2018 Breeders' Cup Classic vs. Distaff: Which Will Be the Better Race?

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

October 16th, 2018

The $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic… the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff… they’re arguably the two most important races of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, but which one is shaping up to be the bigger highlight 2 ½ weeks from now at Churchill Downs?

Well, that depends on your point of view—that is, whether you’re primarily a bettor seeking a big wagering score or a racing fan just looking for an exciting showdown between some of the sport's biggest stars.

Strictly from a betting perspective, it appears that the Classic is going to be the more appealing race. A full field could very well turn out for the 1 ¼-mile event, and the various horses targeting the race represent a remarkable blend of ages, running styles, surface preferences, and training regimens. You have the four-time Grade 1 winner Accelerate leading the way, but champion West Coast could be dangerous in his second start off a long layoff, while the turf stars turned Grade 1-winning dirt runners Catholic Boy and Yoshida offer intrigue and the European-based duo of Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn add an international flair.

Throw in the former sprinter Mind Your Biscuits, the accomplished three-year-old McKinzie, the longshot Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) winner Discreet Lover, and the experienced four-year-olds Gunnevera and Pavel, and you have a wide-open edition of the Classic that could produce seemingly any result. Don't forget, the last time the Breeders' Cup Classic was held at Churchill Downs, a similarly wide-open field produced a significant upset as Drosselmeyer rallied to win at 14-1, triggering a $2 superfecta payoff of $47,631.80.

In contrast, the Breeders’ Cup Distaff field could be smaller and might feature a fewer number of serious win candidates, but what it lacks in betting appeal it more than makes up for in pure star power. The last two Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winners Abel Tasman (2017) and Monomoy Girl (2018) have won 10 Grade 1 races between them and are set for a memorable showdown over the same track where they achieved their Oaks victories.

If you’re having trouble remembering the last time two Kentucky Oaks winners squared off in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, that’s because it hasn’t happened since Keeper Hill (the ’98 Oaks winner) and Silverbulletday (the champion in ’99) finished fourth and sixth in the 1999 Distaff at Gulfstream Park. Actually, it’s been a dozen years since the last meeting of any kind between two Oaks winners; it most recently occurred in the 2006 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland, where the 2006 Oaks winner Lemons Forever and the 2005 champion Summerly finished fifth and seventh.

Suffice to say, the much-anticipated meeting of Abel Tasman and Monomoy Girl could be the highlight of the Breeders’ Cup from a sporting perspective, and when you add in the likes of Blue Prize, Midnight Bisou, Vale Dori, and Wow Cat (all of them Grade 1 winners during the last month), the Distaff field becomes even more exciting.

Which race are you most looking forward to at the 2018 Breeders’ Cup World Championships?