It’s still more than two months away, but talk has already turned to the 2016 Breeders’ Cup from Santa Anita.
America’s most prestigious racing event takes place on November 4-5, at one of the country’s most iconic tracks. Santa Anita Park has held the Breeders’ Cup eight times before, including three on the bounce from 2012 to 2014.
It is considered one of the most beautiful racetracks in the United States, with the stunning San Gabriel Mountains forming a glorious backdrop. The course has witnessed victories from ‘racing royalty’ over the years. In 1940 the legendary Seabiscuit won the Santa Anita Handicap in his final outing. The unlikely looking champion became the subject of numerous books and films. A statue of the horse stands on the course.
Due to its proximity to Los Angeles, the track has often attracted the rich and famous. The likes of Bing Crosby, Spencer Tracy and Errol Flynn, all owned horses that raced at the Park.
In the Breeders’ Cup of 2009, the incredible mare Zenyatta, became the first female to win ‘The Classic’. The Santa Anita public treated her like a filmstar. A year later she attempted to win the race again, and in doing so, retire undefeated from her 20 career starts. In an agonising finale, she missed out by just a short-head.
California Chrome bids to dazzle at Santa Anita this time around. At the weekend he proved mightily impressive in taking the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. He defeated his chief rivals, Beholder and Dortmund, with a great deal of ease. Beholder had won the race a year ago by a yawning eight lengths, and is a ten-time Grade 1 winner.
Art Sherman’s five-year-old appears better than ever this season, and is five from five for the campaign. The latest success pushed his career earnings to a staggering $13 million. His odds were cut to as short as 5-4 for ‘The Classic’ in November, and on this evidence he’ll be incredibly difficult to beat.
“I knew the race was over at the three-eighths pole, because I know what the horse can do," said Sherman after the victory. “If Espinoza would have rolled him out, he would have been close to the track record. But I'm not looking for the track record. Let him come back in one piece. We've got some serious races the rest of the year."
Sherman confirmed that the Breeders’ Cup means everything this year, when adding: “I'm not pressing him. I want a fresh horse going into that race (The Classic). He'll let me know how he's feeling."
Though much can change between now and November, it appears that the Juddmonte winner, Postponed, may well take in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, should he recover well from his tilt at the Arc.
His trainer Roger Varian reflected on the Group 1 success, when speaking to At The Races, saying: “It was important to achieve that Group I win over 10 furlongs. Whether he needs to go over 10 furlongs again, possibly not. He'll step back up to a mile and a half for a crack at the Arc next time. If he comes through the Arc unscathed, we'd consider a crack at the Breeders' Cup Turf and I should think that would be it for the year, but we've got a big one to focus on right now.”
More clues for the Breeders’ Cup should be forthcoming at Saratoga this weekend. The Travers Stakes is the feature, which last year saw a shock defeat for the outstanding colt American Pharoah. Exaggerator has won both the Preakness and the Haskell Stakes, having previously been runner-up in the Kentucky Derby to Nyquist. This trip is sure to suit, and a victory will likely see him added to the contenders for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November.