DEL MAR, Calif. — Gun Runner, the top older horse on the East Coast, is the slight 9/5 favorite for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday at Del Mar.
He breaks from the No. 5 post while defending champion Arrogate starts from the rail as the 2-1 second choice.
Del Mar is hosting the $28 million, 13-race Breeders’ Cup for the first time. The season-ending championships open with four races on Friday followed by nine, including the Classic, on Saturday.
Gun Runner arrives on a three-race winning streak, all Grade 1 stakes, for trainer Steve Asmussen. The 4-year-old posted dominant victories in the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs and the Whitney and Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. His last defeat was to Arrogate in Dubai.
Arrogate, the world’s all-time leading money earner with $17.3 million, is one of four Classic runners trained by Bob Baffert. He also sends out Collected (6-1), Mubtaahij (12-1) and Travers winner West Coast (6-1) in the richest race of the weekend.
The Classic will be shown live in prime time on NBC.
Post positions were drawn Monday afternoon with actress Bo Derek assisting for the Classic and the Distaff.
Arrogate, has been vulnerable since winning the Dubai World Cup in March. He was fourth in the San Diego Handicap and second by a half length to stablemate Collected in the Pacific Classic.
Mike Smith, Arrogate’s rider, said the colt is “training like it,” when asked to compare his current fitness compared to last year when he beat California Chrome by a half length.
“It took a while to get his legs back,” Smith said.
Arrogate tries to become the first horse to win consecutive Classics since Tiznow in 2000-01.
The field will not include any of this year’s Triple Crown winners: Always Dreaming (Kentucky Derby), Cloud Computing (Preakness) and Tapwrit (Belmont Stakes).
Baffert is going for an unprecedented fourth straight victory in the Classic, after winning the last three years with Bayern, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and Arrogate. Regardless of the outcome, Baffert will set a Classic record as the first trainer to saddle four horses in the race.
Churchill (15-1), Gunnevera (30-1), Pavel (20-1) and a trio of 30-1 shots–War Decree, War Story and Win the Space– complete the Classic field.
Stellar Wind (5-2) returns for a third straight try in the $2 million Distaff, the marque race on the Friday program. She was second in 2015 and fourth last year.
The 5-year-old mare trained by John Sadler is a perfect 3 for 3 in 2017.
“She’s been a great mare,” Sadler said. “She’s done everything we’ve asked this year. We’re excited. She’s ready and we’ve got our fingers crossed.”
Stellar Wind breaks from post No. 2.
The road to next year’s Triple Crown starts Saturday with the $2 million Juvenile for 2-year-olds where Bolt d’Oro looms the 9-5 favorite for trainer Mick Ruis from post No. 11.
The son of Medaglia d’Oro is 3 for 3 following a 7 ¾-length romp in the Front Runner Stakes at Santa Anita.
The Irish-bred Ulysses is one of Europe’s top contenders in this Breeders’ Cup as the 7/2 favorite in the $4 million Turf contested one race before the Classic.
Fourth in the Turf last year, Ulysses has captured three Group 1 races in England this season.