HAPPY endings are hard to come by at the racetrack, especially when there is a $6 million purse on the line, as there was on Saturday at Santa Anita Park for the 33rd running of the Breeders’ Cup Classic over 2000m on dirt.

This was supposed to be a wonderful dénouement to 2016 for America’s favourite thoroughbred, California Chrome, but he was upstaged by Arrogate, a recent pretender to his throne but not expected to ascend it so quickly.

In August Arrogate, a three-year-old by Unbridled’s Song,  showed up in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., for the Travers Stakes as an 11-1 outsider and left not only with the trophy but also with the record for the fastest 2000m time in more than 150 years of racing at the Spa.

“Chrome”, as he is known, came to Santa Anita a perfect 6 for 6 this year after a globe-trotting campaign that took him to the desert of Dubai and to the beach party that is Del Mar in Southern California. His more than $13 million in purse earnings made him the richest horse in the history of North America.

Arrogate stretches clear of California Chrome at the line.
Arrogate stretches clear of California Chrome at the line.

Their encounter was a thriller.  Victor Espinoza chased California Chrome from the gate and led a field of eight rivals around the first turn, down the backstretch and into the home run in his customary controlling fashion.

“When Chrome was out there cruising, I thought, ‘No way he’s going to catch him; he’s going to run second,’” Arrogate’s trainer Bob Baffert said.

But Breeders’s cup veteran Mike Smith, on Arrogate, had other ideas.  Seven lengths behind ‘Chrome’ entering the stretch, the jockey started scrubbing on Arrogate’s neck and coaxed the colt into top gear.

Arrogate sprinted down the lane like a horse possessed. His strides widened, he steamrollered up close to his famous rival and caught Chrome at the wire to win by a half a length, in 2 minutes 0.11 of a second. The purse for Arrogate’s owners, Juddmonte Farms, was $3,3-million.

“It was incredible,” Smith said. “I’m at a loss for words.”

California Chrome’s trainer Art Sherman was not. He watched Arrogate get his head to Chrome’s hip and then his neck and then pass him altogether yards before the finish line.

“He ran his race but just got beat in those last couple of jumps,” Sherman said. “That winner is the real McCoy. We had no excuses. ‘Chrome’ been so good all year long, but it just shows that you can’t win every race.”

Arrogate gave Baffert his third consecutive victory in the race: American Pharoah won it last year and Bayern the year before. Arrogate was the 8-to-5 second choice and paid his backers $5.40 for a $2 bet.

Other Saturday results from Santa Anita:

Gr1 Juvenile Fillies — $2 million — 1700m
The day kicked the day off with an exciting underdog finish in which Champagne Room (Mario Gutierrez) earning a first Breeders’ Cup success for trainer Peter Eurton, winning from Valadorna.

Gr1 Filly and Mare Turf — $2 million — 2000m
Queen’s Trust (6-1) ran to victory in a photo finish under the mercurial Frankie Dettori, followed closely by Lady Eli in second place and Avenge in third. Seventh Heaven was fourth. Queen’s Trust is a three-year-old filly by Dansili, trained by Sir Michael Stoute.

Gr1 TwinSpires Sprint — $1.5 million — 1200m
Drefong (Bob Baffert-Martin Garcia, 2-1 favourite) earned a competitive win at the expense of Masochistic and Mind Your Biscuits.

Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint – $1 million – 1300m
Obviously, ridden by Flavian Pratt, came through at 6-1 odds, holding off a furious charge by Om, with a winning time of 1:11.33. Om finished second by a nose, with Pure Sensation in third. Obviously, the oldest horse in the race, provided Phil D’Mato with his first Breeders’ Cup winner.

Gr1Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – $2 million – 1 700m
In a possible 2017 Kentucky Derby preview, a pair of two-year-olds battled valiantly down the stretch. Classic Empire, at 0-2 odds, held off a hard-charging 5-2 favourite Not This Time. Classic Empire is undefeated with jockey Julien Leparoux, who won his seventh Breeders’ Cup race.

Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Turf – $4 million –  2400m
Aidan O’Brien’s Highland Reel built a huge lead out of the gate and this race was never challenged in what the race caller described as “one of the best rides in Breeders’ Cup history” by O’Brien’s second-string rider Seamus Heffernan. Pre-race favourite Flintshire finished second, with Found, also at 7-2, finishing third.

Gr1 Filly & Mare Sprint – $1 million 1400m
Finest City came through at 8-1, giving jockey Mike Smith a 24th Breeders’ Cup win, but the first such win for trainer Ian Kruljac. “This is Ian’s first big horse, and his first time running in the Breeders’ Cup. He just started training a little over a year ago, and wow, we won the Breeders’ Cup,” Smith said.

Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Mile – $2 million – 1600m
Tourist, at 12-1 odds, held off one of the pre-race favourites Tepin, to win the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile. It was a fifth Breeders’ Cup win for jockey Joel Rosario.

Article extracts from New York Times.
Photo credits: Sacramento Bee; Yahoo Sports.