Thoroughbred horse racing champions across 14 separate divisions will be decided when the 40th Breeders’ Cup World Championships are run on Friday and Saturday afternoon at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.
The Breeders’ Cup is usually a celebration of the sport, but that is muted this year. The event carries no true headline horse, and horse racing in the United States is facing additional scrutiny concerning equine safety in the wake of some high-profile breakdowns and retirements.
Cody’s Wish has arguably the most compelling story. The 5-year-old bay horse is out to defend his championship in the $1 million Dirt Mile on Saturday. That race is expected to be the final one for the horse, who’s become an inspirational story for his connection to Cody Dorman, a teenager who suffers from Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that has left him in a wheelchair.
Cody’s Wish will be ridden by Junior Alvarado and is trained by Bill Mott. He has won seven of his last eight races and hasn’t lost at a mile or less in a year-and-a-half, with his only loss this season coming when he finished third in the 1 1/8-mile Whitney Stakes (G1) at Saratoga in New York.
“It’s already a fairy-tale ending,” Mott told the Daily Racing Form. “We all realize — and I’m sure Cody Dorman even realizes — horses can get beat and anything can happen. We’re hoping for a win and we’re hoping for a great ending. It would be the icing on the cake if he could win on Saturday.”
Cody’s Wish will face just six other horses in the Dirt Mile, the first of nine Breeders’ Cup races to be run Saturday. He is expected to be challenged mightily by National Treasure, this year’s Preakness Stakes winner, who is trained by Bob Baffert.
The headline race in the Breeders’ Cup is the $6 million Classic, which is run at 1 1/4 miles on the main track. This race is usually a showcase for older horses but none has excelled this year, opening the door for the enigmatic 3-year-old crop to step into the limelight.
Speedy Baffert trainee Arabian Knight is the morning line favorite at 3-1 after winning three of his four lifetime races, including the Pacific Classic (G1) this summer in Del Mar, Calif.
“He’s healthy, he’s working well. There have been no hiccups,” Baffert said. “He’s ready. I know this is going to be a tough race, but if he brings his ‘A’ game, I don’t really care who’s running against us. That’s my focus with him.”
Arabian Knight is one of four 3-year-olds in the Classic; that list was pared when Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Arcangelo was scratched from the race with a foot injury on Tuesday and was retired.
Storylines to follow in the five Breeders’ Cup races on Friday:
The Richard Mandella-trained Tamara is the 4-5 favorite in a field of 13 in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies. She’s won both of her career races.
Europe’s Big Evs is the 3-1 favorite in the $1 million Juvenile Turf Sprint, which drew 15 entries but will be limited to 12 starters.
River Tiber, the 3-1 morning-line favorite in a full field of 14, will attempt to give trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore each a sixth victory in the $1 million Juvenile Turf.
Three horses trained by Baffert — Prince of Monaco, Wine Me Up and Muth — will vie with the Todd Pletcher-trained Locked, the 3-1 favorite, and seven others in the $2 million Juvenile.
Other horses and races to watch on Saturday:
Mostahdaf, the Juddmonte International winner, is the 5-2 favorite over Auguste Rodin (3-1), the Irish Derby and Irish Champion Stakes winner, in the $4 million Turf.
Songline, perhaps the best horse training from Japan, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in a field of 14 entered in the $2 million Mile. That group includes Mawj, a half-sister to last year’s Mile winner, Modern Games.
Idiomatic, winner of two straight Grade 1 stakes, is a 5-2 favorite in a field 11 for the $2 million Distaff.
Elite Power, last year’s Sprint winner and winner of the Eclipse Award for the sport’s top sprinter, looks for a repeat in a field of nine for the $2 million Sprint. He will face Gunite, who ended Elite Power’s eight-race win streak in the Forego (G1) at Saratoga.
Goodnight Olive is the 6-5 favorite in the Filly and Mare Sprint, a race she won last year.
–Field Level Media