Updated 2015 Breeders’ Cup Contender Rankings

This past weekend, the Jim Dandy Stakes and Haskell Invitational gave us the following information: American Pharoah showed no rustiness coming off a layoff. And Texas Red is back, edging out Frosted.

I still like Frosted over Texas Red in 1 1/4 mile race. In the Haskell Invitational, American Pharoah continued to prove his dominance making it 8 straight wins in a row. I loved the performance of 2nd-place finisher, Keen Ice, who came off the pace like gangbusters. This will bode well in a 1 1/4 mile race. Keen Ice is an improving horse. I don’t see him as one who can beat American Pharoah but one that could finish in the money in the Breeders’ Cup Classic if he makes it into the field.



So here’s my updated Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings. Dropping out of my Top 14 are Constitution and Honor Code. Two really good horses but we will see how they fare in their next start.

1) American Pharoah*  – He confirmed his #1 ranking with his performance in the Haskell Invitational with a sizzling 109 Beyer Speed Figure. He now has reeled off 8 straight wins. He currently is ranked #2 in Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings and 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 next start after the Haskell has not been confirmed but expected to be the Travers Stakes August 29th.

Career: 9 Starts 8-0-0-0, Win Pct: 88.9%, Top 3 Pct: 88.9%, Top 4 Pct: 88.9%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.95 – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
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  – 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 this weekend 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  – 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 – 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  – 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. He was supposed to be entered in the Whitney Handicap but instead will be entered into Sunday’s $100,000 Alydar Stakes at Saratoga.

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  – 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 worked out at Saratoga July 29th. His next start will be the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 5th.

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 – 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. His next start appears to be the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 22nd.

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  – 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) 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. His recent workouts at Del Mar have been very good. His next start appears to be at Del Mar in the TVG Pacific Classic on August 22nd.

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

10) Frosted – He finished 2nd behind Texas Red in the Jim Dandy Stakes but he likes distance (his sire was Tapit). He finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby and 2nd in the Belmont Stakes. His next start will be the Travers Stakes on August 29th.

Career: 10 Starts 2-6-0-2, Win Pct: 20%, Top 3 Pct: 80%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.85 (calculated) – 8/1/15 (2015 Jim Dandy Stakes)
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

11) Bayern – 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. He is not the horse he was in 2014 but he did improve in his last start. His next start will be the TVG Pacific Classic on August 22nd.

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– 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. His next start will 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) Keen Ice – An improving horse who finished 7th in the Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Belmont Stakes and 2nd behind American Pharoah in the Haskell Invitational with a 105 Beyer Speed Figure His next start after the Haskell is not confirmed but expected to be the Travers Stakes August 29th.

Career: 10 Starts 1-1-3-2, Win Pct: 10%, Top 3 Pct: 50%, Top 4 Pct: 70%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
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: 7th – 2015 Kentucky Derby

14) Texas Red – He earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the Jim Dandy Stakes. He was my early Kentucky Derby favorite before his injury. He appears to be back on track heading down the stretch. Could he be this year’s version of Shared Belief? Both horses won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as two year olds but missed the Kentucky Derby due to injury.

Career: 8 Starts 3-3-1-1, Win Pct: 37.5%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.77 – 8/1/2015 (2015 Jim Dandy 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. 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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