Road To The Breeders Cup 2017: The BC Classic Is Up For Grabs
Breeders’ Cup Classic Picture
As expected, the Pacific Classic at Del Mar told us much more about Arrogate and this year’s classic division. For the second straight race, the once-dominant super horse was beaten.
This time the strapping gray improved off his fourth-place disaster in the San Diego to run second behind stablemate Collected. The race wasn’t an abject failure, but this clearly isn’t the same Arrogate we saw win the Travers, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup in succession. Something is amiss and suddenly the Breeders’ Cup Classic is up for grabs.
Trainer Bob Baffert’s post race comments on Arrogate suggest that they’ll move forward with their plans to run the horse in the Classic, but it will be worth keeping an eye on Arrogate’s training over the next two months. Any missteps or lethargic efforts could derail that plan quickly. Arrogate has fallen as far from grace in a two-race window as any horse in recent memory, but still isn’t without a shot in the Classic. Regardless of what happens in the next two months, Arrogate will not be the favorite in the BC Classic – a thought that seemed inconceivable less than four weeks ago.
Collected Has Plenty of Appeal
With the division suddenly wide-open, Gun Runner is the horse to beat after dominant performances in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs and Whitney Handicap at Saratoga. Gun Runner will likely run once more at Saratoga before the Classic in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes September 2.
Gun Runner will probably assume favoritism in the future wagers, but he will probably hold only the most narrow of margins over Collected who has now won four straight stakes races.
While the story was certainly Arrogate’s failure to win in the Pacific Classic, stablemate Collected certainly stamped himself as a serious contender for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with the win – his fourth straight and third consecutive stakes score. The handicapping certainty that Collected can handle the mile and a quarter trip and the Del Mar surface bodes extremely well for his chances in the Classic. It will be interesting to see what trainer John Sadler will do with Accelerate following his third-place finish in the Pacific Classic. The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile certainly seems right up his alley.
Other Breeders’ Cup Divisions
Sprint: Mind Your Biscuits, Roy H and Ransom the Moon seem to hold the edge in the sprint division with last year’s champion Drefong leaving doubts as to whether he’s the same horse he was in 2016. Baffert will try to tighten the screws on Drefong in the coming weeks, so following this four year-olds workout patterns will be interesting. Roy H has a scary amount of raw ability and will be a handful for anyone in this division.
Distaff: The Distaffers are a deep and talented group. The Personal Ensign Stakes August 26 at Saratoga and the Zenyatta Stakes September 30 at Santa Anita will be important races to watch as divisional leaders Songbird and Stellar Wind could square off in the latter race.
Turf: The American turf horses look ripe for the Euros to come in again and dominate. This is simply an average-looking group at best and Hunt’s win in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap did little to suggest he’s ready to take on the best 12 furlong horses in the world. Ditto for Beach Patrol, who won a less-than-impressive renewal of the Arlington Million August 12. The Sword Dancer August 26 at Saratoga will also probably not yield many clues.
Handicappers looking to gain insight into this division should begin to closely follow the intentions of the top Euro connections after the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Early names to know are Queen’s Trust, Enable and Ulysses. 2016 BC Turf winner Highland Reel is also probable.
Juvenile: This division has been slow to develop thus far, but the Del Mar Futurity September 4 could prove be the unveiling of the juvenile winner. Always an important race, this year’s holds even more signficance for obvious reasons. For an off-the-radar type of horse, Dak Attack looked extremely talented winning the Ellis Park Juvenile August 20 in his second career start while beating Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes winner Ten City with ease. In addition a pair of Baffert runners – Zatter and St.Patrick’s Day – looked like the rapidly improving types in a six furlong maiden race August 20. Zatter won by a length over St. Patrick’s day who is a full brother to American Pharoah.
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Who doesn't love a good 7-furlong slugfest between topnotch horses? That's exactly what the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint provides in addition to returning some generous prices such as 2017 winner Bar of Gold's $135.40 payout for every $2 wagered. I'm not sure we can catch that kind of lightening in a bottle this year, but the future bets do look juicy.