Favorites have won several of the most recent Breeders’ Cup Classics. Gun Runner dominated in 2017 and Arrogate, although technically not the favorite, beat California Chrome in 2016. The favorite’s march to a Classic victory could be different this season because no horse like Gun Runner has yet emerged.
Check out a recap of the 2017 BC Classic and 2016 BC Classic before we get into why things should be different this year.
Breeders’ Cup Classic: Don’t Expect an Odds on Favorite This Year
2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic: Gun Runner
Gun Runner’s top competition in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic became West Coast and Collected. Outside of West Coast and Collected, no horse took a breath on Gun Runner.
Even Arrogate, the 2016 winner who went off favored over Gun Runner, did nothing. Arrogate never recovered after a brilliant run in the 2017 Dubai World Cup. He looked bad during the summer at Del Mar in both the San Diego H. and the Pacific Classic. He just didn’t have it.
West Coast, although the best 3-year-old in the world, had no shot because he wasn’t good enough. Gun Runner beat West Coast again in the 2018 Pegasus World Cup. Second place finisher Collected, who went off at decent 6/1 odds, pretty much followed Gun Runner around the track before yielding to his more talented rival.
2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic: Arrogate
Everyone knew this was a 2-horse race between favored California Chrome and Travers Stakes winner Arrogate. Chrome went off at 4/5. Arrogate went off at around 8/5. No other horse went off at less than 8/1 odds. The 8/1 third choice was Frosted while Keen Ice, who had won the 2015 Travers Stakes over American Pharoah, offered close to 33/1 odds.
Keen Ice finished third, 10 3/4 lengths behind California Chrome. Chrome looked like a winner until Arrogate made a late stretch move to get his nose down first.
Accelerate Could Be an Odds on Favorite
5-year-old Accelerate has looked like the best classic distance dirt horse on the planet this year. He won the Santa Anita Handicap, the Gold Cup at Santa Anita, and the Pacific Classic. All 3 races are run at 1 1/4 miles.
A couple of things about Accelerate, though. His best races, and it’s not even close, have been over California tracks. In fact, the John Sadler trainee has raced only once outside of California, at Oaklawn where he finished second in the Oaklawn Handicap. How will Accelerate handle shipping and running at Churchill Downs?
Also, this Breeders’ Cup Classic field shapes up as one of the deepest in years.
What About Diversify, Catholic Boy, and (possibly!) West Coast?
Diversify’s looked like a monster in his past couple of races, Catholic Boy dominated a deep Travers field, while Bob Baffert will use the Awesome Again stakes as West Coast’s prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Another big time contender, Thunder Snow, should run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Stakes. Then, there’s the Bill Mott trained Yoshida. Mott may have lit his next Cigar after Yoshida went turf to dirt to win the Woodward Stakes.
So, even though Accelerate looks like the best horse leading up to this year’s Classic, it’s doubful he’s the super-horse that both Arrogate in 2016 and Gun Runner in 2017 turned out to be because his lack of outside California success. Also, the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic might be the deepest field of any BC race this year.