For most on this side of The Atlantic, the race most are looking forward to at any Breeders’ Cup is likely to be The Mile, The Turf or possibly The Filly and Mare Turf. For The Americans, The $4,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Classic is not only the highlight of the meet but of the whole year. The epic stretch battle between Arrogate and California Chrome a year ago may have increased the anticipation of this year’s renewal on both sides of the pond.
After ARROGATE (1) made it seven straight wins since his debut in The Group 1 Dubai World Cup, it would be unthinkable he could run in this race and not be a short priced favourite. He probably won’t even head the market here. That’s because her been beaten twice since Meydan, both on this racetrack. The first may simply be the case of the trip to The Emirates taking more out of him than trainer Bob Baffert realised. The latest was hardly a bad effort. He ran second, beaten half a length to barn mate Collected (11) who made all. The well held third is a good yardstick. It just wasn’t an ‘Arrogate’ performance. Now freshened up, it will be no surprise if he moves forward from that effort.
Gun Runner (5) ran second in The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile as a three-year-old. He’s got better since, winning a trio of Grade 1s since midsummer. His only defeat in the last twelve months came when second to Arrogate in Dubai. Although his Grade 1 victories look impressive, he has been beating up overmatched rivals. He had strictly no excuses when Arrogate ran him down at Meydan whereas the winner had a brutal trip. If himself is not at his best, he’s a likely wire to wire winner. He looks quicker early than the pacey Collected and will rightly have his backers.
Collected (11) has really improved since Bob Baffert dispensed with the blinkers. His stride was beginning shorten late on when upsetting Arrogate over course and distance last time. He may need a perfect storm of a trip to beat the big two. He is one of a quartet of barn mates entered. The other two are worth a look. Mubtaahij (6) had Win The Space (3) back in third when winning a Grade 1 over nine furlongs at Santa Anita last month. In the process, he defied and absence on his first start for the trainer. He needs to improve a little. So does the three year old West Coast (8). He’s rattled up a stakes four -imer against his own age group including back to back Grade 1 victories. In the first The Grade 1 Travers (won by Arrogate last year), he had late-running Gunnevera (9) over three lengths back in second. He is improving but not enough for Mike Smith to stay with him and desert the reigning champion.
West Coast is not the only quality three-year-old in here. Pavel (10) has had only four career starts. A third in a Grade 1 at Belmont last time suggests he is still improving. So too is Aidan O’Brien’s War Decree (2), an easy winner of a Grade 3 at Dundalk on his return. That was on Polytrack and now he tries dirt for the first time. There is encouragement in his pedigree for surface switch. Less so stable mate, the dual 2,000 Guineas winner Churchill (7). But who wants to tell a trainer who has smashed the record form Group 1 victories in a year he could be wrong. Aidan, you can fight them on the beaches, you can fight them on the grass - but not on the dirt with a turf bred horse!
Selection: ARROGATE (1)
Exotic Play: (no exotics)