A stacked edition of the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) looms in the near future and two of this year's top contenders put in their last serious works the morning of Oct. 23 at Santa Anita Park before the Nov. 4 test at Del Mar.
First on the track, at around 6:45 a.m. PT, was Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm's Gun Runner . With regular jockey Florent Geroux up, the 4-year-old son of Candy Ride began behind regular workmate Gettysburg, but caught up in the turn and easily moved by in the stretch with some asking from Geroux.
Gun Runner finished the six-furlong move in 1:11 4/5, tracking through splits of :12 2/5, :24 2/5, and :35 4/5. He galloped out to seven furlongs in 1:25 2/5. Gettysburg was credited with 1:12 4/5.
Plans call for the Steve Asmussen trainee to have one more light breeze at Del Mar next week before the Classic.
After the break, around 7:40 a.m. PT, Juddmonte Farms' Arrogate stepped on the track. The defending Breeders' Cup Classic winner had Rafael Bejarano up as he started his move behind workmate Uninvited. With huge strides, the 4-year-old Unbridled's Song colt moved by Uninvited in the stretch and continued to gallop out to a mile with encouragement from Bejarano.
Arrogate logged an official time of 1:25 2/5 for seven furlongs and galloped out to a mile in 1:38 1/5. He moved through splits of :12 2/5, :24 2/5, :36 3/5, and :48 4/5. Trainer Bob Baffert said he wanted the champion to have a good "stiff" work and was pleased with what he saw Monday morning.
"We were looking for a stiff work out of him today," Baffert said. "He handled it really well. Every work he's moving forward. He looks great to me.
"The horse I was working him with, we didn't give him enough of a head start. (Arrogate) got to him pretty early. Sometimes he'll lose focus a little bit, he likes a target," he added of the $17-million earner.
"I just kept him going out because I wanted to get a good work out of him and I wanted to put a good foundation on him. He won't do anything like that next time. This was his real stiff work, making sure he's ready to go a mile and a quarter."
Keeping an eye on the competition, Baffert said this is one of the most stacked editions of the Breeders' Cup Classic he's seen in years, with a couple of the other top contenders also coming from his barn.
"Gun Runner—I got to see him work today, and he's pretty impressive too," he said. "It's tough. This is the toughest classic I think I've seen in years.
"These are really good horses. Arrogate, Gun Runner, West Coast, Collected, Mubtaahij now—throw him in the mix. Those are some serious, serious horses. You cannot make a mistake. You have to be ready. You need racing luck. It's going to be a nail biter."
Also on the work tab for Baffert Monday was Mubtaahij, clocking six furlongs in 1:13 1/5; Cupid , who worked six furlongs in 1:13; and Mor Spirit, getting six furlongs from the gate in 1:13 in preparation for the Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1).
"That's probably (Mor Spirit's) best work since the Met Mile. He was working like that right before the Met Mile and I finally got him back," the Hall of Fame trainer said of the 4-year-old Eskendereya ridgling who was a 6 1/4-length winner of the Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap (G1) June 10 in his last start.
"He had a period of sluggishness for some reason. So that was a beautiful work today. He worked with a nice horse and he was very willing and moving really well at the end. I feel much better. He had to work like that or else I wasn't going to enter him."
Baoma Corporation's champion sprinter Drefong also put in a move toward his start in the TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1), which he won last year by 1 1/4 lengths. The 4-year-old Gio Ponti colt clocked a quick four furlongs in :46 4/5.
"I worked him in company (Oct. 16) out of the gate," Baffert said. "He's ready to run. He's been ready to run... And they need to be—they need to bring their 'A' game."
The trainer said his Breeders' Cup runners will stay at Santa Anita for their final work next week before shipping to San Diego. And thankfully, Baffert has his assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes back at his barn to help out. While Barnes isn't doing any heavy lifting, Baffert said his assistant is doing well after fracturing his pelvis during a Sept. 17 incident, where he was unseated from a stable pony.
"Jimmy is doing so much better. He's been at the barn. He's on crutches but he looks like he's moving well. He thinks within two weeks he'll be able to start walking with a walker. ... He's in good spirits. ... the only thing he's doing different is he's not doing anything manual."