Saturday, October 31, 2015; 5:35 p.m.–The end of American Pharoah’s racing career begins.
Yep, folks the streaking comet ride that has been American Pharoah 2015 is in its waning moments as he makes his final start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland Race Course. And this is a race that could prove memorable beyond it being the Triple Crown winner’s final start. This is a deep, talented field that could produce a heck of an entertaining race.
Here’s what I see.
Tonalist is coming off his second win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont. Distance is his thing, but he can’t be allowed to hang back a long time off the pace as Joel Rosario let him do in the 2014 Classic. If you look back at that race, Tonalist is the only horse closing any ground, but it was too late. Fortunately, John Velazquez is riding him now and seems to have him figured out. I think we’ll see a better run from Tonalist this year and I expect for him to have a bit of pace to run into. If you’ve read my blog over the past two years, you’ll know Tonalist has my heart as a racehorse and I am picking him to win Saturday although it’s going to require his best effort.
Keen Ice is continuing to improve, but I don’t expect him to win Saturday (By the way, his connections DO. Do with that information what you will). He caught a huge break in his win in the Travers Stakes with Frosted taking it to American Pharoah early and, I believe, American Pharoah being a bit of a tired horse going into that race. With his off the pace style, he may be there to pick up some pieces, but in my opinion, this field is too deep for him to win.
Frosted. He’s a very nice horse, but as I’ve said before, I don’t think he’s a true mile and a quarter horse. I’d play him for third or fourth in a Superfecta, but can’t get excited past that.
American Pharoah is tanned, rested, and ready to run. As usual, he’s been training lights out and I believe is ready for one final magnificent effort. He can win, and as demonstrated in the Travers Stakes, if he doesn’t it won’t be for lack of effort!
Gleneagles–This year’s shot for the elusive Breeders’Cup Classic win from Ireland’s Aidan O’Brien and the Ballydoyle crew. Hard to say. He’s a world-class turf miler, but has never run on dirt. His sire, Gaileo, ran a game race (6th) in the 2001 BC Classic, so more likely than not he can handle dirt by pedigree, but asking him to win on a different surface and at a distance he hasn’t conquered yet is a tall order.
Effinex–Nice horse who can be a bit quirky in his races, but is always well prepared and game.
Smooth Roller is the horse I know least about, but ran an impressive race in winning the Awesome Again Stakes last month at Santa Anita.
Hard Aces, I believe is well over his head in this race and this field.
Honor Code. Provided he can get the distance that he hasn’t run before, but has the pedigree (x A.P. Indy) to handle, he could well upset this field. Don’t necessarily despair when you see, IF you can see in a full screen shot at all, Honor Code WAY dead last in the early stages of the race. That’s his style. And when he’s right, he has a mind-blowing, devastating late turn of foot and can start picking the field off, one by one with a move like the cliche runaway freight train. And with the kind of kick he possesses, that momentum could get him the win. It won’t be by daylight, but this horse knows where the wire is.
And then there’s the mare of the moment Beholder. She’s already won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in 2013 and the Juvenile Fillies in 2012. This year, she took on the colts for the first time ever in the mile and a quarter Pacific Classic and all she did was stomp the boys by eight-plus lengths, becoming the first filly or mare to win the race in its 25-year history. And while that’s an impressive accomplishment, Beholder has yet to win outside California. She also briefly spiked a fever when she arrived at Keeneland. Finally, this group of colts is head and shoulders above what she beat in the Pacific Classic. Not quite sure what to do with her here; she’s a fabulous race mare. As much as I’d love to see her win, I’m not fully on board believing she’ll be a winner this day.
So there’s the field and my thoughts. Post time for the Classic is scheduled for 5:35 on NBC television. Safe trips for all and as always ENJOY the finest group of Thoroughbreds in training.