Keen Ice stuns Travers crowd. Updated Breeders’ Cup Rankings

After Keen Ice’s stunning upset of American Pharoah on Saturday (video shown below), there were hints from Zayat Stables that American Pharoah could be retired. This is premature and hopefully just an emotional response. The last Triple Crown winner to win the Travers Stakes was Whirlaway in 1941. Although the upset radar was in on in full force on Saturday at Saratoga–known as the Graveyard of Champions–nobody saw Keen Ice as the upset threat. Texas Red, Frosted, Upstart…yes but most had Keen Ice in their top 4 or 5. His recent workouts were mediocre.


The race played out like I thought it would through 9 furlongs–American Pharoah and Frosted. But Keen Ice came from literally nowhere and seemed to have an extragear that American Pharoah and Frosted didn’t have. You have got to be impressed with his effort. Keen Ice isn’t near the horse that American Pharoah is. He finished 7th in the Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Belmont and 2nd in the Haskell Invitational behind American Pharoah. But he ran the race of his life Saturday and upset the Triple Crown champion.

American Pharoah will bounce back. But now the 5 year old mare Beholder is the odds-on favorite to win the Superbowl of horse racing in October–The Breeders’ Cup Classic.


Here is my updated Breeders’ Cup rankings and updated Vegas Odds. Please note that Palace Malice, who had been in some of my previous rankings, has been retired:

1) Beholder*  (6/1) – She confirmed that she likes distance and can race with the boys. She received a 114 Beyer Speed Figure for her TVG Pacific Classic win. The first female to win the Pacific Classic.  She has reeled off five straight wins. Her next start will be the Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita on September 26th.

Career: 20 Starts 15-3-0-2, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.77 – 11/1/13 (2013 Breeders Cup Distaffl)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.77 – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic

2) American Pharoah* (5/2)  –  He drops to #2 due to his performance in the Travers that was good (he shook off Frosted) but not Pharoah good. I take this as a blip on the radar at Saratoga–known as the Graveyard of Champions. One thing that is concerning though. His two toughest races have been the Kentucky Derby and the Travers Stakes, both 1 1/4 mile distance races as the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be. And to make matters worse, he will face tougher competition in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. His next start is up in the air as his owner has hinted at retirement.

Career: 10 Starts 8-1-0-0, Win Pct: 80%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 90%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.95 – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.69 (calculated) – 8/29/15 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Kentucky Derby

3) Honor Code* (6/1) – The Met-Mile winner with a blazing 112 Beyer Speed Figure. He produced another sizzling 113 Beyer Speed Figure in the Whitney Handicap. This makes his 5th place finish in the Alysheba Stakes puzzling. 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 think he will fare even better in a 1 1/4 mile race–he is bred for distance. His next start could be the Jockey Gold Cup race October 3rd at Belmont Park.

Career: 9 Starts 6-2-0-0, Win Pct: 66.7%, Top 3 Pct: 88.9%, Top 4 Pct: 88.9%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.82 – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

4) Tonalist (15/1)  – Last year’s Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner. For 2015, he has one win in the Westchester Stakes, two 2nd places finishes (Met Mile and Suburban Handicap) and a 3rd place finish (Whitney Handicap). His third place finish in the Whitney Handicap produced a 110 Beyer Speed Figure. He produced a 108 Beyer in the Suburban Handicap and a 111 Beyer in the Met Mile. And he is better at races 1 1/4 mile or longer. He finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year. His next start will be the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 3rd.

Career: 13 Starts 5-4-2-1, Win Pct: 38.5%, Top 3 Pct: 84.6%, Top 4 Pct: 92.3%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.1 (calculated) – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
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

5) Keen Ice (10/1) – A horse that finished 7th in the Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Belmont Stakes and 2nd behind American Pharoah in the Haskell Invitational (105 Beyer Speed Figure) and then finally beat him in the Travers Stakes. His Beyer Speed Figure for the Travers was 106. He is improving. His next start is rumored to be the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 3rd.

Career: 10 Starts 2-1-3-2, Win Pct: 20%, Top 3 Pct: 60%, Top 4 Pct: 80%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Travers Stakes

6) Catch A Flight  (25/1) – The Argentinian horse has never finished below 3rd in his North American career thus far. He is ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens. 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. Then he finished 2nd and 8 1/4 lengths behind Beholder in the TVG Pacific Classic. No word on when and where his next start will be.

Career (North America) : 8 Starts 4-1-3-0, Win Pct: 50%, 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: 2:01.09 (calculated) – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd –2015 TVG Pacific Classic

7) Frosted (18/1) – He has a 4th place finish in the Kentucky Derby, a 2nd place finish in the Belmont Stakes and a 3rd place finish in the Travers Stakes.  He is a quality horse who has never finished below 4th place in 11 career starts. His next start is rumored to be the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 3rd.

Career: 11 Starts 2-6-1-2, Win Pct: 18.2%, Top 3 Pct: 81.8%, 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: 2:02.05 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Travers Stakes

8) Liam’s Map (25/1) – Although it appeared that he faded a bit down the stretch in the Whitney Handicap, it was more like Honor Code dug in to beat him by a neck. You had to be impressed with this horse’s first graded stakes race against a highly talented field. Like Honor Code, he received a 113 Beyer Speed Figure in the Whitney. He has never finished below 2nd in 6 career starts. My only concern is how well will he be able to stretch out to a 1 1/4 mile? His next start is expected to be the Woodward Stakes September 5th.

Career: 6 Starts 4-2-0-0, Win Pct: 66.7%, Top 3 Pct: 100%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.86 (calculated) – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

9) Effinex (30/1)  – 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 107 Beyer on July 4th at Belmont. Sandwiched in between was a DNF in the Brooklyn Handicap where he oddly veered away from the rest of the pack coming around a turn. He worked out at Saratoga July 29th and August 2nd. 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

10) Hoppertunity  (22/1) – Not likely a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner but a horse who is consistent enough to finish in the money. In 10 career graded stakes race starts, he has never finished below 4th. 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 fourth place finishes in the San Diego Handicap and TVG Pacific Classic. No word on where his start will be.

Career: 13 Starts 4-3-2-3, Win Pct: 30.7%, Top 3 Pct: 69.2%, Top 4 Pct: 92.3%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.36 (calculated) – 4/5/14 (2014 Santa Anita Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.33 (calculated) – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd – 2015 Gold Cup

11) 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 recent workouts at Del Mar have been good, most notably a 1:26.60 in 7 furlongs. His next start is uncertain.

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: 2:02.01 (calculated) – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup

12) Dortmund (25/1) – 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. However, he suffered bruised ribs in a gate mishap last week and his next start is uncertain.

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

13) Texas Red (18/1) – A fifth place finish in the Travers was disappointing but he is still recoveringHe earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the Jim Dandy Stakes. He won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a two year old and was my early Kentucky Derby favorite before his injury. No word yet on when his next start will be.

Career: 9 Starts 3-3-1-1, Win Pct: 33.3%, Top 3 Pct: 77.8%, Top 4 Pct: 88.9%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.77 – 8/1/2015 (2015 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.45 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 5th – 2015 Travers Stakes

14) Noble Bird* (20/1) – I am not sure what happened to Noble Bird in the Whitney Handicap where he finished dead last. 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. His only downside is that he has never raced longer than 1 1/8 mile. His next start is uncertain.

Career: 11 Starts 4-3-0-1, Win Pct: 36.4%, Top 3 Pct:63.6%, Top 4 Pct: 73.7%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.94 – 6/13/15 (2015 Stephen Foster Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

* Indicates a horse who has already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.


Below is a ranking by Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Times for 2015 Breeders’ Cup Contenders. 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) Beholder*  – 1:59.77 – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (1st in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
2) Tonalist  – 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 at Santa Anita (5th in 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
3) Catch A Flight  – 2:01.09 (calculated) – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (2nd in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
4) Hoppertunity  – 2:01.33 (calculated) – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (4th in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
5) Effinex  2:01.55 – 7/4/15 at Belmont (1st in 2015 Suburban Handicap)
6) Keen Ice – 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (1st in 2015 Travers Stakes)
7) American Pharoah*  –  2:01.69 (calculated) – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (2nd in 2015 Travers Stakes)
8) Hard Aces*  –  2:02.01 (calculated) – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (6th in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
9) Frosted – 2:02.05 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 at Saratoga (2nd in 2015 Travers Stakes)
10) Texas Red – 2:02.45 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 at Saratoga (5th in 2015 Travers Stakes)
11) Dortmund – 2:03.50 (calculated) – 5/2/2015 at Churchill Downs (3rd in 2015 Kentucky Derby)

Honor Code, Liam’s Map and Noble Bird have never raced at the 1 1/4 mile distance.


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

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:

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

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