ARCADIA, Calif. (CNS) -- The two-day Breeders' Cup World Championships conclude Saturday at Santa Anita Park with nine races, including the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic with Arabian Knight the 3-1 morning line favorite.
The Bob Baffert-trained 3-year-old colt began his career 364 days ago with a 7 1/4-length victory in the opening race on the Saturday Breeders' Cup program at Keeneland racetrack in Lexington, Kentucky.
Arabian Knight won his second start, the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas by 5 1/2 lengths Jan. 28.
Baffert opted for Arabian Knight to bypass the Triple Crown races, ultimately focusing instead on the Grade 1 Haskell Stakes on July 22 at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey. Arabian Knight finished third as the 11- 10 favorite, but resumed his winning ways in his next race, the Grade 1 Pacific Classic on Sept. 2 at Del Mar, which as a Breeders' Cup Challenge event earned him an automatic fees-paid entry into the Classic.
Ushba Tesoro and White Abarrio are the co-second choices at 4-1.
Ushba Tesoro began his career with three victories in his first 22 races, but the 6-year-old has won each of his last six, including the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup in the United Arab Emirates March 25, rallying from last in a field of 15 in the only time in his 30-race career he ran outside of Japan.
White Abarrio, a 4-year-old, has six wins in his 14 starts, including two Grade 1 races, the Whitney Stakes Aug. 5 at Saratoga in Saratoga Springs, New York, and the 2022 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida.
The race lost three potential starters.
Geaux Rocket Ride was euthanized Wednesday after failing to recover from surgery to repair a leg injury suffered while training at Santa Anita last weekend. The 3-year-old had three victories in his first four races this year, including the Haskell Stakes, and was beaten by a neck by Arabian Knight in the Pacific Classic.
Geaux Rocket Ride was the 14th horse to die from a racing or training injury at Santa Anita this year.
Arcangelo, the 2023 Belmont Stakes winner, dropped out Tuesday due to an issue with his left hind foot. Trainer Jena Antonucci confirmed the issue with the horse's foot, telling FanDuel TV that "he's not fully resolving, and we're running out of time" to successfully treat the problem before the race.
Kentucky Derby winner Mage had been expected to run in the Breeders' Cup Classic but never made the trip to Santa Anita
"Mage had a slight temp & didn't eat up last night how he normally does," co-owner Ramiro Restrepo posted on social media last Sunday. "Timing stinks but lucky we caught it early. Can't run at below 100%; horse comes first."
The nine-race card began Saturday morning with the $1 million Dirt Mile, won by Cody's Wish.
It was followed by the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf, won by Inspiral.
Following that, Goodnight Olive, a 5-year-old mare, won the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint, a race she also won at last year's Breeders' Cup at the Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky.
Next on the schedule were the $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile, $2 million Distaff and $4 million Breeders' Cup Turf.
Post time for the Breeders' Cup Classic is 3:40 p.m. It will be followed by the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint and the $2 million Breeders' Cup Sprint.
The races were being aired by USA Network, NBC, Peacock and FanDuel TV.
The 2023 Breeders' Cup began with what was billed as "Future Stars Friday" with five races for 2-year-olds -- the $1 million Juvenile Turf Sprint, $2 million Juvenile Fillies, $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf, $2 million Juvenile and $1 million Juvenile Turf -- in front of a crowd announced at 43,377.
The all-sources handle for the 10-race program was $61,747,341, the third consecutive year the Friday handle has topped $60 million. The on-track handle was $6,541,751.
Three horses were injured Friday at Santa Anita.
Mountain Bear, a 2-year-old colt with eight starts and two first-place finishes, injured his left front leg and was vanned off after finishing second in the $920,000 Juvenile Turf race. His trainer Aidan O'Brien said he should recover in about four weeks.
"I think he has a non-displaced condylar fracture," O'Brien said, according to Bloodhorse.com. "That's a little fracture down into his cannon (bone). It's not displaced; so that's good."
Breeders' Cup officials issued the following statement: "Following the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, Mountain Bear's jockey Dylan McMonagle quickly dismounted after an injury to the horse became apparent. Mountain Bear was immediately attended to by California Horse Racing Board, Breeders' Cup, and 1/ST Racing veterinarians. He was taken via equine ambulance to the Southern California Equine Foundation equine hospital for further evaluation and diagnostics and was determined to have sustained a non-displaced lateral condylar fracture to his left front leg. He has been returned to the barn in the care of his connections. A full recovery is expected."
Bus Buzz, a 3-year-old dark bay gelding with eight races and three first-place finishes in his career, was ambulanced off after Friday's 10th race at the Arcadia track, which was conducted after the day's five Breeders' Cup races. He was scheduled for surgery Sunday, according to a statement from track owner 1/ST Racing.
White Moonlight, a 6-year-old bay mare with 13 career races and four first-place finishes, "bled" after finishing fifth in Friday's third race, her first in the United States, according to the official race chart. Her condition was not immediately available Saturday.
Local animal rights advocates who frequently stage demonstration outside Santa Anita and other Southland tracks planned to be outside the facility again Saturday.
And the national nonprofit organization Horseracing Wrongs announced plans to have a mobile billboard outside Santa Anita Park for eight hours Saturday, with video and still images showing what they termed "horseracing cruelty and the killing of horses for gambling and entertainment."
"In back-to-back races yesterday, two horses were ambulanced off: Mountain Bear and Bus Buzz ... what do you suppose the odds were of either being euthanized at the track?" said Patrick Battuello, founder and president of Horseracing Wrongs. "Yeah, pretty slim. And indeed, BloodHorse is reporting that both are being evaluated,' with at least one -- Bus Buzz -- already scheduled for surgery (you can just go ahead and click on the Geaux link to see how those things typically work out).
" ... If they can't prevent kills on their most-celebrated days, at their most-prestigious tracks, of their most-prized horses, they can't prevent kills. Period," Battuello continued.
Breeders' Cup officials insisted in a statement last weekend that they've taken all necessary safety precautions for the event.
"Leading up to the World Championships, the Breeders' Cup has been working closely with Santa Anita Park, the California Horse Racing Board, and our veterinary team to ensure every Breeders' Cup runner is fit to race," organizers said.
"The Breeders' Cup Veterinary Team also coordinated with regulatory and track veterinarians across the country to thoroughly review the veterinary records associated with all potential Breeders' Cup runners starting in early October. This expanded veterinary review protocol is designed to ensure, to the extent possible, every horse that made the trip to Santa Anita Park for the World Championships was sound to race and train.
" ... Safety always comes first, which is why Breeders' Cup and industry leaders like the CHRB and 1/ST Racing have been longtime advocates for the uniform safety and integrity reforms that eventually became part of HISA. We are constantly evaluating and updating our safety and screening measures so we can continue to provide the safest possible racing environment."