2016 Pacific Classic Preview – California Chrome vs. Beholder vs. Dortmund. Updated Breeders Cup Classic Contender Rankings

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August 17th 2016 – Updated August 20th 

If you have followed my Breeders’ Cup Classic contender rankings the past couple of months, a special treat is in store for you this coming Saturday evening. An unexpected “Clash of the Titans” at Del Mar in the Pacific Classic that matches California Chrome, Dortmund and Beholder. Need I say more? Below is the starting field and it resembles a Breeders’ Cup Classic Lite. The winner gets an automatic entry into The Classic.

Note that 6 of my Top 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders are entered. And the 3 year-old Desormeaux brothers colt Dalmore is a potential “board-hitter” after producing a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in his last start at Santa Anita Park in the Affirmed Stakes (shown below). He didn’t have the most perfect trip, was forced wide and showed a willingness to battle and fight for a win.

Dalmore’s sire Colonel John won the Travers Stakes in 2008 and then finished 6th in a 12 horse field in the Breeders’ Cup Classic that year as a 3 year-0ld. Colonel John finished 5th as a 4 year-old in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. This is a good horse and his winning time in the 1 1/16th mile Affirmed Stakes was 1:40.84, the same time California Chrome had in the 1 1/16th mile San Diego Handicap. And he will race 6 pounds ligther than Chrome.

Dalmore is very unlikely to win in this heavy-hitter older talented field but you should consider him for you exotic bets and you could be seeing a new star for next season. He may be, at this stage, a better dry fast track runner from the Desormeaux brothers stable than Exaggerator. At least at 8 1/2 furlongs. We will see how well he stretches out to 10 furlongs.

Here are the post-positions and morning line odds:

The Pacific Classic – 1 1/4th Mile – Saturday August 20th – Race #9 at Del Mar – Post-Time: 8:15 PM CST. Televised by TVG.

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. California Chrome (124) – Espinoza/Sherman – 8/5
2. Hoppertunity (124) – Pratt/Baffert – 8/1
3. War Story (124) – Mejas/Greenman – 30/1
4. Hard Aces (124) – Gonzalez/Sadler – 15/1
5. Win the Space (124) – Talamo/Papaprodromou – 15/1
6. Imperative (124) – Arroyo/Baltas – 20/1
7. Beholder (119) – Stevens/Mandella – 7/2
8. Dortmund (124) – Bejarano/Baffert – 5/2
9. Dalmore (118) – Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 20-1

My prediction: I think California Chrome wins a hardly contested battle against Dortmund and the surprise new shooter Dalmore. War Story will finish last. Imperative will finish 7th or 8th. What happens in between is guesswork with this good of a field and much of this depends on what type of performance we see from Beholder. If she is healthy and 100% ready to rumble, she can win this race.

Hoppertunity‘s streak of finishing 4th or better in every graded stakes race of his career could be in jeopardy. Hard Aces is a closer and he should get the early speed his style is looking for. Win the Space will have to race with 6 more pounds than he had to in the San Diego Handicap and he never really challenged California Chrome or Dortmund in that race. Ultimately, this is a better “sit back and watch” race rather than one to bet on.  But if you nail a few of the “unexpecteds” (anybody beats Chrome, the 20-1 Dalmore wins or finishes 2nd) this could be very nice payday.

Also, there is a Cross-Country Pick 4 today between Saratoga and Del Mar. Here are my X-Country Pick 4 Picks: Race #1 Fourstardave Handicap (2-6-8–Grand Arch, Ring Weekend, Tourist), Race #2 Alabama Stakes (6–Songbird), Race #3 Del Mar Handicap (4-8–Metaboss-Ashleyluvsugar), Race #4 Pacific Classic (1-7–California Chrome, Beholder). $1 bet would cost $12. If you like a longshot and a potential huge payout, put Dalmore #8 into your Race #4 for $4 more dollars.


Breeders’ Cup Classic

As I said in my last blog, I don’t think the 2016 Kentucky Derby class has any serious threats yet to win “The Classic” this year. 3 year-olds have won the Breeders Cup Classic only 9 times in 32 runnings of the race. That is only 28%. I think an older horse will win it this year. But we have a few months more to go and these young horses can make huge strides as the year goes on. Exaggerator appears to the best of this 2016 3 year-old class.

Beyer Speed Figures

One thing to keep an eye on is Beyer Speed Figures. Below is the Beyer Speed Figures for the last ten runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The average Beyer Speed Figure for this 10 year period was 113.4.

2015       American Pharoah (120)
2014       Bayern (113)
2013       Mucho Macho Man (112)
2012       Fort Larned (117)
2011       Drosselmeyer (104)
2010       Blame (111)
2009       Zenyatta (112)
2008       Raven’s Pass (110)
2007       Curlin (119)
2006       Invasor (106)

I think it is going to take a 112+ Beyer Speed Figure to win this year’s Classic. This was the Beyer Speed Figure that Effinex received for his 2nd place finish behind American Pharoah in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (BCC). American Pharoah’s highest Beyer Speed Figure entering last year’s classic was 109 before he reeled off a 120 to become the first Grand Slam winner of Thoroughbred racing. Bayern’s highest was 111 before he produced a career high 113 in the 2014 edition of the BCC. So a 109 Beyer Speed Figure could be a benchmark for three year olds to be viewed as serious threats to win The Classic. The highest Beyer Speed Figure a 3 year-old has produced thus far at more than a mile distance is 103 (Exaggerator, Nyquist and Arrogate).

Updated Top 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

1)  California Chrome – He’s undefeated in four starts in 2016. With his Dubai World Cup win in March, he became the all-time North American leader in race earnings with $12.5 million dollars. In the San Diego Handicap, California Chrome displayed a fight that we have never seen before since he has usually won with ease. He is expected to be an entry in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Pegasus World Cup next January. Next Start: The Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 20th.

Career: 22 Starts 13-3-1-1   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: 1:59.93 (calculated) – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Beyer Speed Figure: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic

2) Frosted  With his win in the Whitney Stakes, he received a 107 Beyer Speed Figure. He has set two track records thus far as a 4 year old. The first came at Meydan in the 1900 meter Al Maktoum Challenge in February. His most recent came in the 124th running of the Metropolitan Handicap with a time of 1:32.73 that resulted in the highest Beyer Speed Figure (123) of his career and the highest of any thoroughbred thus far in 2016. Next Start: the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga  on September 3rd. Then he will train up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 17 Starts 6-6-1-2    Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-0-1-1
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>1st
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
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 103 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 123 2016 Metropolitan Handicap

3) Melatonin– The surprise winner of the 2016 Santa Anita Handicap. He proved his Big ‘Cap performance was no fluke by finishing 2nd behind Effinex in the Oaklawn Handicap and completing the Big ‘Cap-Gold Cup Double. His win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita assures him a spot in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. He is trained by David Hofmans who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1996 with Alphabet Soup. He was originally pegged to start in the Pacific Classic this coming weekend but he wasn’t entered due to coming off a persistent illness. Next Start: The Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita on October 1st.

Career: 13 Starts 5-3-3-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  2-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Kodiak Kowboy
Trainer: David Hofmans (1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Joe Talamo
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time:  1:59.79 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

4) Dortmund Despite Dortmund’s impressive battle with California Chrome in the San Diego Handicap, he still needs to prove himself beyond 9 furlongs. He has the pedigree for distance. His sire Big Brown won the 2008 Kentucky Derby. However, Dortmund has only raced once at the Classic distance of a miler and a quarter. That came in the 2015 Kentucky Derby where he finished 3rd behind American Pharoah and Firing Line. Next Start: The Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 20th.

Career: 11 Starts 8-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2

Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st>1st–>2nd
Sire: Big Brown
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Gary Stevens (2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.50 (calculated) –  2015 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 101 – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 –2016 San Diego Handicap

5) Effinex – His 4th place finish in the Whitney Stakes was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe he needs to skip a start. He finished 2nd to American Pharoah in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. For 2016, he has two wins in the Oaklawn Handicap and the Stephen Foster. Next Start: Unknown but I am guessing the Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park on October 8th.

Career: 25 Starts 9-2-4-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-2-1
Last 3 starts: 6th–>1st–>4th
Sire: Mineshaft
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens 
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.04 – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic

6) Exaggerator The Slopmeister. With wins in the Santa Anita Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Haskell Invitational (shown below), Exaggerator has probably moved ahead of Nyquist as the best 3-year-0ld colt in 2016. Next Start:  The Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 27th. Then onto the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 5th with roughly the same layoff as American Pharoah had. 

Career: 13 Starts 6-3-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>11th–>1st
Sire: Curlin (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.51 (calculated) – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 101 – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – 2016 Santa Anita Derby

7) Beholder Her lost to Stellar Wind in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes was a surprise since she hadn’t lost a race in over 2 years.  Her time and Beyer Speed Figure in this year’s Clement L. Hirsh was higher than last year’s. However, one big difference, she didn’t have to battle for the win in the 2015 edition where she won by 7 lengths. I think she has slipped a bit off of her 2015 form where she had the stunning performance in the 2015 TVG Pacific Classic (shown below) that put her #1 in many Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings last year. But she has been training well at Del Mar the past two weeks, so maybe she will bounce back into form. Next Start: She will defend her title in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 20th.

Career: 23 Starts 17-4-0-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 10
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
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
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 114 – 2015 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 114 – 2015 Pacific Classic

8) Win the Space  A third place finish behind California Chrome and Dortmund in the San Diego Handicap was probably an expected result. However, I thought he ran more competitively in the Gold Cup race at Santa Anita. Perhaps he prefers 10 furlongs or the Santa Anita track surface? Or Gary Stevens as his rider? We will see soon. Next Start: The Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 20th.

Career: 12 Starts 3-1-3-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts 0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>3rd
Sire: Pulpit
Trainer: George Papaprodromou
Jockey: Gary Stevens (2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time:  2:00.03 (calculated) – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 107 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 107 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita 

9) Nyquist  – It should be plain as day after the Haskell Invitational that Nyquist just doesn’t like wet, sloppy tracks. The 2016 Kentucky Derby winner needs a big win down the road if he wants to win the 2016 Eclipse 3 Year Old Male of the Year award. Next Start:  The most recent news is that Nyquist will stay at San Luis Rey Downs through the entire month of August and is being pointed towards the Pennsylvania Derby at PARX on September 24th.

Career: 10 Starts 8-0-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 5
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd–>4th
Sire: Uncle Mo  
Trainer: Doug O’Neill 
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.31 – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 103 – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – 2016 Kentucky Derby

10) Hoppertunity – He finished 4th in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Bob Baffert admitted before the race that he wasn’t sure that he had him completely ready. Previous to this start, he finished 3rd (and just a neck from 2nd) in the Dubai World Cup. He is extremely consistent and probably would finish in the top 4 in any race no matter the talent in the field because he has never finished below 4th place in a graded stakes race. Next Start: The Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 20th.

Career: 20 Starts 5-6-4-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 1st>3rd–>4th
Sire: Any Given Saturday
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.16 (calculated) – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita 
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 104 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2016 San Antonio Stakes

11) Bradester* – With his most recent win in the Monmouth Cup, Bradester now has won three races in three starts in 2016. Although he has never raced beyond 1 1/8th mile, Bradester qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Stephen Foster Handicap. He competed in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and had a disappointing 9th place finish. 6 of his career 10 wins have come at the 1 1/16th mile distance. Next Start: Unknown.

Career: 24 Starts 10-6-2-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st>1st–>1st
Sire: Lion Heart
Trainer: Eddie Kenneally
Jockey: Joe Bravo
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A 
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2015 Salvator Mile Stakes

12) Hard Aces – Still competitive as a 6 year-old, he won the Cougar II Handicap (shown below) a couple of weekends ago. He finished 6th in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic after qualifying with a win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. He is a closer and performs best when the opening fractions are fast. And he is running well this year at Santa Anita–producing a 2nd place finish in both the Santa Anita Handicap and California Stakes to go with his most recent 3rd place finish in the Gold Cup race. The 105 Beyer he received in the Gold Cup was a career best. He will throw a clunker in along the way and is not an early Vegas favorite to win The Classic but he has “hit the board” potential if the race sets up well for his closing style. Next Start: The Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 20th.

Career: 33 Starts 9-6-5-3  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 6 Starts  1-1-1-1
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Hard Spun
Trainer: John Sadler 
Jockey: Mario Pino
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.15 (calculated) – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita 
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

Note: Horses who have qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic have an asterisk next to their name.


Below are the key upcoming races with “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Classic races in bold font:

August 20th – Pacific Classic – Del Mar – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – TVG
August 27th – Travers Stakes* – Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,250,000 – NBC
September 3rd – Woodward Stakes – Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $600,000 – NBCSN
September 24th – Pennsylvania Derby – PARX – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – TVG
October 1st – Awesome Again Stakes – Santa Anita – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $300,000 – NBCSN
October 8th – Jockey Gold Cup – Belmont Park – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC
*****

November 5th – Breeders’ Cup Classic – Santa Anita  – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $6,000,000 – NBC

* – 3 year olds only


–Michael

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