Examining the Breeders' Cup Classic field with pre-entries

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

October 23rd, 2019

Pre-entries were announced on Wednesday for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on November 1 and 2, with a total of 188 horses being submitted as potential runners over the two-day extravaganza of racing at Santa Anita. The prospective field for the marquee event of the weekend, the $6 million Classic (G1), features a deep and well-matched group of 11 that have arrived here from various backgrounds.

While it is too early to have a concrete selection for the race prior to the post position draw, I do have an idea of which horses that intrigue me most in the lucrative event. And in a year lacking a standout, I admittedly have an interest in several contenders.

Breeders' Cup Classic contenders of interest

Top three-year-old Code of Honor has won a trio races in succession following his second-place result in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Trained by Shug McGaughey, the grandson of Galileo appears to be peaking and has posted back-to-back BRIS Speed numbers of 108.

The chestnut possesses a versatile running style, and the fact that John Velazquz stuck with this colt instead of Vino Rosso in the recent Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) is worth noting. I consider Code of Honor to be a must use in the Classic as my probable top choice.

Vino Rosso is no slouch and is a live contender in the Classic as well. The four-year-old son of Curlin finished first before being taken down at Belmont Park last time out, and his win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) going 1 1/4 miles in May is a major positive.

The Todd Pletcher pupil comes in relatively fresh for the Classic with just two races since the spring. And he registered a career-best 108 BRIS Speed number with blinkers removed in his latest venture.

Standout mare Elate is a true 1 1/4-mile horse who will face the boys for the first time in the Classic. Dark bay daughter of Medaglia d’Oro has been consistently excellent throughout her career, and conditioner Bill Mott is an expert at pointing a horse to a particular race evidenced by his two previous Classic triumphs.

The five-year-old had some speed put into her most recently when zipping a bullet three furlongs on the Churchill Downs main strip on October 19. She will be included in many of my wagers, if not all of them.

Mongolian Groom led throughout in a much-deserved tally in the Awesome Again (G1) most recently. The sturdy son of Hightail has danced nearly every major dance this season with strong results, and the improvement that he has shown since adding blinkers is substantial. He is no fluke with respectable BRIS Speed figures (103, 104, 98, 105) in his last four assignments.

Bob Baffert’s McKinzie has been first or second in 12 of 13 lifetime performances, with his lone unplaced effort coming in the 2018 Classic. Four-year-old son of Street Sense put in arguably the performance of the year in his division when dominating the Whitney (G1) at Saratoga in August. The likely favorite is expected to be sent to the lead from the start under new pilot Joel Rosario.

I am not in love with McKinzie and ponder if he is as good when going 10 furlongs. But his combination of class, speed and affinity for the Santa Anita surface, makes him incredibly tough to omit.

Dual Grade 1 victor Yoshida was a closing second to McKinzie in the Whitney prior to finishing a length back while third in the subsequent Woodward (G1), both over his favored Saratoga strip. The grandson of Sunday Silence has a fine turn of foot that saw him finish just 1 3/4 lengths back in the 2018 Classic, as well.

While one-run closing types have not fit the profile of recent Classic winners on the dirt at Santa Anita, I won’t toss the classy Mott trainee, especially if he draws inside. 

Pacific Classic (G1) romper Higher Power regressed some when a distant third in the Awesome Again at Santa Anita, although a poor start contributed to his result. Trainer John Sadler saddled Accelerate to a win in the 2018 Classic, and he could make it two straight with this improving four-year-old. The colt must prove that his powerful run at Del Mar was not an outlier, however.

Preakness (G1) winner War of Will, Oklahoma Derby (G3) victor Owendale and Pennsylvania Derby (G1) upsetter Math Wizard are talented three-year-olds without question, but each looks to be a cut below the top players in this deep field. I will likely take my chances of letting the trio beat me on Saturday.

Seeking the Soul is a $3.3 million earner with a fine resume, but his current form makes him hard to fall in love with at a distance that he is a question mark at.

Breeders' Cup Classic Pre-Entries

 Code of Honor
W. S. Farish
Claude R. McGaughey III
W. S. Farish
Adele Dilschneider & Claiborne Farm
William I. Mott
Claiborne Farm & Adele B. Dilschneider
 Higher Power
Hronis Racing LLC
John W. Sadler
Pin Oak Stud, LLC
 Math Wizard
John Fanelli, Khalid Mishref, Cash is King LLC, LC Racing, 
Saffie Joseph Jr.
Lucky Seven Stable
   Collarmele Vitelli Stables LLC, Ioannis Zoumas & Bassett Stables
Michael E. Pegram, Karl Watson & Paul Weitman
Bob Baffert
Summer Wind Farm
 Mongolian Groom
Mongolian Stable
Enebish Ganbat
Calumet Farm
Rupp Racing
Brad Cox
Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC
 Seeking the Soul
Charles E. Fipke
Dallas Stewart
Charles Fipke
 Vino Rosso
Repole Stable & St. Elias Stable LLC
Todd A. Pletcher
John D. Gunther
 War of Will
Gary Barber
Mark E. Casse
Flaxman Holdings Limited
 Yoshida (JPN)
China Horse Club, WinStar Farm, LLC & Head of Plains Partners LLC 
William I. Mott
Northern Farm