With the Triple Crown over, the road to the Breeders' Cup begins. I thought I'd take an early shot at ranking the candidates for the Breeders' Cup Classic.
My #1 ranked horse -- the 4-year-old Empire Maker filly Royal Delta -- is currently being aimed for a repeat victory in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, but there is plenty of time for Besilu Stables owner Benjamin Leon to change his mind.
Leon showed he is a gambler when he bought Royal Delta for $8.5-million last fall and subsequently sent her to Dubai to compete in open company in the Dubai World (UAE-G1). Chalk that 9th-place finish up to an odd trip and a less-than-true synthetic surface. If Leon and trainer Bill Mott thought Royal Delta was good enough to ship to Dubai and compete in the world's richest race, then they'll probably consider her for the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Royal Delta's return in the Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) on June 16 at Churchill Downs should give them plenty of confidence. Her time was a full second faster than older male horses ran in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) on the same surface, the same night. Royal Delta ran the the final three furlongs in 37 seconds. Stephen Foster winner Ron the Greek, a stout stretch runner, covered that same ground in 37-3 (while carrying 119, to Royal Delta's 123).
If they ran the Breeders' Classic tomorrow, here's who I hope would be in the gate:
1) Royal Delta: Ran full second faster than G1 older males at CD. Loves 10f
2) Game on Dude: Returned on top of his game. 2nd in last year's BC
3) Ron the Greek: The more distance, the better. Rock solid stayer.
4) Successful Dan: Not sure which 'Dan' is better, but excited to see this one
5) Wise Dan: Not surprised he came back to earth in Foster.
6) Bodemeister: Still improving, could be tough on Santa Anita's speedy strip
7) Union Rags: Classy 3yo a major threat if he has another fwd move in him.
8) Paynter: Showed ability when asked to set all the fractions going 12f.
9) To Honor and Serve: Has some things to prove at 10f, but potential is there.
10) Mucho Macho Man: Looked great at GP this winter, but well beaten at CD.
11) Richard's Kid: Yet another who looked good on return. Long-winded.
12) Rogue Romance: Was live at a big price in Foster; all sorts of trouble
13) Neck n Neck: 3yo took a big step forward in the Matt Wynn. One to watch.
14) Endorsement: Wasn't sure who to put in 14-hole, but always liked this horse. 5-2-2-1 without Lasix.
Also eligible: Stay Thirsty, Went the Day Well, Creative Cause, Alternation, Nate's Mineshaft, Nehro, ???