The Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be held at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California for the tenth time in the 36th year of the event on 1st and 2nd of November.
Some renovations have been done to Santa Anita’s main track and there have been some distance changes to some of the Breeders’ Cup races.
Jockey Flavien Prat, a native of Melun, France, has won five Santa Anita riding titles starting with the 2016-17 winter meet. Through the first two weeks of the current autumn meeting, Prat notices a change to the surface but also believes the main track has played fair at Santa Anita.
Watch the 2019 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd November.
“I think what happened was it rained a lot this winter and the bottom got really hard but it seems like it’s been great since they made some changes,” Prat said. “It might be a little slower, other than that it seems pretty fair to me.”
The most notable changes to this year’s Breeders’ Cup lineup are that the Turf Sprint and the Juvenile Turf Sprint - the latter which is having just its second running - will be contested at five furlongs. At Santa Anita, turf sprints have traditionally been conducted at 6 1-2 furlongs over a downhill turf course.
“I love 6 1-2; it’s different, it gives everybody a chance,” Prat said. “The draw there didn’t matter, and you could win from out of it or win on the lead. I thought it was really fair. At five, it’s all about the break. If you break good and catch a flier, it’s a big, big help. If you break slow you got to hope that there’s pace.”
In a five-furlong turf race at Santa Anita, there are 1,372 feet from the start to the first turn. The run from the final turn to the finish line is 987 feet.
In one-mile turf races, such as both races for juveniles and the Mile, there are 1,122-feet from the start to the first turn.
The Breeders’ Cup Turf, at 1 1-2 miles, and the Filly and Mare Turf, at 1 1-4 miles, start at varying points on the hillside turf course. In the Turf, there are 665-feet from the start to the first turn and in the Filly and Mare Turf, there are only 300 feet from the start to the turn.
Prat said outside posts in those races could be detrimental.
Overall, Prat said the turf “is pretty fast, but it seems like it’s been fair.”
Santa Anita’s main track is a one-mile oval with a seven-eighths and 1 1-4-miles chute. With the exception of the Dirt Mile, which limits field size to 12, all other dirt races have 14 horses as a maximum field size.
In the Dirt Mile, there is only a 325-foot run from the start to the first turn, which would seem to be a disadvantage to horses breaking from the outside post. However, the 2011 Dirt Mile at Santa Anita was won by Goldencents, who had the outside in an 11-horse field. He did however, take advantage of a speed-biased surface to win gate to wire.
In 2016, the last time the Breeders’ Cup was held at Santa Anita, Tamarkuz, breaking from post 8, beat Gun Runner, who broke from post 9, finished 1-2 in the Dirt Mile.
Still, Prat believes that the inside two posts and the outside could work against a horse in the Dirt Mile.
“You don’t want to be outside, it makes you use too much gas to put your horse in position,” Prat said.
For the Classic, in which Prat will ride Highest Power, there is a 1,650-foot run from the gate to the first turn. Prat believes “there’s plenty of time to find yourself a good spot. The draw is less important.”
The Sprint, at six furlongs, has a 1,650-foot run to the first turn while the Filly and Mare Sprint, at seven furlongs, has a 2,310 foot run to the first turn.
Prat does believe that this year, perhaps more than in past years, it will be a plus to train over Santa Anita’s main track before the Breeders’ Cup.
“It’s always better when you train on the track you’re going to run on,” he said.