Photo by NYRA/Coglianese Photos/Chelsea Durand
1 American Pharoah
His defeat in the Travers Stakes was a major surprise, but regardless, his overall accomplishments and brilliance are enough for him to retain the status as favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. No definite decision has been made on whether he will run in a prep race prior to the Classic, but it sounds like a race at Churchill Downs could be in the cards, so stay tuned for further updates!
With American Pharoah’s defeat in the Travers, Beholder’s romping win in the Pacific Classic is even more impressive, and one can make a strong case that she’s in better form right now. Time will tell if that’s still the case come October 31st, but at this point, Beholder looks like the most likely candidate to upset American Pharoah in the Classic.
With only one workout under his belt since the Whitney, it seems unlikely that he will run in the September 5th Woodward Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, leaving the October 3rd Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) as his next target. You have to love the way that he’s always closing ground at the finish of his races, regardless of the distance, and with plenty of front-running/pace-pressing runners targeting the Breeders’ Cup, there’s a strong chance that he could receive a great setup in the Classic.
4 Honor Code
Shug McGaughey has said that Honor Code will most likely prep for the Breeders’ Cup in the one-mile Kelso Handicap (gr. II) rather than the ten-furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup on the same day, and I think this could be a very wise approach to get him ready for the Breeders’ Cup. The one-turn mile of the Kelso should help sharpen his speed and get him fit for the Classic, whereas the longer distance of the Jockey Club Gold Cup could potentially tire him out if he has to work hard to close from far back.
5 Catch a Flight
The Pacific Classic runner-up is scheduled to make his next start in the Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I) on September 26th at Santa Anita. However, with his connections pondering a possible start in the group I Champions Cup in Japan on December 6th, it’s possible that the Breeders’ Cup Classic might not be his end goal for the season.
6 Keen Ice
He’s been steadily improving throughout the summer and took another step forward last Saturday when he rallied past American Pharoah to win the Travers by three-quarters of a length. He did get a good setup with American Pharoah and Frosted setting a fast pace, but it’s impossible to deny that he’s gotten quite good and is a force to reckon with, particularly in longer races. The ten-furlong distance of the Classic should fit him perfectly, especially if the pace is quick.
He ran a tremendous race in the Travers, pressing American Pharoah through fast fractions and even taking a brief lead before tiring to finish third. He’s been on the go since the beginning of the year and just keeps bringing his best race, and while he hits the board more often that he wins, he also hasn’t gotten an ideal trip in most of his races this year. With a good trip in the Classic, I think he could take a step forward.
He’s drawn post seven in the September 5th Woodward Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, and after breezing five furlongs in a bullet :59 3/5 on August 30th, he looks ready for a big effort. With plenty of pace to set up his late run, he looks poised to add a third graded stakes victory to his record.
9 Liam’s Map
Liam’s Map has also been entered in the Woodward, drawing post two in a field of eight. A repeat of his Whitney effort would probably give him the victory, but his recent workouts haven’t been as razor-sharp as his pre-Whitney breezes, and he’s likely to face some pace pressure in the Woodward, which could make him vulnerable to an upset.
This very talented miler swept to victory in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas (Eng-I), Irish 2,000 Guineas (Ire-I), and St. James’s Palace Stakes (Eng-I) earlier this year before missing several subsequent races due to the turf conditions being too soft. Now, the Aidan O’Brien-trained runner is targeting a start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which will mark his debut on dirt. Time will tell if Gleneagles can be as effective on dirt as on turf, but given that European runners have been narrowly beaten in both the 2013 and 2014 Classics, it’s not out of the question that Gleneagles could be a factor.