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Arrogate upsets California Chrome to win BC Classic

Arrogate, left, with Mike Smith aboard, charges to the finish line to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic against California Chrome, ridden by Victor Espinoza, on Saturday.
Arrogate, left, with Mike Smith aboard, charges to the finish line to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic against California Chrome, ridden by Victor Espinoza, on Saturday. AP

Arrogate overhauled 4-5 favorite California Chrome in the final 100 yards to win the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday.

It was California Chrome’s first loss in seven starts this year; Arrogate won his fifth straight race.

California Chrome and Victor Espinoza led most of the 1  1/4-mile race, with Melatonin second and Arrogate and Mike Smith loping along in third place.

“I was cruising on the lead. He was doing it so easy, so comfortable,” Espinoza said. “Maybe I should have opened it up a little bit early.”

Around the final turn, Arrogate took up the chase, with Smith first whipping the 3-year-old colt left-handed and then right through the stretch as they gained on California Chrome, the 2014 Horse of the Year who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness that year.

“I gave him a few reminders left-handed,” Smith said. “Then I went back right to surprise him. When I did that, he gave me another jump. That is what got us on by.”

Arrogate caught California Chrome to win by a half-length, giving Smith his third Cup victory of the weekend and record 25th of his career. Trainer Bob Baffert earned his record third consecutive Classic win.

“I was surprised I beat him,” Baffert said. “I didn’t think I could beat him going in.”

Arrogate finished in 2:00.11 and paid $5.40, $2.80 and $2.60.

California Chrome returned $2 and $2.40. Keen Ice was another 10 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $5.80 to show.

In other races:

▪ Classic Empire won the $2 million Juvenile by a neck, making him the winter favorite for next year’s Kentucky Derby. Ridden by Julien Leparoux, Classic Empire ran 1  1/16 miles in 1:42.60 and paid $11 to win as the 9-2 second choice. Classic Empire has won four of five career starts, losing only when he tossed his rider in the Hopeful at Saratoga in September.

▪ Baffert won his fifth career Sprint race with Drefong, who scored by 1  1/4 lengths. Drefong ran six furlongs in 1:08.79 and paid $9.80 to win as the 7-2 third choice in the $1.5 million race. Baffert also won in 1992, 2007, 2008 and 2013.

▪ Smith scored an upset victory in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint with 8-1 shot Finest City. It was Smith’s 24th career Breeders’ Cup win, which is tops among riders in the event’s 33-year history. He also leads all riders in money won. Finest City won by three-quarters of a length and paid $19.40 to win.

▪ Highland Reel held off favored Flintshire by 1  3/4 lengths to win the $4 million Turf. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Highland Reel ran 1  1/2 miles in 2:23.00 and paid $9.60 to win. O’Brien earned his 11th career Cup victory, including his sixth in the Turf.

▪ Tourist held off a late charge from defending champion Tepin to win the $2 million Mile by a half-length. Tourist ran the distance in 1:31.71, breaking the Cup record of 1:31.78 set by Wise Dan at Santa Anita in 2013. He paid $26.80 to win.

▪ Obviously became the first favorite to win on the weekend, taking the lead shortly out of the starting gate and holding off Om by a nose in the $1 million Turf Sprint. Obviously paid $9.60 to win.

▪ Champagne Room got the day started with a 30-1 upset in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies. Ridden by Mario Gutierrez, Champagne Room ran 1  1/16 miles in 1:45.12 and paid $69.20 to win by three-quarters of a length.

▪ Queen’s Trust caught 8-5 favorite Lady Eli at the finish line to win the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf by a nose, the first victory for Europe on the weekend. Queen’s Trust ran 1  1/4 miles in 1:57.75, bettering the old mark of 1:58.73 set by Dank in the 2013 edition. She paid $18 to win at 8-1 odds.