July 8th 2018
After Diversify’s impressive win in the Suburban Stakes at Belmont Park yesterday, I had to do some quick research to come up with a list the top Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders that represent the biggest threats in thwarting Justify’s bid to become the 2nd Grand Slam winner of North American horse racing.
No decision has been made yet on when and where Justify’s next start will come, but it won’t be in the Haskell Invitational scheduled for the end of this month. However, they are planning to run him in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on November 3rd and a prep race before then. My guess on the prep race is that it will be the Travers Stakes on August 25th at Saratoga.
Below are the top four horses in the older horse division that I feel are the biggest threats in preventing Justify joining American Pharoah as a Grand Slam champion. Really this should be a top three list as I doubt Diversify will be entered into the Classic:
2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders
1) Accelerate –Accelerate completed the Big Cap-Gold Cup double this spring having been victorious in the Santa Anita Handicap in March and Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes on May 26th. Next Start: The TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 18th.
Career: 19 Starts 7-5-5-1 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts 2-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.38 – 2018 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 111 – 2018 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 111 – 2018 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 111 – 2018 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes
2) Thunder Snow – As a 3-year-old, many fans will remember his “I’m outta here” start in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. However, he bounced back from that performance to win a couple of Group 1 races: The 2017 Prix Jean Prat (on turf) and the 2018 Dubai World Cup (beating the Bob Baffert-trained West Coast). Next Start: Nothing has been confirmed to date but they are eyeing the Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park on September 29th.
Career: 18 Starts 7-5-0-1 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts 0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd-–>1st
Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor
Jockey: Christophe Soumillon
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2018: 111 – 2018 Dubai World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 111 – 2018 Dubai World Cup
3) West Coast – Another Breeders’ Cup Classic contender from Bob Baffert’s barn. West Coast finished 3rd in last year’s Classic. This year, he has two 2nd places finishes in the Pegasus World Cup and the Dubai World Cup. He has never finished off the board in 11 career starts and has the highest Beyer Speed Figure this year (117) of active horses still in training. He will have a different jockey than Mike Smith if both Justify and West Coast are entered in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Next Start: Nothing announced to date. But my guess would be the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 18th.
Career: 11 Starts 6-4-1-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts 1-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>2nd
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.19 – 2017 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 112 – 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2018: 117 – 2018 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 117 – 2018 Pegasus World Cup
4) Diversify – The 5-year-old gelding eclipsed the $1 Million dollar mark in career earnings with his win in the Suburban Stakes. His biggest career win was the 2017 Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park. He runs great in the state of New York and especially at Belmont Park. The question is, can he transfer this form to another track? Last year, he finished 4th in the 9 furlong Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 1st.
Career: 14 Starts 9-2-0-1 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts 2-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 7th–>1st–>1st
Sire: Bellamy Road
Trainer: Richard Violette
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 1:59.84 – 2018 Suburban Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 110 – 2018 Suburban Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2018: 110- 2018 Suburban Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2018 Suburban Stakes
On the Docket…
I should have an article for US Racing coming out in the next few days that highlights how I became a fan of horse racing. I think you might enjoy it.
Update: Here’s the link: https://www.usracing.com/news/features/became-fan-horse-racing