Updated 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings

Below is my updated Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings with the latest odds from usracing.com. I have put American Pharoah back on top ahead of Beholder and give my reasons why in their bios.

The races at Belmont Park coming this Saturday–the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Kelso Handicap–will impact the next rankings. Check back Friday and I will have a preview of those two races plus the Champagne Stakes for 2 year-olds.

1) American Pharoah*  (3/2) –  He is back in my #1 spot due to the fact that he is training well and due to some concerns with Beholder. I truly believe that American Pharoah thought he had the Travers race won when he shook off Frosted. He has never experienced battling and separating from a horse only for another to come from the outside like gangbusters that late in the race. I think the added rest will do Pharoah well as he produced his best Beyer Speed Figure in the Haskell Invitational coming off a 2 month layoff. His next start of course will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 31st.

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
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 109 – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Career Earnings: $5,900,300

2) Beholder*  (11-2) – She drops to #2 as I was expecting a better performance in the Zenyatta Stakes in which she produced the worst time of her three Zenyatta Stakes career wins (1:42.83 vs 1:42.19 in 2014 and 1:42.11 in 2013). Her Beyer Speed Figure was 99. Yes, it was warmer than usual at Santa Anita Park on Saturday. Yes, she won comfortably and by a bigger margin than the previous Zenyatta Stakes races. And yes, Gary Stevens never asked her to go so she had a little more left in the tank. However, she has legitimate concerns, acknowledged by her trainer Richard Mandella, on how well she will travel. She has never won outside of the state of California and her two most recent losses came at Belmont Park in the Ogden Phipps (4th) in June 2014 and the Kentucky Oaks (2nd) in May 2013. Nevertheless, she has reeled off six straight wins. And Beholder’s times are all faster than Pharoah’s at the 1 1/16 mile (1:41.67 vs 1:41.95), 1 1/8 mile (1:47.77 vs 1:47.95) and 1 1/4 mile (1:59.77 vs 2:01.69) distances. The 114 Beyer Speed Figure she received for her TVG Pacific Classic win is the top Beyer Speed Figure recorded in 2015 for races longer than 1 1/8 mile (source). Her next start will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 31st even though she has also qualified for the Longines Distaff.

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 Distaff)
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
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 114 – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Career Earnings: $4,436,600

3) Honor Code*  (8/1) – 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 will be the Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park on October 3rd.

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
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 113 – 2015 Whitney Handicap
Career Earnings: $1,978,260

4) Liam’s Map (14/1) – His performance in the Woodward Stakes proved to me that this Todd Pletcher-trained horse is a rising star and a serious Breeders’ Cup Classic Contender. He received a 114 Beyer Speed Figure for his performance which ties Beholder’s 114 in the Pacific Classic as the top Beyer Speed Figure for 2015. Although it has been bandied about that he should be entered into the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile instead of the Classic, he’s got to be entered into the Classic in my opinion. He got faster at Saratoga in one month at the same 1 1/8th mile distance– 1:47.44–beating Honor Code’s time of 1:47.82 in the Whitney (whom he lost to by a neck).  Like Honor Code, he received a 113 Beyer Speed Figure in the Whitney. He has never finished below 2nd in 7 career starts and is a neck away from having 6 straight wins. His next start is uncertain and will depend on whether they are prepping him for the Breeders’ Cup Classic or Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. He was nominated for the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 3rd but was not entered.

Career: 7 Starts 5-2-0-0, Win Pct: 71.4%, Top 3 Pct: 100%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.44 – 9/5/15 (2015 Woodward Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 114 – 2015 Woodward Stakes
Career Earnings: $808,940

5) Tonalist  (10/1) – 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 performs better in races 1 1/4 mile or longer. He finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year. His next start will be defending his title in 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
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 111 – 2015 Metropolitan Handicap
Career Earnings: $2,497,000

6) Keen Ice (7/1) – 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). Then finally beating the Triple Crown winner in the Travers Stakes. His Beyer Speed Figure for the Travers Stakes was 106. He is an improving horse. His owner, Jerry Crawford of Donegal Racing, recently said: “We believe that (Keen Ice) is the fastest, best-bred 3-year-old in the world today.” Note that Keen Ice’s sire Curlin, won the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic. His next start was rumored to be the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 3rd but he was not entered.

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
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Career Earnings: $1,490,395

7) Frosted (14/1) – He has a 4th place finish in the Kentucky Derby, a 2nd place finish in the Belmont Stakes, a 3rd place finish in the Travers Stakes and a win in the Pennsylvania Derby.  With the Penn Derby win, he has now eclipsed over $2 Million in career earnings. He is a quality horse who has never finished below 4th place in 11 career starts. He shares the same sire (Tapit) as does Tonalist. I think he will have a great 4-year-old campaign. His next start should be the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 31st.

Career: 12 Starts 3-6-1-2, Win Pct: 25%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, 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
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 106 – 2015 Pennsylvania Derby
Career Earnings: $2,062,800

8) Effinex (80/1) – A temperamental horse with talent at the 1 1/4 mile distance. He acted up in the starting gate in the Woodward Stakes and finished 4th. Previous to this he had the weird run in the Brooklyn Handicap where he veered away from the rest of the pack coming around a turn and DNF’d. But the 2015 Suburban Handicap winner still has 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. His next start will be the Jockey Gold Cup at Belmont on October 3rd.

Career: 17 Starts 6-1-2-3, Win Pct: 35.2%, Top 3 Pct: 52.9%, Top 4%: 70.5%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.44 (calculated) – 9/5/15 (2015 Woodward Stakes)
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
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 107 – 2015 Excelsior Stakes
Career Earnings: $812,250

9) Coach Inge (45/1) – This Todd Pletcher-trained horse, I felt, was underrated entering the Woodward Stakes. He won the 1 1/2 mile Brooklyn Handicap back in June while demonstrating a fighting spirit and producing a 102 Beyer Speed Figure. He received a 106 Beyer Speed Figure for his 2nd place finish in the Woodward Stakes. For 2015, he has two wins, two 2nd place finishes and two 3rd place finishes. He seems to like distance and has finished in the mix with Liam’s Map, Tonalist and Effinex. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him spring an upset along the way similar to Keen Ice’s in the Whitney. Maybe it will be in his next start–the Jockey Gold Cup at Belmont October 3rd.

Career: 12 Starts 4-3-2-1, Win Pct: 33.3%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4%: 83.3%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.2 (calculated) – 9/5/15 (2015 Woodward Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.77 (calculated) – 7/4/15 (2015 Suburban Handicap)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 106 – 2015 Woodward Stakes
Career Earnings: $556,177

10) Smooth Roller* (?/1) – The surprise winner of the Awesome Again Stakes in just the 4th start of his career, it is hard to rank him much higher due to lack of experience. However, he did beat Bayern, Hoppertunity and Hard Aces and produced a eye-opening 111 Beyer Speed Figure in less than favorable weather conditions at Santa Anita. That speed figure is tied for the 5th best for races more than a mile. With the win, he has qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and likely will be a longshot.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-1, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.08 – 9/26/15 (2015 Awesome Again Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 111 – 2015 Awesome Again Stakes
Career Earnings: $261,810

11) Catch a Flight (24/1)  – The Argentinian horse has never finished below 3rd in his North American career thus far. 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 behind Beholder in the TVG Pacific Classic. His next start may be the Awesome Again Stakes September 26th. It has not been confirmed that he will be pointed towards the Classic. His jockey Gary Stevens will opt to ride Beholder in the Classic, otherwise I would rank him higher.

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
Last 3 Beyer Speed Figures: 106 – 2015 Californian Stakes
Career Earnings: $773,239

12) Gleneagles (13/1)  – The 3 year-old colt from Ireland that has only raced on turf and never further than 1 mile. Winner of his last three races, including the St James’s Palace Stakes. I wouldn’t normally consider such a horse a threat in 1 1/4 mile dirt races in the US because you never know how a horse will respond on that surface and how they will react when they get dirt kicked up in their face. However, he is being pointed towards the Classic because his trainer feels that he has great tactical speed that will translate well on dirt. Remember that the British-trained turf horse Raven’s Pass won 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic with the third fastest time (1:59.27) in Breeders’ Cup Classic history. So a few make the transition very well. He was scratched from his last start due to wet conditions. His next start is slated to be the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on October 17th.

Career: 9 starts 7-0-1-1, Win Pct: 77.8%, Top 3 Pct: 88.9%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: N/A
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Career Earnings: $1,404,108

13) Wicked Strong (24/1) – Last year’s Wood Memorial and Jim Dandy Stakes winner, he finished 4th in both the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. The 4 year-old Jimmy Jerkens colt sneaks into my Top 14 due consistency. He is winless in 2015, with one 2nd place finish, two 3rd place finishes, two 4th place finishes and a 5th place finish. He isn’t likely a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner but a top 4 finish is not out of the question. He next start is likely going to be the Breeders’ Cup Classic if he is nominated.

Career: 17 Starts 3-3-3-5, Win Pct: 17.6%, Top 3 Pct: 52.9%, Top 4 Pct: 82.3%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.77 – 8/1/2015 (2015 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.64 (calculated) – 4/25/2015 (2015 Excelsior Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd – 2014 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 104 – 2015 Woodward Stakes
Career Earnings: $1,734,460

14) Hard Aces* (45/1)After two consecutive 6th places finishes, Hard Aces doesn’t appear to be a serious Classic contender but he hangs in my Top 14 due to having qualified for The Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. No word yet on whether he will be entered.

Career: 24 starts 6-3-7-2, Win Pct: 25%, Top 3 Pct: 66.7%, Top 4 Pct: 75%
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
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 99 – 2015 Gold Cup
Career Earnings: $592,395


Off the Breeders’ Cup Classic Trail

Dortmund – Bob Baffert is targeting him for the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on November 27th.

Noble Bird* – Although he has qualified for the Classic, his trainer Mark Casse has decided to rest him for a couple of months with plans to bring him back next year.

Texas Red  –  He is sidelined for the rest of 2015 with a cannon bone bruise. Another setback for an extremely talented and promising horse.

* 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) Beholder1:59.77 – 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) Effinex  2:01.55 – 7/4/15 at Belmont Park (1st in 2015 Suburban Handicap)
5) Keen Ice – 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (1st in 2015 Travers Stakes)
6) American Pharoah* –  2:01.69 (calculated) – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (2nd in 2015 Travers Stakes)
7) Coach Inge – 2:01.77 (calculated) – 7/5/15 at Belmont Park (3rd in 2015 Suburban Handicap)
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) – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (2nd in 2015 Travers Stakes)
10) Wicked Strong – 2:02.64 (calculated) – 4/25/15 at Aqueduct (3rd in 2015 Excelsior Stakes)

Honor Code, Liam’s Map, Smooth Roller and Gleneagles have never raced at the 1 1/4 mile distance.


Top Beyer Speed Figures in 2015 for races 1 1/4 Mile

1) Beholder (f) DMR 22 Aug 1 1/4M 114
2) Shared Belief SA 07 Mar 1 1/4M 111
3) Effinex AQU 25 Apr 1 1/4M 107
4) Effinex BEL 04 Jul 1 1/4M 107
5) Tonalist BEL 04 Jul 1 1/4M 107
6) Keen Ice SAR 29 Aug 1 1/4M 106
7) Red Rifle AQU 25 Apr 1 1/4M 106

–Michael

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