A year ago at Keeneland all eyes were on the first Triple Crown winner we had seen in nearly four decades taking on older in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), and American Pharoah did not disappoint, overcoming his first loss of the year in a runner up finish in the Travers (G1) to go out a triumphant winner.
It is going to be very tough to top that kind of excitement in the 2016 edition of the Breeders’ Cup.
Or will it?
With less than two months to go before the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita on Nov. 4-5, and while American Pharoah is busy in the breeding shed, we could still have one of the most exciting Breeders’ Cups in recent memory.
While last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) winner Stopchargingmaria has also been retired, we could still see seven or eight of last year’s winners return this year including Songbird, Tepin, Runhappy and Nyquist.
The favorite for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic is California Chrome, currently at betting odds of +140 at Bet Online. The 2014 Horse of the Year had his 2015 campaign cut short after runner up finishes in the San Antonio (G2) and Dubai World Cup (G1) but he has come back this year better than ever.
He has made five starts and is perfect including victories in the Dubai World Cup and the Pacific Classic (G1) and his popularity rivaled that of American Phaorah during his three-year-old campaign.
He is the headliner for this year’s Breeders’ Cup but he has quite the supporting cast over the two-day championship event.
The undefeated Songbird is perfect in 10 career starts and after winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) last year by 5 ¼ lengths will take on older this year in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
She will face an all-star group that likely will include Beholder, who has lost a bit of her luster with losses in the Clement Hirsch (G1) to Stellar Wind and to California Chrome, but hey, she lost to a couple of champions.
Beholder could still go to the Classic but it seems more logical for her to go to the Distaff, a race she won in 2013. She already has three Eclipse Awards, for top juvenile filly in 2012, champion three-year-old of 2013 and top older female in 2015.
Stellar Wind was the champion three-year-old filly in 2015 and solidified her place as one of the top older females this year with her win over Beholder.
Toss in Cavorting, Curalina, Carina Mia, Cathryn Sophia and Off the Tracks, and isn’t about time the Distaff is run on Saturday to a larger audience?
Remember Nyquist? He won this spring’s Kentucky Derby, but has taken the summer off. He returns in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) later this month at Parx Racing, home of the most larcenous trifecta takeout on the planet.
With three different winners of the Triple Crown races this year the three-year-olds could get overlooked. Preakness (G1) winner Exaggerator apparently can only win on off tracks and Belmont Stakes (G1) Creator was very disappointing in his last two starts since, a sixth in the Jim Dandy (G2) and a seventh in the Travers.
That’s okay, we have a newbie by the name of Arrogate, who went from a relatively unknown promising three-year-old to winning the Travers by 13 ½ lengths and earning a lofty 122 Beyer Speed Figure. He is now the second choice in early wagering for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Bet Online at +250.
Frosted had some of the icing come off his cake after an overconfident ride by Joel Rosario in the Woodward (G1), but it still is very hard to forget his tour de force in the Met Mile (G1) where he earned a 123 Beyer Speed Figure. He is currently +1200 at Bet Online in Classic future betting.
The Breeders’ Cup Turf will surely bring over some of the stars from across the pond, but this year the home team has a serious runner in Flintshire. (We adopted the Euro invader as one of our own, didn’t we?)
The runner up in the 2014 Turf is now in the hands of Chad Brown and is perfect in three starts this year, winning the Sword Dancer (G1) in his last outing.
Tepin beat the boys last year to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) and makes her final prep to defend her title on Saturday in the Woodbine Mile (G1).
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Runhappy has been on the sidelines since winning the Malibu (G1) at Santa Anita last December.
The drama about her former trainer Maria Borell getting fired is now ancient history (except for the now she is a fugitive thing), and his connections are pointing him toward the Ack Ack (G3) at Churchill Downs on Oct. 1 as a steppingstone to going to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1).
While the Sprint won’t get the defending champ, it still will be a great betting races with the likes of A.P. Indian, Lord Nelson and Masochistic doing battle.
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) will produce the early favorite for next spring’s Run for the Roses. It is still early but we have seen some promising performances by the likes of Practical Joke, Syndergaard, Straight Fire and Klimt.
Sure, American Phaorah is doing his thing in the breeding shed, but we are going to have a full dance card ourselves this November at Santa Anita.
Just 53 days and counting.
Get Michael’s Best Plays Report each Saturday which will include all of the U.S. based Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” races from now to Oct. 12 and Michael Dempsey’s 2-Day Breeders’ Cup Report.
Michael’s two day Breeders’ Cup Report includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for every race on the two-day championship event from Santa Anita on Nov. 4-5.