BC Classic Picks

The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland Race Course Saturday evening is arguably the most important race in determining which Thoroughbred will be honored as Horse of the Year at the Eclipse Awards.

While a lot of racehorses have had successful seasons this year, there was no Triple Crown Winner and no transcendent superstar. That raises the stakes for the 37th Classic even higher.

The $6 million dollar, Grade 1 Classic drew a competitive field, including standout 3-year-olds as well as a very accomplished group of older horses.

The 1 ¼-mile dirt race is the concluding event in the 14-race World Championships held on Friday and Saturday, and it will be televised live on NBC with a scheduled Post Time of 5:15.

1. TACITUS [ML 20-1] Jockey: Jose Ortiz. Trainer: Bill Mott. He has earnings close to 3 million dollars, yet never Won a Grade 1 race. He is a very consistent racehorse, hitting the board in 11 of his 14 starts, but he’s only Won once since reeling off three straight victories early in his 3-year-old season a year ago. TACITUS is a one-paced runner with plenty of stamina, and if jockey Jose Ortiz keeps enough of that stamina in reserve this well-bred colt could make some noise in the stretch. However, he lacks finishing ability compared with several other top contenders here, and that makes him a Longshot as a Win candidate.

2. TIZ THE LAW [ML 3-1] Jockey: Manny Franco. Trainer: Barclay Tagg. The Belmont Stakes Winner enters this race a bit overshadowed, given that the Belmont was the first of the Triple Crown races this year. Based on his overall résumé, though, this strapping 3-year-old colt is a prime Win contender here. His best Speed Figures make him very competitive, and he already boasts a Win at 1 ¼ miles – an overpowering 5 ½-length score in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes. While he had no excuses in finishing 2nd to pace-setting Winner AUTHENTIC on Derby day, he still was two lengths clear of 3rd and was running well through the homestretch. He skipped the Preakness Stakes and has been patiently handled over the past two months in preparation of this race. Old-school trainer Barclay Tagg should have him ready to fire his best race in the Classic.

3. BY MY STANDARDS [ML 10-1] Jockey: Gabriel Saez. Trainer: Bret Calhoun. He enters the Classic winding down a breakout 4-year-old season in which he’s Won three Grade 2 stakes races at three different tracks and also finished 2nd in two marquee races, behind IMPROBABLE in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes and runner-up to TOM’S D’ETAT in the Grade 2 Stephan Foster Stakes. In his last outing, he easily Won the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs in September. The projected race shape for the Classic sets up well for his stalking running style, and he’s a must-use in exotic bets at what should be good odds. If everything falls his way and he gets a good trip, an upset is possible, although his race record and pedigree suggest a mile and an eighth is probably his best distance.

4. TOM’S D’ETAT [ML 6-1] Jockey: Joel Rosario. Trainer: Al Stall Jr. This summer he Won by 4 ¼-lengths in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster Stakes. In his next start, as the even-money favorite, in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga he stumbled at the break and spotted several lengths to the rest of the field. He rallied in the stretch to secure 3rd behind IMPROBABLE and BY MY STANDARDS in an admirable effort and hasn’t raced since. Given that he had an excuse in the Whitney and looking back at his 2020 form prior to that – TOM’S D’ETAT could be the best value play in the Classic. He already has a Win at Keeneland, romping in the slop in last year’s Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes, but on the negative side he’s only raced at 1 ¼ miles once before – and that came way back in his second career start in 2016. Still, his pedigree and his past efforts at 1 1/8 miles indicate that distance should not be an issue in the BC Classic. He is a leading Win candidate.

5. TITLE READY [ML 30-1] Jockey: Corey Lanerie. Trainer: Dallas Stewart.  Over the past three years, he has toiled in the Grade 2 and Grade 3 ranks with a few Allowance-optional claiming races mixed in. He’s amassed more than $500,000 dollars in earnings without Winning a Stakes race. This is the biggest test of his career, and his odds will reflect as much. TITLE READY started off his 5-year-old season in 2020 with a game Win in a 1 1/16-mile Allowance-optional claiming race at Keeneland, rallying to score by a head. In his last outing he ran a late-running 3rd in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes on October 10th at Keeneland. His recent good form at the Breeders’ Cup home track is a positive. If this longshot runs his very best race, he could boost the Trifecta and Superfecta payouts with a late rally. But that’s a BIG IF.    

6. Higher Power [20-1] Jockey: Flavien Prat. Trainer: John Sadler. Last year’s Pacific Classic Victor hasn’t reached the Winner’s circle in six starts since then. He will be one of the longest shots in the BC Classic field come Post Time and projects as a Trifecta and/or Superfecta filler against this tough field. He finished 3rd in last year’s Classic but was 8 ½ lengths behind Winner VINO ROSSO. He has not raced since finishing 4th in this year’s Pacific Classic to MAXIMUM SECURITY. He has been training steadily at Keeneland in recent weeks, which is a positive sign. Stamina is not an issue for HIGHER POWER in this 1 ¼-mile race, but finishing- speed is an issue.

7. GLOBAL CAMPAIGN [ML 20-1] Jockey: Javier Castellano. Trainer: Stanley Hough. After flashing his potential as a 3-year-old last year and Winning a Grade 3 Stakes, GLOBAL CAMPAIGN has matured nicely in 2020, Winning three out of four starts and scoring back-to-back Graded Stakes Wins heading into the Classic. In early September he lead at every call and drew clear in the stretch to defeat TACITUS in the Grade 1 Woodward Handicap, which was held at 1 ¼ miles this year. He’ll have his work cut out for him here, against a field that overall is substantially tougher than the ones he defeated earlier this year. Hitting the board is not out of the question for this son of Hall of Famer CURLIN.

8. IMPROBABLE [ML 5-2] Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. Trainer: Bob Baffert. Despite the presence of several top-class racehorses, IMPROBABLE has a good shot of going off as the Post-Time favorite in the Classic – and deservedly so. He enters off of three consecutive open-length Grade 1 Victories, starting with a 3 ¼-length score in the Hollywood Gold Cup in June. That was followed by a two-length Win in the Whitney in August, and then most recently a visually impressive, off-the-pace, 4 ½-length Win over in the Awesome Again Stakes on September 26th. He’s therefore already beaten the top older horses lined up for this BC Classic, and his back-to-back 120 Speed Figures earned in the Whitney and Awesome Again are better than any figures earned by the 3-year-olds exiting Triple Crown races.

9. AUTHENTIC [ML 6-1] Jockey: John Velazquez. Trainer: Bob Baffert. The Kentucky Derby Winner and Preakness runner-up will be a pace factor in the Classic, and one of the leading Win candidates. He’s never finished worse than 2nd and proved in his last two races that he can Win at distances longer than a mile and an eighth, which was a question mark for him prior to his Derby triumph. This field will be the toughest he’s faced yet. AUTHENTIC has never run a bad race and showed both in the Derby and Preakness that he’s a fighter in the stretch. Jockey strategy will come into play immediately for John Velazquez, as he’s sandwiched in between his two Bob Baffert stablemates, both of which have elite cruising speed.

10. MAXIMUM SECURITY [ML7-2] Jockey: Luis Saez. Trainer: Bob Baffert. Easily the most accomplished horse in the BC Classic field, he still enters Saturday’s race with something to prove. After Winning his first two starts of 2020 for new trainer Bob Baffert in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap and the Grade 1 Pacific Classic, he was then soundly defeated by stablemate IMPROBABLE in the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes in late September, losing by 4 ½ lengths. Encouragingly, he’s been training lights out since the Awesome Again, posting three bullet workouts through October 25th. Look for jockey Luis Saez to be more aggressive with him here and put him into contention right out of the gate from the outside post. He’s 2-for-2 at a mile and a quarter if you count his 1st place finish in the 2019 Kentucky Derby that he was disqualified from. Based on his body of work he should be considered for the Win.

The Daily Racing Blog‘s top five here are: #2 TIZ THE LAW, #9 AUTHENTIC, #4 TOM’S D’ETAT, #10 MAXIMUM SECURITY, and #8 IMPROBABLE.

You may have noticed that all three of Baffert’s entrants are in play. Love him, or hate him, the man’s record in Big Races is quite remarkable.

That said, we’re still going to try and beat him #2 TIZ THE LAW. He lost the Kentucky Derby to AUTHENTIC, but he was coming off the shortest rest of his career after a dominant Win in the Travers. Old-school trainer Barclay Tagg by-passed the Preakness aiming toward this very race. He is well rested and ready to roll.

Our wager will be a Trifecta Key-Box using the #2 with the #4-8-9-10.

Best of luck no matter how you play it.

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