Breeders' Cup Classic Rematch of Arrogate and California Chrome in Pegasus World Cup Reminiscent of Alysheba and Ferdinand; Chris McCarron Recalls Early Rivalry, Gives Nod to California Chrome in Pegasus
LEXINGTON, Ky. (January 27, 2017) — Saturday’s rematch between last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic top two finishers, Arrogate and California Chrome, in the inaugural 1 1/8 mile, $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park has striking similarities to the rematch of two champions from the 1987 Breeders’ Cup Classic, Ferdinand and Alysheba.
In a battle of Kentucky Derby winners on Nov. 21,1987 at Hollywood Park, the 4-year-old Ferdinand defeated the 3-year-old Alysheba by a nose in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, which at the time, was the world’s richest horse race. Ferdinand, ridden by Bill Shoemaker and trained by Charlie Whittingham, was later voted Champion Older Horse and Horse of the Year. Alysheba, ridden by Chris McCarron and trained by Jack Van Berg, was voted Champion 3-year-old. Video of ‘87 Classic: http://www.breederscup.com/history/hall-of-champions/horse/3391
In a battle of Kentucky Derby winners on Nov. 21,1987 at Hollywood Park, the 4-year-old Ferdinand defeated the 3-year-old Alysheba by a nose in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, which at the time, was the world’s richest horse race. Ferdinand, ridden by Bill Shoemaker and trained by Charlie Whittingham, was later voted Champion Older Horse and Horse of the Year. Alysheba, ridden by Chris McCarron and trained by Jack Van Berg, was voted Champion 3-year-old. Video of ‘87 Classic: https://youtu.be/Xu26inW7-lM
Alysheba’s jockey, Chris McCarron, the Hall of Fame rider and three- time Eclipse Award winner, who retired in 2002 with 7,141 wins, and captured the Breeders’ Cup Classic five times, remembers it this way.
“It was a devastating defeat at Hollywood Park in the Classic,” began McCarron. “It was heart-wrenching to ride him. Alysheba was still a little immature and wasn’t always focused on running. He would idle once he got past a horse. We were in the last sixteenth of a mile and I was seeing dollar signs, but sure enough there was Ferdinand’s nose in front (at the wire). It was hard to get over.”
When Alysheba turned into his 4-year-old season, McCarron finally noticed some maturity in the Kentucky bred bay son of Alydar, owned by Dorothy and Pamela Scharbauer.
Van Berg brought Alysheba back to the races on Feb. 7, 1988 in the 1 ¼-mile Charles Strub Stakes at Santa Anita and with his mind more focused, won by a widening three lengths. “The Strub and the Super Derby (the previous year) were the only races that Alysheba drew off and won by daylight,” said McCarron. “He was such a fresh horse when he won the Strub that he didn’t think about pulling himself up.”
Van Berg scratched Alysheba from his next scheduled start in the San Fernando, due to rain.
Meanwhile, Ferdinand debuted in his 5-year-old season with a rallying second-place finish behind Judge Angelucci in the San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 14, carrying 128 pounds.
The 1988 Santa Anita Handicap had just four starters in Alysheba, Ferdinand, Judge Angelucci and Super Diamond. The race plan according to McCarron, was simple: “Just stay in front of Ferdinand at all times.” Alysheba stayed in third a head of fourth-place Ferdinand right through the end of the backstretch before the two champions passed the leaders and set sail for home. Alysheba never let Ferdinand get closer than a half-length and kept that margin at the wire, completing the 1 ¼ miles in 1:59:4/5. Alysheba and Ferdinand met twice after the Big ‘Cap. Alysheba defeated Ferdinand by a nose in the San Bernardino Handicap at Santa Anita in April, and they finished second and third respectively to Cutlass Reality in the Hollywood Gold Cup in June.
Alysheba went onto win the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Classic, with McCarron up, in his final race before being retired. The following year, McCarron won the Classic at Gulfstream Park aboard Sunday Silence, defeating his Triple Crown rival Easy Goer. McCarron rode Alphabet Soup to defeat Cigar in the 1996 Classic and won back to back editions of the race with Tiznow in 2000 and 2001.
Champions Meet in Pegasus
Like Ferdinand going into the 1988 ‘Big Cap, the older horse, the 6-year-old California Chrome is reigning Horse of the Year, yet he was defeated by Arrogate by a half-length in last year’s Classic at Santa Anita.
This week, the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic was named the World’s Best Horse Race in the Longines and International Federation of Horserace Authorities (IFHA) rankings, and Arrogate (134) and California Chrome (133) earned the top two positions in the Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings for last year.
If the $12 million purse didn’t provide the Pegasus enough intrigue of its own, McCarron says that having Arrogate drawing the No. 1 post position under Mike Smith and California Chrome, with Victor Espinoza aboard, situated in the extreme outside post 12, only adds to the drama.
“Both riders are going to have to be aggressive breaking from the gate to establish position,” said McCarron. “Victor, on the outside into the first turn, is going to have to assure that he gets away well, because if he doesn’t’ he’s going to hung about seven deep.”
It’s a different set of circumstances for Smith aboard Arrogate.
“Mike is going to have to make sure that Arrogate stands calmly and collectively when the rest of the field is loaded because he is going to stay in the gate for the longest period of time. He’s got to make sure that Arrogate is alert because I am predicting that Arrogate is going to get outrun into the first turn so he may be covered by four or maybe five horses, and Mike is going to figure out a way to get Arrogate into the clear down the backside and get some running room because he’s a big long-striding horse.
“You can have a horse tolerate dirt coming back in the face around the first turn and if he’s climbing and resenting the dirt that’s when it’s vital for the jock to get the horse on the outside. Mike’s going to have to ease him out to a place where he can get into his beautiful rhythmic stride.”
McCarron favors California Chrome’s chances for victory.
“I am so looking forward to seeing this race and I think Chrome is going to win. I think he’s quick out of the block and if Victor rides him like he did in the (TVG) Pacific Classic, where he got out fast and left him alone and doesn’t fight him and take a hold of him, then I think he’s the winner.”
Seven Other Breeders’ Cup Classic Rematches
Prior the Ferdinand- Alysheba battles, McCarron was directly involved in the first Classic rematch, just two years earlier, when the top three finishers from the 1985 Classic, Proud Truth, Gate Dancer and Turkoman, met in the 1986 Widener Handicap at Hialeah Park. McCarron rode Turkoman to victory in track record time of 1:58.60 for the 1 ¼ miles. Gate Dancer finished third and Proud Truth was fifth in a six-horse field. Turkoman finished second to Skywalker in the 1986 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.
Other rematches of top two Classic finishers were in 1996 when Cigar and L’Carriere met in the inaugural Dubai World Cup at Nad Al Sheba, with Cigar winning the race and L’Carriere finishing third. The1999 Classic top two finishers of Cat Thief and Budroyale faced off in the 2000 San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita Park, where Budroyale turned the tables, winning the race with Cat Thief finishing second.
In the 2003 Whitney at Saratoga, Classic runner-up Medagalia d’Oro held off Volponi, the upset winner of the 2002 Classic at Arlington Park. The following year in the 2004 Dubai World Cup, Medaglia d’Oro, runner up in the 2003 Classic to Pleasantly Perfect, finished second again to Pleasantly Perfect.
In 2013, Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man, the 1-2 finishers in the 2012 Classic, met in the Whitney. Mucho Macho Man finished third and Fort Larned finished fifth. The next year, Mucho Macho Man won the 2013 Classic by a nose over Will Take Charge. Those two met again in the 2014 Santa Anita Handicap. In that race, Will Take Charge finished second and Mucho Macho Man finished fourth.
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What was supposed to be an epic duel between Arrogate and Gun Runner turned into a tour de force for Gun Runner as he set blistering fractions through every call and then pulled away in the stretch to record a 2 ¼-length victory in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.