A Wednesday update for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Distaff contenders from the 2016 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, consisting of 13 (G1) races with purses and awards totalling $28 million, will be held Nov. 4-5 at Santa Anita Park.
Arrogate/Hoppertunity– A Classic victory for the third year in a row would be Bob Baffert’s if Arrogate or Hoppertunity come through Saturday. It is a matter of no concern to the Hall of Fame trainer.
“I’m so focused on getting my horses ready I’m not thinking about three in a row or anything like that,” Baffert said Wednesday morning.
Arrogate jogged 1m under exercise rider Dana Barnes Wednesday morning. Hoppertunity stood in the gate before galloping a mile.
Mike Smith rides Arrogate, a 3yo son of Unbridled’s Song whose last outing was a smashing 13 ½-length romp in the Travers.
“His record speaks for itself,” Smith said. “He’s been training unbelievably. He’ll need to repeat the race he ran in the Travers to beat California Chrome and the others, but he’s got the talent.”
Smith said the No. 10 post position for Arrogate was fine with him.
“He’s a big horse, but he jumped well (from the gate) at Saratoga and hopefully he will again,” Smith said. “The 10 is actually a good spot.”
California Chrome – While trainer Art Sherman watched thoroughbred racing’s richest runner, Breeders’ Cup Classic favorite California Chrome, roll around in a large pit of sand he created for the horse behind his barn following his 1 5/8m gallop Wednesday morning, he observed, “He’s really the kind of horse you just want to be around. He’s got such a presence to himself, and, as you can see, he loves to play.”
But, of course, running is what has made ‘Chrome’ such a household name in racing circles. “He could always run,” Sherman said. “He won a stakes as a 2-year-old, but should have actually won a couple more. He got in trouble a lot during his races, because he was still green and didn’t like to run inside or have horses lay on him during a race. But I think the turning point for him was the San Felipe Stakes here at Santa Anita. It seemed like the light just went on for him. He was just a different horse from that point on.”
“In the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic he only got beaten a neck, but he wasn’t at his best mentally. He shipped around a lot that year and went through the Triple Crown races. There’s such a difference between how he’s coming into this year’s Classic and then.”
“Now, he’s got his game face on when he gets to the paddock. He’s all business, he knows what he has to do. He brings his ‘A’ game. From my experience, though, I think horses are at their best when they’re 5 years old. Chrome is bigger and stronger than ever.
“And, in my opinion, a mile and a quarter is the best distance for him. He’s got natural speed to clear horses, but can be tactical enough to lay behind the speed. He’s not one-dimensional. The way he runs now, he’s become a push button horse; he’ll do whatever Victor (Espinoza) asks of him. I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.”
Effinex/Shaman Ghost – Tri-Bone Stables’ Effinex schooled in the starting gate and jogged 1m and Stronach Stables’ Shaman Ghost galloped 1 1/4m Wednesday morning at Santa Anita in preparation for their respective starts in Saturday’s Classic.
Effinex is scheduled to make his second attempt at a Classic victory after finishing second behind 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah last year at Keeneland. The 5yo son of Mineshaft finished 6 ½ lengths behind American Pharoah and 4 ½ lengths ahead of third-place finisher Honor Code.
“All of the horses behind him were in the same spot at the half-mile pole – the other guy (American Pharoah) was off by himself – all those Grade 1 winners were all together and he was the only one who left the pack,” Jerkens said. “It said a lot.”
Shaman’s Ghost, who captured the Queen’s Plate in Canada in 2015, earned Grade 1 credentials with a narrow victory over Mubtaahij and Frosted in the Woodward at Saratoga in his most recent start.
“He got a good trip. He saved ground, which is what you have to do going a mile and an eighth. It’s unfortunate that Frosted had a bad trip, but that helped. But Shaman Ghost was very responsive the whole way. He had to duck down in a tight hole himself late and he was very brave,” Jerkens said.
Frosted – Godolphin Racing’s 4yo colt Frosted galloped approximately 1 1/2 m on a sunny, cloudless morning Wednesday at Santa Anita Park under exercise rider Rob Massey.
“He looked great,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He’s real happy and doing great.”
The Classic will be Frosted’s first start since he finished third by a neck as the 2-5 favorite in the Woodward Stakes Sept. 3 at Saratoga. The narrow setback came after impressive wins in the Met Mile
on June 11 and the Whitney on Aug. 6 and he is the 5-1 third choice on the morning line.
Frosted broke the stakes record in the historic Met Mile, completing the 8f in 1:32.73 and won by a record margin, 14 1/2 lengths. Nearly five months later, McLaughlin smiles at the mention
of Frosted’s performance in his first start since finishing fifth to California Chrome in the Dubai World Cup.
“It’s the best performance by a horse that I’ve ever seen almost, much less be the trainer,” McLaughlin said. “It was just a wow race. Unbelievable for him to be a length in front at the quarter pole and win by 14 drawing off is pretty crazy. It was just a wild race.”
McLaughlin, 55, pointed to a similarity in the preparations for the the Met Mile and the Classic.
“We gave him 70 days from the World Cup to that race,” McLaughlin said. “We’re giving him 60 days this time. He was back on Lasix and it just worked out very well, the whole race.”
Keen Ice – Donegal Racing’s Keen Ice galloped an “enthusiastic” 1 3/8m Wednesday on the morning after arriving at Santa Anita from New York Tuesday.
The son of Curlin finished fourth behind American Pharoah in last year’s Classic at Keeneland, but earlier in the year he had pulled off a monumental upset over the 2015 Triple Crown champion in the Travers.
“He’s proven in the past that he’s got a big race in him. We feel like the way he’s training he’s coming into the race at the best that he can be,” trainer Todd Pletcher said.
Trained last year by Dale Romans, Keen Ice finished a strong closing third in his first race for Pletcher and fourth race of the year in a Belmont allowance Oct. 7. He has impressed his trainer in subsequent workouts.
“His breezes have been really good. What I like about it is that the longer he goes, the better he gets. His gallop-outs, not only in that race, but in his breezes have been very impressive. Hopefully that carries through,” Pletcher said.
Melatonin – The Santa Anita Handicap and Gold Cup at Santa Anita winner breezed 4f in 47.80 Wednesday morning under regular rider Joe Talamo for trainer Dave Hofmans.
“It was more (rapid) than I wanted, but he did it easy. He did it in a high canter,” Hofmans said. “He did it well within himself and that’s all I care about.”
The 5yo son of Kodiak Kowboy was so energetic afterward that plans to have him school in the paddock were scrubbed.
“This was just a little leg stretcher, the hard work is already done,” Talamo said. “He had his ears pricked the whole time. I’m excited for him.”
War Story – Loooch Racing Stables et al.’s Breeders’ Cup Classic runner War Story left Barn 69 at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday and galloped 1 3/4m for trainer Mario Serey Jr.
Win the Space – Win the Space went to the main track routinely at 7:45 a.m. and galloped 1 1/2 miles with regular exercise rider Amelia Green.
Trainer George Papaprodromou hopes for a hot pace in the Classic.
“I would like to see them go a little fast out there, so hopefully we can catch up to them at the finish,” Papaprodromou said.
Beholder – Two-time Breeders’ Cup champion and three-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder went to the track at 7 a.m. and galloped 1 1/2m over the main track under regular exercise rider Janeen Painter.
Winning the Distaff at 3 is one of her Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella’s favorite memories of the champion 6yo mare.
“We have had a lot of great memories with her,” Mandella said. “Surprising us to be ready for the Breeders’ Cup at 2, winning the Distaff at 3, still winning at 6; so many great memories to pick from.”
Corona Del Inca – Argentine import Corona Del Inca went to the main track at 7:45 a.m.and galloped leisurely 1 1/2m with jockey Pablo Falero, who is expected to be aboard the 5yo daughter of Luhuk in the Distaff.
Curalina – Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Curalina galloped 1 1/4m Wednesday morning at Santa Anita in preparation for a start in Friday’s Distaff.
“She had a very strong gallop. She seems very happy with herself,” trainer Todd Pletcher said.
Curalina, a Grade 1 winner at the Distaff distance of 1 1/8 miles, is scheduled to take on undefeated Songbird, three-time Eclipse champion Beholder and multiple Grade 1 winner Stellar Wind.
“You’ve got horses with similar running styles in there. I think she’s versatile enough to get into a good stalking position and get into a good rhythm and take it from there,” Pletcher said.
Forever Unbridled – Charles Fipke’s homebred filly Forever Unbridled galloped a mile early Wednesday, leaving Barn 59 at 5:30 a.m. and impressing trainer Dallas Stewart in the process.
“It was an ideal gallop,” Stewart said. “She has had another good morning.”
I’m a Chatterbox – Fletcher and Carolyn Gray’s Spinster winner I’m a Chatterbox had another good morning at Santa Anita as she prepares for her second try in the Distaff. Last year, she finished eighth after a troubled trip.
Following a similar routine to Tuesday, I’m a Chatterbox, with trainer Larry Jones aboard, galloped 5/8ths of a mile and then walked through the paddock before returning to her temporary home in barn 59.
“She’s doing good,” Jones said. “The work (a bullet 5f in 59 Saturday at Keeneland) seemed to satisfy her. She was happy with what we did.”
Land Over Sea – Land Over Sea was out Wednesday morning for a 1 3/4m gallop for Leandro Moro, assistant to trainer Doug O’Neill. Following the exercise, the daughter of Bellamy Road schooled in the paddock.
Songbird – Maintenance mode continued for Breeders’ Cup distaff favorite Songbird with an easy 1 1/2m gallop Wednesday morning under Edgar Rodriguez. The dark bay filly, with the distinctive white stripe down her nose, took to the main Santa Anita oval at 7 a.m., a bit later than usual, owing to a schooling session in the paddock in which she’ll participate as part of her pre-race ramp up.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, back on scene Wednesday following a visit to his Northern California string of runners, reported everything was going smoothly for the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro.
“As a trainer, you get lucky to have a filly like this, so you’ve just got to take it in stride and enjoy while you can,” he said. “When we received her, she was thought to be special and I think she’s proven that with her consistency.”
Songbird will have regular rider Hall of Famer Mike Smith aboard Friday. Smith, who is the winningest rider in the Breeders’ Cup history with 22 wins, has had the privilege of riding many great mares including Horses of the Year Azeri and the great Zenyatta, a two-time Breeders’ Cup winner.
“I’ve been very blessed to have ridden so many great horses during my career,” Smith said. “No question, Songbird is such a special filly. So was Zenyatta. It’s always difficult –and sometimes unfair –to make comparisons between them. But, I can say that for a horse at her age, Songbird has the fastest cruising speed of any of them.”
Asked if as a jockey it’s more fun to play “catch me if you can” on a speedy filly like Songbird or try to “mow them down from behind” like Zenyatta, Smith smiled and said, “It’s like comparing apples and oranges – just as long as you get the bowl of fruit!”
Stellar Wind – The Clement Hirsch and Zenyatta Stakes winner Stellar Wind went through her usual morning ritual of jogging and going to the paddock early Wednesdaymorning.
With the sun yet to rise and a set ready to head for the track, trainer John Sadler reflected on last year’s controversial neck loss to Stopchargingmaria in the Distaff.
“There was a long inquiry and we thought we were going to get put up to win,” Sadler said. “She got floated out and bumped twice in the stretch. We didn’t get the call. One of those things. It didn’t take long to get over it.
“I think it helped her win the Eclipse Award because all the writers were there and could see she was the best horse in the race, a 3-year-old against older. She ran great, we were thrilled with the race, just didn’t get the ‘W.’”
Santa Anita Park & Breeders’ Cup