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The Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita
Santa Anita / October 31 / Race 9 / 4:35 PDT
by TimeformUS Analyst Justin Finch
Most Likely Winner: Shared Belief Get Started with FREE PPs for the Classic
You have to hand it to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. No other race in
North America is as sadistically efficient at the art of taking solid,
workmanlike Grade 1 credentials and suddenly making them look woefully
inadequate to the task at hand.
This year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, like so many before it, is a
fascinating puzzle that lends itself to many plausible answers. Alas,
only one of them will be proven right, which will leave a lot of great
horses as “losers” at the end of this 10-furlong battle.
According to the TimeformUS Pace Projector, the early leader in the
Breeders’ Cup Classic will be Bayern. Moreno will be a tight, stalking
second. Then there’s a gap back to Cigar Street, who is projected to be
racing on the rail. Shared Belief is in fourth place, just to his
outside. California Chrome is in fifth, just outside Shared Belief. The
others should be looked at as either mid-packers or closers.
The Pace Projector designates the pace of the race as favoring
neither frontrunners nor closers. However, our Chief Figure Maker, Craig
Milkowski, has dissected the probable pace and concluded that it will
be very fast, with Moreno and Bayern compromising each other’s chances
Now let’s look at the field in post position order, with morning line odds in parentheses:
Prayer for Relief (30-1): Consistent six-year-old
finds himself in the same position as a lot of other horses in this
race: He is not quite fast enough to win it. So he needs a jump. But
there is little reason to expect a jump. That leaves him hoping that a
perfect trip allows him to run over his head today. In Prayer for
Relief’s case, a perfect trip would mean his saving all the ground
behind a fast pace and finding running room late.
Cigar Street (12-1): His speed figures make him a
player in here. He is fresh off a 113, earned in a minor stake at
Churchill Downs. That constitutes a pair-up of his previous top in his
second start back from a layoff. This is a strong pattern. It would be a
lot stronger if he were a couple years younger, but he is relatively
lightly raced, and he figures for a ground-saving stalking trip in here.
The knock on Cigar Street is class. He has one graded stakes victory to
his credit, a Grade 3 at Gulfstream last year. But Mott gets a rating
of 89 third off the layoff and 96 when attempting a repeat victory.
Cigar Street is a fat price on the morning line, and we consider him a
very tempting play.
Imperative (30-1): If this gelding hits the board, we are going to be tearing up an awful lot of tickets.
Moreno (20-1): A tough call because the talent is
plainly here. He has speed figures that fit beautifully and Grade 1
credentials. But the presence of Bayern does him no favors, and anyway,
he has the look of a horse who could very well be over the top. It’s
also worth noting that his trainer gets an abysmal rating of 12 at Santa
Anita. Still, at a big price, Moreno is usable in exotics.
V. E. Day (20-1): Would need to bounce back to the
level of his Travers victory to compete here. The problem is that his
Travers figure, a 108, was a rather isolated, “ugly” number, meaning it
is not the ideal target to get back to. And he got a great pace set-up
in the Travers. (Note pace figures and adjusted fractions color-coded in
red, signifying fast pace.) We are mildly negative on V. E. Day.
Shared Belief (9-5): So this is what a Jerry
Hollendorfer horse looks like when it has foot problems? We have long
admired Hollendorfer, who was buried for decades in beautiful Northern
California, quietly and modestly training racehorses as well as
racehorses can be trained.And now he has this gelding, who has seven
wins in seven starts, three of them Grade 1s, the last one earned
despite losing a tremendous amount of ground due to race riding from a
competitor. The 114 speed figure that Shared Belief ran in the Awesome
Again feels more like a 120 to us after the trip is accounted for, and a
repeat of that effort is very likely going to give Hollendorfer the
Breeders’ Cup Classic. But the odds will be short. The target on this
gelding’s back will be big. And, plainly and simply, horses who run as
well as Shared Belief did last time are prone to regress in their next
start. So let’s call Shared Belief the most likely winner even as we
steel ourselves to try to beat him.
Bayern (6-1): We do not yet see any evidence to
support the popular theory that this colt is distance-challenged. What
he is, in our view, is consistency-challenged. His two worst
performances just happened to occur in his two longest races. But those
performances were clunkers, plain and simple. They would have been
clunkers even if the races were run at six furlongs. Bayern is as
talented as any horse in this race. And if he does not come under
excessive duress on the lead, he has a legitimate puncher’s chance to
win this race at a pretty good price. He also has a legitimate chance to
finish last. But with speed figures of 115 117 and 119 in his arsenal,
he is a colt who will get at least some of our money if his morning line
odds hold up.
Zivo (15-1): Enters off a troubled second-place finish
in the JCGC. Is in a tie for fastest Late Pace rating in the field (a
114), which is a good thing because Pace Projector has him coming from
last-place today. Trainer Chad Brown gets a 95 rating with older stakes
horses. Has a strong pattern of speed figures: 109 103 106 108 109. A
trifle slow vs. the best in here, but in the ballpark and headed in the
right direction. Has a Grade 2 victory to his credit, and if he gets a
strong pace set-up today, one cannot rule out his winning his first
Toast of New York (12-1): Has run competitive speed
figures on synthetic, but makes his dirt debut today off a Breeding
Rating of 44 for dirt routes. That does not inspire a lot of confidence.
Footbridge (30-1): Would need the race of his life to hit the bottom of the board.
Tonalist (5-1): Has a beautiful pattern of speed
figures coming into this race–as nice a pattern of development as one
will ever see. He is not yet quite as fast as his fastest rivals, but he
is slowly working on that. Has a masterful trainer who gets a strong
rating of 93 off comparable rest between starts. Has two Grade 1
victories to his credit. Figures to lose some ground racing in mid-pack
in this big field. Could find himself in the best spot of all should the
pace prove hot. A strong, strong contender who figures to be a decent
price. A must-use in every hole.
Candy Boy (20-1): Sadler colt keeps on banging out
efforts that are solid but not quite up to the level of winning the
Breeders’ Cup Classic. Probably deserved to finish second in the
Pensylvania Derby dominated by Bayern. In a tie for best Late Pace
rating in the field. Needs a pace meltdown.
California Chrome (4-1): The last Kentucky Derby
winner to run well in that same year’s BC Classic was Unbridled in 1990.
Is that a strong handicapping point to make about this year’s Classic?
No. But we think it is a valid political point about the Breeders’ Cup,
and something to contemplate on Sunday. At any rate, California Chrome
has already proven that he has more than enough talent to win this race
on his best day. The TimeformUS Speed Figure of 118 that he ran in the
Preakness says that loud and clear–he’ll be tough in here if he runs
back to that race. The handicapping question on the table with this
splendidly talented colt is whether his disappointing-but-not-awful
Pennsylvania Derby performance qualifies as a springboard back to his
best form or a sign that his gruelling, heroic Triple Crown campaign
stripped him to an extent that leaves him incapable of firing his best
shot five months later. Our feeling on this is that California Chrome is
not ready to rebound just yet. And that, coupled with the likelihood
that he will get an intentionally wide trip in this race, leaves us
inclined to play against him today at what figure to be relatively short
Majestic Harbor (20-1):
Six-year-old always fires his shot. Threat to sit back and make a run
that gets him on the board if there’s a pace meltdown. We see little
reason to expect any more than that.
(A/E) Big Cazanova (30-1):
We see no reason to expect anything good to come out of this horse today.
Use Tonalist and Bayern in multi-race exotics–to be clear
here, that’s what we’re most interested in at this point. Let’s see the
Double payoffs going into the Classic with these two.
Also: Exactas and trifectas using Tonalist and Bayern, while also mixing in Shared Belief.