Breeders’ Cup Classic Spotlight – Contenders and Pretenders

BY JOSHUA PRAIN

It’s officially Breeders’ Cup week and after tonight’s Post Position draw at Equestricon in downtown Louisville, we can finally start to truly handicap the race. Let’s find out what makes each entrant a contender and what makes them a pretender in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

1) THUNDER SNOW (Ire)

Jockey: Christophe Soumillon

Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor

Owner: Godolphin Racing LLC

Contender: Has never been worst than 2nd over fast dirt and ran a bang-up race last out in the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Pretender:  Everyone remembers his rodeo display in his lone start at Churchill Downs in last year’s Kentucky Derby over a sloppy track.  We could see similar conditions again.

2) ROARING LION

Jockey: Oisin Murphy

Trainer: John Gosden

Owner: Qatar Racing Limited

Contender:  By Kitten’s Joy and out of a Street Sense mare, he should love the distance if he takes to the surface.

Pretender: The obvious stand out. Never raced over the dirt or outside of Europe.

3) CATHOLIC BOY

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Trainer: Jonathan Thomas

Owner: Robert LaPenta, Madaket Stables LLC, Siena Farm LLC, Twin Creeks Racing Stables LLC

Contender: Has brought his “A” game in every start except the Florida Derby earlier this year, proving reliable with G1 wins on turf and dirt.

Pretender:  First start against older and first start at Churchill Downs.

4) GUNNEVERA

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Trainer: Antonio Sano

Owner: Margoth

Contender: Very lightly raced this year. Finished 2nd in the G1 Woodward last out even after being extremely wide.  Could peak at the right time.

Pretender: 0 for 9 at the G1 level.

5) LONE SAILOR

Jockey: James Graham

Trainer: Thomas Amoss

Owner: G M B Racing

Contender: Late running style could benefit him if we see a hot pace.

Pretender: Has never faced older horses and has especially never seen a field of this magnitude. Only two lifetime wins and has never recorded a beyer speed figure over 95.

6) MCKINZIE

Jockey: Mike Smith

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owner: Karl Watson, Michael Pegram, and Paul Weitman

Contender: Baffert’s three wins in the Classic have all been with three-year-olds. Showed he did not miss a beat in his G1 Pennsylvania Derby win last out, his first start off a six-month layoff.

Pretender: With only five lifetime starts, he is the most lightly seasoned entrant in this field.

7) WEST COAST

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owner: Gary and Mary West

Contender: This will be his 2nd start off a six-month layoff and he is very likely to improve.  Doesn’t have to face Gun Runner this year!

Pretender: Has played bridesmaid in all three of his 2018 starts.

8) PAVEL

Jockey: Mario Gutierrez

Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Owner: Reddam Racing LLC

Contender: Seemed to love the surface when winning the G1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs back in June. After a grueling 3-year-old campaign last year, the Doug O’Neill trainee should come in fresh having run just three races in the past 7 months.

Pretender: Has been beaten by the favorite Accelerate three times. What changes today?

9) MENDELSSOHN

Jockey: Ryan Moore

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Owner: Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith

Contender: He’s finally bringing it all together! Last two dirt starts have been very impressive, although in defeat.  The fact that trainer Aidan O’Brien was so adamant on getting him to this race should be a great sign for his backers.

Pretender:  Dreadful in his lone start at Churchill Downs, finishing last in this year’s Kentucky Derby.

10) YOSHIDA (Jpn)

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer: William Mott

Owner: WinStar Farm LLC, China Horse Club International Ltd, SF Racing LLC, Head of Plains Partners LLC

Contender: 1 for 1 lifetime on the dirt after taking the G1 Woodward last out at Saratoga. Could be even better going 1 ¼ miles.

Pretender:  Lone dirt win was against a questionable field, although Leofric came back to flatter him this past weekend at Keeneland.

11) MIND YOUR BISCUITS

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer: Chad Summers

Owner: Shadai Farm, J Stables LLC, Head of Plains Partners LLC, M. Scott Summers, Daniel Summers, Chad Summers, and Michael Kisber

Contender: The winningest New York bred of all-time hand handled just about everything that’s been thrown his way. Only off the board 3 times in 24 lifetime starts.  Easily handled the field when winning the G3 Lukas Classic in his lone start at Churchill Downs back in late September.

Pretender: Thought of as a sprinter for most of his career, he’s only seen two-turns twice now. This will be his first time going 1 ¼ miles.

12) AXELROD

Jockey: Joe Bravo

Trainer: Michael McCarthy

Owner: Phoenix Thoroughbred III and Slam Dunk Racing

Contender: Phoenix Thoroughbred’s saw enough potential in this colt to buy a majority interest. Trainer Michael McCarthy has had a break out year.

Pretender: Faded against McKinzie last out in the G1 Pennsylvania Derby going 1 1/8 miles for the first time. Distance is a question mark as he now tries 1 ¼ for the first time.

13) DISCREET LOVER

Jockey: Manuel Franco

Trainer: Uriah St. Louis

Owner: Uriah St. Louis

Contender: War Horse! By far the most experienced of the bunch with 44 lifetime starts.

Pretender: Likely needs to run a career best race for the 2nd straight time after shocking the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup last out.  Will also need very fast early fractions to have a chance.

14) ACCELERATE

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: John Sadler

Owner: Hronis Racing LLC

Contender: Has improved tremendously during his 5-year-old campaign and rides a three-race win streak in the Classic, all at the G1 level.

Pretender: Has only shipped outside of California one time, which resulted in a 2nd place finish in this year’s Oaklawn Handicap.  Trainer John Sadler is 0 for 41 in the Breeders’ Cup.

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