Catch A Flight upsets Bayern & Hoppertunity – Updated Breeders’s Cup Classic Rankings

Catch A Flight wins the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar – (AP / BENOIT PHOTO)

The San Diego Handicap at Del Mar yesterday (shown below) provided a dramatic finish and much-needed information for any Breeders’ Cup Classic contender list. The San Diego Handicap was top-heavy in talent with entries Bayern, Hoppertunity and a very promising Argentinian horse named Catch A Flight. This race was 1 1/16th mile, so I am viewing it through 1 1/4 mile spectacles (same distance as the BCC).

My thoughts, Bayern is definitely not the same horse he was in 2014. He had no excuses with his 3rd place finish. He took the early lead where he has been successful in the past but tailed off at the end. But I take this a step forward after two last place finishes in 2015. Remember, he sat out earlier in the year due to a quarter crack in his hind foot  Overall, I was more impressed with Catch A Flight and Hoppertunity (who finished 4th) as both came on like gang-busters at the end.


So here is my updated Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings with Wynn Las Vegas Odds

1) American Pharoah (5/2) – 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. His workouts are going well, he will wire the Haskell field. His next start after the Haskell is not confirmed but expected to be 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%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.52 – 4/11/15 (2015 Arkansas Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.02 – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Kentucky Derby

2) Tonalist (10/1) – 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%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:49.52 (calculated) – 7/26/14 (2014 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.69 (calculated)- 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2014 Jockey Club Gold Cup

3) Catch A Flight (20/1)  -The Argentinian horse has never finished below 3rd in his North American career thus far, so that is where I am placing him in my rankings. He has won 10 of 17 career starts, 4 out of 7 in North America. He is ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens and appears to be an upcoming horse who is getting better as his San Diego Handicap performance indicates. He finished 3rd in the Santa Anita Handicap in March behind Shared Belief and Moreno, but beat Moreno in the Californian Stakes on May 30th (106 Beyer Speed Figure). He finished third behind Hard Aces and Hoppertunity in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita June 27th, but beat Hoppertunity in the San Diego Handicap. His next start is confirmed as the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 22nd.

Career (North America) : 7 Starts 4-0-3-0, Win Pct: 57.1%, Top 3 Pct: 100%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.73 – 5/30/14 (2015 Californian Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.37 (calculated) – 3/7/15 (2015 Santa Anita Handicap)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Santa Anita Handicap

4) Lea (20/1) – 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. He is working out well at Saratoga. 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%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:46.86 – 2/9/14 (2014 Donn Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.88 (calculated)- 3/28/15 (2015 Dubai World Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Dubai World Cup

5) Palace Malice (6/1) – 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 and finished 6th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Considered one of the best older horses last year. I will say that 6/1 odds for a horse that has yet to race this year is too rich. He did work out July 4th and July 20th at Saratoga. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap on August 8th.

Career: 18 Starts 7-4-2-1, Win Pct: 38.9%, Top 3 Pct: 72.2%, Top 4 Pct: 77.8%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.37 – 7/27/13 (2013 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.78 (calculated)- 9/28/13 (2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd – 2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup

6) Effinex (50/1) – 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 on April 25th and his 108 Beyer on July 4th at Belmont. He could be peaking and maturing at the right time. He has yet to work out this month. 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%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.51 – 4/11/15 (2014 Empire Classic)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.55 – 7/4/15 (2015 Suburban Handicap)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A

7) Dortmund (12/1) – 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.

Career: 8 Starts 6-0-1-1, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.73 – 4/4/15 (2015 Santa Anita Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.50 (calculated) – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Kentucky Derby

8) Hoppertunity (10/1)  – In 2015, he has a win in the San Pasqual Stakes, two third place finishes in the San Antonio and Stephen Foster Handicap, lost to Hard Aces in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita by a nose and a fourth place finish in the San Diego Handicap. He is consistent and has never finished below 5th in 12 career starts. His next start will be the TVG Pacific Classic on August 22nd.

Career: 12 Starts 4-3-2-2, Win Pct: 33.3%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 91.7%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.36 (calculated) – 4/5/14 (2014 Santa Anita Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.47 (calculated) – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd – 2015 Gold Cup

9) Frosted (15/1) – 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%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:50.31 – 4/4/15 (2015 Wood Memorial)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.54 (calculated) – 5/2/2015 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 4th – 2015 Kentucky Derby

10) Hard Aces* (25/1) –  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. His workouts of late haven’t been impressive. No word on when his next start will be.

Career: 23 starts 6-3-7-2, Win Pct: 26.1%, Top 3 Pct: 69.6%, Top 4 Pct: 78.2%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.37 (calculated) – 5/30/15 (2015 Californian Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.46 – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup

11) Bayern (25/1) – Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. He has had two consecutive last place finishes (6th, 10th) in two starts before his 3rd place finish in the San Diego Handicap. No word on when his next start will be.

Career: 13 Starts 6-1-2-0, Win Pct: 46.2%, Top 3 Pct: 69.2%, Top 4 Pct: 69.2%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:46.96 – 9/20/14 (2014 Pennsylvania Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.88 – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic

12) Noble Bird* (No Odds) – 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. Why Wynn Las Vegas has no odds listed for him is puzzling. 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. His next start is expected to be the Whitney Handicap August 8th.

Career: 10 Starts 4-3-0-1, Win Pct: 40%, Top 3 Pct: 70%, Top 4 Pct: 80%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.94 – 6/13/15 (2015 Stephen Foster Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

13) Constitution (11/1) – 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. He has been working out, but 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%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:49.16 – 3/29/14 (2014 Florida Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

14) Honor Code (15/1) – 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 last two workouts have been less than impressive but he is a closer. 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%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:52.92 – 11/30/14 (2014 Remsen Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

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


Below is a ranking by Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Times.  I used times at the 1 & 1/4 mile mark from the 2015 Belmont Stakes for American Pharoah and Frosted since these times were better than their times in the Kentucky Derby. For calculated times of non-winning horses, I used the official race time of the winner and the following to compute an estimated time [One length is equal to 0.16 seconds, three-quarters of a length is equal to 0.12, a half-length equals 0.08, a neck is equal to 0.04, a head is equal to 0.02 and a nose is 0.01].

1) Bayern –  1:59.88 – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
2) Tonalist  – 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
3) Palace Malice  – 2:00.78 (calculated) – 9/28/13 (2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup)
4) Catch A Flight   – 2:01.37 (calculated) – 3/7/15 (2015 Santa Anita Handicap)
5) Effinex  – 2:01.55 – 7/4/15 (2015 Suburban Handicap)
6) American Pharoah  –  2:02.37 – 6/5/15 (2015 Belmont Stakes)
7) Hard Aces  –  2:02.46 – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
8) Hoppertunity  –  2:02.47 (calculated) – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
9) Frosted  –   2:02.69 (calculated) – 6/5/2015 (2015 Belmont Stakes)
10) Dortmund –  2:03.50 (calculated) – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
11) Lea –  2:03.88 (calculated) – 3/28/15 (2015 Dubai World Cup)


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

–Michael

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