BREEDERS CUP CLASSIC 2016 PREVIEW & CALIFORNIA CHROME’S LEGACY
One of the biggest events of the year for the horse racing industry is the Breeder’s Cup Classic coming up on Saturday, November 5.
Run at 1 ¼ miles on dirt, the Classic is a $6 million race that draws the top international thoroughbreds 3+ years old and is part of the Breeder’s Cup World Championships (165 horses are pre-entered this year in 13 races) held every year.
The Classic is considered to be the “defining event of the international racing season” and is unofficially regarded as the fourth leg of horse racing’s “Grand Slam” (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, and Breeder’s Cup Classic).
Last year (2015), American Pharoah made history by becoming the first horse to ever win the Grand Slam. According to Wikipedia, Sunday Silence was the first to claim a “Small Slam” by winning three of the four legs (but not the Triple Crown) in 1989.
This year, we have another horse vying for the “Small Slam” at the Classic in California Chrome who will be racing as a 5-year-old. He won the 2014 Kentucky Derby & Preakness Stakes. So, with a win on Saturday, Chrome will have won 3 of the 4 legs of the Slam.
Unlike most successful racehorses of his quality, Cali Chrome did not retire early and go to stud immediately after his Triple Crown victories. His owners have kept him on the racing circuit and after a disappointing 2015 due mostly to injuries, he has had a rebirth of sorts.
So far in 2016, Chrome has been spectacular. Currently listed by Longines as the World’s Best Racehorse, he is undefeated having won 6 races in a row including his dominant performance at the Pacific Classic & the crowded $10 million Dubai World Cup. In the process, he has also become the highest earning racehorse in North American history. That is, he’s won more than $13.25 million… and he’s not done yet.
This is just another stage in the improbable journey of Cali Chrome, who some describe as the racing world’s supreme underdog. The characterization is apt, considering the unlikely hero is the culmination of an $8,000 small unsuccessful racing mother/mare (Love the Chase) and a 10-year-old unsuccessful racing father/sire (Lucky Pulpit). And, his owners, who purchased his mother as first-time owners, were working class guys just looking for a good investment. Their luck came in immediately when they teamed up with a 77-year-old former jockey/trainer (Art Sherman) who never had a Derby horse before. He subsequently took Chrome to two Triple Crown wins with the legendary Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza (American Pharoah’s rider).
Some are already including Chrome in the conversation along with American Pharoah for the horse of the decade honors. Others already have him there, along with hordes of dedicated groupies who call themselves “Chromies”. I wouldn’t exactly label myself a Chromie, but I am a fan of living legends and this horse is it.
As for Chrome’s chances on Saturday, he is the prohibitive favorite amongst 11 other great thoroughbreds. But, it won’t be easy.
One tough challenger will be the 3-year-old Arrogate, trained by Bob Baffert. He is tied for 2nd in Longine’s World Rankings and Espinoza said recently he is “the horse to beat”.
Since Arrogate broke his maiden in April, he is undefeated and his last victory at the Grade 1 Travers Stakes in Saratoga makes him a legit concern. He took out past Triple Crown winners Exaggerator & Creator by 13.5 lengths and broke the track record that had stood for 37 years. Baffert said of him at the time, “You’re always hoping that they’re that good. I knew he was good, but I didn’t know he was really, really that kind of good.”
Another horse for Chrome to look out for at the Classic will be Frosted, a 4-year-old Tapit colt that tested American Pharoah last year at the Kentucky Derby (finished 4th), and Belmont Stakes (2nd). This season, Frosted has looked sharp and at the Metropolitan in June he won by an amazing 14 lengths.
Keen Ice trained by Todd Pletcher is another interesting horse to keep an eye on. The four-year-old son of Curlin is 1 of only 2 horses to ever beat American Pharoah and the only to do it during Pharoah’s 2015 [almost] undefeated season. He took out the champ in last year’s Travers Stakes at odds of 16-1 by a nose and finished 3rd in the 2015 Belmont Stakes.
I also think there is a potential for the speedy five-year-old Melatonin to upset. Trained by David Hofmans, who has a habit of saddling “Giant Killers” at the Breeders Cup, this horse is a late bloomer due to a serious neurological disease (EPM) that took him out of competition for a year and a half. Against all odds, this horse has thrived and came back this year to win big at both the Santa Anita Handicap and the Gold Cup at Santa Anita, becoming only the third horse since 1980 to pull off both wins in the same year. This bodes well for Melatonin, as three of the last four winners had previous wins on that Santa Anita main track (the site of this year’s Classic).
Post time for the Breeder’s Cup Classic is Saturday, November 5, 2016 at 5:35pm PDT (8:35pm EDT) and will be aired in primetime on NBC Sports Network. Check your local listings.
Source : Breeders Cup Classic Contenders
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