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    Monday, March 04, 2024

    White Abarrio wins $6M Breeders’ Cup Classic, trainer Rick Dutrow back on top after 10-year exile

    Irad Ortiz Jr. reacts as he rides White Abarrio to win the Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo)

    Arcadia, Calif. — White Abarrio took over the lead at the top of the stretch and ran on to a one-length victory in the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday, propelling trainer Rick Dutrow back to the top after his 10-year exile from the sport.

    A celebratory Dutrow hugged anyone he could in the winner’s circle before throwing his arms around White Abarrio. He previously won the Classic in 2005 with Saint Liam.

    “It feels unbelievable,” Dutrow said. “I love it.”

    Bob Baffert, the career earnings leader among Breeders' Cup trainers, was blanked in nine races over two days of the 40th world championships at his home track.

    Trainer Bill Mott won a leading three races, while Irad Ortiz Jr. led all jockeys with three wins.

    Ridden by Ortiz Jr., White Abarrio ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.87. Sent off as the 5-2 favorite, the gray colt paid $7.20 to win.

    “I thought that he was a winner the whole way around the track,” Dutrow said.

    Arabian Knight shot to the lead out of the starting gate and led the 12-horse field with Saudi Crown in second and White Abarrio back in third.

    On the far turn, Saudi Crown retreated and White Abarrio moved up to challenge Arabian Knight, quickly taking over and widening his lead in the stretch.

    “I love being around good horses like that,” Dutrow said. “It makes you feel like a good horseman. That's always what I wanted to be.”

    Dutrow returned to training earlier this year after serving a 10-year suspension by New York racing officials for a history of violations. The 64-year-old trained Big Brown to victories in the 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but the colt finished last in the Belmont to end his Triple Crown bid. Controversy found Dutrow when he admitted regularly giving anabolic steroids to Big Brown and other horses in his stable.

    “I don’t feel I am back at the top,” Dutrow said. “I feel that the white horse is and I'm just hanging around him. As soon as I get a stable like Todd (Pletcher) and Chad (Brown), then I’ll feel like I’m back on top. Right now I just feel like I’m lucky to be around him.”

    Japan-bred Derma Sotogake was second and Proxy was third. Arabian Knight, trained by Baffert, was fourth. The Classic lost Belmont Stakes winner Arcangelo because of a foot problem. Kentucky Derby winner Mage was missing, too, after spiking a fever.

    Dutrow was saddling White Abarrio for just the third time. The 4-year-old colt was previously trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., but the owners moved him to Dutrow's barn after two of Joseph's other horses died this spring and Joseph was barred from entering races in multiple states.

    “I've known Rick a long time. I know exactly what he's capable of,” co-owner Mark Cornett said. “This horse was tailor-made for him.”

    In the $1 million Dirt Mile, Cody’s Wish rallied from last and survived a stewards’ inquiry to defend his title.

    Ridden by Junior Alvarado, Cody’s Wish ran the distance in 1:35.97. Sent off as the 4-5 favorite, the 5-year-old horse paid $3.60 to win.

    Cody’s Wish dueled leader National Treasure down the stretch. Cody’s Wish twice bumped National Treasure and jockey Flavien Prat before the Preakness winner made contact with Cody’s Wish, triggering the inquiry.

    “Right when I got next to National Treasure, I know he kind of came out and tried to meet with my horse,” Alvarado said. “I think my horse was feeling a little bit of a fight, and he tried to go right after the other horse.”

    While fans chanted “Cody! Cody!,” the stewards studied video replays for seven minutes while the two horses were walked in circles on the track, waiting to see which one would get his picture taken in the winner’s circle.

    It was Cody’s Wish by a nose.

    Baffert, who trains National Treasure, nodded his head at the finish, seemingly knowing that he had lost by the slimmest margin in horse racing.

    The victory ensured a storybook ending for Cody’s Wish in his final race before retirement. He won 11 of 16 career starts, including eight in stakes races, and over $3.1 million in earnings.

    Waiting in the winner’s circle during the inquiry was Cody Dorman, a teenager who has a rare genetic disorder and uses a wheelchair. He and the horse first met during a Make-A-Wish visit to a Kentucky farm when Cody’s Wish was a foal in 2018. Cody’s Wish walked over to Dorman’s wheelchair and put his head in the boy’s lap, creating a touching bond.

    “I think that horse probably saved Cody’s life in a lot of ways,” said Kelly Dorman, the boy’s father. “I know him and the horse have made a lot of lives better.”

    The Dorman family was on hand last year when Cody’s Wish won the Dirt Mile by a head at Keeneland, and they joined Mott in celebrating again.

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