Evaluating stock in the 2019 Breeders' Cup Classic field
It's arguably not the most scintillating edition of the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), but the 2019 renewal on November 2 at Santa Anita will still have plenty of implications with respect to Eclipse Awards for both the three-year-old male and older dirt male categories.
Only 11 horses were pre-entered this week for the 1 1/4-mile race, and here's a look at how the proverbial stock of each stands going in.
Still an uncertain participant until several days after his Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) victory via disqualification, Code of Honor nonetheless showed in that Belmont Park feature to being the best three-year-old capable of hanging with the leading older runners in this field. It remains to be seen, however, whether his New York form will transfer over to Santa Anita, which hasn't always worked out for otherwise good-looking Eastern invaders if you look back through Breeders' Cup history.
There are no such questions regarding Vino Rosso, who was controversially demoted from first to second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. The son of Curlin was a track-and-distance victor of the May 27 Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1), and rather than that being considered a one-off performance, his game try last out suggests he might be better than some of his defeats this season might suggest.
Mongolian Groom turned in a career-best effort to win the Awesome Again (G1) in wire-to-wire fashion as a 25-1 outsider, easily his best in a season that was decidedly unremarkable up to that point. Although that makes his stock technically on the rise and also convinced his connections to supplement him to the Classic, there's no guarantee he'll repeat it next week.
Owendale has had a strong last few months, winning the Lexington (G3), Ohio Derby (G3), and Oklahoma Derby (G1). His losses during that span, in the Preakness (G1) and Travers (G1), could both be chalked up to an extent by him running over lesser-preferred parts of the Pimlico and Saratoga tracks, respectively, though it's also possible he's a slight cut below the top contenders here.
A dominating winner of the Pacific Classic (G1), Higher Power didn't lose much in defeat in the Awesome Again considering his poor break and the fact this long-winded sort figures to appreciate 10 panels more. Though fifth to Vino Rosso in the Gold Cup in May, keep in mind that was his first start for his present connections, who undoubtedly were still trying to figure him out.
Winless since the 2018 Woodward (G1), Yoshida has turned in couple nice preps in both the Whitney (G1) and Woodward leading up to this second stab at the Classic, in which he was a belated fourth last year at Churchill Downs. Indeed, his last two were much improved efforts over his three earlier in the year, though they were arguably more evidence that this horse tends to thrive over the main track at Saratoga and much less elsewhere.
A long-time favorite for the Classic, McKinzie turned in a relatively dull second-place effort in the Awesome Again. One consequence is that long-time pilot Mike Smith is being replaced by Joel Rosario for the Breeders' Cup. Crazy good when on his "A" game (e.g. the Alysheba [G2] and Whitney), his latest is still not what you'd like to see going into the biggest race of the year. Winless in all three starts over the Santa Anita strip this season, there are also still lingering doubts whether he's a true mile-and-a-quarter type.
The mare Elate sure is, but even so she was no great shakes losing the Spinster (G1) to Blue Prize. Connections have nothing to lose by running here rather than the Distaff with an older dirt female championship out of reach, but even in a comparatively modest edition such as this you really need to be a Zenyatta-like talent to picture a mare beating the boys. She's not that.
Seeking the Soul was second best in last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1), a placement he had to settle for as he didn't have enough eligibility to make the Classic field. That's a shame in retrospect as he's run his best two-turn races over the Churchill surface, winning a Clark H. (G1) and Stephen Foster (G2). Unfortunately, that degree of success has not translated consistently elsewhere, especially in California. A seventh in the Pacific Classic and fourth in the Awesome Again point him out as a horse not entering this race in the right form.
Preakness winner War of Will hasn't yet backed up that classic win in three subsequent outings nor has he posted a triple-digit BRIS Speed rating. He most recently lost the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) to the unheralded 31-1 chance Math Wizard, who seems up against posting a similarly shocking repeat given losses in races like the Indiana Derby (G3) and West Virginia Derby (G3) over the summer.