The Breeders’ Cup Classic is the richest and most prestigious race in the country aside from the Kentucky Derby. For older horses, there is no bigger prize. Trainers tailor their entire seasons around having their horses ready for this one.
This year’s edition of the Classic is a very compelling one. It includes a strong filly that has already beaten boys, a Kentucky Derby favorite who was injured before that race, the last two Belmont winners, a rare Australian contender and several other serious horses with a real chance.
This might not be the strongest field we have ever seen in this race, but it is certainly deep and interesting. There are four horses that I give little or no chance of winning—Headache, Rattlesnake Bridge, Ruler on Ice, and Ice Box. That leaves eight other horses that can win the Breeders’ Cup Classic this year.
Here’s a look at those eight in the order they will enter the gate:
2. Flat Out (6/1)
It’s not too often that you see a five year old competing at this level with just 12 career starts. It’s also not common to see a horse who was so underwhelming his first three years on the track bloom into a warrior this year.
Flat Out has won two graded stakes this year and has been second in three others.
He has three issues, though.
First, he was handled easily by Havre de Grace earlier this year and has to face her again here.
Second, two of Flat Out's three worst career races have taken place here at Churchill and has never run well at the track.
Third, he would need to run his best career race—by quite a bit—to post a speed rating competitive with what winners of this race typically post.
I think a win is probably too much to ask, but Flat Out can definitely be a part of it.
3. Drosselmeyer (15/1)
I won on this horse at 13/1 in the Belmont in 2010, so I’ll always be a fan. He lost his form and hit the shelf for a long time after that race.
In his last outing, the Jockey Club Gold Cup, he was again impressive—the best he has looked since the Belmont. He has worked brilliantly since and the distance certainly won’t be an issue.
He has run well at Churchill in the past and with a big day he could be a factor here.
5. So You Think (5/1)
This horse has had quite the career.
A New Zealand-bred horse, So You Think started his career in Australia where he won several big-time races. Next stop was Britain where he won four graded stakes in five tries. Then he headed to France for the Arc de Triomphe; he was only fourth there, but the effort was far more impressive than it would seem. He followed that with a return to Britain and a strong second at Ascot.
He’s clearly a very impressive horse that knows how to win, and this distance is his specialty.
There are some big issues, though.
So You Think has never run on dirt and this is his third race in three countries in 35 days. That’s a whole lot to ask of a horse.
I respect him, but he's going to cost me money if he wins because I won’t have him on top of tickets.
8. Game On Dude (10/1)
I’m a sucker for any Bob Baffert horse and I have a soft spot for jockey Chantal Sutherland, so this horse captures my imagination.
At his best—like when he won the Santa Anita Handicap—Game On Dude is very impressive. He hasn’t consistently performed at that level, though, and he hasn’t beaten horses as good as he faces here.
What Game On Dude has going for him is that he likes to set the pace or press it hard, and he can hang on tight once he does so. There is a fair bit of speed in this race, but if he can set the tone then anything can happen.
9. Stay Thirsty (12/1)
This three year-old is a late bloomer who could be saving his best for last this year.
He flopped in both the Florida and Kentucky Derbies and wasn’t quite good enough in the Belmont.
Stay Thirsty came back to dominate the Jim Dandy and the Travers, though, and then was respectable in his first try against older horses in the Gold Cup.
We know he can get the distance and he’s only getting better. He's a very attractive option at anything over 10/1.
10. Havre de Grace (3/1)
This filly is no Zenyatta, but like that super horse she is more than capable of beating the boys. In fact, she has done it once already this year in the Woodward.
Havre de Grace has been incredibly impressive in her five wins and a nose loss in six starts this year.
There are challenges in this race, though.
Most notably, she has only tried this distance twice and both times she has lost her lead in the stretch and finished second. That's a concern against a deep field like this.
My worry is that she’ll be bet down below this price. Even if she isn’t I’m not convinced that the price is a good one. Still, she’s a contender.
12. Uncle Mo (5/2)
He’s the favorite and is likely to be bet heavily. He was the two year old champion last year after romping in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and was set to be the Kentucky Derby favorite until an illness knocked him out of action.
He has come back to run twice, capped by a win in the Kelso Handicap last time out. However, that race was at a mile. Uncle Mo has never tried this distance before.
If it was all about talent then this horse would win easily. I have real concerns about his distance capabilities, and at this price I’m just not willing to gamble.
I’m not going to leave him entirely off of exotic tickets because he’s very good, but I just don’t believe he can be at his best in this race.
13. To Honor and Serve (12/1)
Based on how he ran in the fall of his two year-old year last year, he looked like he was going to be a star.
He couldn’t carry the momentum of three straight big wins to finish last year into this year, though, and was very flat in his first four starts.
To Honor and Serve has won two straight now, so he has rediscovered some form. Those two wins were only in an allowance and at an underwhelming Pennsylvania Derby, so it’s hard to know just how good he is right now.
Still, trainer Bill Mott is very good at preparing a horse for a big race and he’s done a good job of having him fresh and ready here. He is bred to love the distance, and his best day could be good enough.
At this price he’s a very interesting proposition.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports picks Web site.