The $6million Breeders’ Cup Classic run over a mile and a quarter on Saturday is the most prestigious and valuable race on the card at Keeneland and the climax of activities (5.18pm ET; TV: Live on NBC).
It presents an interesting challenge for bettors as there is an extraordinary depth of talent to choose from this year. Here USAbetting gives our Breeders’ Cup Classic predictions and big-race preview, finishing off with our picks.
Bob Baffert trains three of the first four in the betting including Improbable, the favorite. This four-year-old comes into the race on the back of a hat-trick of Grade 1 wins. He was last seen beating his more fancied stablemate Maximum Security in the Awesome Again on September 27. He was not the favorite with America’s top racebooks when he won the Whitney Stakes on August 1 either.
This son of City Zip cost $200,000 as a yearling and had a stunning record as a juvenile but was very disappointing as a three-year-old. Baffert and his team have done a great job to get him back on track and he looks a worthy favorite.
Baffert also saddles a strongly fancied relatively recent acquisition, Maximum Security. Another four-year-old, this star son of New Year’s Day’s phenomenal achievements have been overshadowed by the alleged exploits of his former trainer, Jason Servis. There are concerns around the use of performance enhancing drugs on his horses. Prizemoney of almost $10 million for Maximum Security’s Saudi Cup win in February in Riyadh has been withheld pending the results of investigations. Maximum Security also won the Haskell and Florida Derby for Servis. His owners and breeders Gary and Mary West moved the horse to Baffert after allegations were made about Servis. It was an interesting move as Baffert has been plagued by an unusually large number of high-profile failed drug tests recently.
Maximum Security’s first run for Baffert was in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar. He started as the 2/5 favorite and won by a nose. Anyone who backed him heavily risked heart failure if the money was important to them. Maximum Security had to give everything under Abel Cedillo to beat John Shirreffs’ 6/1 shot Midcourt who was carrying 5lb less.
He was next seen in the Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic at the same track in late August and won in the manner expected of a 2/5 favorite. He led from flag fall and beat Mark Glatt’s Sharp Samurai three lengths. Off level weights this time he beat the third placed Midcourt by nearly six lengths under Cedillo.
Maximum Security was expected to follow up with a similar performance in the Awesome Again as the 1/2 favorite but, reunited with his regular jockey Luis Saez when trained by Servis, Improbable lived up to his name and beat him four and a half lengths. Midcourt finished half a length further back with a weight advantage of 3lb.
Baffert’s other popular runner is the three-year-old Authentic who sprung a surprise in the Kentucky Derby under John Velazquez. He started at 84/10 and rallied bravely after being headed by Tiz The Law to beat the favorite by just over a length. In his previous run he narrowly beat Saffie Joseph’s Ny Traffic by the shortest of margins in the Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park in mid July.
This son of Into Mischief was a $350,000 purchase as a yearling and was last seen getting beaten into second place by Kenny McPeek’s Swiss Skydiver in the Preakness on October 3 at Pimlico. McPeek’s star filly gained an automatic Classic berth with that win but on October 31 McPeek announced that she would take her place in the Distaff instead – with the proviso that plans could be revised if there were defections in the Classic.
The horse who looks most capable of spoiling Baffert’s chances of victory in the Classic is Barclay Tagg’s Tiz The Law. This three-year-old son of Constitution has only been beaten twice and both defeats came at Churchill Downs. He was found to be sore after his colors were lowered in the Kentucky Derby and Tagg wisely decided to skip the Preakness and have his star trainee fresh for this race as Triple Crown hopes had been dashed.
Tagg shipped Tiz The Law to Keeneland three weeks ago and also relocated to the track to supervise his preparation in person. The colt’s owners, Sackatoga Stables, were extremely impressed with his unprecedented commitment to the cause and have been given daily updates on his progress. All of them have been very positive. Tagg believes his colt does not appreciate the track at Churchill Downs and is bullish about his chances of redeeming himself. He will be ridden from gate two by Manny Franco.
The only other runner looking likely to thwart Baffert’s trio is Albert Stall’s Tom’s D’Etat. This seven-year-old is the only horse to head Improbable this year, beating him by nearly a length in the Oaklawn Mile Stakes in April. He was next seen winning the Grade 2 Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill Downs in late June, beating Bret Calhoun’s By My Standards by over four lengths under Miguel Mena.
This son of Smart Strike out of a Giant’s Causeway mare is having his first try over this distance. His pedigree gives reasons for optimism and he has an excuse for his defeat in the Whitney Stakes when he was beaten two and a half lengths by Improbable last time out. He stumbled badly when leaving the gates and did not appear to enjoy finding himself in last place in the field of five.
Tom’s D’Etat scored at the highest level late last year over a mile and a furlong in the Clark Stakes at Churchill Downs. He beat Brad Cox’s Owendale by over three lengths after being eased down by Joel Rosario. This pack will be much tougher to beat but he could well reward his owners, G M B Racing, who purchased him for $330,000 as a yearling and have seen an excellent return on their investment.
The combined talents of this quintet are so spectacular that the Classic betting market suggests it will difficult for the other runners to challenge them in a conventional pace scenario. Stanley Hough’s Global Campaign comes into the race on the back of a win in the Grade 1 Woodward Handicap in early September and he is currently on offer at around 20/1. By My Standards is similarly priced.
This is a vintage renewal of the Classic and it is going to be an even harder race to win than usual. If there were a prize for effort Tagg would deserve it. Fortunately his colt Tiz The Law stands a serious chance of scoring for a smaller stable. So the culmination of our Breeders’ Cup Classic predictions is this pick:
- Bet on Tiz The Law @ +350 (7/2) with Bovada.
Fiona Derek is our horse racing expert. She has lived and breathed horses from a young age, having been involved in the horse racing industry both riding out for racehorse trainers and in an amateur training capacity.