Without question, the highlight of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships is the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, arguably the most prestigious race in the United States. Held at the same 1 ¼-mile distance as the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, the Classic has been won by legends like Zenyatta, Cigar, and American Pharoah.
On Nov. 5 at Santa Anita Park, the record-breaking California Chrome will seek to add his name to the impressive list of winners.
Unbeaten in six starts this year, California Chrome (#4) has been almost unstoppable at 1 ¼ miles, winning four of his six races at the distance as well as the 1 3/16-mile Preakness Stakes. His only defeats at the distance were a second in the 2015 Dubai World Cup and a third, beaten by a neck, in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic. It’s been 2 ½ years since California Chrome’s Kentucky Derby win, but at 5 years old, he’s better than ever. He should be be heavily favored to add the Classic to his stellar record, which includes his place as horse racing’s all-time leader for purse earnings among U.S.-based horses. As long as California Chrome breaks alertly, he should be set for a great trip setting or tracking the early pace.
However, he’ll face a seriously talented rival in Arrogate (#10), a 3-year-old colt trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who has won the last two renewals of the Classic with Bayern (2014) and American Pharoah (2015). After winning three straight minor races in California during the summer, Arrogate shipped to Saratoga and was unbelievable in the 1 ¼-mile Travers Stakes, winning the Grade 1 race by 13 ½ lengths while shattering a 37-year-old track record with a final time of 1:59.36.
To me, the Classic is a two-horse race between California Chrome and Arrogate, and if I were going to place a win bet on one or the other, I would side with Arrogate. In terms of Beyer Speed Figures, which attempt to quantify how fast a horse has been running, Arrogate received a massive 122 for his Travers victory, significantly higher than California Chrome’s career-best of 113. Arrogate has been catching eyes all week as he trains for his showdown with California Chrome, and drawing post-position 10 will allow him to stay out of traffic and get a clear run. He’s also going to offer much better odds than California Chrome — Arrogate’s morning-line odds are 5-2, compared with just even-money on California Chrome.
Assuming California Chrome goes off at even-money or higher, and assuming you believe this is a two-horse race, it’s possible to break even or make a small profit by betting an equal amount to win on both California Chrome and Arrogate. But since the risk versus reward is not very good in that instance. Since place and show bets on either horse won’t pay much, I recommend playing Arrogate to win and crossing your fingers that he can edge California Chrome in what should be a fantastic race.
A $20 win bet on Arrogate would return $70 at odds of 5-2.
Also, if you’re feeling confident and want to shoot for a bigger score with more complex wagers like the trifecta (requiring you to pick the top three finishers in the exact order), I believe Hoppertunity (#9) is the horse to include for third place.
Like California Chrome, Hoppertunity has a solid record at 1 ¼ miles and enters the Classic off a win in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. According to Baffert, Hoppertunity has never looked better, and he’s an appealing 12-1 on the morning line—I think he can be in the mix as a live longshot.
Good luck, and enjoy the race!