Brad Cox is set to have the top two choices in the betting for the Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar
The Breeders' Cup Classic is just over a week away and ten horses are now listed as probable for the highlight of the two-day festival at Del Mar.
Neil Monnery has a run through of who is expected to be in the starting gate a week Saturday...
Early speed seems to be the talk of the paddock as we approach the Breeders’ Cup Classic with the likes of Knicks Go, Medina Spirit and Art Collector considered probable for both the race and probable in terms for wanting to get out to the lead early so that they can control the pace.
Brad Cox is likely to have the two top choices in the betting once entries are finalized with Belmont winner Essential Quality expected to be the second choice on the Morning Line behind Knicks Go. It has already been a superb year for the 41 year-old.
Following a tough trip to the Saudi Cup where he tried to go stride for stride with Charlatan, the Paynter colt laid an egg in the Met Mile. Three straight wins since that disappointing run however including a nice Whitney victory over Maxfield brought him back to the forefront of the older division. Clear win contender.
Essential Quality has been the preeminent three-year-old all season long - well at least once Life is Good was removed from action for the bulk of the year. The only time EQ didn’t cross the line in front was in the big one - the Kentucky Derby itself - but he was forced four-wide around both turns and was still in the mix as they approached the line. Clear win contender.
Bob Baffert is expected to rock up with (current) Derby winner Medina Spirit who may have put together his best run of the year when defeating a decent crop of older horses in the Grade I Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita earlier this month. I’ve always been a big fan of this horse so I can’t remove him from my top tier of contenders at this point. I’ll be very interested to see what Post Position he draws come next week. Win Contender.
These three are the cream of the crop for me but I have another trio of contenders who if everything falls right will be very much in the mix.
Art Collector has been rejuvenated following a change of trainer. Three straight wins under Bill Mott including the Grade II Charles Town Classic and Grade I Woodward confirms what many thought - this is a darn good horse. Beating Maxfield is always noteworthy for a resume. He might be a very good price as I suspect he’ll be fifth or potentially even sixth in the betting. One to watch.
Steve Asmussen has managed to get more speed into Max Player and he now has the all-important Grade I win on his ledger having taken out the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Saratoga last time out. He’ll have plenty of support in the market but is below the top level of contenders for me.
Hot Rod Charlie however is a top contender for most whereas I have him a step below my top three. My problem with HRC is his wins have come when top three-year-olds haven’t been in the field. Of course the caveat of the Haskell disqualification should be noted and that was by far his best outing. I’m still sceptical but you have to at least consider him.
Express Train, Idol, Stiletto Boy and Tripoli are all expected to be part of the field but should be considered as outsiders.