Now that the 2019 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 1-2 is on the horizon, I have formulated my own early odds for what currently is shaping up to be a pretty wide-open Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Grade I event, which has a purse of $6 million, will be contested at 1 1/4 miles on Nov. 2.
Of course, the actual field for the BC Classic is far from set in stone. Still to be run are a number of races with BC Classic implications, such as the Grade I Pennsylvania Derby at Parx on Sept. 21. Also of importance, all to be contested on Sept. 28, are the Grade I Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita, Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park and Grade III Lukas Classic and Grade III Ack Ack Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Keeping in mind that the actual field for the BC Classic is a guessing game at this point, I have come up with these early odds for 13 candidates, plus an “All Others” option akin to the one offered in Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby Future Wager:
8-1 Code of Honor
8-1 Thunder Snow
10-1 Maximum Security
12-1 Higher Power
15-1 Catholic Boy
15-1 Omaha Beach
15-1 Seeking the Soul
15-1 Vino Rosso
8-1 “All Others”
Right now, there is some question whether or not Code of Honor, Thunder Snow and Game Winner are going to run. I decided to go ahead and include Code of Honor and Thunder Snow among the 13 individual horses, but elected to leave Game Winner out of that group for now.
Code of Honor, trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, rallied from ninth to win Saratoga’s Grade I Travers Stakes by three lengths on Aug. 24. However, his connections have indicated the BC Classic is far from a slam-dunk for Code of Honor.
Thunder Snow was withdrawn from Saratoga’s Grade I Whitney Stakes on Aug. 3 due to a temperature and cough. Thunder Snow then had Saratoga’s Grade I Woodward Stakes on Aug. 31 as a goal, but he also missed that race and has been sent back to Europe. Nevertheless, in terms of the BC Classic, it does not seem the door has been completely closed yet.
Game Winner missed the Grade I Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 24 due to a virus. He does not have a recorded workout since Aug. 13. Maybe Game Winner somehow can return to the work tab soon and get into BC Classic consideration, but right now that seems doubtful.
As for BC Classic favoritism, I see that role going to Grade I Whitney Stakes winner McKinzie. He has been the favorite in 11 consecutive starts. McKinzie was sent off as a 4-5 favorite when he won the 1 1/8-mile Whitney by 1 3/4 lengths in his most recent start.
McKinzie worked five furlongs Wednesday (Sept. 11) in a bullet 1:00.40 at Santa Anita for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. It was the fastest of 39 works at the distance.
Will McKinzie be a strong BC Classic favorite? I don’t think so. One reason I don’t expect him to be a strong favorite is the anticipated size of the BC Classic field. It’s probably going to have 14 starters.
Yes, when McKinzie won Santa Anita’s Grade I Malibu Stakes last Dec. 26, he was a heavy 6-5 favorite in a 14-horse field. But McKinzie’s foes in the BC Classic will be much tougher and draw much more betting support than those he defeated in the Malibu.
Also, there are those who wonder whether McKinzie might be better going shorter than 1 1/4 miles. He is winless in two starts at 1 1/4 miles, though one of those losses was by only a nose to Gift Box in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap last April 6.
Baffert has three BC Classic victories to his credit. He won it in 2014 with Bayern, 2015 with American Pharoah and 2016 with Arrogate.
Preservationist, conditioned by Jimmy Jerkens, probably will get quite a bit of respect from bettors in the BC Classic -- and deservedly so. He was an emphatic 4 1/2-length winner of Belmont’s Grade II Suburban Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on July 6 before finishing fourth behind McKinzie, Yoshida and Vino Rosso in the Whitney. Preservationist then rebounded to win the 1 1/8-mile Woodward by a half-length at 1 1/8 miles.
IMPRESSIVE ACHIEVEMENT BY NOBLE MISSION
Noble Mission was a multiple Group I winner who earned $2,202,807 during his racing career. Yet, despite those exploits, the son of Galileo has had to live in the shadow of his younger full brother Frankel, a superstar who never lost in 14 lifetime starts while earning $4,789,144.
But much credit goes to Noble Mission this summer for having sired the winner of two races, one on the dirt and one on the grass, both worth $1 million or more.
Noble Mission, who never raced on the dirt, is the sire of Code of Honor, who won Saratoga’s $1.25 million Travers on Aug. 24.
And then last Saturday at Saratoga, Spanish Mission rallied from ninth and won the $1 million Jockey Club Derby by a scant nose at 1 1/2 miles on the turf. David Simcock trains Spanish Mission, who previously had raced exclusively in Great Britain.
Limonair, a daughter of Street Cry, is the dam of Spanish Mission. Street Cry is the sire of two amazing retired female Thoroughbreds in America’s Zenyatta and Australia’s Winx.
ANNIVERSARY OF TURBULATOR’S FIRST STAKES WIN
Turbulator’s meteoric rise to stardom half a century ago is the stuff of which legends are made.
When Turbulator severely injured a knee while on a farm in Montana as a 2-year-old in 1967, it appeared he might well never run in a race. His breeder, owner and trainer, Tom Crawford, even went so far as to try and trade the young horse to a Montana neighbor for two cows. One look at the knee was all it took for the neighbor to politely -- and understandably -- decline the offer.
Turbulator did finally make it to the races at the age of 4. By now he had a co-owner, Marvin Farnsworth, a successful businessman in Spokane, Wash.
After Turbulator lost his first three starts at 4 in 1969, it appeared that if he ever did manage to graduate from the maiden ranks, he probably would find himself languishing in bottom-level claiming races. After all, in two of his first three starts, he failed to win maiden claiming races for lowly $1,500 and $2,000 prices.
Turbulator showed up at Spokane’s Playfair Race Course in the summer of 1969 as a 4-year-old maiden. He reeled off seven straight wins in just nine weeks at distances ranging from six furlongs to two miles.
This Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of Turbulator’s first stakes victory.
In 1969, following a maiden win on Aug. 22 and allowance triumphs on both Aug. 29 and Sept. 6, Turbulator faced Washington-breds in Playfair’s 25th running of the one-mile Washington State Breeders Handicap on Sept. 14.
“Slated to face the newly found sensation was G.G. Knock, Knute K., Little Jodi and company,” Jim Price wrote of Turbulator’s stakes debut in the Washington Horse magazine. “Favoritism went to Little Jodi, though not by much, but the race went to Turbulator.
“Riding Turbulator for the first time, Dan Castle had a snug hold on the gelding [in the early going]. When Turbulator was asked for speed, he was not denied. The margin at the wire was 4 1/2 widening lengths.”
Turbulator carried 114 pounds that day in what turned out to be the first of his 11 career stakes wins. He would go on to be acclaimed 1970 Washington-bred Horse of the Year. Turbulator won seven stakes races during his 1970 campaign in which he set a world record and broke two track records.
In 1970, Turbulator again won the Washington State Breeders Handicap. In a remarkable performance, after being 20 lengths behind early, he won going away by two lengths despite being burdened with 134 pounds, 20 more than he had carried when he had taken the 1969 renewal.
Due mainly to his come-from-behind style and unmistakable charisma, Turbulator became a huge fan favorite. The public often expressed its love for him by cheering for him whether he won or lost.
“When accorded a full-throated roar from the crowd, he usually had the manners to bow,” Price once wrote in the Daily Racing Form. “That was almost too much to believe.”
Similarly, the story of a horse becoming a world-record holder and four-footed celebrity after being turned down in a trade for a pair of cows was almost too much to believe. But it actually did happen.
THIS WEEK’S NTRA TOP THOROUGHBRED POLL
The outstanding grass runner Bricks and Mortar once again holds the No. 1 spot in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll this week. Trained by Chad Brown, the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Giant’s Causeway is five for five in 2009, with four of those wins coming at the Grade I level.
Here is the Top 10 in the NTRA poll for this week:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 402 Bricks and Mortar (33)
2. 342 Midnight Bisou (3)
3. 322 McKinzie (3)
4. 270 Mitole
5. 255 Sistercharlie
6. 93 World of Trouble
7. 82 Imperial Hint
8. 81 Code of Honor
8. 81 Elate
10. 78 Catalina Cruiser