Arrogate dominates the Travers Stakes with a new track record. Updated 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contender Rankings

August 30th 2016

Just when I was lamenting the fact that this year’s 3 year-old crop was slow when looking at their Beyer Speed Figures… and that none posed a huge threat to win this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic…enter the Bob Baffert-trained late-bloomer Arrogate. He stunned the Saratoga crowd this past Saturday with a performance that spectators are still buzzing about (shown below). He received a 122 Beyer Speed Figure for this incredible effort. The highest Beyer Speed Figure ever earned by a 3 year-old is 124 set by Sunday Silence and Easy Goer in 1989.

Arrogate won by 13 1/2 lengths and his winning time of 1:59.36 set a Travers Stakes record and Saratoga track record for a mile and a quarter. The previous record for the Travers at 1 1/4 mile distance was 2 minutes flat. Saratoga is one of the oldest horse racing venues in North America and has never been considered a “fast track”.

Spectacular Bid holds the world record on dirt for a 1 1/4 mile at 1:57.80 but he accomplished this feat as a 4 year-old. For 3 year-olds, a horse named Quack holds the world record on dirt for 1 1/4th mile at 1:58.20 set in the 1972 Hollywood Gold Cup race.

Just when I thought California Chrome was a virtual lock to win this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, Arrogate muddies up the picture with a freakish performance. And if he draws an inside post, it could toast for Chrome in The Classic. Below is my updated Breeders’ Cup contender rankings:

Updated Top 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

1)  California Chrome* – He’s undefeated in five starts in 2016. The all-time North American leader in race earnings with $13.25 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. His win in the Pacific Classic was arguably the best performance of his career. Next Start:  The Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita October 1st.

Career: 23 Starts 14-3-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 6
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 6 Starts  4-1-1-0
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 & 2016 Pacific Classic
Career Beyer Speed Figure: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic & 2016 Pacific Classic

2) Arrogate – He lands at #2 in my rankings despite the fact that he has produced a mile and a quarter time faster than any other active horse on dirt. However, color me a slight bit skeptical until he can replicate anything close to his Travers Stakes performance. As a 3 year-old, Albert the Great ran a 1:59.24 mile and a quarter in the 2000 Jockey Club Gold Cup race and finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic that year. Then he finished 3rd in the BCC the following year. There is no doubt that Bob Baffert has a star colt in Arrogate and he will get a 4 pound advantage over Chrome and Frosted in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I just need more than one awesome performance to elevate him higher. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we will get that. Next Start: Bob Baffert indicated that he is going to train Arrogate up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic like he did with American Pharoah. Although I think Arrogate would benefit from another start before The Classic, it is hard to argue with a strategy of one of the top trainers in the world.

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009 & 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.362016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

3) 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: Joel Rosario
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

4) Melatonin–  He is undefeated at a mile and a quarter. He is a legitimate threat to California Chrome. 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 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

5) Beholder Her 2nd place finish in the Pacific Classic was a commendable performance. However, 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. Her trainer Richard Mandella said that he may opt for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff instead of The Classic. Next Start:  The Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita Park on October 1st.

Career: 24 Starts 17-5-0-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 10
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>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

6) Dortmund Nice performances in the San Diego Handicap (2nd) and Pacific Classic (3rd), but he still needs to prove himself beyond 9 furlongs. He has the pedigree for distance. His sire Big Brown won the 2008 Kentucky Derby. The rumor mill suggests that he might be entered in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile over The Classic. Next Start: Unknown.

Career: 12 Starts 8-1-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-0-2-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>3rd
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: 2:01.29 (calculated) –  2016 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 101 – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 –2016 San Diego Handicap

7) Effinex – His 4th place finish in the Whitney Stakes was a bit of a disappointment. He finished 2nd to American Pharoah in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. For 2016, he has two wins in the Oaklawn Handicap and the Suburban Handicap. 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

8) Hoppertunity – He kept his streak alive of finishing 4th or better in every graded stakes race in his career with a 4th place finish in the Pacific Classic. He is extremely consistent and probably would finish in the top 4 in any race no matter the talent in the field. Next Start:  Unknown but probably the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita on October 1st.

Career: 21 Starts 5-6-4-5   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-1-1-3
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>4th–>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

9) Nyquist  – 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) Exaggerator The Slopmeister. It is now evident after his disappointing finishes in the Belmont and Travers Stakes that Exaggerator is highly dependent on a fast pace and a sloppy track. With wins in the Santa Anita Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Haskell Invitational (shown below), Exaggerator is in the mix for an Eclipse award for the best 3-year-0ld colt in 2016. But he needs a great dry track performance somewhere down the line. Next Start: Unknown but he has qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 14 Starts 6-3-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Start  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 11th–>1st–>11th
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

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. It appears that he is being pointed towards the Breeders’ Cup Mile rather than The Classic. He finished a disappointing 9th in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. 6 of his career 10 wins have come at the 1 1/16th mile distance. Next Start: Woodward Stakes at Saratoga September 3rd.

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: 1092015 Salvator Mile Stakes

12) Gun Runner  – The Louisiana Derby winner. He has achieved two 3rd finishes in two of the major 1 1/4 miles races for 3 year-olds in the Kentucky Derby and Travers Stakes. And he received his best Beyer Speed Figure of his career (102) in the Travers Stakes. I like the upward trend and this is Steve Asmussen’s best Classic contender after Creator bombed out in the Jim Dandy and Travers Stakes. Some may want to insert American Freedom in this spot but Baffert has Arrogate, Dortmund and Hoppertunity as BCC contenders. Next Start: The Pennsylvania Derby at PARX on September 24th.

Career: 9 Starts 5-0-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Start  0-0-2-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>3rd
Sire: Candy Ride  
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Florent Geroux 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:02.03 (calculated) – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 102 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Travers Stakes

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:

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


I will have a Woodward Stakes preview by Friday evening September 2nd. Then another updated Breeders’ Cup Classic contender rankings list by Tuesday evening September 5th. After that, I will focus on the 2 year-old 2017 Kentucky Derby class for which I like Classic Empire, Straight Fire and Klimt thus far.

–Michael

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