Arrogate Swoops Late and Highland Can’t Be Reeled In
Saturday evening saw the multi-million dollar jamboree that is the Breeders Cup meeting take place at the Californian racetrack of Santa Anita. With the San Gabriel mountains providing a glorious backdrop, we were treated to a handful of mountainous displays on the track in what was a fantastic night of action.
Heading the bill was the $6 million Breeder’s Cup Classic which offered the potential for a titanic tussle between Art Sherman’s fairy tale five year old, California Chrome, and the Bob Baffert youngster, Arrogate, who sent shockwaves through the US Racing world when smashing the track record at Del Mar in the Travers Stakes.
These contests don’t always live up to their billing, but the 2016 edition of this race truly was a classic. Allowed to set his own fractions in front, California Chrome displayed his trademark turn of foot to kick clear in the straight in familiar style. Given his undoubted ability, it was going to take some horse to haul him in from there, unfortunately for California Chrome and his legions of “chromie” supporters, Arrogate is now beyond any shadow of a doubt, “some horse”.
A relentless, determined run inside the home straight saw the three year old nab Chrome in the dying strides in what was a truly thrilling climax to the meeting. For trainer Baffert, this was a third Breeder’s Cup Classic in as many years, whilst for jockey, Mike Smith it marked a remarkable 25th Breeders Cup success. With 11 lengths back to the third, many observers rated this as the best performance of California Chromes illustrious career, which makes Arrogate’s display all the more remarkable. A star is born.
Not all of the European performers were able to replicate their domestic form on their stateside jaunt – with Limato particularly disappointing in the mile – but there were a couple of highs for the British and Irish runners. First up was Sir Michael’s Stoute’s, Queen’s Trust. This filly boasted some smart efforts on her CV behind the likes of Minding and Seventh Heaven, but produced a career best here under a masterful Frankie Dettori ride. Home favourite Lady Eli looked to have done enough when hitting the front, only for Queen’s Trust’s greater stamina seeing her get up in the shadow of the post.
The ride of the night belonged to Seamie Heffernan in the Breeder’s Cup Turf. Quite what the other jockeys in the field were thinking in allowing Heffernan to dictate the fractions and kick well clear down the back stretch, only they can answer. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Heffernan took the opportunity with both hands, allowing the Secretariat Stakes, Hong Kong Vase and King George winner to lengthen his stride on the quick ground he clearly relishes.
This one looked all over a long way from home and so it proved as the closing Flintshire was still 1 ¾l adrift come the line. The ultra-tough and consistent Found ran another cracker to finish third as the irrepressible O’Brien filled two of the first three spots.
From the emerging stars of the flat to our old favourites over the jumps, the pick of this week’s action is Cheltenham’s three day Open Meeting, which kicks off on Friday. The BetVictor Gold Cup and Greatwood Hurdle act as the centrepieces for this feast of jumping action.
A sad note to end on: unfortunately three-time Cheltenham Festival winner Vautour has been put to sleep after a freak accident that resulted in the horse breaking one of his forelegs. One of Willie Mullins’ star performers, Vautour won a very impressive 10 of his 16 starts including the Ryanair Chase, the JLT Novices’ Chase and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the last three Cheltenham Festivals. He will be sorely missed at the 2017 Festival.