For the first time in a long time the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) appears to be one of the easiest races to figure out. I don’t think anyone doubts that California Chrome has earned the role as the heavy favorite or the fact that he will be a very, very difficult horse to beat. But races need to be run before victories are simply handed out and, despite his presence, a large bunch of really, really good older horses will be in the gate next to him looking to post the upset.
So who are the top contenders for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with just under three weeks left?
I think what needs to be said has been said by just about everyone already at least a dozen times. Maybe the only add is that he worked at Los Alamitos on Oct. 15, going :48 flat at his home base of Los Alamitos. He will have his last work there before shipping to Santa Anita in the days before the race.
It appears he’ll be in the gate for this race rather than the Dirt Mile, which is a good choice. The runaway Met Mile (GI) and Whitney Stakes (GI) winner faltered in the Woodward. He’s back to work at Greentree in Saratoga Springs and will likely make his way west as late as possible, hoping to turn trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s mediocre California shipping luck around and pick up a win.
The Bob Baffert-trained son of Unbridled’s Song is widely considered to be the biggest threat to dethrone California Chrome after a record-setting performance in the Travers Stakes (GI). It’s somewhat uncharacteristic for the Baffert to train up to a big race like the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but it’s hard to second-guess a Hall of Famer. Baffert did say, “Arrogate sure has a lot to do in that race.” He may never have been more right.
Speaking of Baffert, talk about a smooth move scratching from the Awesome Again Stakes (GI) and shipping the son of Any Given Saturday to New York, where he captured the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI). Now does that win mean he improved his chances of defeating California Chrome? No. But Hoppertunity sure boosted his own confidence and seems logical to be a factor in earning a larger share of the lucrative purse.
A little of this and a little of that kept him out of the Pacific Classic and then the Awesome Again after winning at the classic distance – twice – in the Big ‘Cap (GI) and Gold Cup at Santa Anita (GI) in the spring. It will be a long layoff into a huge race, but to underestimate trainer David Hofmans is a huge mistake. The son of Kodiak Kowboy worked seven furlongs in 1:27 on Oct. 15.
Hard to put a finger on what’s going on with the Kentucky Derby-winning champion after his lackluster performance in the Pennsylvania Derby (GII), a race people were wondering why he was in to begin with after his connections announced in early August that he’d get some time off to get ready for the fall races and Breeders’ Cup. His best makes him the best 3-year-old in training, but his recent performances make us wonder if he’s hit his sophomore limit.
The upset winner of the Woodward is also training into the Breeders’ Cup for trainer Jimmy Jerkens. The race’s “house horse” (owned by Santa Anita owner Frank Stronach) can run, but is he good enough to beat the top runners again?
Runner-up to American Pharoah a year ago looks to have lost a step this year. He’s expected to show up to the Breeders’ Cup regardless.
Win the Space
This handsome gray son of Tapit likes to pick up checks. No word on a confirmation for the Classic, but he’s shown he’s better than he’s gotten credit for.