Spectacular Santa Anita The Perfect Backdrop For Star Horses
Some sporting events have a real buzz. The Breeders’ Cup isn’t the sort of buzz you would get from a bumblebee flying past your ear or a lightly ringing alarm clock by your bedside. No, this is more like a Boeing 747 jet engine being fired up by your brain. And that’s a good thing.
The scenery for one is utterly spectacular. Set beneath the tall San Gabriel mountains, Santa Anita Park is green and lush, with palm trees lining the sweeping drives that lead up to the magnificent grandstand. Over a hundred thousand fans are expected to descend for the two day Breeders’ Cup meeting and if the races match the panorama, then we are in for a real treat.
Last year, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah was the horse everyone was talking about. This year, that honour belongs to California Chrome. He is unbeaten in six starts in 2016, including wins in the Dubai World Cup and last time out in the Awesome Again Stakes. His main rival in the Breeders’ Cup Classic is Arrogate who won the Travers Stakes on his most recent outing. The word from the track is that Arrogate has been doing well in preparation for the race, but California Chrome looked an absolute picture as he worked on Tuesday. A big, imposing, muscular animal, he has the swagger of a champion. It will be some race on Saturday.
This year’s batch of Europeans is select but special. Found is a popular filly and after initial comments that she may run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, she has rightly been redirected at defending her crown in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. I’d argue that she is the most consistent horse in training, unless you include Bannock Town, who has consistently failed to place in 27 starts and has an official rating of 11. Found is the polar opposite, having only finished out of the first three once in 20 starts. She added the Prix de l’Arc Triomphe at Chantilly to her collection last month and given this might well be her last race, I for one will be cheering her home in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Another mare that caught my eye in morning work was Wavell Avenue. Sitting at my desk in the press area overlooking the track, she strutted along the dirt track positively glowing with health. My confidence was boosted when the media guys at XBTV, who are based permanently at Santa Anita, told me that she was one of their hot horses. She won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint last year and at a rather tasty 9/1, she strikes me as a pretty interesting each-way bet.
I’ll be giving you all the inside info, speaking to the top trainers, jockeys and racing pundits over the next few days, so get in touch with me on Twitter @jonivanduke if there is anything you want me to ask the biggest names in racing. And remember, you can watch all Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup races live on Betting TV from William Hill. I’m off to get a steak the size of Steven Seagal.