2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contender Rankings

May 25th 2016

With the Breeders’ Cup Classic “Win and You’re In” challenge races starting in less then 4 weeks, it is time to look ahead to the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders. I expect this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic to be the deepest in talent thus far. This is largely due to the creation of the $12 million dollar Pegasus World Cup scheduled in January of 2017 that will keep many of the top thoroughbreds in action. Below are my Top 12 Contender Rankings and the “Win and You’re In” race schedule.

June 18th – Stephen Foster Handicap – Churchill Downs – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $500,000
June 25th – Gold Cup at Santa Anita – Santa Anita Park – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $500,000
July 31st – The Haskell Invitational– Monmouth Park – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000
August 6th – Whitney Handicap – Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,250,000
August 20th – TVG Pacific Classic – Del Mar – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000
October 1st – Awesome Again Stakes – Santa Anita Park – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $300,000
October 8th – Jockey Gold Cup Invitational – Belmont Park – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000
November 5th- Breeders’ Cup Classic – Santa Anita Park – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $5,000,000

Here are my Top 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders:

1)  California Chrome – The #1 ranked race racehorse in the world by Longines (source). With his Dubai World Cup win in March, he became the all-time leader in race earnings with $12.5 million dollars. He returned to California to train under Art Sherman and is expected to be an entry in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Pegasus World Cup.

Career: 21 Starts 12-3-1-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 5
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 (calculated) – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Beyer Speed Figure: 113 –2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic

2) Beholder After a stunning performance in the 2015 TVG Pacific Classic (shown below), she was #1 in many Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings last year. She was entered in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic but was unfortunately scratched due to a fever. Otherwise she would have been 2nd favorite in that race behind American Pharoah and probably would have given him a great battle. She is the only horse in this group to have run a sub 2 minute mile and a quarter. After a long layoff, she bounced back with an impressive win in the Adoration Stakes.

Career: 21 Starts 16-3-0-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 9
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Henny Hughes
Trainer: Richard Mandella (2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Gary Stevens (2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.772015 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 114 – 2015 Pacific Classic

3) Nyquist  – The 2016 Kentucky Derby winner spiked a fever after his 3rd place finish in the Preakness Stakes and will not be entered into the Belmont Stakes. But his fever is gone and he is expected to make a full recovery after treatment with antibiotics. I generally feel that he would have won the Preakness on a dry, fast track. Unlike American Pharoah (Rebel Stakes) and Exaggerator (Santa Anita Derby) who both had experience racing in the slop before their sloppy Preakness Stakes races, Nyquist had never raced on a muddy or sloppy surface. And if you notice, he was somewhat reluctant to be loaded in the starting gate at Pimlico. Expect this 3 year-old, who already ranks in the top 50 all-time in race winnings, to bounce back.

Career: 9 Starts 8-0-1-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 5
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Uncle Mo  
Trainer: Doug O’Neill 
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez 
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.31 2016 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 –2016 Kentucky Derby

4) Exaggerator Ranked by Longines as the 3rd best dirt racehorse in the world before his Preakness Stakes win, a win in the Belmont Stakes will likely move him to #2 behind California Chrome. He is my early Belmont Stakes race favorite.

Career: 11 Starts 5-3-1-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Curlin (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux 
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.51 (calculated) – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – 2016 Santa Anita Derby

5) Effinex – He finished 2nd to American Pharoah in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. He followed up the performance with a win in the 2015 Clark Handicap, a disappointing 3rd place finish in the 2016 Santa Anita Derby and then a winning performance in the Oaklawn Handicap in April. The most recent Longines poll ranked him as the 11th best racehorse in the world and the 4th best on dirt.

Career: 22 Starts 8-2-4-3  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 6 Starts  2-1-2-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Mineshaft
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens 
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.11 (calculated) – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed: 110 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic

6) Hoppertunity – After winning the 2016 San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita in February, he was shipped to Dubai where he finished 3rd (and just a neck from 2nd) in the Dubai World Cup. He is extremely consistent and somehow seems to always hit the board no matter the race and the competition. He has never finished below 4th place in a graded stakes race.

Career: 19 Starts 5-6-4-3  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-1-1
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st>3rd
Sire: Any Given Saturday
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.33 (calculated) – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 –2016 San Antonio Stakes

7) Melatonin – The surprise winner of the 2016 Santa Anita Handicap. He is trained by David Hofmans who won a Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1996 with Alphabet Soup.

Career: 12 Starts 4-3-3-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Kodiak Kowboy
Trainer: David Hofmans (1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Joe Talamo
Best 1 1/4 Mile Time:  2:02.01 – 2016 Santa Anita Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 107 – 2016 Santa Anita Handicap

8) Frosted The 2015 Penn Derby winner finished 7th in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and then set a track record (1:56.67) for 1900 meter race at Meydan with his win in the Al Maktoum Challenge in February. He followed up this effort with a disappointing 5th place finish in the Dubai World Cup.

Career: 15 Starts 4-6-1-2  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-0-1-1
Last 3 starts: 7th–>1st–>5th
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin (2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: William Buick
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.05 (calculated) – 2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Pennsylvania Derby

9) Mubtaahij His 2nd place finish in the Dubai World Cup was a surprise performance for this enigmatic 4 year old colt who has yet to win a Grade 1 stakes race on US soil. He was transferred to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin for his US campaign in April.

Career: 12 Starts 4-2-0-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-1-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>4th–>2nd
Sire: Dubawi
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin (2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Christophe Soumillon
Best 1 1/4 Mile Time:  2:03:15* (estimated 1 1/4 mile time from 2016 Dubai World Cup)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97* estimated from Dubai World Cup

10) Dortmund  – The 2015 Santa Anita Derby winner hasn’t raced since his Native Diver Handicap win in late November of last year. However, he is back in training at Los Alamitos. He has never finished below 4th in 10 career starts.

Career: 10 Starts 8-0-1-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  0-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>1st
Sire: Big Brown
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Martin Garcia (2014 Breeders’ Cup Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.50 (calculated) – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Santa Anita Derby

11) Noble Bird With his win in the 2015 Stephen Foster Handicap, Noble Bird actually qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year but was not entered. With his most recent win in the Pimlico Special (shown below), he currently has the highest Beyer Speed Figure (110) of any horse thus far in 2016 (source). He will likely be entered in the Stephen Foster Handicap June 18th to defend his title.

Career: 15 Starts 5-4-0-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>8th–>1st
Sire: Birdstone
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special

12) Songbird Although her ownership has shied away from the thought of racing this electrifying filly against the boys thus far, I still have to find a place for her in my rankings. As a 2 year-old, she proved to be faster in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships than Nyquist or Exaggerator on the same Keeneland track, same 1 1/16th mile distance, on the same day. She developed a low grade fever and wasn’t entered in the Kentucky Oaks. It appears that she will be entered into the Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita Park on June 18th.

Career: 7 Starts 7-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Medaglia d’Oro
Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Best 1 1/4 Mile Time:  N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies


–Michael

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