One of the most anticipated races in the three-decade history of the Breeders’ Cup is on tap on Saturday afternoon, with American Pharoah making his final career start as the chalk in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
The Bob Baffert trainee has worked sharply since suffering defeat in the Travers (G1) at the hands of Keen Ice, and it looks as if his odds are going to be even money or 4-5 when he breaks from the gate for the last time on Saturday afternoon.
His job got easier this week as second choice Beholder had to scratch, but he still has to take on a pair of accomplished older horses in Tonalist and Honor Code as well as his nemesis Keen Ice.
Toss in five time Group 1 winner Gleneagles making his dirt debut and the up and coming Smooth Roller, and it an intriguing race with plenty of options for horseplayers other than playing the chalk.
Tonalist has won six races in his career and five have come at Belmont Park including the last two editions of the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). The Christophe Clement trainee ran fifth in last year’s Classic. His Beyers stack up very nicely compared to the Triple Crown winner.
Honor Code looked super winning the Met Mile (G1) and Whitney (G1), and his trainer Shug McGaughey elected to go to the Kelso Handicap (G2) instead of the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
The colt go not pace and ran evenly in an uninspiring third place finish. Perhaps Shug did not have him fully cranked, and the Hall of Fame trainer has been quite pleased how the colt is coming into the race.
Like American Pharoah, Keen Ice will come into the race off a 63-day break. The colt has developed over the summer and he could be catching up to the Triple Crown winner.
Frosted was no match for American Pharoah this spring, but is coming off a career top effort winning the Pennsylvania Derby (G2), a race that Bayern used last year on his way to winning the Classic.
Gleneagles is the wide card of the race as he makes his first start on dirt. Trainer Aidan O’Brien would really like to win the Classic but has a 0 for 13 record although some of his runners have been competitive.
Smooth Roller is the most lightly raced in the field with just four starts, and he ran huge winning the Awesome Again against a suspect field. He earned a 111 Beyer Speed Figure, the top last out number but he sure looks like a bounce candidate.
Completing the field are Effinex and Hard Aces, both longshots that look over matched.
Post time for the opener on today’s 12-race card at Keeneland is 11:00 ET and post time for the Classic is 5:35 ET and will be televised on NBC.
I have my full card reports for the Breeders’ Cup, Belmont Park and my Best Plays Report now posted.
Michael Dempsey’s Breeders’ Cup Report
Michael’s Breeders’ Cup Report includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for every race on the card from Keeneland on Oct. 31.
In 2013 on Breeders’ Cup Saturday Mike nailed seven recommended exactas, paying $53.20, $19.00, $23.20, $58.00, $66.60, $107.80, and $33.60!