Horse racing’s two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships conclude today at Santa Anita Park with nine races, culminating with the $5 million 1 1/4-mile Classic and a possible duel between Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome and the undefeated 3-year-old Shared Belief.
Shared Belief is the 9-5 morning line favorite, thanks to seven victories in seven races, including the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar. California Chrome is the second choice at 4-1 following a dead heat for fourth in the Belmont Stakes and a sixth-place finish in his last race, the Pennsylvania Derby Sept. 20.
“I think you’ll see a different Chrome this time,” California Chrome’s 77-year-old trainer, Art Sherman, told reporters this week, referring to the Pennsylvania Derby performance. “He’s right on his game.”
Sherman said the crop of 3-year-olds is the best he’s seen in a long time.
For the first time, California Chrome will take on the Northern California-based Shared Belief, who is trained by Sherman’s longtime friend, 68-year-old Jerry Hollendorfer and owned by a partnership that includes sports talk show host Jim Rome.
The expected 14-horse field also includes Belmont Stakes champion Tonalist and Bayern, the Pennsylvania Derby champion.
The field also includes three other 3-year-olds and seven older horses, including Santa Anita Gold Cup winner Majestic Harbor, East Coast winners Moreno and Zivo and the lightly raced Cigar Street.
The race could determine the Horse of the Year.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who trains Bayern, said he thinks the Classic is “shaping up” to produce the eventual Horse of the Year.
Baffert called it a “very tough class of 3-year-olds,” but said of the field, “It’s just a matter of who gets a (good) trip.”
Today’s races will also include efforts by last year’s Filly and Mare Turf winner, Dank, and the 2013 Sprint victor Secret Circle, to repeat.
In addition to today’s racing, the Breeders’ Cup will also offer performances by singers Macy Gray, Joan Osborne, Toni Braxton and Kristin Chenoweth in the Infield Music Fest, and Bon Jovi lead guitarist Richie Sambora performing the national anthem.
The Breeders’ Cup began with four races Friday, including jockey Rosie Napravnik riding Kentucky Oaks champion Untapable to the victory today in the Breeders’ Cup $2 million 1 1/8-mile Distaff at Santa Anita Park, then surprising racing fans soon after by announcing that she will be retiring because she is pregnant.
“This filly has just been very special to me, and it’s a very special way to go out,” she told reporters at the end of the first day of the two-day racing series, noting that she is about seven weeks pregnant and announcing her retirement as of Sunday after one more day of rides in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
Napravnik said she initially planned to announce her retirement “after the weekend.”
“I don’t know if I had won on another horse if I would have said anything,” Napravnik said. “This filly has been very special to me and it’s a very special way to go out so I just couldn’t resist because they asked me how much it meant to me.”
Napravnik called her retirement “indefinite.”
“I’m not thinking about a comeback in 10 months, but I can’t promise to stay off a horse forever,” Napravnik said.
Trainer Steve Asmussen said it was “in the back of my mind not having the real reason why” Untapable raced poorly in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies race at Santa Anita, where she was eased and finished eighth.
“She’s 150, 200 pounds bigger … As much talent as she had last year and as much confidence as we had in her, you always knew she’d be better with time,” Asmussen said.
“You see how she acts, how she looks. She’s a bigger, stronger version of a tremendously talented filly.”
When asked if he thought Untapable — who has six wins in seven starts this year with only a loss against male rivals — could win the Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year, Asmussen responded, “Well, she is for me. I can’t make up other people’s minds, but she definitely is for me.
Untapable, the 3-2 favorite, won by 1 1/4 lengths over Don’t Tell Sophia. The 3-year-old filly paid $5.20, $3.40 and $2.60.
Untapable’s owner, Ron Winchell, said he expects her to be racing again next year.
Goldencents ended his career by successfully defending his title in the $1 million Dirt Mile, but with a different trainer than last year.
Leandro Mora stepped up from his role as trainer Doug O’Neill’s assistant after O’Neill was suspended for a medication violation “He is a kind, gentle soul, and it’s killing us that he isn’t up here with us, relishing in all of this,” Glenn Sorgenstein, the horse’s co-owner, said of O’Neill’s absence. “But I know he’s back home watching.”
The 4-year-old was challenged on the lead during the first quarter by Vicar’s in Trouble, then set quick fractions of 44.80 seconds for the first half-mile and one minute, 9.27 seconds through six furlongs.
Tapiture made a challenge approaching the eighth pole, but Goldencents held on to win by 1 1/4 lengths, becoming the first repeat winner in the race’s seven-year history.
Goldencents paid $3.40, $2.60 and $2.10.
The favored Lady Eli won the $1 million 1-mile Juvenile Fillies Turf for her third victory in three starts.
Hootenanny opened the Breeders’ Cup by winning the $1 million 1-mile Juvenile Turf by three-quarters of a length over his stablemate Luck of the Kitten.
Hootenanny was in third through the first six lengths and took the lead in the final furlong.