General Challenge to Miss Breeders' Cup
Photo: Benoit photo
General Challenge, with Corey Nakatani aboard, crossing the finish line to win the $500,000 Strub Stakes, Feb. 5, at Santa Anita.

John and Betty Mabee’s General Challenge will miss this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs after coming out of Saturday’s Pacific Classic at Del Mar with what trainer Bob Baffert described as a “wrenched” right front ankle. He’ll be sent to the owners’ Golden Eagle Farm near Ramona and given at least 30 days of rest, Baffert said, and then be pointed for the winter-spring meeting at Santa Anita Park, where he won the 2000 Santa Anita Handicap and 1999 Santa Anita Derby.

“I wasn’t happy with the way he came back after the race,” Baffert said after General Challenge finished fourth to Skimming in the Pacific Classic, beaten 3 3/4 lengths under Laffit Pincay Jr., who was a late substitute after Corey Nakatani suffered a broken collarbone in a spill two races earlier. “Laffit said he felt him take a couple of bad steps late in the race, and he came back with heat in the ankle, though he wasn’t lame.”

Baffert had X-rays and an ultrasound examination performed on the 4-year-old gelding by General Meeting, and General Challenge “checked out clean,” he said.

“He’s just too good a horse to take any chances with,” Baffert said. “I’ve tried to build my career by keeping the good ones healthy and sound so they can keep racing when they’re older horses. You hate to miss the big dance, but this one has so much talent, we just want to take good care of him.”

General Challenge has won nine of 18 starts, including eight stakes, with all of the victories coming in California. His two worst career races were in the Kentucky Derby, where he finished 11th as part of a favored entry, and in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Gulfstream Park, where he finished 10th. The California-bred has earned $2,876,018.

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