Gun Runner, Arrogate, Stellar Wind, Lady Eli, Highland Reel and Ribchester Lead International Cast of 166 Horses Entered in 34th Edition of Breeders' Cup World Championships at Del Mar Friday and Saturday
Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm’s Gun Runner and Juddmonte Farms’ defending champion Arrogate are the top two morning line choices in a field of 11 3-year-olds and up set for Saturday’s $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at 1 ¼ miles on the main track, the climax of the 34th Breeders’ Cup World Championship races to be run Friday and Saturday (Nov. 3-4) at Del Mar racetrack.
The 1 ¼-mile Classic is the richest of 13 Championship races worth more than $28 million in purses and awards to be run over the two days at Del Mar and will be televised live by NBCSN and NBC. The Classic will be broadcast live at 8:35 p.m. ET on NBC (8-9 p.m. ET).
Four Championship races will be run Friday, highlighted by the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on the main track and featuring West Coast standout Stellar Wind and a banner crop of 3-year-olds fillies that includes multiple Grade 1 winners Elate, Abel Tasman and Paradise Woods.
The 168 horses entered include eight also-eligibles. Included in the entries are five winners from last year’s Championships at Santa Anita.
Gun Runner enters the Classic off three consecutive Grade 1 blowout victories by a combined margin of 22 ½ lengths. Trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Florent Geroux, Gun Runner will break from post position five as he tries to turn the tables on Arrogate, who defeated him in last year’s Travers and this year’s Dubai World Cup (G1).
Trained by Bob Baffert, Arrogate will seek to join Tiznow (2000-01) as the only horse to repeat in the Classic. North America’s richest horse with more than $17.3 million in earnings, Arrogate will attempt to give Baffert an unprecedented fourth consecutive Classic victory.
Mike Smith, the all-time leading rider in Breeders’ Cup victories and money won, will ride Arrogate and break from post position one. Arrogate is the 2-1 second choice on the morning line behind Gun Runner (9-5).
Arrogate does not represent Baffert’s only shot in the Classic, as the Hall of Fame conditioner has three other runners entered: Speedway Stables’ Collected, winner of the Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar over Arrogate, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s Mubtaahij (IRE), winner of the recent Awesome Again (G1) at Santa Anita, and Gary and Mary West’s 3-year-old West Coast, winner of five consecutive starts including the Grade 1 Travers and Pennsylvania Derby.
Collected, 6-1 on the morning line, will be ridden by Martin Garcia and break from post position 11. Mubtaahij (12-1) will break from post position six under Drayden Van Dyke and West Coast (6-1) will be ridden by Javier Castellano and break from post position eight.
Stellar Wind, owned by Hronis Racing and trained by John Sadler, is undefeated in three starts in 2017 with her most recent triumph coming in the Clement L. Hirsch (G1) at Del Mar in July. A perfect three-for-three at Del Mar, Stellar Wind finished fourth in last year’s Distaff at Santa Anita. Victor Espinoza has the mount and will break from post position two.
Stellar Wind is the 5-2 morning line favorite with three of the next four choices being 3-year-olds.
Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Elate, the 3-1 second choice on the morning line, has won the Alabama (G1) and then the Beldame Invitational (G1) since finishing second to Abel Tasman in the Coaching Club of America Oaks. Trained by Bill Mott, Elate will be ridden by Jose Ortiz and break from post position five.
China Horse Club and Clearsky Farms, Abel Tasman (4-1) has four Grade 1 victories on her resume including the Kentucky Oaks and Coaching Club of America Oaks at the Distaff distance of 1 1/8 miles. Trained by Bob Baffert, Abel Tasman will break from post position four and be ridden by Mike Smith.
Steven Sarkowsky and Pam and Marty Wygod’s Paradise Woods, 9-2 on the morning line, enters the Distaff off a daylight victory in the Zenyatta (G1) last month at Santa Anita. Trained by Richard Mandella, who won the 2013 and 2016 Distaffs with Beholder, Paradise Woods will be ridden by Flavien Prat and break from post position seven.
Charles Fipke’s Forever Unbridled, third in the Distaff last year, is the co-third choice at 4-1 for trainer Dallas Stewart. Winner of her only two starts in 2017, Forever Unbridled will break from post position six under John Velazquez.
In Saturday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), Sheep Pond Partners’ Lady Eli will try to turn the tables on 2016 winner Queen’s Trust (GB) and a strong European contingent in the 1 1/8-mile test.
Trained by Chad Brown, Lady Eli was caught in the final jump by Queen’s Trust to lose by a nose last year. Listed as the 5-2 morning line favorite, Lady Eli will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., and break from post position nine.
Saturday’s second-richest race, the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) attracted a full gate of 14 runners, including defending champion Highland Reel (IRE), top American grass marathoner Beach Patrol and morning line favorite Ulysses (IRE).
Owned by Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier, Highland Reel went wire to wire last year in this race at Santa Anita and this year added two Group 1 victories to his resume and hiked his career earnings to more than $8.8 million. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Highland Reel (5-1 on the morning line) will be ridden by Ryan Moore and break from post position three.
James Covello, Sheep Pond Partners and Head of Plains Partners’ Beach Patrol won the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (G1) by five lengths in his initial start at the 1 ½-mile distance. Trained by Chad Brown, Beach Patrol will be ridden by Joel Rosario and break from post position 12. Beach Patrol is the 4-1 second choice on the morning line.
Owned by Flaxman Holdings and Cheveley Park Stud, Ulysses, 7-2 on the morning line, will break from post position five and be ridden by Frankie Dettori. Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, Ulysses is a two-time Group 1 winner this year.
Godolphin Stable’s four-time Group 1 winner Ribchester (IRE) is the 7-2 morning line favorite for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) that attracted a field of 14. Trained by Richard Fahey, Ribchester comes into Saturday’s mile off a runner-up effort Oct. 21 in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1) at Ascot. William Buick has the mount and will break from post position 10.
Five other Championship races are on the Saturday docket topped by the $2 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and the $2 million 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), both run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
Ruis Racing’s undefeated Bolt d’Oro, a 7 ¾-length winner of the FrontRunner (G1) in his most recent start, is the 9-5 morning line favorite in a field of 12 for the Juvenile. Trained by Mick Ruis, Bolt d’Oro will break from post position 11 and be ridden by Corey Nakatani.
Bridlewood Farm and Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier’s undefeated Moonshine Memories, winner of the Chandelier (G1) at Santa Anita last month, is the 7-2 morning line favorite for the Juvenile Fillies that attracted a field of 13. Trained by Simon Callaghan, Moonshine Memories will break from post position seven and be ridden by Flavien Prat.
In the six-furlong, $1.5 million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), Baoma Corporation’s Drefong will try to join another Bob Baffert trainee, Midnight Lute, as the only back-to-back winners of the race. Listed at 5-2 on the morning line in a field of 10, Drefong comes into Saturday’s race off a four-length victory in the Forego (G1) at Saratoga Aug. 26. Mike Smith has the mount and will break from post position two.
Another defending champion in action Saturday will be Seltzer Thoroughbreds’ Finest City, who will face 13 rivals in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) going seven furlongs on the main track.
Trained by Ian Kruljac, Finest City will be facing three returnees from last year’s race at Santa Anita in Paulassilverlining (third), By the Moon (fifth) and Carina Mia (ninth as the favorite), as well as Don Alberto Stable’s 9-5 morning line favorite Unique Bella for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
Stonestreet Stables and Peter Leidel’s brilliant 3-year-old filly Lady Aurelia is the 5-2 morning line favorite in a field of 12 for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) going five furlongs. Trained by Wesley Ward, Lady Aurelia will be ridden by John Velazquez and break from post position three.
Completing Friday’s lineup is:
* $1 million Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) – Michael Petersen’s Mor Spirit is the 3-1 morning line favorite in a field of 10. Mike Smith has the mount on the Bob Baffert trainee and will exit post position six.
* $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) – Godolphin’s Masar (IRE) is the 9-2 morning line favorite in a field of 14 going a mile. Trained by Charlie Appleby, Masar will break from post position six and be ridden by William Buick.
* $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) – e Five Racing Thoroughbreds’ Rushing Fall is the 7-2 morning line favorite to give her ownership and trainer Chad Brown back-to-back victories in the race that was won last year by New Money Honey. Javier Castellano has the mount and will break from post position 11 in the field of 14.
Trainer Bob Baffert (Arrogate, Classic, post 1; Mubtahij, Classic, post 6; West Coast, Classic, post 8; Collected, Classic, post 11; Abel Tasman, Distaff, post 4, Drefong, Sprint, post 2, Cupid, Dirt Mile, post 7, and Mor Spirit, post 6) – “Arrogate always seems to get the one a lot. He has it and you can't change. They're all spread out. I just didn't want them to all draw in next to each other. We have a long run to the turn. I like being on the outside better, but I've got a lot of good horses on the outside. It will all work out. They are spread out everywhere. It was a good draw for Collected, on the outside, West Coast is in a good spot there. Mubtaahij comes from off the pace anyway. At least there is separation there.”
“I could tell by the look on Bo Derek's face when she got the card. I knew that's got to be Arrogate. That's sure not Gun Runner.”
“The whole draw didn't really go that great...When Drefong drew the 2. Having a good horse is more important than drawing well.”
(Abel Tasman) “That was all right. I was hoping to be further outside with her.”
“I think the only horses that drew well were in the Dirt Mile. Mor Spirit and Cupid are right next to each other. The rest of the draws were nothing to jump up and down about.”
(Drefong) “I wanted to be outside with him because he had that bad experience earlier in the summer in the one-hole (dropping jockey Mike Smith in the Bing Crosby). Since then they've put a strip there. He has to break really well. Going short at Del Mar, having an outside post is a big advantage. Some tracks it's not, but at Del Mar it's a big advantage. But he had the 2-hole last year and I was fretting about that until he won the race.”
Assistant trainer Scott Blasi (Gun Runner, Classic, post 5) – “It’s one of those races where you can’t worry about what everybody else is going to do. You just have to ride your own horse. Gun Runner is always one of those horses where you’re happy with where you’re at. If they go too fast, he’ll stay back. If not, he’s happy to be there. He’s much more turned off (this year) and that really will help him get a mile and a quarter.”
Trainer Antonio Sano (Gunnevera, Classic, post 9) – “That post is fine for my horse. The speed will go and my horse will have a long run to get position. I'm hoping there is a lot of speed. It will help my horse.”
George Papaprodromou (Mr. Roary, Mile, post 3; Win the Space, Classic, post 3): “I'm happy with posts (3). They're good for both horses. I expected them to be less than 30-1 but I'll take it. I hope the speed horses go out and kill each other and then we'll come running.”
Trainer Brian Lynch (Heart to Heart, Mile, post 2; Oscar Performance, Turf, post 14) –
(Heart to Heart) “We’re not going to be hanging around too long. We’re going.
(Oscar Performance) “The same with Oscar Performance. We aren’t going to be hanging around too long. We will let him break and he’ll be up there. I’m not saying we are going to make the lead, but we will definitely let him run away from there and get comfortable and find his stride. I thought he had a lovely work over the track and also gave him a little stamina work at Keeneland before we left. I have him a good little sharpener here to see how he got over this track. He worked great over the racetrack and came off the track like a horse who’s doing really good and ready to run. It’s critical to get a good trip over this track. I’m going to make sure he doesn’t have a lot of traffic in front of him.”
Trainer Dale Romans (Free Drop Billy, Juvenile, Post 5 and Hollywood Star, Juvenile, Post 12) – “One good post and one bad post, but we'll take it. With Free Drop Billy doing as well as he is, drawing the 5-hole, it seems like a lot of good things are going right for him. With Hollywood, we'll just see what happens. We'll just take back and make one run.”
Trainer Mick Ruis (Bolt d’Oro, Juvenile, Post 11) – “I kind of like it. He's tactical. The horse on the outside of him and the horse to the inside of him – I don't see a whole bunch of speed, so he'll be able to get out of there. Corey (Nakatani) can take it from there.
Part owner Jeff Bloom (Skye Diamonds, Filly & Mare Sprint, post 12) – “We love the post. We wanted to be outside and we have a lot of horses inside that we wanted there. She has been training lights out. She’s coming to the race better than she has ever been. The distance is perfect and she loves the track.”