It’s hard to believe that this year’s Breeders’ Cup, the 33rd renewal of Racing’s Championship Day set for Nov. 4 and 5 at Santa Anita, is just more than six weeks away. Many runners looking to compete will have one last prep in front of them, others will attempt to secure their spot in one of the 25 remaining Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events set to be contested between now and Oct. 12 and some will train right up to the year-end championships, which more often than not decide Eclipse Awards.
So far in 2016, six of the 14 spots for the Breeders’ Cup Classic have been claimed, with the last two up for grabs in the Awesome Again Stakes (GI) at Santa Anita on Oct. 1 and the Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI) at Belmont Park on Oct. 8. Of the six who have secured their spot already, five will likely make the race as only Moanin, who won the February Stakes (GI) at Tokyo Racecourse in Japan to qualify, is a question mark. Breeders’ Cup Challenge winners California Chrome, Melatonin, Bradester, Frosted and Exaggerator are all confirmed as pointing to the 1 ¼-mile race.
Currently there are 14 horses in North America alone who we can consider possibly-to-probably likely for the Classic and a whopping 11 of them are grade 1 winners. Last year’s Classic, won by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, featured only six, so a jump to 11 would certainly be a record for the featured event.
Some of the runners who are eyeing the Classic include:
The Bob Baffert-trained son of Pulpit, who is owned by Gary and Mary West, was most recently second to stable mate Arrogate in the Aug. 28 Travers Stakes (GI), but hasn’t worked since and can be considered questionable for the Breeders’ Cup.
Also trained by Baffert, this gray colt has looked nothing short of spectacular since winning the Travers and will likely train up to the Breeders’ Cup. A later bloomer due to injuries, the Juddmonte Farms-owned son of Unbridled’s Song will be one of the fresher runners heading into the race.
This 6-year-old Richard Mandella-trained mare is 50-50 to run here or in the Distaff after her second to California Chrome in the Pacific Classic. The sad thing is this may be the last race for the multiple champion daughter of Henny Hughes, who also is a fan favorite.
North America’s richest racehorse of all time is running in the Awesome Again despite qualifying with his Pacific Classic win (GI). Now 5 and set for stud duty at Taylor Made in Kentucky, the Art Sherman-trained chestnut may race one last time after the Breeders’ Cup in the Pegasus World Cup at the end of January.
The gray son of Tapit won both the Indiana and West Virginia Derbys in impressive fashion in his last two and is another from the powerful Bob Baffert stable. He’s been working well at Santa Anita and looks for his third straight Derby win in Saturday’s Pennsylvania Derby.
The chestnut son of Big Brown is literally the heavyweight in the division checking in at nearly 1,400 pounds. He was third in the Pacific Classic last out and will likely turn up in the Awesome Again. He’s working well in the mornings at Santa Anita.
Last year’s Classic runner-up won this year’s Oaklawn Handicap (GI) and Suburban Handicap (GII), but hasn’t raced since a fourth-place finish in the Whitney in early August. Back on the work tab after a month off, this Jimmy Jerkens trainee will likely prep in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
The Preakness and Haskell winner starts next in the Pennsylvania Derby this weekend before returning to California to train for the Breeders’ Cup. He’s danced every dance for months for trainer Keith Desormeaux, but it’s hard to argue the results from this millionaire.
This 4-year-old Kiaran McLaughlin trainee is probably the only one the East Coast will send to Santa Anita. He romped in the Met Mile (GI) and the Whitney Handicap (GI) before logging a very confusing third in the Woodward last out. He may race in the Jockey Club Gold Cup or train into the Breeders’ Cup, but his best makes him a serious threat.
He’s consistent, but not in reaching the winner’s circle. He’s won one race since January of 2015, but picked up large checks in big races from coast to coast. He’s a longshot to make the gate, but he’s a good horse and yet another from Bob Baffert’s shedrow.
This upset winner of the Santa Anita Handicap (GI) and the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (GI) missed the Pacific Classic due to illness, but is back on the work tab and likely training into the Breeders’ Cup. The Dave Hofmans-trained son of Kodiak Kowboy seems a bit fragile, but has bloomed since defying his pedigree and routing.
This Irish-bred was a scrappy second in the Woodward last out and was also second to California Chrome in the Dubai World Cup (GI) in late March. He’s also trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and likely to head to California.
Last year’s champion juvenile was impressive in his perfect road to the Kentucky Derby, but, in his two races since, he hasn’t looked the same. He’s been training since mid-summer in the seclusion of San Luis Rey Downs in San Diego County and returns to action in this weekend’s Pennsylvania Derby (GII).
Last year’s Sovereign Award-winning sophomore upset the Woodward last out, but that’s not to say he’s been a complete outsider in the handicap division after winning the 12-furlong Brooklyn Handicap (GII) and last year’s Queen’s Plate at Woodbine at the classic distance. He may start in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on his way to the Breeders’ Cup, but he’s definitely rounding into form at the right time.