Is Havre de Grace the BC Classic Favorite?

With her comfortable win against males in last weekend's Woodward, Havre de Grace confirmed her connections' belief that she is on a Horse of the Year path, and took a major step toward a berth in the Breeders' Cup Classic. All that lies between a chance at making it happen is a good showing in the Oct. 1 Beldame, which should set the filly up for the Classic.

Trainer Larry Jones said her optimal distance is probably 1 1/8 miles, but losing by a neck twice to Blind Luck at the 1 1/4-mile distance isn't exactly shameful and the field shaping up for the Nov. 5 Classic isn't going to remind anyone of the 1998 renewal anytime soon (1998 replay). In fact, with just about two months until the Classic, it can be argued that Havre de Grace will be the horse to beat at Churchill Downs.

If not Havre de Grace, it's the top older male in the country, Tizway, who also has never won a race beyond nine furlongs and still has something to prove in his next tilt, the Oct. 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at 10 furlongs. There he will likely face the top 3-year-old, Stay Thirsty, who does not have distance limitations and would perhaps become the one to beat with a third consecutive victory.

When you get past those three, the field shaping up for the Classic does not seem particularly daunting. As you can see by the latest future odds taken from a compilation of European betting sites, the other main contenders all have major questions marks.

Notables on the list are two European standouts So You Think and Await the Dawn, both trained by Aidan O'Brien for Coolmore. While both are brilliant horses, neither has ever run on dirt and only one will likely try the Classic.

Also on the list are horses that might point for other BC races--Acclamation (Turf), Blind Luck (Ladies Classic), Gio Ponti (Turf or Mile), Sidney's Candy (Mile or Dirt Mile), Shackleford (Dirt Mile), and Uncle Mo (Dirt Mile)--while Twirling Candy continues to show that he doesn't want to win at 10 furlongs. And who knows what to think about Coil now after his Travers disaster. Flat Out, Game On Dude, and Giant Oak certainly deserve to be in the mix but don't exactly inspire a lot of confidence.

In light of what you see above, is Havre de Grace now the horse to beat?

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