Holy Effinex! Updated Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

Effinex beats Tonalist in the Belmont Handicap – Photo Credit: NYRA/Adam Coglianese

If American Pharoah is going to become the first horse to win the Quadruple Crown (Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic), he has his work cut out for him. Yesterday’s Suburban Handicap at Belmont (video below) produced an exciting finish that saw Effinex beat Tonalist on a head bob. Both horses received 108 Beyer Speed Figures, the 2nd highest all year for races 1 & 1/4th mile or longer. (Note: Share Belief produced a 111 Beyer Speed Figure back in March in the 1 1/4th mile Santa Anita Handicap but is out for the year due to injury).

Effinex’s winning time was 2:01.55 for this 1 1/4 mile race–same distance as the Breeders’ Cup Classic. What was American Pharoah’s time in the Belmont Stakes through 1 1/4 miles 4 weeks ago? 2:02.37. But note that Effinex DNF’d on the same day at Belmont in the Brooklyn Invitational Stakes.

So here is my updated Breeder’s Cup Contender list:

1) American Pharoah – He currently is ranked #1 in Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings and also ranked #1 in the most recent NTRA’s Top Thoroughbred poll. And much deserved as he is the first Triple Crown Winner in 37 years. His return to racing has been confirmed to be the Haskell Invitational August 2nd. Followed by the Travers Stakes August 29th

2) Effinex– He has now produced two of the top four Beyer Speed Figures this year for races 1 1/4th mile (or longer): 107 Beyer at Aqueduct on April 25th and his 108 Beyer on July 4th at Belmont. I will need to see another solid performance before I would move him ahead of American Pharoah. His next start will be at Saratoga for the Whitney Handicap on August 8th.

3) Tonalist– For 2015, he has one win in the Westchester Stakes and now two 2nd places finishes (Met Mile and Suburban Handicap). He finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year. His 108 Beyer in the Suburban Handicap ranks as the third highest speed figure this year for races 1 1/4 mile. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap on August 8th.

4) 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 with a 105 Beyer Speed Figure) and Dubai World Cup. I really liked his performance in the Dubai World Cup even though he finished 2nd. He finished 3rd in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. His next start is rumored to 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 Espinoza will ride American Pharoah.

5) 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. He suffered a slight foot injury in June and is being pointed to return to racing for the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 22nd or the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 29th.

6) Bayern– Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. He has had two consecutive last place finishes (6th, 10th) in two starts this year. But both races 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. Many suspected that he might have an undetected ailment of some sort but he is in perfect health. I expect this Bob Baffert-trained horse to bounce back. His next start appears to be the San Diego Handicap on July 25th. Another dud performance here and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets put on the shelf.

7) 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 as I don’t think we have seen the best from him yet. He was supposed to be entered into the Los Alamitos Derby on July 4th but his next start appears to be the Jim Dandy Stakes on August 1st.

8) 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: Lea, Noble Bird, Coach Inge, Palace Malice, Hard Aces, Moreno, Frosted, Honor Code, Hoppertunity, 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 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. He finished 2nd in his return to race yesterday in the 1 Mile Dwyer Stakes at Belmont.