My Sensational Seven Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

With the $5 Million Dollar Breeders’ Cup Classic four months away, it is time to start looking ahead at the potential contenders for the Super Bowl of thoroughbred racing. No surprise, with Shared Belief being injured and out for the rest of the year, that the Triple Crown winner American Pharoah tops the list. But a lot can happen in five months so keep an eye on the winners of the “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Classic races. Particularly, the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park August 2nd, the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga August 8th, the prestigious Travers Stakes at Saratoga August 29th and the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park October 3rd.

And now for my top 7 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contender list:

1) American Pharoah – He currently is ranked #1 in Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings. And much deserved as he is the first Triple Crown Winner in 37 years. His return to racing appears to be the Haskell Invitational August 2nd. Followed by the Travers Stakes August 29th

2) California Chrome – The 2014 Horse of the Year, he has had a decent 2015 with two 2nd places in two starts–the San Antonio Handicap (behind Shared Belief) and Dubai World Cup. I really liked his performance in the Dubai World Cup even though he finished 2nd. His next start could be the Arlington Million on August 15th. But note that if he runs in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he will have a different jockey as Victor Espinosz will ride American Pharoah.

3) Firing LIne – Although he bombed in the muddy Preakness Stakes, he never finished worst than 2nd before this race. And remember that he finished a length behind American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby– the same 1 & 1/4 mile distance as the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be. Some horses don’t race well in the slop, so I think he deserves a Mulligan for his Preakness performance.

4) Bayern– Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. He has had less than stellar performances (6th, 10th) in two races this year. But both were a mile or under. However, this was thought to be his strength last year and many questioned how he would fare in two-turn races. I expect this Bob Baffert-trained horse to bounce back. His next start appears to be the San Diego Handicap on July 25th.

5) Tonalist – This year, he won the Westchester Stakes and finished 2nd in the Met Mile. But with his pedigree (Sire Tapit). he is better suited for races longer than 1 mile. He won the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Belmont Stakes last year and finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. His next start will be the Suburban Handicap on July 4th.

6) Dortmund– He finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. But remember that he has won 6 races out of 8 starts. Another Bob Baffert-trained horse that I expect to improve. He will be entered into the Los Alamitos Derby on July 4th.

7) Constitution– Winner of 4 out 6 career starts which includes the Donn Handicap earlier in the year. Currently tied with Shared Belief for the Top Beyer Speed Figure in 2015 for races longer than a mile with a speed figure of 111. He has never raced longer than a 1 1/8th  mile. However, with his pedigree (Sire Tapit) I have no concerns that he will have distance issues. No word on when his next start will be.

Other horses to keep an eye on: Palace Malice, Lea, Hard Aces, Moreno, Frosted, Honor Code, Noble Bird, Texas Red and Toast of New York who finished 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year but has yet to race this year. Texas Red, if fully recovered, was my early Kentucky Derby favorite before his injury set-back. His closing style will be an asset in a 1 1/4 mile race.


Belmont Stakes Preview & Triple Crown Anticipation

The final leg of the Triple Crown will be the Belmont Stakes this Saturday June 6th. Post time will be 5:50PM CST and the race will be aired on NBC. Below are the post positions and morning line odds.

1 Mubtaahij – 10-1  Jockey I. Ortiz/Trainer de Kock
2 Tale of Verve – 15-1  Jockey Stevens/Trainer Stewart
3 Madefromlucky – 12-1  Jockey Castellano/Trainer Pletcher
4 Frammento – 30-1  Jockey Smith/Trainer Zito
5 American Pharoah – 3-5  Jockey Espinoza/Trainer Baffert
6 Frosted – 5-1  Jockey Rosario/Trainer McLaughlin
7 Keen Ice – 20-1  Jockey Desormeaux/Trainer Romans
8 Materiality – 6-1  Jockey Velazquez/Trainer Pletcher

Who do I like to win? Although history is not on American Pharoah’s side, his chances are better than one would think. Even though the last 13 Triple Crown contenders failed to win the Belmont Stakes, 11 out of 30 horses who won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and competed in the Belmont Stakes, won the race to complete the Triple Crown. That is a percentage of 36.7%. The average finish of all 30 horses was 2.43, so that is essentially 2nd or 3rd finish.

The only horse in this field that I feel is capable of beating American Pharoah is Frosted but I think American Pharoah will prevail. But never count out a Todd Pletcher horse and Materiality is his best horse for this race.

At 3/5 odds for American Pharoah, a $2 bet will only pay $3.20. I expect the live odds to be about 3/5 or 4/5 at post time. I think a 5-6 straight Exacta would be a good bet for this race.

As far as Trifecta betting, 5-6-ALL. That is 5 over 6 over 1,2,3,4,7 & 8. This $10 Trifecta will cost $60. For Superfecta betting, I would do a Superfecta wheel keying American Pharoah to win with the field and hope that some high odds horses finish in the money.

Another bet to consider if you want to hedge your bets and potentially get a huge payout if the unexpected occurs, is placing a 10-Cent Superfecta using the entire field. A 10-Cent bet using the 8 horse field would cost $168. You are guaranteed to get some of that money back and you could get real lucky like in 2002 when the Belmont Stakes paid out $145,334 for a $2 bet. If this was applied as a 10-Cent bet it would pay back $7,266.