The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic is shaping up as the most competitive edition in years and one that is difficult to handicap. Trainer Bob Baffert has won the last two Classics with American Pharoah in 2015 and Bayern in 2014, and has two potential strong entries in 2016 with Arrogate and Hoppertunity.
Mr. Baffert’s leading entry is the 3-year-old Arrogate, who demolished the rest of the field in the Travers at Saratoga Race Course, setting a new track record for 1 ¼ miles in 1:59.36. Jockey Mike Smith remarked: “Galloping out, I had trouble getting him to stop.” The colt was unraced as a 2-year-old and has won four of his five starts in 2016, losing only his maiden race early in the year.
The Baffert stable’s Hoppertunity won the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on October 8th and was third in the 2016 Dubai World Cup in March. Overall, he has won 6 of 22 starts with earnings of $3.6 million.
2013 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome will be making his second start in the Classic, finishing third in 2014. He has won all six of his races in 2016, including the Dubai World Cup, and has lifetime earnings of an astounding $13.4 million. He would be the first Kentucky Derby winner to also win the Classic as a 5-year-old, simply because most Kentucky Derby winners are retired after their 3-year-old season. California Chrome is not fashionably bred and had to prove himself on the racetrack as an older horse.
The 4-year-old Frosted is inconsistent to say the least, and thus one never knows which version of Frosted is about to run. In 2016, he won the Whitney Stakes and ran 5th in the Dubai World Cup. If the on-his-game Frosted shows up in the Classic, he is capable of putting a lot of heat on the horses that prefer to run on the front end, most notably on Arrogate.
Formidable horses like Effinex, who won the Suburban in July at Belmont Park, will also contest the Classic. Coolmore, the powerhouse from Ireland, typically enters a turf horse in the Classic and came close to winning the race with Giants’ Causeway in 2000. Possibilities for Coolmore are the sensational 4-year-old filly Found, who recently won the 1 ½ mile Qatar Prix De L’Arc Triomphe at Chantilly in France, and Highland Reel, who finished second in the Arc. Both are also entered in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. No matter which race Found runs in–the Classic or the Turf–a concern is that the filly ran in the Arc on October 2nd and then came back to finish second in the QIPCO Champion Stakes on October 15th in England, and now travels to California for another demanding race on November 5th. That is asking a lot.
Barring scratches of key horses, the Breeders’ Cup Classic offers the intrigue of a seasoned, mega-money-winning California Chrome against the lightly raced 3-year-old sensation Arrogate. Is Arrogate the real deal or a one-hit wonder? However, a number of other capable entries could ruin the party for both of them.
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