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During the first weekend of November 2017, Del Mar Racetrack, “Where the Turf Meet the Surf” will host the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for the first time ever!  Horsemen, horsewomen, horse fans and the stars of the weekend – the horses from around the globe! – have arrived in southern California, aka SoCal, to try and claim a spot in Breeders Cup history!

The main (mane-ha!) event on Saturday will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic (BCC) and as with just about every year, this years’ race has shaped up to be as good a Classic as any of its predecessors!  The race experience runs the gamut between as few as 4 races and as many as 23 races!  The purse earnings run the gamut between as little as $275,000.00 and as much as $17 million dollars!  The number of wins for the horses runs the gamut between as few as two lifetime wins and as many as ten lifetime wins!  Regardless of whatever runs the gamut for each horse, their connections have made Del Mar the place to be to showcase their superstars while dreaming of purple and gold floral blanket glory and a place among the great Breeders Cup Classic champions!

November 4th was the lucky date 1989 Breeders’ Cup Classic (BCC) winner Sunday Silence, 2000 BCC winner Tiznow and 2006 BCC winner Invasor (ARG) added a BCC title to their resume – let’s take a look at the horses vying for the same lucky day this November 4th!

ARROGATE (KY)

Arrogate…♥I love grey horses♥!  Arrogate is the reigning 3-year-old champion and defending BCC champion and is hoping to join 2000 & 2001 BCC winner Tiznow as the second horse to win back-to-back BCC honors!  When Arrogate arrived at the Breeders Cup last year, he was overshadowed by the then-all-time US money earner and 2014 Horse of the Year (HOY) and eventual 2016 HOY California Chrome.  After running past Chrome in the final 100 yards, and leaving the rest of the field behind by ten lengths, Arrogate emerged victorious and Chromies could not wrap their head around the results.  Arrogate was untouchable heading into 2017 and it looked like smooth sailing all year for him – and then summer arrived.  Arrogate lost back-to-back races at Del Mar – yes the same track he steps onto for this last race – and he couldn’t tell anyone why.  Was he tired?  Was he bored?  Was the surface not to his liking?  His trainer is not making excuses for his roan star, saying, “I’m not going to use (the Del Mar surface) as an excuse for Arrogate. I think he’ll handle this fine. The Pacific Classic—he actually ran a pretty good race there, you know? But I’m not going to use that as an excuse.”  Who knows which Arrogate will show up when the gates open from his post position on the rail, but this grey bullet is hoping to end his career with another shiny trophy!  Fun facts…Arrogate is currently the richest US horse with lifetime earnings of just over $17 million dollars!  Arrogate descends from 21 Horse of the Year (HOY) winners, two Triple Crown (TC) winners with 1937 TC War Admiral and 1943 TC Count Fleet and one BCC winner in 1990 BCC Unbridled.  Arrogate’s sire is the 1995 BC Juvenile winner Unbridled’s Song!  Good luck Arrogate!

CHURCHILL (IRE)

Churchill…Churchill is the reigning 2-year-old champion in Europe and is one of two horses in the race hoping to end the 17-year dry spell of BCC races for his owners and trainer.  He is coming off four straight losses, but before that he owned a string of seven consecutive wins!  Questions abound regarding placing Churchill in the Classic over the mile as he has won at that distance.  His trainer does like to stretch his charges out, so the Classic it is!  It should be noted that Churchill has never raced on dirt before [this did not work well for Gleneagles in 2015 – he finished last in his BCC run] – yikes – a longer distance and a new surface – well go big or go home, right?  Speaking of home, the Classic will be the final start of his career as he heads back to Ireland after the race to begin stud duties in 2018!  Fun facts…Churchill’s sire is Galileo, the leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland from 2010-2016 – WOW!  Churchill has 23 HOY winners in his family tree and five TC winners with 1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1935 TC Omaha; 1937 TC War Admiral; 1943 TC Count Fleet and 1973 TC Secretariat.  Churchill’s great-great-great-great-great maternal grandmother is 1962 HOF mare Gallorette (he shares her with Gun Runner!) and if you go back eight generations, you find the great Noor also on his dams’ side.  Noor is buried at Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm in Georgetown, KY – the gentlest place on earth!  Churchill is named after the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Winston Churchill and should he need to focus, Churchill can always repeat a quote from his namesake, “Never, never, never give up!”!  Good luck Churchill!

COLLECTED (KY)

Collected…Collected is undefeated in 2017, seems to like the Del Mar track and has already beaten Arrogate so should he just walk over, grab the money and run now?  Well it would be hard to catch him if he did run, but Collected needs to show the world he belongs in the BCC winners club.  His detractors would say that by just beating one big horse, that’s not enough.  There will be plenty of speed in the race and if Collected can’t get to the lead in time, he may just run out of it.  And speaking of the lead, even if he is up there, he may have company and it’s not company the likes of which he has ever seen (minus the aforementioned Arrogate).  Collected starts from the far outside post which will make it harder to grab the lead, but his sprint-laced breeding might just shine through and get him out in front early!  He has often been overlooked-being the stablemate of Arrogate will do that to a horse this year-but if the BC stars align, like the Pacific Classic stars aligned for him, look for all goods things from, as his jockey describes him, “calm, cool and Collected”!    Fun facts…Collected hails from a line that includes 25 HOY winners and five TC winners with 1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1935 TC Omaha; 1937 TC War Admiral; 1943 TC Count Fleet and 1973 TC Secretariat!  Collected’s maternal great-great grandfather is Ogygian, arguably the greatest son of Damascus!  Ogygian is buried at Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm in Georgetown, KY – the gentlest place on earth!  Collected’s maternal grandfather is 2001 BC Juvenile winner Johannesburg!  Good luck Collected!

GUN RUNNER (KY)

Gun Runner… Gun Runner has been described as uncomplicated and smooth.  His assistant trainer has said that, “he’s relaxed and classy. He is just very manageable” and that Gun Runner does what is asked of him.  You don’t hear that about an older horse very often but Gun Runner has been on an upward trajectory since he came back home to the US back in March.  He didn’t come back tired or lazy and to look at him, he seems to be taking care of himself with nary a hair out of place – literally!  Gun Runner will be making his eighteenth lifetime start from post five and he means business!  Gun Runner was installed as the early favorite for the race, regardless of the fact that he has not fared well at this distance – well here’s another chance to show the world what you’ve got!  Gun Runner ran in last years’ BC Dirt Mile and finished second.  Gun Runner finished second behind Arrogate in March in the Dubai World Cup.  He must not have liked placing since he went on to win three straight after that – he’s bigger, he’s stronger and is “gunning” to make it four in a row!  Fun facts…Gun Runner’s family tree includes 19 HOY winners and four TC winners that include 1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1937 TC War Admiral; 1943 TC Count Fleet and 1973 TC Secretariat!  Gun Runner’s maternal grandsire is 2000 Cartier HOY Giants Causeway, his great-great-great-great maternal grandmother is 1962 HOF mare Gallorette (he shares her with Churchill!) and his paternal great-grandfather is Cryptoclearance – the sire of 2002 BCC winner Volponi – WOW!  Good luck Gun Runner!

GUNNEVERA (KY)

Gunnevera…Gunnevera is the most experienced 3-year-old of the field – meaning he’s the most experienced of the five 3-year-olds in the race-whoop!  Well, the Classic has been won by a 3-year-old 12 times prior, will Gunnevera make it lucky 13?  Anyway, Gunnevera has only raced two of his thirteen starts at this distance and neither had a happy ending.  In the huge Kentucky Derby field, he was bumped, brushed and floated wide.  In the Travers, he was bumped and pushed wide.  As to his victories, detractors will remind us that those wins have come against lesser competition than he faces here….pfffttt…he came in second behind West Coast in the Travers and seems to be getting better as he matures.  Starting from post nine on Saturday, if he gets a clean break and sits back to see how the pace unfolds, Gunnevera should have his chance to show everyone what he can do!  He’s won graded stakes on three different tracks so he’s earned his spot in the gate at Del Mar!  His owners and trainers cannot say enough good things about him, like “I am excited and proud for my horse” and even when he doesn’t win, they say, “He’s very happy today. Everything is good” – the confidence is contagious!  Fun facts…Gunnevera’s ancestors include ***29 HOY winners and ***six TC winners – 1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1935 TC Omaha; 1937 TC War Admiral; 1943 TC Count Fleet; 1973 TC Secretariat and 1977 TC Seattle Slew!  Gunnevera’s maternal grandsire is 1990 BCC winner Unbridled and his paternal grandsire is 1992 BCC winner AP Indy!  Gunnevera’s mom, Unbridled Rage, died of a heart attack ten days after he was born so Gunnevera was raised by a nurse mare named Jenny!  Good luck Gunnevera!

MUBTAAHIJ (IRE)

Mubtaahij…The song title Travellin’ Man describes Mubtaahij.  He started his career in England, ran in races in United Arab Emirates, came to the US for the 2015 TC (he came in 8th in the 2015 Kentucky Derby and 4th in the 2015 Preakness Stakes), went back to Dubai and for the last two years has gone back and forth between the US and UAE, managing to come in second behind California Chrome in the 2016 World Cup and fourth behind Arrogate in this year’s Dubai World Cup – phew!  Distance in miles travelled is one thing, but distance in racing seems to be the main concern when discussing Mubtaahijs’ chances on Saturday.  Mubtaahij is 0-7 at the distance this race is run – yikes!  This year has seen a trainer change for Mubtaahij as well – now when he looks around his new digs he sees Arrogate, Collected and West Coast – hopefully they like each other since they’ve had to spend time with each other all summer.  Mubtaahij starts from post six and this Awesome Again winner will need to keep up with the pace and not wait to see what happens up front before making his move.  He won’t have that kind of time against this classy field!  If the pace sets up quick, look for Mubtaahij to be up with the speed and not let it go.  If all of racing luck goes his way, hopefully Mubtaahijs’ travels will require extra luggage for the extra hardware!  Fun facts…Mubtaahij’s pedigree consists of 21 HOY winners and four TC winners – 1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1935 TC Omaha, 1937 TC War Admiral and 1943 TC Count Fleet!  Mubtaahij can claim the great Mill Reef, 1971 European HOY on the top and bottom of his pedigree!  Mubtaahij means “elated” in ArabicJ  Good luck Mubtaahij!

PAVEL (KY)

Pavel…♥I love grey horses♥!  Pavel has the least oval experience of the field and will be making just his fifth lifetime start when he steps onto the Del Mar track on Saturday – his starts have each been at different tracks too!  This is that one horse in every race where the fans scratch their heads and think to themselves, “who is this guy” and “what’s he doing here?”  As I say when one of this kind is in the race, if I had a horse that was eligible to run in a Breeders Cup (or any big deal) race, I’ve got my hat and we’re off to the races!  Pavel’s first ever race was back on July 1st of this year – just four short months ago!  He broke his maiden with a win in that outing, then ran fourth is his second race, then won his third race, then ran third in his fourth race…if that pattern holds up, that means he will win his fifth start – this race!  Well, he has the talent to win and he isn’t facing the Derby or Preakness winners like he did in his second race, nor is he facing the horse that beat American Pharoah like he did in his last race, however, the class of horses he is up against are right there in that upper-echelon company.  Pavel has the potential to shake things up, but he’s not James Bond and this is a horse race, not a martini!  Pavel has the speed and will have to run up to his pedigree – what he lacks in experience he makes up for with his utter determination to stay in the race regardless of who he’s up against and the confidence of his connections which just must translate to him (because horses are super-smart!)!  When asked, Pavel responds, so when he breaks from post ten and if he is correctly placed early, he may just stir things up!  Fun facts…Pavel’s bloodlines include 25 HOY winners and four TC winners – 1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1937 TC War Admiral; 1943 TC Count Fleet and 1973 TC Secretariat!  Pavel’s paternal grandsire is 2000 Cartier HOY Giants Causeway and his paternal great-great-great-great grandmother is Shenanigans, dam of 1976 HOF filly Ruffian!  Good luck Pavel!

WAR DECREE (KY)

War Decree…War Decree is hoping to break his trainer’s BCC dry spell (he shares his trainer with Churchill).  One problem here is another check that he shares with Churchill – that War Decree is more of a turf horse and the Classic is run on dirt.  War Decree will be making his seventh lifetime start and his first in America – welcome to Del Mar!  War Decree needs to stay focused and run straight – yes he can sometimes run not-so-straight {see the Superlative Stakes} because the field he will be running against is sure to let him know they are here to win and not fool around!  According to his jockey, War Decree is “ a horse who has a lot of natural talent but he can be a little tricky at times” and he “has a lot of ability, but getting it out of him can be hard at times”, ok so you have to coax the talent out of him – good to know!  War Decree needs several things to happen – he needs to get a clean break (although it may be hard to do what with your start from post two right in between two beautiful greys!), to sit back off the pace, to not get bumped around in any type of traffic, to make sure he is not pushed too far wide and to have a lot of horse racing luck with him (well he does have four horseshoes, right? – yes I know they all do!) – sounds like a plan!  Since his trainer brought him here and entered him here, and both are not taken lightly by said trainer, War Decree must have shown his connections he’s ready to take on the US’s best and richest racehorses!  Fun facts… War Decree’s ancestors include 25 HOY winners and five TC winners with 1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1935 TC Omaha; 1937 TC War Admiral; 1943 TC Count Fleet and 1973 TC Secretariat!  Just like Diversify, War Decree’s maternal grandsire is Street Cry – the same sire as 2010 HOY and winner of the 2008 BC Ladies Classic and 2009 BCC winner Zenyatta!  War Decree is the baby of the field – he arrived in this world on May 14, 2014!  Good luck War Decree!

WAR STORY

War Story…War Story will be making his twenty-fourth lifetime start when he steps into post four at Del Mar and is the second horse making a return trip to the Classic this year – guess Arrogate and Win the Space didn’t scare him off because here he is – note that those two book-ended the results last year!  War Story came in eighth last year (and also ran eighth when he ran in the 2015 BC Dirt Mile at Keeneland!) and is hoping to make oh, maybe about seven spots above that this year – well he has his work cut out for him!  The last time War Story ran at Del Mar was back in August 2016 against the likes of 2014 & 2016 HOY California Chrome and 2012 BC Juvenile Fillies and 2013 & 2016 BC Distaff winner Beholder (now in foal to Uncle Mo) –  he came in seventh.  War Story has never won at this distance – he did win the Brooklyn Invitational at Belmont, but that field was not this field and he will find that out as soon as the gates open!  His trainer, the ninth one he’s had, says that “He’s been around, for sure,” and  “We considered another race, but we’re going to go in the Classic. He’s doing well. He’s been training like a good horse.”  I like the positive energy from his connections and fingers crossed that translates into positive energy on the oval!  Fun facts…War Story’s ancestors include one BCC winner, his maternal great-grandsire is 1992 BCC winner AP Indy!  More ancestors include 28 HOY winners and ***seven TC winners with 1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1935 TC Omaha: 1937 TC War Admiral; 1943 TC Count Fleet; 1948 TC Citation; 1973 TC Secretariat and 1977 TC Seattle Slew – WOW!  War Story can also brag about his great-great-great-great maternal grandmother – 1969 & 1970 Champion Sprint Horse and HOF mare Ta Wee!  War Story is the oldest horse in the field – he came into the world way back on March 25, 2012!  Good luck War Story!

WEST COAST (KY)

West Coast…West Coast will start from post eight and will be making his ninth lifetime start when he enters the gate on Saturday.  All of his races have been in 2017 and West Coast has never finished worse than second place-WOW!  He is coming off a five race win streak and back in August when he won the Travers, he won over all three individual winners of the 2017 Triple Crown races-WOW!  West Coast has a ton of speed but has yet to face any threats on the lead when he gets there.  It is not clear how he will handle what is sure to be a pressure-filled pressure cooker at the front and will that mean he will sit off the pace and see what happens?  He will not have the lead alone and while he has been described as a happy horse, he may not like all the company!  He’s the best 3-year-old right now and is getting better in each race.  He has worked out several times at Del Mar and his owners can’t wait for their charge to run on Saturday, saying, “If it’s the same track it was this summer, we know he likes the track,” and “He’s doing as well as he’s done for the last three months, training exceptionally well.  He’s done everything right.  He deserves a shot to run in the race.”  So I guess West Coast is ready to take on his elders in the biggest race of his young life!  Fun facts…West Coast’s paternal grandsire is 1992 BCC winner AP Indy; he has 26 HOY winners in his family tree as well as four TC winners that include 1937 TC War Admiral; 1943 TC Count Fleet; 1973 TC Secretariat and 1977 TC Seattle Slew!  West Coast is the youngster of the field – his birthday is May 14, 2014!  West Coast will try and make his mama proud – she is 2000 BC Juvenile Fillies winner Caressing!  Good luck West Coast!

WIN THE SPACE (KY)

Win The Space…♥I love grey horses♥!  Win The Space is the third horse running on Saturday who is making a return trip to the Classic race this year!  Win The Space starts from post three this year and will be making his eighteenth lifetime start!  Ok, so the bad news is he has not won since May 2016 – the good news is that since then he’s gotten one second and three thirds in seven starts!  He’s hanging in there and is improving – it just depends on the race he’s in!  His connections must know something that they and the horse are keeping to themselves as he continues to be entered in races with very classy entrants and he’s not scared off by any of them!  Win The Space will be a longshot on race day, but so far he seems pretty calm about it all, as his trainer said after his last workout earlier this week, “He wakes up when he gets to the track, then he’s pretty aggressive” – well, longshots have been known to win the big races too (1993 BCC winner Arcangues at 133-1comes to mind!)!  Fun facts… Win The Space’s paternal grandsire is 1992 BCC winner AP Indy!  Win The Space’s ancestors include 26 HOY winners and six TC winners with 1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1935 TC Omaha; 1937 TC War Admiral; 1954 TC Count Fleet; 1973 TC Secretariat and 1977 TC Seattle Slew!  Good luck Win The Space!

***Author’s note, in my 2017 Kentucky Derby post, I inadvertently omitted 1935 TC Omaha and two HOY winners from Gunnevera.  In my 2016 BCC post, I inadvertently omitted 1935 TC winner Omaha from War Story.  The TC and HOY count was off and is wholly my error.  Correct numbers are noted above

I have no more words except for the next 36!  Every horse is special.  Any horse can have a good day and any horse can have a bad day.  Here’s hoping all of them come home safely.  Have fun!

Safe trip to all and good luck!