Breeders’ Cup Classic Preview; Ranking contenders by category

October 17th, 2023

The $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic serves as the centerpiece of the two-day, 14-race Breeders’ Cup World Championship, and a large field is shaping up for the 1 1/4-mile race at Santa Anita on Nov. 4.

Let’s rank the contenders into four categories.

Top win candidates

Arabian Knight

Winner of the Pacific Classic (G1), Arabian Knight will have to be caught for four-time Classic winner Bob Baffert. The once-beaten frontrunner possesses formidable speed and a home-court advantage, but Arabian Knight didn’t finish fast when stretching to 1 1/4 miles last time. He’ll need the right trip on front end.


A maiden scorer in mid-March, Arcangelo captured the Belmont S. (G1) two starts later, and the progressing gray colt carried his form forward in the Travers (G1), registering a 105 Brisnet Speed rating proving comfortably best. He’s adaptable, winning from up close and off the pace, and Arcangelo appears set for a strong showing if he can transfer his form to Santa Anita.

Geaux Rocket Ride

After easily defeating Arabian Knight in the Haskell (G1), Geaux Rocket Ride may have taken a slight step back in the Pacific Classic, coming up a neck short after taking aim on his rival in the stretch. The early/presser remains a rebound candidate for Richard Mandella, who won four Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita in 2003, and Geaux Rocket Ride will try to make a major impact from just off the pace.

Ushba Tesoro

After closing boldly to win the Dubai World Cup (G1) convincingly, Ushba Tesoro received six months off, tuning up for the Classic with a sharp win in Japan in late September. No horse has won the Dubai World Cup and Classic in the same season, and Ushba Tesoro’s connections may have the right strategy to peak at Santa Anita. A winner in seven of eight starts since switching to dirt, Ushba Tesoro is the most accomplished Japanese dirt horse to ship stateside, and the classy six-year-old will look to come rolling late in the Classic.

Upset candidates


Grade 1 winner Proxy got a start over the track, finishing a close second in March’s Santa Anita H. (G1), the same strategy employed by 2019 Classic winner Vino Rosso. His dull eighth in July’s Stephen Foster (G1) raised concerns, but Proxy turned things around with a sharp Grade 3 tally and a nose second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). He must avoid leaving himself too much to do from off the pace, but Proxy is in with a chance if he receives the proper stalking trip.

Saudi Crown

A debut maiden winner in April, Saudi Crown ran well finishing a close second in his first two stakes attempts, breaking through with a frontrunning score in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1). The speedy gray colt must deal with Arabian Knight and stretch out to 10 furlongs if connections opt for Classic over Dirt Mile (G1), but Saudi Crown’s increasing Brisnet Speed ratings (104-106-108) can’t be dismissed.

White Abarrio

White Abarrio stepped up with a 6 1/4-length romp in the Whitney (G1), his first win outside Gulfstream Park, and he’s come on since being transferred to Rick Dutrow in late spring. A challenging stretch out to 1 1/4 miles awaits – White Abarrio finished up the track in his lone attempt beyond nine furlongs – but his recent Brisnet Speed ratings are on par with top contenders.

Minor award consideration

Bright Future

Improving four-year-old exits game win in Jockey Club Gold Cup, appreciates 10 furlongs but Bright Future must revert to stalking tactics after favorable up-close trips.


Distance and class questions loom large for dedicated late runner, but Clapton has been on the upswing in recent starts, displaying a fine kick upsetting the Lukas Classic (G2) last out.


Kentucky Derby winner possesses a late kick, and Mage ran well finishing second in the Haskell two back, but he must find more after a dull last-place effort in the Travers.


Zandon recorded three consecutive seconds, and placed in seven of his previous eight starts (all graded stakes), before handling a soft field in the Woodward (G2). He’s won or placed in four previous starts outside of New York, and Zandon’s in-the-money consistency warrants attention.


Emblem Road

A surprise winner of last year’s Saudi Cup (G1), Emblem Road hasn’t started since a third in the Dubai World Cup, and he would likely find the Classic waters too deep. 

Il Miracolo

Grade 3 winner rallied for third in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) last out, but Il Miracolo doesn’t appear fast enough to make an impact in the Classic.

Senor Buscador

Middle-distance specialist passed rivals recording a non-threatening third in the Awesome Again (G1) and a fourth in the Pacific Classic (G1), but Senor Buscador showed his affinity for less ground winning the 1 1/16-mile San Diego (G2) three back. Dirt Mile probably a better fit.