Two of racing's biggest stars—California Chrome and Beholder—will make their final starts before the Breeders' Cup on the Oct. 1 Santa Anita Park card as they take advantage of the opportunity to prep at the site of this year's World Championships.
The Oct. 1 Santa Anita card (NBCSN, 5:30-8 p.m. EDT) will offer five grade I races, each carrying Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" status.
California Chrome, the 2014 Horse of the Year who is unbeaten this season, is scheduled for Saturday's Awesome Again (gr. I) as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) while three-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder is pointing for the Zenyatta (gr. I) as a prep for the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I).
"It's always great to be back at Santa Anita, I just think it's the world's most beautiful racetrack," said California Chrome's trainer Art Sherman. "We have such a great card Saturday; I'm getting here early so I can watch all the races. We have a suite for that day and my family is coming from all over; it's going to be nice."
To help ensure California Chrome would prep for Breeders' Cup in Southern California, Del Mar along with Santa Anita's owner The Stronach Group put together a $1 million bonus for any horse sweeping the TVG Pacific Classic (gr. I), Awesome Again, and Breeders' Cup Classic. California Chrome rolled to an easy Pacific Classic win Aug. 20 at Del Mar.
"At this point, he has truly become a superstar in our game and we want to thank his owners, Perry Martin and Taylor Made Farm, as well as Art Sherman, for making the commitment to run here on Oct. 1," said Stronach Group head of West Coast operations Joe Morris. "This is going to be huge for our fans and for our sport."
Sherman said the bonus certainly caught their attention but noted the schedule makes sense for California Chrome.
"A million dollars is a million dollars, but if the horse wasn't training right, we wouldn't be running. To me, it's just perfect timing at this stage to have these preps here for the Breeders' Cup," Sherman said. "I think it's a big advantage not having to travel. Anytime you have to go across the country from hot weather to cold weather, it can be difficult. It means a lot to be able to train over the surface like we do. I think we're at an advantage being in California going into these races."
For Beholder this year's schedule will mean not having to travel for Breeders' Cup. She won the 2012 Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) and 2013 Distaff (gr. I) at Santa Anita but missed last year's Classic when she spiked a fever after being shipped to Kentucky.
"It's always nice to have something like this at home. I've had good luck at it," said trainer Richard Mandella, who has earned all eight of his Breeders' Cup wins at Santa Anita. "In this particular case, I think it's more important than ever. She doesn't ship well, I don't think there's any secret about that."