2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Cheat Sheet
By J.J. Hysell, Hello Race Fan's Contributor
2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Replay
So you want to watch the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday but you have no idea who’s running. Not to worry!
Here’s a thumbnail sketch of this year’s field by post position including the morning line odds.
1. Arrogate (2-1) – All eyes are on the defending Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, who regressed in two races at Del Mar after his magnificent, memorable Dubai World Cup win. The puzzle piece is the surface; he obviously struggled with it in a flat fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 San Diego, then rebounded for a solid second in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic. Even jockey Mike Smith admits the gray “doesn’t seem to care for” the surface. His eye-catching training at Santa Anita hints he’s ready for the challenge in what will be his final test before retirement, but he must also prove he can handle the resurgent Gun Runner.
2. War Decree (30-1) – One of two for trainer Aidan O’Brien, this 3-year-old will be trying dirt for the first time. Although he doesn’t boast the class of Churchill, there’s a lot of upside. He’s by War Front, a sire with success on multiple surfaces, including graded stakes winners such as Departing and The Factor on dirt. He’s also coming off a win at the Classic distance on synthetic. Interesting exotics prospect.
3. Win the Space (30-1) – He’s been a consistent competitor on the California circuit, but the 5-year-old gray hasn’t visited the winner’s circle since May of 2016. Although his rallying third in the Grade 1 Awesome Again was a solid run in his second race off a layoff, he appears quite overmatched here.
4. War Story (30-1) – The well-traveled chestnut gelding with an affinity for off tracks won’t likely get that scenario here. He’s proven distance is no obstacle with a win in the Grade 2 Brooklyn at 12 furlongs; however, he’s yet to turn the tables when he’s faced formidable foes Gun Runner and Arrogate.
5. Gun Runner (9-5) – WINNER – When rival trainer Baffert lauds your contender, you know you’re the one to beat. Trainer Steve Asmussen’s chestnut colt has always flashed talent, but he’s really come into his own since finishing second to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup, trouncing the competition by open lengths in three Grade 1 races. He’s 0 for 3 at the Classic distance, but note that two of those races were over off tracks. The forecast is bright for Saturday – in more ways than one. He’ll be challenged early in a race loaded with talented speed, but he’s proven he can handle pressure.
6. Mubtaahij (IRE) (12-1) – The globetrotting fan favorite earned a spot on the big stage with his scintillating win in the Grade 1 Awesome Again. He’s always in the mix, but the 5-year-old was no match for the likes of Arrogate and Gun Runner in the Dubai World Cup. The Baffert trainee will need to kick it up several notches to match his foes here.
7. Churchill (IRE) (15-1) – This top-class Irish-bred 3-year-old from the barn of trainer Aidan O’Brien vaulted to stardom when he won seven straight races and shined at middle distances of 7 furlongs to a mile on turf. He tailed off when stretching out, and distance isn’t the only question for the bay colt; this will be his first race on dirt. A play for the win spot is a tough sell, but he wouldn’t be a surprise to hit the board in this race.
8. West Coast (6-1) – SHOW (3rd) – The consistent 3-year-old is the wild card of the race. Although he didn’t race as a 2-year-old, he’s had all the experience necessary during a brilliant cross-country campaign while dominating his peers. The Baffert trainee is training exceptionally well at Santa Anita for his first run over the Del Mar track. Shades of Arrogate coming into the Classic last year?
9. Gunnevera (30-1) – The chestnut colt has rounded back into form after finishing off the board in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. The deep closer appeared to benefit from some time off this summer and has trained very well at Gulfstream Park for this test. The 3-year-old is facing a whole new level of competition here, but considering the pace scenario, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he rallied late for a piece.
10. Pavel (20-1) – The lightly-raced Grade 3 Smarty Jones winner makes his first start at Del Mar for the successful team of trainer Doug O’Neill and owner Reddam Racing. The well-bred gray is a half-brother of multiple graded stakes winner Caracortado. Obviously the huge jump in class will be a tall task.
11. Collected (6-1) – PLACE (2nd) – One of four Baffert charges in the Classic, the chestnut 4-year-old is coming into the race off his eye-catching, front-running upset win over stablemate Arrogate in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic. Note his only poor efforts were over sloppy tracks. This versatile runner shouldn’t be overlooked, as he could be positioned quite nicely with Arrogate in the stretch run. The winner of four straight is coming in fresh off a layoff, and is a real contender.