DEL MAR, Calif. — Arrogate and Gun Runner square off again in the $6 million Classic today, the marquee event on the second day of the Breeders' Cup, being run for the first-time at Del Mar.
The 13-race, season-ending championships started with four races Friday.
The event culminates with the Classic, the biggest event in the history of the seaside track north of San Diego.
Defending champ Arrogate is winless since the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March. He'll need to be in top form to handle Gun Runner, the 9-5 favorite.
Arrogate, the 2-1 second choice, is one of four Classic entries for trainer Bob Baffert, who has won the race the past three years with Bayern in 2014 and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015.
The all-time richest horse with earnings of $17.3 million, Arrogate followed the Classic victory with triumphs in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup and in Dubai.
Then things went south.
The 4-year-old gray is winless since his return from the Middle East. "I think a lot of it is the way I prepared him," Baffert said. "I take the blame for him getting beat the first time. The second time, it looked like he wasn't going to run and all of a sudden he started running at the end.
"I think he should run well."
Arrogate beat Gun Runner by a 2¼ lengths in Dubai. It has been a dramatically different story since then. Gun Runner reeled off wins in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs and in the Whitney and Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. Trainer Steve Asmussen, who won the 2007 Classic with Curlin, marvels at the resilient 4-year-old: "This is a testament to Gun Runner and the year that he's put together."
In Friday's races, Forever Unbridled capped a day of upsets with a half-length win in the $2 million Distaff, showing no rust from a 73-day layoff. Ridden by John Velazquez, Forever Unbridled ran 1? miles in 1:50.25 and paid $9.40 to win. The only favorite to win was 9-2 shot Mendelssohn in the $1 million Juvenile Turf. The other $1 million races produced upsets: 3-1 shot Rushing Fall in the Juvenile Fillies Turf and 14-1 Battle of Midway in the Dirt Mile.