Keeler Johnson’s Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings: July 9, 2015

Keeler Johnson’s Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings: July 9, 2015

1 American Pharoah
Some horses seem to have an aura of power and leadership whenever they head to the track, and American Pharoah is definitely one of those horses. On July 6th, the Triple Crown champion turned in his second workout since the Belmont Stakes, breezing a half-mile in :47 3/5 at Santa Anita. As usual, the work looked effortless and easy for American Pharoah, and he galloped out strongly in :59-and-change. Given the way he is training, there’s little doubt that he will be ready for a big effort when he returns to the races in the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) on August 2nd.

2 Tonalist
True, he was beaten a head in the Suburban Handicap, but that was after a bit of a tricky trip in which he made a premature move on the turn and just failed to catch Effinex at the finish. He’s probably better-suited to settling at the back of the pack for longer and making one run in the homestretch, and hopefully, we’ll get a chance to see how those tactics fare in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) on August 8th, which is expected to be Tonalist’s next race.

3 California Chrome
The 2014 Horse of the Year is back in the U.S. and in quarantine at Arlington, where he will prepare for a start in the Arlington Million (gr. I) on August 15th. But with just over a month to recover from his trip and prepare for the race, will he be able to get ready in time?

4 Lea
He breezed a half-mile in an easy :50.22 at Saratoga on July 7th, which was probably a good plan after going the same distance in a bullet :48.33 one week ago. With the Whitney still a month away, there’s no need for Lea to get too sharp too soon, and his most recent breeze should help keep him fit without gearing him up too soon before the race.

5 Noble Bird
The Stephen Foster (gr. I) winner returned to the work tab on July 4th at Churchill Downs, breezing a half-mile in :49 2/5. With that work under his belt, the son of Birdstone should have little trouble getting ready in time for the Whitney, where he will face off with Lea once again.

6 Bayern
He turned in yet another blazing workout at Santa Anita last month, going six furlongs in a bullet 1:10 4/5. Clearly he’s still showing great form in the mornings, but he’s got to start showing it in the afternoon as well after running last in both of his starts this year.

7 Effinex
This up-and-coming son of Mineshaft is 3-for-4 this year and stepped up in a big way to beat Tonalist in the Suburban Handicap (gr. II). We know he’s fast–he’s run two 107 Beyers this year–and we know he can handle ten furlongs, as both of his big Beyers were earned at that distance. In this day and age, it’s fairly rare to see a U.S. runner with multiple graded stakes wins at ten furlongs, which makes Effinex a very exciting horse to follow as the Breeders’ Cup draws nearer. He will likely get a rematch with Tonalist in the Whitney at Saratoga, which is shaping up to be a terrific race with Lea, Noble Bird, Honor Code, and V. E. Day also targeting the race.

8 Frosted
The Belmont Stakes runner-up got back on the work tab on July 3rd, working a slow half-mile in :50.99 at Saratoga. But with his next start expected to come in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) on August 1st, he’s still got time for three more workouts before the race, and will presumably pick up the pace of his workouts as the race draws nearer.

9 Hoppertunity
In analyzing his form, it’s hard to overlook the fact that his recent Beyer speed figures have not been very impressive, but Bob Baffert has said in the past that Hoppertunity is better at tracks other than Santa Anita, and the colt’s career-best effort in the Clark Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs last year suggests that might indeed be the case. I’ll be very curious to see where he runs next–will he stay in California for an expected rematch with Hard Aces and Catch a Flight in the Pacific Classic, or will he ship out-of-town?

10 Palace Malice
The 2013 Belmont Stakes winner has had plenty of setbacks this year, but they seem to be in the rear-view mirror since he returned to the work tab on July 4th and worked a half-mile in :49.76. If he stays sound, expect to see him at Saratoga this summer, with the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) as a possible goal.

Just missing the cut this week is Bradester, who fired off a 109 Beyer when winning the Salvator Mile (gr. III) at Monmouth Park in impressive fashion. Time will tell if he can stretch his speed over ten furlongs, but the son of Lion Heart has posted four triple-digit Beyers during his career and appears to be getting very good right now. The Monmouth Cup (gr. II) on August 2nd, a race in which Bradester ran second next year, is expected to be his next start.

Dropping off the list this week are Dortmund (who is currently in light training and not targeting any particular race) and Hard Aces (who did nothing wrong, but was knocked out of the top ten by the return of Palace Malice to the work tab.)

Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin’s quest to become North America’s richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the blog Unlocking Winners.

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