Winners and Losers at Breeders’ Cup Challenge Day at Santa Anita

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TwinSpires Staff

October 2nd, 2016


On Saturday afternoon Southern California racing fans were privileged to five Grade 1 races that offered the connections to each winner an automatic berth in next month’s Breeders’ Cup.

The star-studded day saw some horses move forward, some take a step backward and the heavy favorite for 2016 Horse of the Year California Chrome dazzle yet again. Here is my take on the winners and losers from Breeders’ Cup Challenge Day at Santa Anita Park.


California Chrome - Yet another incredible performance from the son of Lucky Pulpit. Once again, Chrome proved that the rail was not an issue as regular rider Victor Espinoza took the lead from the beginning and hit the wire first for the sixth consecutive time. His 2016 resume now includes wins in the Dubai World Cup (G1), the Pacific Classic (G1) and earnings of over $7 million dollars. He will obviously be very tough to beat in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), but could get his biggest test of the year if Arrogate can put forth an effort that replicates his Travers S. (G1) win in August.

Gormley - Winning a Grade 1 race at two turns with just a maiden win at six furlongs is not an easy task, but Gormley did just that on Saturday. Espinoza originally planned to take back him a bit off the pace, but decided to take him to the lead from the rail and he never looked back. The Malibu Moon colt bested 1-5-favorite Klimt by three lengths in the end to earn a berth in the $2 million Juvenile (G1). The runner with the same connections as Zenyatta will head to the world championships a perfect 2 for 2 and try to give trainer John Shirreffs his first Breeders’ Cup win since 2009.

Avenge - This War Front filly has taken her game to the next level during the second half of 2016 for Hall of Fame conditioner Richard Mandella. She has rattled off three straight victories, including back-to-back graded stakes wins. She held off 2-1-favorite Zipessa under jockey Flavien Prat to prove that her win in the John C. Mabee (G2) last month at Del Mar was no fluke. She will have her hands full in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), but is one to consider at what will likely be a square price.

Noted and Quoted - After a poor performance in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) last time out, the daughter of The Factor got herself into the race early, took the lead into the stretch and held on late to capture her first victory against winners. The Bob Baffert trainee likely bounced last time out off a massive maiden score and despite her slight build appears suited to go two turns. She will not be my choice in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), but it is hard to discount Baffert in a race he has already won with Silverbulletday and Indian Blessing.

With Honors - Despite finishing second in the Chandelier (G1), the LNJ Foxwoods filly proved she not only could run well over the turf, but the main track as well. She took the lead early, was passed by Noted and Quoted into the lane, but battled gamely until the wire. This Keith Desormeaux trained daughter of War Front has shown speed and class thus far over her three-race career and is one to consider next month regardless of whether her connections opt for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies or Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).


Straight Fire - His third-place effort in Saturday’s Front Runner (G1) was the second straight disappointing effort for this son of Dominus. I loved the way this imposing colt ran in his first two starts at Del Mar this summer, but he has failed to illustrate he can get a distance of ground or win against the best in his division. He may have a graded stakes win in his future, but it likely will be at one turn.

Dortmund - The four-year-old stalked California Chrome from the start in the Awesome Again, but when the real running began he was once again no match for the Art Sherman trainee. After being dominated twice by Chrome, his chances of winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic appear a pipe dream. Perhaps he will give it a shot in the Dirt Mile (G1) instead.

American Cleopatra - After two strong efforts at Del Mar, including a runner-up finish in the Del Mar Debutante, the full sister to 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah finished an extremely disappointing eighth in Saturday’s Chandelier. She once again illustrated good early speed, but had nothing left late. Perhaps she is a one-turn animal, but nonetheless it was a surprisingly poor effort from the Zayat Stables filly.

Beholder - After rattling off eight straight victories, the star mare has now failed to find the winners’ circle in three consecutive tries. Granted those were all against top competition in Grade 1 events, but the daughter of Henny Hughes has clearly taken a step backwards in 2016. Any thoughts of running against the boys in the Classic have vanished. She will try to turn things around in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) against the likes of Songbird and Stellar Wind.

California Chrome photo by Scott Shapiro