In the week Breeders’ Cup pre-entries have been released the last few years, we’ve taken a closer look at some of the likeliest favorites for the two-day fixture and ranked them in order of most vulnerable to least vulnerable.
With a number of races seemingly wide open, and the European contingent in others not yet confirmed and/or fluid at this writing, our list is a bit shorter this year.
Improbable (Breeders’ Cup Classic)
‘the depth of this field ensures this will be a potentially difficult test’
Following an underwhelming 3-year-old campaign, this colt has transformed into a bona fide older star with Grade 1 tallies on both coasts over rivals he’ll meet again at Keeneland. He might indeed be everything he seems to have become, but on the other hand this year’s Classic is shaping up as one of the most contentious in years. Not only are stablemate Maximum Security (a below par second in the Awesome Again [G1]) and Tom’s d’Etat (a troubled third in the Whitney [G1]) back to make amends, but stablemate Authentic and Tiz the Law are two quality representatives from the classic generation. He won’t be a super-short favorite, but the depth of this field ensures this will be a potentially difficult test.
Gamine (Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint)
Just based on her performances in the Acorn (G1) and Test (G1), we’ve probably seen no better one-turn filly of any age so far this year. After failing to see out 9 furlongs in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), connections are rightly aiming for this Breeders’ Cup event instead of the Distaff.
However, controversy has been following this miss for much of the season, and this race has historically been ripe for major upsets. A case in point was the odds-on loss by this stable’s Marley’s Freedom two years ago at Churchill Downs after she drew post 14. There will be plenty of other speed signed on here and some capable closers will be ready to take full advantage.
Rushing Fall (Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf)
If there’s an undisputed queen of the Keeneland turf, perhaps Keeneland as a whole in the 80-plus year history of the track, it’s Rushing Fall. Since the fall of 2017, she’s accounted for Jessamine (G3), Appalachian (G2), Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1), and two editions of the Jenny Wiley (G1).
Her lone setback locally was to stablemate and eventual Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) heroine Uni in last year’s First Lady (G1). Although better than ever this season, she’s had small margin for error in her last couple of starts. She’ll enter this fresh and capable over any ground conditions, but does stretch out to 1 3/16 miles for the first time and might be tested by the quality of foreign competition she hasn’t necessarily had to face in the past. Tarnawa and Cayenne Pepper are potentially two examples.
Jackie’s Warrior (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile)
Perhaps the most exciting favorite for this race since Uncle Mo a decade ago, he sure has dazzled in all three stakes appearances to date, including a stakes-record triumph in the Hopeful (G1) and a confident, authoritative display in the Champagne (G1) over a mile.
It remains to be seen how far this colt will eventually want to go, though 1 1/16 miles will surely be within his scope. However, he’ll be asked to negotiate two turns for the first time at Keeneland, a test that many of his primary foes have already passed. Still seems the most precocious of these and he’ll serve as singles fodder for many bettors on Breeders’ Cup Friday.
Monomoy Girl (Breeders’ Cup Distaff)
After missing all of last season, Monomoy Girl has more or less reclaimed her throne as the country’s leading female dirt performer. Barring any surprises, the path is generally clear for her to secure the Eclipse Award in her category with a modicum of a decent effort in the Distaff.
On paper, the race seemingly comes down to her and likely 3-year-old champion Swiss Skydiver, who might wind up in the Classic instead after qualifying for that race by winning the Preakness (G1). Without Swiss Skydiver, Monomoy Girl would be a very heavy and deserving favorite to win the Distaff. If the younger rival is in, though, Monomoy Girl is still a strong choice but far from a lock.