 11-horse field for the $2 million Distaff. Smith will ride the 6-5 favorite, the heaviest favorite in the 14 races. She was third in last year’s Distaff at Churchill Downs and hasn’t lost since, going 7-for-7 this year.

Ireland-bred Circus Maximus is the 3-1 favorite for the $2 million Mile.

Other favorites in Saturday’s races:

– Covfefe at 2-1 in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint.

– Eddie Haskell at 9-2 in the $1 million Turf Sprint.

– Omaha Beach at 8-5 in the $1 million Dirt Mile. The colt was the favorite for this year’s Kentucky Derby before being forced to scratch.

– Ireland-bred Sistercharlie at 8-5 in the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf.

– Mitole at 9-5 in the $2 million Sprint.

Watch NBC Sports’ coverage of the 2019 Breeders’ Cup starting with Future Stars Friday on Nov. 1 from 4-8 p.m. ET (NBCSN) and continuing with Championship Saturday on Nov. 2 from 3:30-9 p.m. ET (NBCSN until 8, NBC from 8-9). 

Alpinista overcomes heavy ground to win l’Arc de Triomphe

Qatar Prix de Arc de Triomphe
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PARIS – Alpinista made light work of the rain and heavy ground to narrowly win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Sunday.

Jockey Luke Morris attacked heading into the last furlong and the 5-year-old mare just held off a late charge from Belgian jockey Christophe Soumillon on Vadeni and last year’s 80-1 winner Torquator Tasso, ridden by veteran Italian jockey Frankie Dettori.

“I had a beautiful draw in stall six and after being perfectly placed, there was a second when I thought we were getting drawn into it too early,” Morris said. “But once she had taken charge, I was able to sit on her from 100 meters out.”

Morris felt the conditions would have made it harder for Alpinista to attack the way she did.

“I was concerned when all that rain came but the race went very smoothly,” he said. “I couldn’t believe how it could have in a 20-runner Arc. It was incredible.”

Alpinista was among the pre-race favorites.

“If it hadn’t been my horse, I would have thought it was going to win every inch of the way, but when it’s your own of course it’s a nightmare,” Alpinista trainer Mark Prescott said. “I didn’t think all that rain would help, but she’s never traveled better and has come on with each race.”

It was not yet clear if Alpinista will next race at the Breeders’ Cup or the Japan Cup next month.

Royal silks return as King Charles III’s horse finishes 2nd

Ascot Races
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SALISBURY, England – The famous royal silks returned to British horse racing with the first runner under the ownership of King Charles III finishing a distant second at Salisbury.

Educator was the first horse to wear the purple, red and gold silks since the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 8.

Her oldest son and heir, Charles, has taken on the royal stable and Educator was sent off as the 11-10 favorite under jockey Tom Marquand for the Radcliffe & Co Handicap.

Okeechobee won by 4 \ lengths in the four-horse race.

The queen’s last runner was Improvise, who was beaten narrowly at Epsom on the day the monarch died at her Balmoral estate in Scotland.