It must be a sign of greatness when a trainer can win this country’s richest race three years in a row and all anyone can talk about is about is his horse.
The race is the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. The horse is Arrogate. And the trainer is already in the Hall of Fame, Bob Baffert.
In a sport where winning one race like the Classic or the Kentucky Derby is a lifetime achievement, Baffert has done it so often it has almost become commonplace. His feat of winning the last three Classics with Arrogate, American Pharoah (2015) and Bayern (2014) will be hard to match.
Granted it may not measure up to trainer Woody Stephens winning five Belmont Stakes (1982-86) in a row. I think Stephens record will be harder to surpass because the Belmont is restricted to just 3-year- olds horses. The Classic is open to horses of all ages.
The reason Arrogate got all of the kudos is due to the two remarkable races he won in the Travers and Classic. He set a Saratoga track record in winning the Travers by 13 lengths. Then in the Classic he ran by a superstar horse in California Chrome in the deep stretch.
California Chrome was not stopping either. Arrogate had to dig in and fight hard to go by him.
This has made it two years in a row that Baffert has taken a 3-year- old colt that last raced in the Travers in late August and trained him for 10 weeks to peak in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. That was also the road map for Triple Crown champion American Pharoah last year. It is high praise to the training skills of Baffert.
The late great trainer Charlie Whittingham was the master at pointing a horse for a race off a long layoff and hitting the bullseye. But after seeing what Baffert has done the last two years, he goes right up there on the same mantle.
BREEDERS’ CUP SPRINT – The Daily Racing Form reported on Wednesday that the $1.5 million purse for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint has yet to be released. What makes this unusual is the purses for the other 12 Breeders’ Cup races have been paid out.
A possible scenario is in the post race drug testing a horse or horses may have come up positive.
It is extremely rare to have a horse test positive in the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup races. The runners are monitored around the clock and the drug testing is so precise it is not anything to fool around with on the sport’s biggest stage.
The Sprint winner was Drefong who is trained by Baffert.
CLARK HANDICAP – The grade 1 Clark Handicap today at Churchill Downs has attracted three horses coming out of the Breeders’ Cup. Gun Runner (4-1) was second in the Mile while Hoppertunity (5-2) and Effinex (4-1) were also rans in the Classic.
I think if you bet a trifecta box using those three horses and Noble Bird (7-2) you will have the race surrounded. In the 2015 Clark, Effinex and Hoppertunity ran 1-2. Gunner Runner and Noble Bird are both stabled at Churchill Downs so they do have a home field advantage.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. You can buy his Del Mar picks at www.racedaylasvegas.com. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @richeng4propick