Five Takeaways from the 2017 Breeders’ Cup World Championships

Gun Runner won his fourth consecutive Grade 1 race in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, wrapping up a likely Horse of the Year campaign. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Tom Pedulla presents his five major takeaways from the 34thBreeders’ Cup World Championships, which were held for the first time at Del Mar:

Worth Returning

No one would have blinked if Gun Runner had been retired at the end of last season. The son of Candy Ride already offered a résumé that would have made him inviting as a stallion after third-place finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Travers Stakes, a runner-up effort in the Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and a Grade 1 score in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. But owners Ron Winchell and Three Chimneys Farm were amply rewarded for bringing him back for his 4-year-old campaign. He greatly enhanced his value by ending this year with four successive Grade 1 triumphs, the last of those in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic to clinch Horse of the Year.

Remembering Arrogate

How will history view Arrogate? The feeling here is that he deserves to be defined primarily by a four-race tour de force the likes of which has been rarely seen. It started with his record mile-and-a-quarter time in the 2016 Travers and continued with a dramatic rally in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. He then opened this year by making it look easy in the $12 Pegasus World Cup Invitational before arguably displaying the most eye-popping performance in the history of the $10 million Dubai World Cup, when he roared back from last to run down Gun Runner. 

Bustling crowd at Del Mar. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Brisk Business

Worries that staging the Breeders’ Cup at a smaller venue such as Del Mar might hurt business proved to be unfounded. The track’s loyal following wagered with both hands where “the turf meets the surf.”  The two-day on-track wagering total of $25,181,317 marked a 21.4 percent increase over last year at Santa Anita Park. The total handle of $166,077,486 was the highest since 2010 at Churchill Downs – and there were two additional Breeders’ Cup races at that time.

Winning for Losing

Abel Tasman ran out of ground in her bid to overtake Forever Unbridled in the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The winner of the Kentucky Oaks, Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks – all Grade 1 stakes – will not fall short when it comes to my Eclipse Award ballot. In my opinion, she now has to get the nod after Elate, the other top contender, was a fourth-place disappointment in the Distaff.

Exciting Future

The Distaff represented much more of a professional effort for Abel Tasman after she was nearly impossible to manage for regular rider Mike Smith in placing second in the Cotillion Stakes at Parx. Bob Baffert, her Hall of Fame trainer, already eagerly awaits her 4-year-old campaign. “Our mare will get older, bigger and better. As they get older, they can run farther,” Baffert said. “I think we just needed a little bit more stretch. This stretch is a little bit short for her. Next year, the Breeders’ Cup is at Churchill Downs and she likes that stretch.”

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