Breeders' Cup Classic Preview
The $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) lost a major player when Beholder scratched on Thursday and her absence adversely affects late runners like Honor Code, Tonalist and Keen Ice given that she figured to make a run at American Pharoah by the far turn. The Triple Crown winner looks tough to catch given the expected pace scenario.
1ST: AMERICAN PHAROAH (4-5) dominated the Preakness S. (G1) and Belmont S. (G1) on the lead, registering a 109 BRIS Speed rating for a 5 1/2-length decision in the latter, and he’s got a chance to duplicate those performances on Saturday. Early speed played well at Keeneland on Thursday and Friday, and the Bob Baffert-trained colt should enjoy a cushy trip on the front end with Victor Espinoza. American Pharoah can go out on top in his final career start.
2ND: FROSTED (12-1) possesses the tactical speed to sit a good trip behind the heavy favorite and his improving form makes him an attractive candidate to complete the exacta. Runner-up in the Belmont S. (G1), the Grade 1-winning colt returned from a freshening in the Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga and lost a shoe leaving the starting gate. He still turned in a respectable performance to finish a close second to Texas Red, who had the benefit of a recent prep, and Frosted came back with a third in the Travers (G1) that is easy to excuse given the tactics employed by replacement rider Jose Lezcano. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee delivered a career-best last time, winning the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) with authority, and he figures to be in position to try and reel in American Pharoah. Frosted is more likely to settle for a minor award, but I give him the best chance at a Classic upset.
3RD: TONALIST (4-1) has registered top BRIS Speed ratings and can run well Saturday if he finds a way to stay in contact with the pacesetter. The four-year-old colt displayed good tactical speed last year, winning the Peter Pan S. (G2) and Belmont S. (G1), but he’s become more of a confirmed late runner for Christophe Clement, rallying from well off the pace in all five starts this year. Tonalist was last of 14 in the early stages of the 2014 Classic before rallying belatedly for fifth, and I’ll look for him to finish up well for part on Saturday.
Longshot: HONOR CODE (5-1) has been a little inconsistent but is a top-class performer when on his game. An impressive winner of the Whitney (G1) two back, registering a 110 BRIS Speed rating, the well-bred four-year-old used the Kelso Mile (G2) strictly as a Classic prep last time and is eligible to show up with a much-improved Classic effort for Shug McGaughey. My main concern is his confirmed closing style, but Honor Code can’t be dismissed from top three consideration.
American Pharoah photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography