Scully’s Breeders’ Cup Wrap-Up
The 2016 Breeders’ Cup delivered great performances coupled with exciting finishes over two fantastic days at Santa Anita.
Here are my takeaways:
Magnificent Rally: Arrogate backed up an incredible Travers victory with another scintillating display of class, rallying boldly to deny California Chrome. The gray colt seemed too far back during the early stages, trailing by nearly five lengths down the backstretch as California Chrome had everything his own way, and I thought the race was over as the odds-on California Chrome appeared to be traveling easily through the far turn on a clear lead. Arrogate began to extend his massive stride rounding the final bend and charged home to overhaul his rival in the final yards of a half-length win.
Respect: California Chrome performed admirably in defeat, registering a career-best 115 BRIS Speed rating as he sustained first setback of 2016. Jockey Victor Espinoza caught flack afterward for being overconfident in the saddle, with the future Hall of Fame rider conceding he wished he had tried to open a bigger lead during the early stages, but I don’t think it would’ve made any difference as Arrogate was probably just the better horse on the day.
Big Future: The Classic marked only the second stakes start for Arrogate and his 6-start racing career encompasses only 6 ½ months (career debut on April 17). His recent BRIS Speed ratings are sensational (124 and 115) and to say he’s eligible to run well next year is a giant understatement. The Bob Baffert-trained Unbridled’s Song colt can continue to offer more going forward if he stays healthy.
Dynamite Distaff: The 2016 Breeders’ Cup featured many compelling match-ups and the Distaff provided all the thrills possible as Beholder and Songbird hooked up in an epic battle through the entire stretch, with the veteran 6-year-old mare edging her noble 3-year-old opponent by the slightest of margins. It made for the best Breeders’ Cup Friday program since the event split into two days in 2007.
Juvenile Standouts: What appeared to be a deep edition of Juvenile beforehand, with multiple promising contenders from each region (East, Midwest & West) and an unbeaten Florida standout, turned out to be a showcase for a pair of Kentucky-based stars, Classic Empire and Not This Time. Classic Empire kept well-regarded Syndergaard honest during the opening stages, tracking the pacesetter all alone in second before putting him away at will, and the PIoneerof the Nile colt won the race when opening up a clear lead leaving the far turn, accelerating for home full of run before narrowly prevailing on the wire. Not This Time left himself too much to do from off the pace but the Giant’s Causeway colt continued to distinguish himself, offering an eye-catching late turn of foot to fall only a neck short. It was a large 7 ½-length gap back to third, with the top two finishing up nearly 2 ½ seconds faster than Juvenile Fillies upsetter Champagne Room, and the Juvenile looks like the start of a terrific rivalry.
Euro Winners: Highland Reel and Queen’s Trust came through for the international team, continuing the success of European-based runners in Breeders’ Cup turf routes at Santa Anita. Flintshire and Lady Eli, the leading American-based turf horses this year, were solid favorites in the Turf and Filly & Mare Turf, but both had to settle for second. Irish-based trainer Aidan O’Brien recorded his 11th Breeders’ Cup race win as Highland Reel sprinted forward at the start, opening up by at least seven lengths down the backstretch, and comfortably held sway in the Turf stretch. Queen’s Trust closed fast to edge Lady Eli by a nose in the Filly & Mare Turf, giving English-based Sir Michael Stoute his seventh Breeders’ Cup race win.