Over a four start stretch beginning with the Travers last August and ending with the Dubai World Cup in March, Arrogate treated the racing world to jaw-dropping performance after jaw-dropping performance. Today he makes his final career start, and we’ll see if goes out with bang or a whimper in what should be a thrilling Breeders Cup Classic.
Audio – We previewed the Saturday races with Steve Falk.
Breeders Cup Classic
Sometimes the much anticipated matchup never materializes. But sometimes it does. Saturday night at 8:35 pm EST, Arrogate and Gun Runner, the top handicap horses in the country, square off in the Breeders Cup Classic at Del Mar.
The two met in Dubai back in March with Arrogate running an absolutely sensational race, missing the break, moving wide, and running down Gun Runner, who ran a big race in his own right. It was the fourth straight Grade 1 triumph for Arrogate, and probably his best, considering all that went wrong out of the gate. Since then, however, little has gone right for the Juddmonte star. He no-showed in the San Diego on July 22nd, and then got beat by Collected in the Pacific Classic. Both of those races were at Del Mar, and the question of whether Arrogate dislikes the San Diego oval persists. It will be answered on Saturday.
Bob Baffert insists that he didn’t have him ready for those summer races, and by all accounts, he is training superbly for his confrontation with Gun Runner on Saturday night. We’ll take Baffert’s word. He breaks from the inside, which will force Mike Smith to be aggressive and put him into the race early on. That should not be a problem.
After Dubai, you would have been laughed at for saying that Gun Runner would be favored in the Breeders Cup Classic over Arrogate, but that’s the way the morning line came out, with one at 9/5 and the other at 2/1. Personally, I think Arrogate will be favored, but I won’t be shocked if Gun Runner takes more money. (Update – Arrogate is the favorite in the Distaff/Classic double with Forever Unbridled.)
Either way, Gun Runner has been tremendous all summer, winning the Foster, Whitney and Woodward by a combined 23 lengths. However, he beat Keen Ice, Rally Cry, and Honorable Duty in those races. There’s also a question as to whether he can replicate his best form going 10 furlongs as opposed to his preferred nine furlong trip. The race I can’t get past when looking at Gun Runner is the World Cup in Dubai. In that race, he was given a five-length head start after Arrogate’s gate problem, and still couldn’t hold him off. I just think he’s a cut below going this distance.
Collected held off Arrogate in the Pacific Classic and before that won the Precisionist by 14 lengths. He’s run back to back 111+ Beyer figures and is 7-7 on fast dirt. He might have to do some chasing and could in theory get caught wide, but we’d rather have him at 5/1 than Gun Runner at 2/1.
There are several three year olds that merit a mention. West Coast won the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby and is bidding to become the fourth straight Baffert-trained three-year old winner of this race (Bayern, American Pharoah, and Arrogate). He is certainly on the improve and wants 10 furlongs, but he is also facing three horses that are much better than anything he’s faced and is going to have to chase and finish in here. Pavel is in the same boat, having only made four career starts. He tipped his hand when he ran very well while wide off a gold rail in the Jim Dandy before a Parx romp and solid third with traffic in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He is immensely talented, and I’d have no problem betting on him today to win the 2018 Breeders Cup Classic, but he’s probably not ready to win the 2017 version. Gunnevera ran a big race in the Travers, making a 4-wide sweep off a good rail after West Coast who wired the field. He’s an interesting underneath use at a big price.
Aidan O’Brien sends out Churchill and War Decree. The former is a Group 1 turf horse by Galileo, who sires exclusively turf runners. War Decree, on the other hand, looks like he was at least pointed to this race after a Polytrack prep. Still, he is all turf on the dam side of his pedigree (and by War Front).
There are a few races in this Breeders Cup that are wide open, as always. I just don’t think this is one of them.
#1 Arrogate (2/1)
#11 Collected (6/1)
#5 Gun Runner (9/5)
#8 West Coast (6/1)