The previous year, 2015, at the 32nd running of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, American racing fans were treated to witnessing just the 12th winner of the American Triple Crown - and the first since Affirmed in 1978 – in American Pharoah.
Going for the “Grand Slam” – in trying to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic on top of the Triple Crown - the Zayat stable’s pride and joy would not disappoint, winning at Keeneland.
There was no Grand Slam on the line last year at Santa Anita when new kid on the block ARROGATE showed up to take on one of America’s sons, California Chrome, but that narrative didn’t detract from a truly classic Classic.
In a sustained late run under Mike Smith, Arrogate would steal the show from the gallant front-running Chrome for Bob Baffert. Simply put, it was a great horse race in a beautiful setting.
While there was no shock in the Classic, with the two heavy betting favourites coming clear of their field, TOURIST sprang a 33/1 shock in winning the Mile for trainer William Mott and jockey Joel Rosario, beating classy race mare Tepin. This would be the last time we’d see the runner-up, a six-time Grade 1 winner.
The Classic and the Mile were competitive contests, but HIGHLAND REEL turned the Turf into a procession. A truly superb front-running ride from Seamus Heffernan saw him ask Aidan O’Brien’s colt to quicken early down the back straight and they built up a significant lead. The son of Galileo would win by 1 ¾ lengths in the end, but defeat never looked likely so far from home.
A wire-to-wire victory also came in the Turf Sprint, former Irish horse OBVIOUSLY making all under Flavien Prat for the Philip D'Amato barn, as the trio just held the last blast home from Om.
On the dirt and the turf, prominent runners were doing well on the Santa Anita tracks. “Big Money” Mike Smith would score a double on Breeders’ Cup Saturday; the wily veteran was again seen to good effect aboard FINEST CITY in the Filly and Mare Sprint, sitting close to the pace, kicking first and readily holding off last year’s winner Wavell Avenue.
CLASSIC EMPIRE would take the Juvenile in similar fashion. Julien Leparoux would sit close on the speed aboard the Mark Casse-trained colt and they would hang on late from the closing Not This Time, pulling clear of the third.
A raise of the whip from Frankie Dettori meant the Italian felt he had just claimed star American turf filly Lady Eli in the Filly And Mare Turf for Sir Michael Stoute. Just a nose separated QUEEN’S TRUST from Chad Brown’s horse, and Dettori’s celebration was not premature. In contrasting fashion to Seamus Heffernan aboard Highland Reel, another fine ride saw Europe get two up on the night.
DREFONG was all speed in beating the subsequently disqualified Masochistic (banned substance) in the Sprint for Bob Baffert and Martin Garcia. This would be the first leg of a double on the night for Team Baffert after Arrogate made no mistake later in the evening.
A fantastic day two at Santa Anita did start with a shock, mind, as the Peter Eurton-trained CHAMPAGNE ROOM (28/1) readily held off the Juvenile Fillies field under Mario Gutierrez.
Juvenile Turf performers got their chance to shine the previous evening when the Juvenile Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf were staged.
The European contingent are always fancied to go close on the green track, but alas, two home wins came the way of OSCAR PERFORMANCE in the Juvenile Turf and NEW MONEY HONEY in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. The latter race when the way of Chad Brown, an American trainer that continues to thrive on the American turf racing scene.
Dirt is the home team’s chosen racing surface however, and in the Dirt Mile, TAMARKUZ bounced back to form under “Big Money” to score for the Kiaran McLaughlin barn.
The prelude to Saturday’s action was the Distaff. Two of America’s favourite ladies, Beholder and Songbird would clash; the former a top-class performer part of the tapestry of America racing at six-years-old, the latter an unbeaten in eleven three-year-old hoping to turn over a previous winner of the race.
In the end, BEHOLDER and Gary Stevens would nose out her younger rival in what was quite possibly the best race of the meeting.
Breeders' Cup 2016 Roll of Honour
|Classic||Arrogate||3||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert||US|
|Mile||Tourist||5||Joel Rosario||William Mott||US|
|Filly And Mare Sprint||Finest City||4||Mike Smith||Ian Kruljac||US|
|Turf||Highland Reel||4||S Heffernan||A P O'Brien||US|
|Juvenile||Classic Empire||2||J R Leparoux||Mark Casse||US|
|Turf Sprint||Obviously||8||Flavien Prat||Philip D Amato||IRE|
|Sprint||Drefong||3||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||US|
|Filly And Mare Turf||Queen's Trust||3||L Dettori||Sir Michael Stoute||GB|
|Juvenile Fillies||Champagne Room||2||Mario Gutierrez||Peter Eurton||US|
|Distaff||Beholder||6||Gary Stevens||Richard Mandella||US|
|Juvenile Fillies Turf||New Money Honey||2||Javier Castellano||Chad Brown||US|
|Dirt Mile||Tamarkuz||6||Mike Smith||Kiaran McLaughlin||US|
|Juvenile Turf||Oscar Performance||2||Jose Ortiz||Brian Lynch||US|