California Chrome and Firing Line likely out for the season. Updated Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

With the recent news that California Chrome (cannon bone bruise) and Firing Line (foot bruise) are out for the rest of the year with injuries, below is my updated Breeder’s Cup Contender list. There is still a lot of talent left for the Classic.

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. Career: 8 Starts 7-0-0-0, Win Pct: 87.5%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 87.5%

2) Effinex– The Suburban Handicap winner, 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 in the Excelsior Stakes on April 25th and his 108 Beyer on July 4th at Belmont. He could be peaking and maturing at the right time. His next start will be at Saratoga for the Whitney Handicap on August 8th. Career: 16 Starts 6-1-2-2, Win Pct: 37.5%, Top 3 Pct: 56.25%, Top 4%: 68.8%

3) Tonalist – Last year’s Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner. 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. Career: 12 Starts 5-4-1-1, Win Pct: 41.7%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 91.7%

4) Bayern– Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. His ranking is more due to his 2014 form. He has had two consecutive last place finishes (6th, 10th) in two starts this year. But both races were a mile or under. Many suspected that he might have an undetected ailment of some sort or not fully recovered from the quarter crack in his hind foot that kept him out of the San Antonio Stakes. However, Bob Baffert insists that he is in perfect health. I expect Bayern 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. Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-0, Win Pct: 50%, Top 3 Pct: 66.7%, Top 4 Pct: 66.7%

5) 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 and he has never finished below 4th. 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. Career: 8 Starts 6-0-1-1, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 100%

6) 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 this Todd Pletcher-trained horse’s next start will be. Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-1, Win Pct: 66.7%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 100%

7) Lea – In 2015, he has a win (Hal’s Hope Stakes), two second place finishes (Donn Handicap and Stephen Foster Handicap) and a third place finish. The third place finish was in the Dubai World Cup where he finished behind Prince Bishop and California Chrome. He has two impressive Beyer Speed Figures of 110 in the Hal’s Hope Stakes and 108 in the Stephen Foster Handicap. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap on August 8th. Career: 16 Starts 7-4-3-1, Win Pct: 43.8%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 93.8%

8) Noble Bird– He has qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Stephen Foster Handicap where he beat Lea while registering a 108 Beyer Speed Figure. He has won three out of his last four races. His only downside is that he has never raced longer than 1 1/8 mile. Career: 10 Starts 4-3-0-1, Win Pct: 40%, Top 3 Pct: 70%, Top 4 Pct: 80%

9) Palace Malice – He finished 3rd in his only start in 2015 in the 6 furlong Diablo Stakes at Belmont on May 10th. He won four out of five races last year, most notably the Metropolitan Handicap. In 2013, he won the Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes. Considered one of the best older horses last year. No word yet on when his next start will be but I am guessing it will be the Whitney Handicap on August 8th. He did work out July 4th at Saratoga. Career: 18 Starts 7-4-2-1, Win Pct: 38.9%, Top 3 Pct: 72.2%, Top 4 Pct: 77.8%

10) Frosted – Like Tonalist and Constitution, the son of Tapit. The winner of the Wood Memorial where he posted a 103 Beyer Speed Figure. He finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby and 2nd in the Belmont Stakes. His next start is likely to be the Jim Dandy Stakes August 1st, followed by Travers Stakes on August 29th. Career: 9 Starts 2-5-0-2, Win Pct: 22.2%, Top 3 Pct: 77.8%, Top 4 Pct: 100%

11) Honor Code – The Met-Mile winner with a blazing 112 Beyer Speed Figure. He has a 5th place finish in th Alysheba Stakes and a win in the Gulfstream Park Handicap in his other two starts in 2015. He has a nice pedigree, the son of A.P. Indy and the grandson of Seattle Slew. He has yet to race longer than 1 1/8th mile but I am not concerned as he is bred for distance. He demonstrated that he has closing speed in the Met Mile. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap August 8th. Career: 8 Starts 5-2-0-0, Win Pct: 62.5%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 87.5%

12) Hoppertunity  – In 2015, he has a win in the San Pasqual Stakes, two third place finishes in the San Antonio and Stephen Foster Handicap and lost to Hard Aces in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita by a nose. He is consistent and has never finished below fifth in eleven career starts. No word as to when his start start will be. Career: 11 Starts 4-3-2-1, Win Pct: 36.4%, Top 3 Pct: 81.8%, Top 4 Pct: 90.9%

13) Hard Aces* –  He has qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. For 2015, he has two wins, a 3rd, a 4th and a 6th place finish. One wonders if his big win in the Gold Cup was more a byproduct of Victor Espinoza’s jockeying. Career: 23 starts 6-3-7-2, Win Pct: 26.1%, Top 3 Pct: 69.6%, Top 4 Pct: 78.2%

14) Texas Red – He 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 most recent start in the 1 Mile Dwyer Stakes at Belmont on July 4th. He has never finished below 4th place in seven career starts. His next start appears to be the Jim Dandy Stakes on August 1st. Career: 7 Starts 2-3-1-1, Win Pct: 28.5%, Top 3 Pct: 85.7%, Top 4 Pct: 100%

Other horses to keep an eye on:  Race Day, Wicked Strong, Moreno, Carpe Diem, Coach Inge, Commissioner and Protonico.

* – indicates horses who have already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic


The remaining “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Classic Races:

Aug. 2nd – The Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC
Aug. 8th – The Whitney Handicap at Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $1,500,000 – NBC
Aug. 22nd – The TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – TVG
Sept. 26th – The Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $250,000 – TVG
Oct. 3rd – Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational at Belmont – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC

Other Notable Classic Division Races:

Aug. 29th – The Travers Stakes at Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,250,000 – NBC
Sept. 5th – The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $600,000 –  NBCSN

–Michael

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s