This year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic was billed as the rematch of the Dubai World Cup, where Arrowgate sprinted by Gun Runner in the home stretch. But this time, Gun
Runner led wire to wire. Arrowgate, the defending Breeders’ Cup champion, broke poorly and never found his stride. Whether he just doesn’t like the Del Mar track — as he’s shown in the past. Or maybe he’s just not interested in racing any more, as Bob Baffert speculated. Having amassed more than $17 million dollars in winning — the most of any race horse ever, maybe he was just glad this was his last race.
Whatever the reason, it was Collected who challenged Gun Runner in the stretch. But Gun Runner put on a burst of speed and won decisively by 2 1/4 lengths.
What is it about the Del Mar track?
There’s been a lot written about track surfaces in the past few years as racing tries to reduce the number of breakdowns and injuries. In 2015, Del Mar returned to a dirt surface after eight years of using Polytrack, a synthetic surface. That year, nine horses broke down. In 2016, that number increased to 16.
While synthetic surfaces have their issues, the dirt track at Del Mar is deep and some horses just don’t like it. In August of this year, Arrowgate experienced a stunning upset, finishing 15 1/4 lengths behind Accelerate in the San Diego Handicap.
As one owner told me last week, “This isn’t California racing.” He meant that California racing is all about speed. Speed has been muted in this meet because Del Mar suffered a rash of fatal injuries last year, and it was a public relations nightmare.
So far this meet, there has been one fatality on the dirt main track (and one on the grass). There also have been slower-than-slow times, but at least it has been consistently slow, morning and afternoon.
Some trainers like the track, and others hate it. There have been multiple soft-tissue injuries to horses who have been sent to the farm and whom you won’t see again at the meet. A few owners won’t let their horses run.
Jeff Nahill, San Diego Tribune
Obviously, a horse like Gun Runner felt fine on the surface, so it may just be a personal preference. Maybe, too Gun Runner is peaking in his career at a time when Arrogate is ready to retire.
The real surprise winner of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic, however, would have been the lucky person who bet $2 on the pick-six — that person would have walked away with $388,432.60.