Following the recent defections of Mage and Archangel from the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita Parkthere will be no American-trained alumni from the 2023 Triple Crown in the $6 million main event.
Only the Japanese-trained Derma Sotogake is a Classic participant after competing in the first leg of the American Triple Crown, finishing sixth in the May 6 Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs. Trainer Hidetaka Otonashi trains the son of Mind Your Biscuits for owner Hiroyuki Asanuma.
Regarding the individual race winners—Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage was not entered after his connections said he ran a fever over the weekend; Preakness Stakes (G1) winner National Treasure is running instead in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) earlier on the card; and Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Arcangelo was announced as scratched by trainer Jena Antonucci Oct. 31 over concerns related to heat in the 3-year-old’s left hind foot.
Other notable Triple Crown participants, such as Belmont runner-up Forte are not in the race due to physical setbacks, and still others did not perform well enough over the year to warrant racing in the prestigious 1 1/4-mile Classic.
So Derma Sotogake will be the only familiar Triple Crown chestnut equine face among the dozen horses remaining, of which four are 3-year-olds.
Tuesday, Derma Sotogake jogged over the Santa Anita surface under Masa Segawa before jockey Christophe Lemaire climbed aboard to give him a robust and untimed gallop, coming down the stretch with energy and galloping out evenly around the turn. A short workout is a possibility Nov. 1.
“He went very well. He was grabbing the ground well and feels strong. I liked how he felt,” Lemaire said.
Though the Classic will be without American-based Kentucky Derby runners, the favorite is a horse that fans saw on the Road to the Kentucky Derby early in the year: Zedan Racing Stables’ Arabian Knight winner of the Southwest Stakes (G3) in January for trainer Bob Baffert.
Needing time off, he missed the major 3-year-old races in the spring and was pointed for a summer and fall campaign. Since returning, he was third in the July 22 Haskell Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park—a loss Baffert blames on the Uncle Mo colt being too fresh after a layoff—and a front-running win in the Sept. 2 Pacific Classic (G1) at 10 furlongs against older horses at From sea.
He is 3-0-1 in four starts with earnings of $1.2 million and considered one of the few 3-year-olds with a chance to potentially outpoll Arcangelo as champion 3-year-old male, though to do so, he would need a top performance Saturday.
Arabian Knight, Saudi Crown, and Dreamlike may have missed the Derby, but a pair of 4-year-old Classic entrants raced in the Derby last year at age 3: Jeff Drown’s Zandon and C2 Racing Stable and La Milagrosa Stable’s White Abarrio respectively third and 16th.
Both won their final tune-ups for Saturday’s race. Zandon took the Oct. 1 Woodward Stakes (G2) during the Belmont at the Big A meet, and White Abarrio rolled at Saratoga Race Course in the Aug. 5 Whitney Stakes (G1), in which he defeated Zandon by 6 1/4 lengths.
Aguilar Groom to the Stars in Cox Barn
Ever since his rise from Breeders’ Cup newbie in 2016 to entering the event in 2023 as one of the most successful trainers in Breeders’ Cup history, trainer Brad Cox has been quick to recognize his entire team and their importance to his operation. One of those key team members, and one could even call him the “secret weapon,” is groom Darwin Aguilar.
Aguilar has been working for Cox for eight years and said he got the job because one of his sisters was a hot walker for the barn and told him how much she liked it.
When asked what he liked most about working with horses, Aguilar said, “Looking at my horses in their stalls and seeing that they look good. And, then taking them to the paddock and looking at them. I like seeing they are doing and looking good.”
Cox has entrusted Aguilar with many of his top horses, including two-time Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) winner and champion Monomoy Girl and 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Essential Quality . This year, his horses include Saudi Crown and Wet Paint .