Second choice Arrogate has stolen the limelight from favourite California Chrome with a storming finish to win the showpiece Breeders’ Cup Classic by half a length at Santa Anita.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith piloted the three-year-old colt past the celebrated field in a dramatic home straight run, overtaking California Chrome in the final strides in front of a packed grandstand.
Having what is expected to be the penultimate start of his stellar career, California Chrome started the 4-5 favourite but had no answer after leading for most of the race.
Arrogate (8-5) gave his trainer Bob Baffert his third consecutive Classic triumph, and his 14th Breeders’ Cup win overall.
“Going in, I knew we had a great horse and we thought we could be competitive but down deep I really wasn’t sure we could beat California Chrome,” Baffert said.
“When Chrome was out there cruising, I thought no way he (Arrogate) is going to catch him, he’s going to run second, but at least he showed up.
“Then he suddenly started getting into that gear and that last 50 yards I could not believe.
“I have a great horse but I have a great jockey and what he did today was incredible.”
Baffert won the race in 2014 with Bayern at Santa Anita and again last year at Keeneland with American Pharoah.
Hall of Fame jockey Smith, who won the $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint earlier in the day, extended his Breeders’ Cup record of career victories to 25 with Arrogate’s barnstorming run.
“That was incredible,” he said.
“He has got amazing stamina and he doesn’t quit. He could have gone around again.”
Arrogate had delivered the performance of the year in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August, storming to victory by 13-1/2 lengths in a track record, but Smith felt the Breeders’ win was equally impressive.
“They were both incredible performances,” the 51-year-old jockey said. “I’m at a loss for words.”
California Chrome, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2014, ended up losing to “the real McCoy”, his trainer Art Sherman said.
“I knew he was the one we had to beat, but I didn’t know how good he was,” Sherman said.
“We had no excuses.”