Breeders' Cup Analysis: 3yo vs. Older - Who Has the Edge?

by Joe Kristrufek

How 3yo’s have fared in each of the nine eligible Breeders’ Cup races (% of wins).

Race   #  3yo Older
Classic               34 35.30% 64.70%
Distaff              34 29.40% 70.60%
Dirt Mile           11 27.30% 72.70%
Turf                  34  26.50% 73.50%
Sprint                34 26.50% 73.50%
Mile                  34 26.50% 73.50%
F&M Turf     19 26.30% 73.70%
Turf Sprint    10 10% 90%
F&M Sprint    11   0% 100%


Breeders’ Cup Classic 3yo Winners

Year Horse Odds Note
2016 Arrogate 8-5 Defeated California Chrome is a memorable stretch battle.
2015 American Pharoah**  3-5* Triple Crown champ bounced back fresh off loss in the Travers.
2014 Bayern 6-1 Slammed several rivals out of the gate but his wire job stood.    
2008 Raven’s Pass 13-1 Euro turf specialist took advantage of the synthetic surface.
2007 Curlin 4-1 Dominated in the slop over Derby winner Street Sense, etc.. 
2000 Tiznow 9-1 Battled every step of the way and outgamed Giant’s Causeway.
1999 Cat Thief 19-1 Longshots ruled this Classic – superfecta paid $692K for a buck.
1994 Concern 7-1 Finished 2nd or 3rd in seven straight races leading up to Classic.
1992 A. P. Indy 2-1* Bounced back off consecutive losses to win his final career start.
1990 Unbridled* 6-1 Won Derby & Classic but Criminal Type named Horse of Year. 
1989 Sunday Silence* 2-1 Defeated arch-rival and fellow 3-year-old Easy Goer by a neck.
1985 Proud Truth 7-1 Troubled 5th in Kentucky Derby, Classic marked 4th straight win.

** Won Triple Crown
* Won Kentucky Derby

3-year-olds listed as possible to compete in 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Saturday, November 3: Axelrod, Bravazo, Catholic Boy, Lone Sailor, McKinzie, Mendelssohn and Roaring Lion.

Led by retired Triple Crown winner Justify, the top five finishers in the Kentucky Derby have all fallen by the wayside. Collectively, the older horses in the Classic division, led by likely favorite Accelerate, appear to hold a stronger hand, but there is an absolute bomber that I have taken a liking to. Here are my quick thoughts on each, in order of preference (prior to final preparations and draw) with my fair-line odds.

Axelrod (30-1) – You might think I’m nuts, but I like this underdog overachiever’s chances to get a piece of it in the Classic. His wins in the Indiana Derby and Smarty Jones were even better than they looked on paper and he further legitimized himself with a game second behind McKinzie in the Pennsylvania Derby. A mere $25,000 buy with a sprinter’s pedigree, he’s far exceeded expectations already. Ten furlongs and world class company stand in his way, but I’m confident he’ll run his race and the potential reward far exceeds the risk.

Catholic Boy (8-1) – The Travers win was a breakthrough performance, but he did enjoy a perfect, pressing trip over a track that favored front-running types. The plan immediately after was to train up to the Breeders’ Cup. Was forced to miss a few days of training with a minor sickness, but he got back on track with a five furlong breeze on October 14.

McKinzie (6-1) – Bob Baffert thought this was his best Kentucky Derby horse early in the spring, but he passed the baton off the Justify and went to the sidelines instead. A return win off a 6 ½ month layoff in the Pennsylvania Derby reignited the fire for a lot of people, but I can’t get over the tail swishing. I just can’t.

Mendelssohn (12-1) – His Kentucky Derby failure was circumstantial, and he’s taken solid steps forward in all three runs since. I just don’t think ten furlongs is his best game.

Roaring Lion (12-1) – He’s slated to compete in the Queen Elizabeth II this weekend over a turf mile, but there’s still a chance he could swing back on short rest to contest the Classic. He’s one of the best horses in the world…on grass, and the pedigree is all green on both sides. That being said, are there any rivals to truly fear in this year’s Classic. I say not.

Bravazo (40-1) – Throwback has run in six consecutive grade ones, and off the rare dull effort in the Pennsylvania Derby, it appears as though the taxing campaign is finally catching up with him.

Lone Sailor (50-1) – Finally broke through with a win in the Oklahoma Derby, but the Classic would be asking a lot. He’s on the grounds, so he’ll likely run, but I’d like his chances to get a piece better in the Dirt Mile, where he would be in position to settle and finish.

The 2018 Kentucky Derby Race Replay

 

Breeders’ Cup Distaff 3yo Winners

Year Horse Odds Note
2014 Untapable* 8-5* Only loss from seven starts on the year was vs. boys in Haskell. 
2013 Beholder 5-2 Legend won three Breeders’ Cup races in her illustrious career.
2011 Royal Delta 2-1* Would go on to repeat as Distaff champ the following season.
2004 Ashado* 2-1* Won the Juvenile Fillies the year prior; 3rd in ’05 Distaff. 
2001 Unbridled Elaine 12-1 Not only pulled off the upset, but overcame a nightmarish trip. 
2000 Spain 55-1 2-5 favorite RIboletta through in a clunker, opening the door. 
1997 Ajina 9-2 Sealed the 3-year-old championship in a wide open division.
1993 Hollywood Wildcat 6-5* Distaff was her fifth consecutive win in dominating season.        
1991 Dance Smartly 1-2* Canadian champ won all eight of her starts as a 3-year-old. 
1987 Sacahuista 5-2 Nine consecutive losses before winning Spinster & Distaff. 

* Won Kentucky Oaks

3-year-olds listed as possible to compete in 2018 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs on Saturday, November 3: Eskimo Kisses, Midnight Bisou, Monomoy Girl and Wonder Gadot.

Interestingly enough, the top 3-year-old fillies likely to compete in the Distaff comprised the top four in Kentucky Oaks. Here are my quick thoughts on each, in order of preference (prior to final preparations and draw) with my fair-line odds.

Monomoy Girl (5-2) – The queen of this class, hooves down. She’s crossed the finish line first in all six of her starts this season, and although she was disqualified in the Cotillion at Parx, she was much the best. Pinned down on the DEAD rail with a no hope longshot glued to her outside, she finally got clear at the top of the stretch before wandering about. The level of concern heading into the Distaff is .0005%.

Midnight Bisou (10-1) – She is what she is, which is pretty good, but likely not good enough against Monomoy Girl, Abel Tasman and even Blue Prize.

Eskimo Kisses (20-1) – Don’t give her too much credit for the Alabama win. It was over ten furlongs (the Distaff is nine), and the surface really suited her that day. She was exposed in the Spinster.

Wonder Gadot (30-1) – She was much the best against Canadian-breds in consecutive starts but ran lots of seconds and thirds behind divisional foes before that. Dull in both the Travers and Cotillion and appears to be over the top.

The 2018 Kentucky Oaks Race Replay