Organic dominance. There is nothing more attractive in sports then the rise of superstars from unsuspecting parts. Tom Brady may be the best quarterback in the history of the NFL despite his modest athletic roots. No one pictured him changing the fortunes of a collegiate program let alone becoming a franchise quarterback for the ages.
California Chrome is the Tom Brady of racing. The West Coast product of a modest mare and some connections who hit the genetic lottery. That original ownership group was called Dumb Ass Partners (DAP Racing). Now those fools have all the gold. And here he comes, the all-time underdog with the most purse money in the history of the sport — for a U.S.-based racehorse — saddling up for his latest run at rewritten history.
Having just missed winning the Triple Crown in 2014 then redefining dominance in arguably the best 5-year-old season ever, Chrome might very well have placed himself in the discussion of greatest racehorse ever.
Traditionalists would probably discredit him for ONLY winning two-thirds of the Triple Crown, but his second act may be better then his first and he’s got a war chest of cash that may very well go unsurpassed on American soil. In this week of final debate, it’s a worthy discussion point.
Here’s the field for the Breeders’ Cup Classic:
1. Effinex (15-1): Here is a big-time stakes horse who will give you a nice return if you take a chance on him. He’s wildly consistent with only one true clunker since last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. There, he fell short to Grand Slam champ American Pharoah. Those peak times though haven’t been replicated so, while I appreciate the go-for-it mentality here, I’m not sure he still has enough of the goods to beat out the fresher contenders.
2. Frosted (5-1): Ditto with one major exception. On Belmont Stakes day, Frosted runs a mile in 1:32 and wins by 14 lengths in the Metropolitan Handicap. So, he has the potential for a huge race. His two starts since are back to world-class — but probably not good enough here — form, so I’m inclined to believe the norm and not the exception. But if you want to take a shot on him, I’d get it.
3. Keen Ice (20-1): His huge payday came a year ago winning the Travers. Ever since, he hasn’t even been close to sniffing the winner’s circle while trying his luck in the Middle East then warming up for this race with a not-so-encouraging third-place finish in a $62,000 optional claiming race at Belmont. This ship has sailed.
4. California Chrome (1-1): This is one of the greatest comeback stories in sports history. It fits with the 2016 year of the underdog with Cleveland winning a basketball title, the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians playing in the World Series and now Chrome battling for dominance after he’d been written off for a second time. We all know where our heart is here.
5. Win the Space (30-1): His last three races were all against California Chrome and none of them proved he could hang. His best run was a near miss against Melatonin. I can’t see him hitting the board here.
6. Melatonin (12-1): The wild card of all wild cards. He hasn’t raced since June, so who knows if he’s peaking or not. David Hofmans has a bizarre history of winning Breeders’ Cup races with a variety of longshots. You really have to go on a leap of faith to pick him here, but the way he was trending and with the time off to boot, I can understand if this is the direction you want to go.
7. War Story (30-1): The last time this horse ran in a Grade 1 stakes race, he went off at 136-1 and he finished more than 22 lengths behind winner California Chrome. So, these people are delusional.
8. Shaman Ghost (20-1): There should be no concern about the distance here and his last race was the best of his 12-race career, a win in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes. So, this guy has the feeling of the one who shakes up the board and provides some value for the low-odds winner, whoever that may be.
9. Hoppertunity (15-1): In a short field in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, he was a mildly surprising winner. Maybe it was the lack of traffic that allowed for this to happen. His past shows that in any race with at least 8 horses, he can’t navigate the field often enough for my liking. Could he hit the board? Sure. Win? Probably not.
10. Arrogate (5-2): He doesn’t just win, he extends the lead. Now, it’s hard to imagine that he could possibly run any bigger then he did in the Travers, when he blew out the field by more than 13 lengths. If he does, well, no one is catching him, including Chrome. Here is really what I would like to see though, what happens if someone challenges him early? He’s going to pace set here. The question is whether he buckles when the pressure is on him for once.
There is one factor here that could alter what seems like a two-horse race: the post position of Arrogate. Being on the far outside, where does Arrogate end up after the break into the first turn? If he’s out front, in all likelihood with Chrome, then game on. If he’s not, can he prove to be a factor as a stalker? Effinex and Frosted very likely hang in close. It’ll be up to board shakers Shaman Ghost and Hoppertunity to try to not get too far off the pace to have a reasonable amount of ground to make up in the stretch.
The Pick: I can’t root against California Chrome. Really, no one can. It’s a terrible play, but the heart wants what the heart wants: California Chrome by two lengths over Frosted and Shaman Ghost.
The Full Milty: Trifecta Box — Effinex, Frosted, California Chrome, Melatonin, Shaman Ghost, Hoppertunity, Arrogate.