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Breeders’ Cup Classic Full With Grade 1 Winners, Millionaires

By Laura Pugh

The Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) pre-entries maxed out at a field of 14 horses this year, however it isn’t the size of the projected field that is the interesting part, it’s the quality of top older horses it possesses.

Only one pre-entered Classic horse—multiple grade/group 1 winner Highland Reel—has first preference in another Breeders’ Cup event and aside from him, four others have been cross-entered and all four have first preference in the Classic.

California Chrome Eclipse Awards

California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza win the Grade I, $1,000,000 TVG Pacific Classic, Saturday, August 20, 2016 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Del Mar CA. Photo: Benoit

The obvious headliners for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup centerpiece are California Chrome and Arrogate. The former is the 2014 Horse of the Year, dual classic hero, winner of this year’s Dubai World Cup (GI), Pacific Classic (GI) and Awesome Again Stakes (GI) (all in blowout fashion) and currently ranks as the richest North American-based runner of all time with more than $13 million in career earnings. Arrogate was pre-entered in the Classic off a record-breaking performance in the Travers Stakes (GI), where he not only won the 1 ¼-mile race in his stakes debut by double digits but also shattered the track record of 2:00 set by General Assembly in 1979, lowering the mark by three-fifths of a second.

Arrogate is unraced since the Travers and has been training up to the Classic, impressing onlookers more and more with each successive work. His last move—his second to last before racing’s big day—was an impressive six furlongs in 1:11 1/5 this past Tuesday.

Arrogate Works for Breeders' Cup

Travers Stakes winner Arrogate works at Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 18, 2016 Photo: Jim Safford

The Classic has also managed to draw four horses ranked in the top 10 of the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings—California Chrome, Arrogate, Met Mile (GI) and Whitney Stakes (GI) winner Frosted, and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (GIT) winner/defending Breeders’ Cup Turf (GIT) heroine Found.

The pre-entries for the Classic also contain 11 grade/group one winners out of the 14 hopeful to go postward. Should Highland Reel opt for the Breeders’ Cup Turf as is expected, the number will drop to 10 grade/group one winners out of 13. And of the 11 pre-entered, seven are winners of multiple grade 1 events.

To lend a bit of perspective to the legitimacy of this field, The Classic pre-entries contain two Kentucky Derby (GI) winners, two Travers Stakes heroes, a Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (GIT) winner, and the winners of the Met Mile, Whitney Stakes, Woodward Stakes (GI), Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI), Santa Anita Handicap (GI), Hollywood Gold Cup (GI), Pacific Classic and the Awesome Again Stakes, just to name a few.

The pre-entered Classic group of 14 also contains a rich cast of 11 millionaires, with at least two more closing in on the seven-figure earnings mark. The richest of them all is California Chrome, who has eyes on becoming the world’s richest racehorse of all time. Aside from him, there are six other pre-entrants with bankrolls of $3 million or more.

The Classic didn’t just draw a star studded cast in horses, but also drew quite the cast of trainers. Bob Baffert—looking for his third consecutive win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic this year with Arrogate after sending out Bayern in 2014 and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah a year ago—and Steve Asmussen, who will saddle multiple grade 2 winner Gun Runner, are Hall of Fame trainers already. Future Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, who seeks his first Classic victory with Keen Ice, is a six-time winner of the Eclipse Award as the country’s top conditioner.

Even if Highland Reel were to defect from the Classic in favor of the Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI), it would be hard to argue against this Classic as one being of the deepest and most accomplished Classic fields in the race’s history.