The excitement of a Triple Crown winner for the first time since 1978 may have subsided, but horse racing fans will get an opportunity to see American Pharoah on the big stage again later this month at the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on October 31. This will be the first time that the legendary track has hosted this two-day event that features 13 races with horses of different grades and ages. Lots of money is at stake that weekend, with over $26 million paid out in purses and awards.
The race schedule on Halloween will culminate with the running of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. This 1 ¼ -mile race has a purse of $5 million and showcases the top contenders in the world of horse racing. One of those that will be on hand is American Pharoah. All of these horses are notable, but others that bettors will remember from this year’s Triple Crown races are Frosted, Hoppertunity, Keen Ice, and Wicked Strong. None of those horses are expected to be the biggest competition for American Pharoah.
That distinction would have belonged to Beholder, a five-year-old filly that did not participate in any of the Triple Crown events during her age-three season. Beholder has a long list of accomplishments, including three consecutive wins at the Zenyatta Stakes and a win in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff back in 2013. She has amassed over $4.4 million in earnings in her career and is the first horse since 1976 to win Grade 1 stakes races at ages 2, 3, 4, and 5. This is a very impressive competitor and one that had gotten a lot of attention in the build-up to this race.
Beholder would have had a lot of history to race against. Only one filly, Zenyatta, has won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, back in 2009. Beholder had been dominant this season, with five wins in five races, though four of those wins came in female-only races. This field was going to be a lot different. Unfortunately, well after publishing, Beholder was scratched after bleeding during a galloping trip around the track at Keeneland on Thursday.
As always, there are a lot of interesting storylines to this race. Bob Baffert, trainer of American Pharoah, was the winning trainer of this event last year thanks to Bayern. Bayern was forced to retire this year due to an abscess, but the somewhat stunning win at the Breeders’ Cup Classic cemented his legacy. He beat California Chrome and Tonalist, who is in this year’s field, among others. That was the first Classic win for Baffert, to go along with nine other wins in the Breeders’ Cup events.
For Baffert to snag another victory, he is also going up against recent history. Three-year-olds Raven’s Pass and Curlin are the last back-to-back three-year-old champions, in 2007 and 2008. It was three-year-old Bayern that won last season. The last trainer to win back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Classic races was Jay M. Robbins, but that was the same horse. Tiznow, who won at age three and age four, is the only repeat champion in this race, which began in 1984. Outside of Robbins, Charlie Whittingham (1987 – Ferdinand; 1989 – Sunday Silence) and William I. Mott (1995 – Cigar; 2011 – Drosselmeyer) are the only two-time winning trainers. Drosselmeyer is the last horse to win at least one leg of the Triple Crown and to also win the Classic. He won the 2010 Belmont Stakes. Prior to that, Curlin was the most recent winner of a Triple Crown race and the Classic, with his win in the 2007 Preakness Stakes.
At BetOnline.ag, you can place your bets on the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The post positions were be drawn October 26.. Here’s a look at the board (updated 10/27 to add posts and opening track odds):
|9||Honor Code||McGaughey III||6/1|
$2.75 million will be going to the winner, with $900,000 for show, $500,000 for place, $300,000 for fourth place, and $150,000 for fifth place. Some of the horses in the field have already had success during the Breeders’ Cup Challenge. American Pharoah won the William Hill Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on August 2. Beholder won the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 22. Tonalist enters the Classic with the most momentum coming off of a win on October 3 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational at Belmont Park. That was the second straight Jockey Club Gold Cup win for Tonalist, who also won the 2014 Belmont Stakes. Tonalist finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year.
Honor Code, who won at The Whitney at Saratoga on August 8, has one of the most fascinating backgrounds in the field. He was scratched from the Kentucky Derby last year due to a leg injury that cost him most of the season. He got back into graded races in March and has three wins this season, including the aforementioned Whitney Handicap. Tonalist finished third in that race. Honor Code’s lineage includes Seattle Slew and Secretariat, so the bloodlines run exceptionally deep with this four-year-old. Without seeing post positions for the race, Honor Code might be one to gamble on, especially because his claim to fame is closing late, which could mean that a bad post position is not as big of a deal as it might be for the other racers.
Frosted could also be a force in this field. This three-year-old was fourth in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont Stakes. A fine showing at the Travers with a third place finish behind Keen Ice and American Pharoah was a good tune-up on the Breeders’ Cup Challenge circuit. An easy win at the Pennsylvania Derby last time out on September 19 was impressive, but it was a grade-2 race.
Speaking of Keen Ice, there could be a special story brewing here. Keen Ice was sired by 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion Curlin, so that would make for a storybook ending to the race season. That win at the Travers Stakes was the first major win of the colt’s career. Keen Ice went off at 16/1 in that race and won by about ¾ of a length, so there will be a lot of people that write that win off in the build-up to the Classic.
Odds are sure to be moving around in the lead-up to the race, which will be televised on NBC on October 31 with a 5:35 p.m. ET post time, barring any sort of weather delay.