A crowd of 72,811, the highest single-day attendance for a Breeders’ Cup since the event switched to a two-day format, cheered on as blossoming 3-year-old star, Juddmonte Farms’ Arrogate, bested hometown favorite California Chrome, North America’s richest racehorse, at the wire to win the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic today at Santa Anita Park.
Saturday’s attendance at Santa Anita was the highest for any Breeders’ Cup day since 72,730 were on hand at Churchill Downs in 2010 to see legendary race mare Zenyatta in the final race of her career. The two-day attendance for 2016 was 118,484, the highest in Breeders’ Cup history.
Common-pool wagering on Saturday’s 12-race Breeders’ Cup card was $109,055,897, a 3.2 percent increase over the $105,625,491 wagered in 2015. Common-pool wagering for the two days was $159,991,803 an increase of 6.25 percent over the $150,574,656 total in 2015.
Saturday’s on-track handle was $13,515,269, an increase of 3.5 percent over last year’s on-track handle at Keeneland. The on-track handle at Santa Anita for the two days was $20,694,235.
“The Breeders’ Cup exists to showcase the very best of Thoroughbred racing and we witnessed that over the last two days,” Breeders’ Cup President and CEO Craig Fravel said. “We want to thank racing fans here and around the world for watching and wagering on our event. Santa Anita showed again why it is such a spectacular venue for our championships and we also want to thank our hosts from the Stronach Group, its staff, our volunteers and the cites of Arcadia and Pasadena.”
John Oxley’s Classic Empire ($11) disposed of Syndergaard at the head of the stretch and then held off a bid from favored Not This Time by a neck to win the 33rd running of the $2 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) for 2-year-olds on Saturday afternoon at Santa Anita Park.
Trained by Mark Casse and ridden by c. A Kentucky-bred son of Pioneerof the Nile, Classic Empire has won four of five starts with the lone blemish coming in the Hopeful when he wheeled at the start of the race and lost his rider.
The victory was the second World Championships triumph for Oxley, whose Beautiful Pleasure won the 1999 Distaff at Gulfstream Park. It was the third Breeders’ Cup win for Casse and seventh for Leparoux and first in the Juvenile for both.
Winning Jockey Julien Leparoux (Classic Empire) – “He broke sharp and I put him in the race right away. He took second very nice. I tried to open up coming to the quarter pole, which he did and held off Not This Time (second). He is a nice colt. We really love him and we knew he was going to run good, so I’m glad we got the win.”
Four winners of the 13 Breeders’ Cup races over the weekend were greeted by trainers winning their first Championship test, one of them with their first starter.
Winning with his first starter was Ian Kruljac (Finest City – Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint).
The other first-time winners were Brian Lynch (Oscar Performance – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf), Peter Eurton (Champagne Room – 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies) and Phil D’Amato (Obviously – Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint).
Bob Baffert, the only trainer to win two races over the weekend in the Championships (Arrogate – Breeders’ Cup Classic) and Drefong (TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint), boosted his victory total to 14 and moved past D. Wayne Lukas as the all-time leading money earner in the Championships with $24,770,000. Lukas, the all-time leader in victories with 20, has seen his runners earn $22,580,520.
Baffert also became the first trainer to win the Classic three consecutive years when Arrogate ran down favorite California Chrome. Bayern won for Baffert in 2014 at Santa Anita and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah triumphed last year at Keeneland. All three Classic winners were 3 year olds.
Aidan O’Brien notched his 11th Championships victory with Highland Reel (Longines Turf) and Bill Mott got his 10th with Tourist (Mile). Richard Mandella moved into a tie for fifth with Todd Pletcher and Shug McGaughey with nine victories. Beholder’s victory in the Longines Distaff accounted for Mandella’s tally.