Last Updated: 2017-11-01
Horse players are excited about the field for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. The race this year will be held at Del Mar Racetrack in Del Mar, California and features some of the most decorated thoroughbreds from the 2017 calendar year. Horses aged three years and up are eligible for this Grade I Stakes race with a purse of $6 million.
This is generally considered to be the end of the calendar year when it comes to racing, though there are a few races for the early part of the Race to the Kentucky Derby that still go off later in November and on into December. Two years ago, American Pharoah cemented its place among the true legends of the sport by winning the Triple Crown and then winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland by setting the all-time track record for a 1.25-mile race.
The Breeders’ Cup Classic started in 1984 and will be held at Del Mar for the first time. Four of the last five Breeders’ Cup weekends have been at Santa Anita and at Churchill Downs in 2011 and 2010.
As far as entry criteria, there are seven races that feature a “Win and You’re In” prize. Those are the February Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse in February, the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs in June, the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in July, the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga in August, the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August, the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita in October, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park in October.
Here are the odds for the field as of November 1 at 5 p.m. ET:
||Win the Space
||D. Van Dyke
Legendary trainer Bob Baffert has picked up wins in each of the last three Breeders’ Cup Classics and he’s got a great shot to get another one this year. Of Baffert’s four horses in the field, he has the second favorite in Arrogate, the reigning champ, and the two third favorites in West Coast and Collected.
The favorite is Gun Runner, the four-year-old Steve Asmussen colt that won the Stephen Foster Handicap and the Whitney Handicap during his prep time for the Breeders’ Cup. For good measure, Gun Runner also won the Woodward, the Razorback Handicap, the Clark Handicap, and finished second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. This is a long trip out to Del Mar for most of the horses involved, so we’ll have to see how Gun Runner takes to the track, but this is a horse than hasn’t finished lower than second since the Travers Stakes back in late August of last year. At the very least, you’ll have to consider Gun Runner keyed in some box exactas and trifectas because it is going to take some remarkable runs to know him off of the board.
Things get pretty interesting after that. Arrogate had a ridiculous run of victories snapped at the San Diego Handicap. Prior to that, Arrogate had not lost a race since April 17, 2016. That run included the Travers Stakes, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the Pegasus World Cup, and the Dubai World Cup, which Arrogate won with Gun Runner on the board in second. Arrogate has run the San Diego Handicap and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. That race is what got Collected into the field, since the Pacific Classic is a win and you’re in race. At 2/1, there isn’t a ton of value on Arrogate, who has to start inside on the rail. The middle posts are generally good at Del Mar and that could force Arrogate to chase Gun Runner down.
Collected at 6/1 has to come from the outside, but that may be the medium-length shot that you want to take. Unfortunately, Collected doesn’t have the same number of Grade I races as some of the other top competitors, but he showed he could run in the 1.25-mile Pacific Classic by beating out Arrogate and Accelerate, who had an impressive set of results in the lead-up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but is not in the field. Accelerate is running the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile instead and is the second favorite. Collected has rattled off four straight wins and wins in five of the last six races. A 10th-place finish with the big boys and girls in the Preakness Stakes last year was a disappointment, but that Pacific Classic win showed the upside of this colt.
West Coast is the other colt at 6/1 in the Bob Baffert camp. A Grade I win at the Travers Stakes with Gunnevera place and Irap (RIP) show got West Coast into the field. For good measure, a win in the Pennsylvania Derby, again with Irap on the board, marked the fifth straight win for this horse. In eight races this year, West Coast has six wins and two places. The two wins in the most recent Grade I stakes races are what really stand out. West Coast starts to the outside of Gun Runner, but has a fairly decent post draw. With West Coast and Mubtaahij trying to push to the inside, that could create some good opportunities. Gun Runner has to deal with the long shots between it and the rail, so traffic could be a factor.
For those that are interested in spreading some money on the longer shots, Gunnevera isn’t a bad pick, but a lot of inconsistency has plagued Antonio Sano’s best horse. Gunnevera won the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes and finished second in the Travers Stakes, but failed to hit the board in either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness. In deeper, more talented fields, Gunnevera just hasn’t had enough to get up there, except for the Travers Stakes, which was his most recent race and it was the same length as this one. At 30/1, perhaps Gunnevera could be a good throw-in for some exacta boxes or some box trifectas, but it seems unlikely that the colt will pace the pack.
Arrogate outran favorite California Chrome last year to win this race. California Chrome went off at even money and Arrogate was 5/2. American Pharoah won at 6/5 in the 2015 version with one of the most dominant runs we have ever seen. Long shot Effinex hit the board in second at 30/1. In 2014, Bayern won at 6/1, with the favorite, Shared Belief, off the board in fourth. Second favorite California Chrome was third. Mucho Macho Man was the second favorite when he won in 2013.
Some middle shots have hit the board, but horses at the top of the list tend to win this race. We’ll see how they fare with Del Mar, a track that most of them don’t run at regularly, as this year’s venue. For that reason, the best bet here is to roll with Arrogate and Collected keyed into some box trifectas and then also a little bit of creativity to work Gun Runner into the mix. This looks like a chalky race to say the least.
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