Updated Breeders' Cup Classic Rankings


1—Vino Rosso Todd Pletcher When in doubt go with the older horse. They are in most cases more mature mentally and physically and this tough, hard-knocking horse looks to be peaking. He's already shipped out there and won a grade 1 over the track and I loved his race in the JC Gold Cup. I stubbornly stuck with him as No. 1 for last year's Kentucky Derby and he deserves another shot at the top spot. He is versatile and seems able to adjust to any kind of pace. (see my column on him from last week for his back story).
2—Code of Honor Shug McGaughey He could very well be the most talented horse in the country at 1 1/4 miles. But it's hard to ignore the fact that in the history of the Breeders' Cup Eastern-based 3-year-olds shipping to the West Coast are 0-for-22 in the Classic, and the original plan appeared to be skipping the Breeders' Cup and waiting for races like the Westchester and Carter, but they changed their mind. He definitely is talented enough to win the Classic and is the horse to beat, but I will lean ever so slightly toward the older horse with a win over the track. It's splitting hairs separating the two, just as the Gold Cup was.
3—Higher Power John Sadler He has the fastest Beyer speed figure at 1 1/4 miles, and his Pacific Classic romp was legitimate, crushing eventual Awesome Again winner Mongolian Groom. Throw out his Awesome Again, as he lost all chance when he stumbled at the start and was last early. Sadler told jockey Flavien Prat before the race not to beat him up to win; that this was merely a prep, and he did well enough to finish third. I like that Prat is still extremely confident in the horse and expects a monster effort in the Classic. So do I.
4—McKinzie Bob Baffert Would it be a surprise if he won? Definitely not. But for the likely favorite, he should be overbet. Jockey switch was a surprise considering he looked to have every chance in the Awesome Again, but not only failed to catch Mongolian Groom, he let him pull away. But the winner did come home very fast. The question with McKinzie is whether he is best at 1 1/4 miles, having failed to get by Gift Box in the Big Cap. We saw what he is capable of in the Whitney and he may have been best in the Met Mile. Can he bounce back from a fairly sound defeat and beat these horses going a distance at which he has never won?
5—Elate Bill Mott It's pretty simple. She has lost five of her last seven starts against fillies at 1 1/8 miles and 1 1/16 miles, is 0-for-3 against Midnight Bisou this year, and has been caught in the final furlong in her past two starts. But she is 3-for-3 at 1 1/4 miles, where she can use her grinding style, so why not just let her do what she does best at her favorite distance? After all, in her three scores at 1 1/4 miles she has won by daylight each time. She may not be fast enough to beat these colts, but she will at least relish the distance, something a lot of the boys cannot claim. She needs some kind of advantage and this may be it.
6—Yoshida Bill Mott Reminds me a little of another WinStar horse named Drosselmeyer, who won the Classic at Churchill Downs in 2011. Same kind of steady closer who should handle the distance. He hasn't won at 1 1/4 miles but ran a very good race in last year's Classic, beaten only 1 3/4 lengths. But he often has trouble finishing off his races and is not making up as many lengths as it looks like he is visually. He usually makes his presence felt in the final furlong but hasn't won a race in 14 months. So he may be more of an exacta or trifecta type of horse, needing a pace meltdown to get home first. But he still is dangerous.
7—Mongolian Groom Enebish Ganbat There was nothing flukey about his wire-to-wire victory in the Awesome Again at 25-1, as he turned back 1-5 McKinzie and drew away to a 2 1/4-length win, coming home his final eighth in a solid :12 2/5. He has placed in big races before, but is only 3-for-16 in his career. He's never set the pace before, so it will be interesting to see if they try those same tactics again. It's a stretch to think he can pull it off again, but his 110 Beyer was huge and he could easily finish in the money at a fairly big price again.
8—Seeking the Soul Dallas Stewart Stewart is always dangerous in big races with a longshot. Last year, this horse's two best were at one mile, in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and Ack Ack Stakes, but this year they seem to be determined to stretch him out. His best was a victory in the Stephen Foster at 1 1/8 miles, but his competition was far below what he will face in the Classic. Give them credit for going to California twice for big stakes. The Pacicifc Classic was a toss due to a medical problem and he could not close into the slow pace in the Awesome Again, finishing a well-beaten fourth. It may be a stretch seeing him winning, but he is a $3.3 million earner who can easily pick up a piece of it, like many of Stewart's bombs have done in big races.
9—Owendale Brad Cox He's a big strong horse with an excellent closing kick who has run some huge races this year, including three graded stakes victories at three different tracks, and you cannot ignore his fast-closing third in the Preakness. Spendthrift Farm is waiting for that big Into Mischief to come along and lift the classic-distance albatross off the head of their super stud, who has been an amazing sire. Into Mischief appears to need help from the dam in order to get a classic distance horse, and Owendale;s dam, by Bernardini, should give it to him with her strong pedigree. Yes, he was fifth in the Travers, but he was stuck down on the slower rail the entire race and was beaten only five lengths. Ignore this colt at your own risk.
10—Math Wizard Saffie A. Joseph Jr. With the pace of the Pennsylvania Derby being three seconds slower than the Cotillion, you would think he should have no shot to win coming from so far back and that Mr. Money and War of Will, on the lead, would not come back to him. But he managed to get up for a neck victory at 31-1 after knocking on the door most of the year. It is very difficult separating these three 3-year-olds and you can put them in any order you want. On paper, they don't match up with the favorites, but they are all capable of running a big race at any time.
11—War of Will Mark Casse I'm still not sure exactly what to make of him other than he's been training great since his wake-up race in the Pennsylvania Derby. He is a classic winner, having won the Preakness, and he certainly looks the part. I'm just not sure where he fits with these horses. We know he is talented, but the big key is whether he can relax early, something he's had problems with in the past. He needs to improve off his Pennsylvania Derby performance, but if he does relax and runs to his recent works, he could be sneaky in here. We know he has the class and the tactical speed to make his presence felt.
12—Draft Pick Peter Eurton Boy, is he going to be a forgotten horse after his dismal effort in the Awesome Again following a big effort in the Pacific Classic. So which Draft Pick should we expect? If the astute Eurton winds up running him and is willing to throw out his last, that is good enough for me to at least consider him for the exotics at a megabomb price. Horses have bad days and he never looked like he was handling that track stuck down on the inside. With a clear outside trip he has the credentials to turn the tables and surprise a lot of people.

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