Del Mar, Calif. — There’s a new king in horse racing and it’s Gun Runner.
The 4-year-old colt won the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic by 2 1/4 lengths Saturday, sending rival Arrogate to a third straight career-ending defeat at Del Mar.
Gun Runner ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.29 and paid $6.80, $4.40 and $3.20.
Collected returned $5.60 and $4, while West Coast was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $3.60.
“At at the quarter pole, it was just a two-horse race between me and Collected,” Gun Runner’s jockey Florent Geroux said. “We just went on and the best horse won the race.”
Arrogate finished in a dead-heat for fifth with Gunnevera, done in once again at the seaside track north of San Diego. It was the scene of two losses during the summer.
“He just doesn’t seem to get a hold of this racetrack, for whatever reason,” jockey Mike Smith said. “I hate to blame it on the track, but he’s shown it time and time again. I keep trying to talk myself into it, that he’s going to like it one day, but he just never did.”
Arrogate hasn’t been the same horse since his dominant wins in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup and the $10 million Dubai World Cup earlier this year that made him the sport’s richest thoroughbred with over $17 million in earnings.
The Dubai race was the last time Gun Runner lost. Since then, he’s emerged stronger than ever with four consecutive victories.
“He’s better today than he’s ever been,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, who won the Classic for the first time since 2007 with Curlin.
Arrogate was a slight 2-1 favorite over Gun Runner, with $1,420,233 bet on Arrogate to win — $132,416 more than on Gun Runner.
The Classic capped a wild weekend at the seaside track north of San Diego that played host to the Breeders’ Cup for the first time. Just two favorites won in 13 races — Mendelssohn in the $1 million Juvenile Turf on Friday and World Approval in the $2 million Mile on Saturday.
The biggest upset belonged to Bar of Gold in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint. She paid $135.40 to win at 60-1 odds.
There were three Europe-based winners: Mendelssohn, Wuheida in the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf, and Talismanic in the $4 million Turf.
New York-based trainer Chad Brown won two races: the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf with Rushing Fall and the $2 million Juvenile with 11-1 shot Good Magic.
Bob Baffert saddled a record four horses in pursuit of a record fourth straight win in the Classic. He finished 2-3 with Collected and West Coast, and was left to puzzle over another disappointing showing by Arrogate. His other horse, Mubtaahij, was eighth.
Arrogate broke a step slow and banged his left side on the starting gate.
“At the break when he ducked in and he had to gather him up, you just can’t do that against these horses,” Baffert said. “But I notice when he goes around these turns he loses momentum. I can’t really totally blame it on the track. He’s so much better than that.”
Baffert was blanked with his 11 starters on the weekend, while Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien was 1 for 13. He trained Mendelssohn.
With Arrogate out of the running, a Baffert horse took up the chase, but it was Collected. He hounded Gun Runner in what became virtually a match race.
“I was feeling really good, actually,” Geroux said. “My horse was really comfortable, flopping his hair back and forth shows a sign he was relaxing for me while going quick. He’s just a fresh horse. From there, I just tried to keep him as happy as I could.”
Collected took his best and last shot turning for home, but Gun Runner fended off the challenge and steadily widened his lead in deep stretch. Geroux and Asmussen discussed strategy earlier in the day after watching some early races.
“We wanted him away from the gate cleanly, in a nice rhythm,” the trainer said. “The confidence Florent has in the horse, the way the horse has been training coming into this race, I think letting him be who he is has put him on this stage and made him undoubtedly Horse of the Year.”
Gun Runner has 11 wins in 18 career starts and earnings of just less than $9 million.
War Story was fourth, followed by Arrogate and Gunnevera, Churchill, Mubtaahij, War Decree, Pavel and Win the Space.
In other races:
■ Good Magic won the $2 million Juvenile by 4 1/4 lengths, making him the winter favorite for next year’s Kentucky Derby. Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Good Magic ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.34 and paid $25 to win at 11-1 odds. Trained by Brown, Good Magic earned his first win after finishing second in his first two career starts. Solomini, trained by Baffert, finished second. Bolt D’Oro, the 3-5 favorite, was third. Curlin, a former BC Classic winner, sired the winner and second place finisher.
■ Trainer Peter Miller went 1-2 in the $1 million Turf Sprint with 30-1 shot Stormy Liberal winning by a head over 13-1 shot Richard’s Boy. Stormy Liberal paid $62.40 to win.
■ Talismatic rallied in the stretch to win the $4 million Turf by a half-length at 14-1 odds. The Britain-bred colt ran 1 1/2 miles in 2:26.19 and paid $30.20 to win. Defending champion Highland Reel — the 7-5 favorite — was third.
■ Smith scored an upset — his leading 26th Cup win — in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies with 17-1 shot Caledonia Road.
■ World Approval became the second favorite to win on the weekend, taking the $2 million Mile by 1 1/4 lengths and giving jockey John Velazquez his second Cup win in two days.
■ The weekend’s biggest upset was staged by 60-1 shot Bar of Gold in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint. Ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Bar of Gold ran seven furlongs in 1:22.63 and paid $135.40 to win.
■ Wuheida took the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf by a length and paid $24.40 at 11-1 odds.
■ Roy H won the $1.5 million Sprint by a length under Kent Desormeaux, giving Miller his second victory on the weekend. The winner paid $11.80 at 9-2 odds.