California Chrome is officially the best horse in the world and can confirm that status by winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita racecourse on Saturday night. Found is arguably the best female horse in the sport but has been withdrawn from the Classic due to concerns about running on dirt. The Aidan O’Brien filly will now contest the Turf race at the meeting known as the world championships of racing.
The Breeders’ Cup was first staged over one day in 1984. Since 2007 it has been a two-day meeting and since inception has always been held in the United States except in 1996 when the meeting took place at Woodbine in Canada. Santa Anita stages the Breeders’ cup for a record ninth time this year. The meeting comprises of 13 Grade 1 races and the total prize fund is $28 million. Several races are now defunct including a chase which is now in effect the US Grand National.
Each race has a maximum of 14 runners except the Dirt Mile which is restricted to two fewer starters. There is an established selection procedure based on performance in the recognised trials, a points system and the discretion of a panel of racing experts. The thinking behind the concept is to create an annual world championship of Flat racing and despite the emergence of other lucrative races and meetings that is still an accurate title for the 13 races, on grass and dirt over varying distances.
The US jockey Mike Smith is the leading rider with 22 wins while D. Wayne Lucas is the top trainer with 20 victories. O’Brien is the third most winning trainer with 10 Breeders’ Cup titles while Frankie Dettori is the leading jockey from Europe with 11 wins. Godolphin have earned most prize money and are more than $4 million ahead of Coolmore who own the horses trained by O’Brien. Goldikova is the only horse to have won the same race three times, the Mile in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The US have produced by far the most winners and Ireland is the next best nation.
Favourites have won about one third of all the races in the history of the Breeders Cup which is above average for Flat racing. The meeting brings together the best horses in championship races and the cream often comes to the top. Last year three odds-on favourites won at the meeting, including American Pharoah who won the Classic to complete the Grand Slam having won the American Triple Crown. Only three winners were returned at double figure odds and the average SP of the winners was just over 6/1 and the highest priced winner was 20/1.
California Chrome (Classic) is the shortest priced favourite in ante post lists for this year’s meeting. Dortmund (Dirt Mile) and Songbird (Distaff) are trading around the even money mark and all the other races look open with no market leaders less than 2/1. Found is the favourite for the Turf over one mile four furlongs, the distance of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the most prestigious all age race in Europe that Found won at Chantilly in October. The horse has since finished second in the Champion Stakes behind Almanzor, the best horse in Europe.
California Chrome is unbeaten this season and no horse has a higher rating in the international classifications. The Classic will be his last but one race and the swansong will come at $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in January. California Chrome won the first two legs of the American Triple Crown in 2014 but could not complete the treble. Arrogate is officially the second best horse in the world but beating California Chrome may prove too difficult and the favourite is preferred.
Found beat Golden Horn in the Turf last year so is attempting to become the 16th horse to win the same race more than once. The horse has never run on dirt so taking on the best horses in the world in the Classic on an unfamiliar surface was seen as too much of a risk. O’Brien is four behind the record for Group 1 or Grade 1 races in a calendar year but will need to post some wins at Santa Anita to make the target of 26 still viable. Found could contribute to the tally and be the first leg of a double with California Chrome that pays almost 5/1.