Breeders’ Cup Classic Field Forms with Five
Breeders’ Cup Classic Field Forms with Five: If one were to visit the Breeders’ Cup website, the countdown to the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, would read 59 days and some amount of hours and minutes. Now, with two months until the Breeders’ Cup festivities, concluding with the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 31, 2015, a field has begun to form, and challenge winners are already guaranteed a spot in the Classic. So far, there are five challenge winners, and each has a strong shot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The first of the challenge winners was Noble Bird, a son of Birdstone. Noble Bird defeated Lea in the Stephen Foster Handicap on June 13 at Churchill Downs. While the four-year-old already has a guaranteed spot in the Classic, he will have to improve greatly off a poor showing in the Grade I Whitney Handicap. He has not posted a workout since for trainer Mark Casse.
Although Noble Bird had a poor showing in the Whitney, another four-year-old took the spotlight. Honor Code won the Whitney in appealing fashion, defeating a front-running Liam’s Map. Foot issues have plagued Honor Code, but now the ridgling son of A.P. Indy is finally turning into a top handicap horse and has proven that no matter the distance, he is a force with which to be reckoned. He posted his first official work following the Whitney on August 23, going four furlongs in :49.93.
The next qualifying race was the Gold Cup at Santa Anita, which came up a tough, good field. Horses such as Hoppertunity, Moreno, Finnegan’s Wake, and Catch a Flight all showed up to try to capture not only a Grade I race but also the automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Classic. However, it was Hard Aces, a five-year-old son of Hard Spun, who fought on through the stretch to deny Hoppertunity. This win was enough to give Hard Aces a chance in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He has since started in the TVG Pacific Classic but was unable to finish better than sixth behind Beholder. The Equibase form states that Hard Aces “saved ground off the pace, went between rivals on the second turn and a bit off the rail into the stretch and did not rally.” He is going to have to improve to threaten in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
While Hard Aces was finishing sixth in the Pacific Classic, Beholder was annihilating the field, making them look like allowance horses. In her first try against males, Beholder had two questions to answer: “Is she as good as she looks?” and “Can she get the ten furlongs?” Both questions were affirmatively answered. Beholder could be headed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic if her owners decide to head that way. However, there has been speculation that Beholder may not ship to Keeneland. Instead, Beholder will prep next year and return as a Breeders’ Cup Classic contender in 2016 when the Breeders’ Cup is back at Santa Anita. For now, Beholder is aiming for the Grade I Zenyatta as her next start while Breeders’ Cup plans are still being discussed by trainer Richard Mandella and the owners of Spendthrift Farm.
The final challenge winner, American Pharoah, needs no introduction. The first Triple Crown winner in 37 years has won six of his seven starts this year. His only defeat came in the Travers Stakes against Keen Ice, who, after chasing American Pharoah all year, got a fast pace and was able to catch a tired Frosted and American Pharoah before the wire. Zayat has expressed concern that American Pharoah may be tailing off, but traveling nearly 18,000 miles just this year has likely simply exhausted the horse. If he does continue this year and gets his chance at the “Grand Slam” in competing in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he will more than likely be a heavy favorite.
Other contenders for the Classic include Lea, a winner of only one start this year but who has also finished in the top three in four of his five starts this year. Keen Ice has been in the picture since the Kentucky Derby, and after finally defeating American Pharoah after finishing behind him in the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, and Haskell, Keen Ice finally got his big win. Frosted has been unable to defeat American Pharoah this year but has been with him every step of the way. If he can get one more prep in before the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he may have a better shot at the Classic than if he simply trained into the race. Hoppertunity has been unable to truly break out as a top notch older male, but he has proven that ten furlongs may be his best distance. While he finished well behind Beholder in the Pacific Classic, he should be able to come back and get one more prep race in, possibly in the Awesome Again at Santa Anita before the Classic. Finally, Tonalist, Liam’s Map, Texas Red, and Catch a Flight (ARG) are all looking to make the Breeders’ Cup Classic this year.
The Breeders’ Cup Classic will take place on the second day of a two-day event that includes thirteen Grade I races, all filled with stellar fields, each vying to become Breeders’ Cup Champions. The Breeders’ Cup is being hosted at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky, over October 30 and 31 with nearly $20 million dollars in purse money.
Breeders’ Cup Challenge Schedule