The race is on ...and how! So much is at stake in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic. First of all, there's the race for that lucrative jackpot of the winner's share of the $5 million purse of the mile and a quarter showdown. And throw in the race for 3-year-old championship honors to boot. And there's that coveted race, the race for 2014 Horse of the Year!
Heading into the Classic, which you'll see live Saturday at 8:00pm on Wave 3 and NBC, two of the race's entries figure prominently in that chase for top runner of the year: Shared Belief and California Chrome. A victory by either will earn that crown...and it's a matchup fans have been waiting for nearly all year long.
Back in the spring, Chrome ruled the 3-year-0ld division. Despite his two-race slump, the Derby and Preakness winner seems to be rounding back into that previous sensational form, at least based on his most recent workouts. California Chrome looks like a happy horse, and we know he loves the Santa Anita track.
But Chrome is the morning line second choice to the undefeated Shared Belief, who despite missing out on the Triple Crown with a bad foot, came on strong this summer and fall with some solid performances. Shared Belief already owns a pair of victories over older horses and his winning streak could very well continue in the Classic.
I really respect Shared Belief, but will try to beat him picking Chrome. As evident in both the Belmont Stakes and in the Pennsylvania Derby, California Chrome raced on the inside portion on the track.....racing with very limited running room....and the colt hates it on the inside. He seems to get discouraged. So it'll be up to jockey Victor Espinoza to keep Chrome on the outside....to keep the colt from getting pinned in along the rail. Their outside number 13 post should help that situation.
Look, Shared Belief might be on the verge of superstardom. Yet, his his best races have come on the synthetic. His win in the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita was impressive...and was a win on dirt.
But this is the Classic...the strongest and deepest field Shared Belief has ever faced. At least right now, I'm not so sure he is head and shoulders better than Chrome.
Hey, other 3-year-olds have a lot at stake in this race, too. Bayern and Tonalist could also snatch the Horse of the Year title by taking the Classic....and there are strong arguements that either colt could be picked to win it. But the front -running Bayern will likely get a stiff challenge from the front-running Moreno....and Tonalist, while chalking up victories in the Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup, might not be able to transfer that success to Santa Anita.
In the race of the year, for Horse of the Year, Chrome's winning experience over the track at Santa Anita might be just enough to put him over the top.