Any thought that bettors would shy away from this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park was quickly put to rest on Friday.
More than $56.5 million was bet on the day’s 10 race card at Santa Anita, featuring five championship races showcasing the top 2-year-old fillies and colts. That marked a 5.4 percent increase from last year’s card at Churchill Downs and broke the previous high-water mark of $54.9 million in 2010 at Churchill.
Fans also didn’t stay away from Santa Anita, the California track rife with controversy this year after 36 horses have died during training or racing dating back to December. The crowd of 41,243 was comparable to first-day crowds over the last decade. Those patrons wagered $6.3 million.
The biggest shocker Friday came in the final race, the TVG Juvenile. Storm the Court, who went off at 45-1, led a pack of three longshots to the wire. He paid $93.80, $24.80, and $12. Anneau d’Or, a 28-1 longshot, paid $17.60 and $10.40, while 39-1 Wrecking Crew paid $12.20.
A $1 exacta paid $488.20, while a 50-cent trifecta paid out $1,965.25.
The race nearly took a dark turn at the start as Dennis’ Moment, the 4-5 favorite, stumbled badly out of the gate and never got into the race. He finished last among the eight horses, and trainer Dale Romans said he would have his veterinarian check out his Kentucky Derby contender.
Win, lose or draw all you want is a fair shake,” Romans posted on his Twitter account. “He just had no chance. You know, it happens. It could have been so much worse, that’s the good thing. The fact that we lost the biggest race in his life (so far) for a championship, it’s bad. But he’ll be back.”
The Breeders’ Cup resumes Saturday with a couple potential Horse of the Year candidates highlighting the nine-race card.
Omaha Beach Favored in the Mile
Omaha Beach missed out on a chance to race for the Kentucky Derby in May due to a throat condition. However, the Richard Mandella-trained 3-year-old still can make a unique case for Horse of the Year, especially if he wins Saturday’s Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile.
The colt comes into Saturday winning his last four races. That includes three graded stakes. He’s won at 1-1/16 miles, 1-1/8 miles, and six furlongs (3/4-mile). The latter came on Oct. 5 in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes in his first start in nearly six months.
Ridden by Mike Smith, Omaha Beach will break from the fifth gate in the 10-horse field. He’s the morning-line favorite at 8-5. His stiffest competition may likely come from a familiar face.
Improbable finished second to Omaha Beach in April’s Arkansas Derby. The Bob Baffert-trained horse has just one win and two places in six races, but he won at Santa Anita as a 2-year-old. With Rafael Bejarano on the mount, Improbable starts in the second gate and has 3-1 odds.
Another colt to keep an eye on is Mr. Money. After struggling in Kentucky Derby prep races, he seemed to find his stride over the summer. At one point, he won four straight stakes races and missed out on a fifth in his last race. That was the Sept. 21 Pennsylvania Derby when Math Wizard clipped him by a neck at the wire.
With Gabriel Saez aboard, the Bret Calhoun-trained colt will break from the fourth gate and has 6-1 odds.
Post time for the race is 4:10 pm ET.
Bricks and Mortar Seeks Sixth Straight Win
Bricks and Mortar will try close out a perfect 2019 campaign with likely his toughest test. He’s racing in the 1-1/2 mile Longines Turf.
The Chad Brown-trained 5-year-old has won all five of his races, all graded stakes, by capturing the lead at some point down the stretch. In August at the Arlington Million, he was 2-1/2 lengths behind in third place down the stretch, but took the lead at the 1/16th pole.
He’ll lead a field of 12 with 9-5 morning line odds as Irad Ortiz Jr. takes the mount.
Unlike Bricks and Mortar, Old Persian has raced at 1-1/2 miles and won. He came over from Europe and covered that distance in his last race, the Northern Dancer Turf Stakes at Woodbine Racetrack near Toronto on Sept. 14. William Buick will ride Old Persian Saturday, and the Charles Appleby-trained 4-year-old has morning line odds of 4-1.
Post time is 7:40 pm ET.