It is the richest race in the United States with a purse of $6 million and the main event on Breeders’ Cup Saturday. The Classic, run at one-mile-and-a-quarter at southern California’s Santa Anita Park welcomes the days biggest favorite, California Chrome, and nine rivals. While Chrome, six for six this year with a win in the worlds richest race, the $10 million Dubai World Cup, appears to be a a standout in a race that did not come up as strong as previous runnings, if you can find a way to beat him, the payoffs will be hefty. Let’s look at some of the key horses.
2016 Breeders Cup Classic Odds and Analysis
California Chrome (1/1)
Forgotten by many when American Pharoah not only won the Triple Crown in 2015, but took the Breeders’ Cup Classic too, California Chrome was the “it” horse in 2014. He won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness before finishing fourth, beaten by less than two lengths in the Belmont Stakes. Perhaps overly raced following the Triple Crown, Chrome won just one of his next six races, finishing third at the Classic in 2014, and second in Dubai in 2015. Since then he has not lost, putting together speed figures of 111, 113, and 112 in the last three wins. Based in California, California Chrome has five wins at the distance, and five victories over the track.
There have been few if any more spectacular races run this year than his performance in The Travers at Saratoga in late August. He beat a solid field by more than 13 lengths earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 122. The win came at almost 12/1 because it was only his fifth career start. The first four, two maiden races, and two optional claiming events, did not feature stiff competition. He is the second choice because of one race that can be looked at as a fluke, or an indication he is the next super horse. The connections of Bob Baffert and Mike Smith lend lots of credibility.
He was seventh in this race last year, the third time he followed American Pharoah around the track without passing him. Only six for 18 in his career, Frosted won a warm-up race in Dubai before finishing five lengths behind California Chrome in the World Cup. He returned to the U.S. and romped in the Met Mile at Belmont, returning to win the Whitney at Saratoga. In early September he finished third by a neck in the Woodward Stakes at the Spa.
Two for two at the distance, and four for four at Santa Anita, this is a significant step up in class for the five year old trained by David Hoffmans. His last four races are the best of his 13 race career and include three wins most notable the Gold Cup in June, his last trip around the track. Some horses mature as their career evolves. Melatonin needed five races to break his maiden, and was running in optional claiming events as recently as February.
He ran a shocking second to American Pharoah in this race last year at 33/1. Since then, the Jimmy Jerkens trained challenger has three wins in seven races with three setbacks coming against horses entered today, Frosted, Melatonin and Hoppertunity. A consistent type, he’ll run well, but is it good enough?
Baffert’s second horse, he was third in Dubai to California Chrome, fourth against Melatonin in the Gold Cup, finished eight lengths behind Chrome in the Pacific Classic, and last time out held off Effinex in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Hoppertunity should be running late, but unless the pace is blistering, he rarely runs down this caliber of horse.
The other four horses are all at least 20/1. It’s never a great idea to toss out trainer Todd Pletcher, and his horse, Keen Ice (20/1) finished fourth in this race last year. However, he is two for 17 in his career and has only hit the board once in his last six races. Shaman Ghost (20/1) is trained by Jerkins and won his only race since July, the Woodward at Saratoga in early September. He beat Frosted in that race, and while it was his sixth win in a dozen tries, it was the only one that remotely puts him in contention against this group. War Story (30/1) went off at 137/1 when finishing 23 lengths behind Chrome at the Pacific Classic. Win the Space (30/1) has never beaten better than optional claimers.
There aren’t a lot of good options besides California Chrome. At 5/1 taking a chance on Arrogate, who drew the number 10 post position is worthwhile, but not at 5/2. Frosted has raced against excellent competition, and his 123 Beyer Figure at the Metropolitan Handicap is the top figure in the race. This isn’t his preferred distance, but he offers talent and value, and is the play to win.
Heather Moreton [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.