Meet the 2022 Breeders' Cup Classic contenders

November 3rd, 2022

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson takes a horse-by-horse look at pre-entries for the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Keeneland, exploring the pros and cons of each contender.

Cyberknife winning the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park (Photo by Coady Photography)


Pros: Two-time Grade 1 winner defeated accomplished Breeders’ Cup contenders like Secret Oath, Taiba, and Jack Christopher to win the Arkansas Derby (G1) and Haskell (G1).

Cons: Hasn’t run as fast as the favorites on the Brisnet Speed rating scale and might be better running shorter than 1 1/4 miles.

Epicenter winning the Risen Star S. (G2) at Fair Grounds (Photo by Hodges Photography / Amanda Hodges Weir)


Pros: Consistent and durable sophomore beat Cyberknife by 5 1/4 lengths to win the 1 1/4-mile Travers (G1) in a fast time.

Cons: He’s yet to face older horses.

Flightline winning the Malibu S. (G1) Santa Anita (Photo by


Pros: Unbeaten and untested runner dominated the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic (G1) by 19 1/4 lengths, earning a massive 117 Brisnet Speed rating. A repeat surely wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Cons: His two best Brisnet Speed ratings have been earned at Del Mar, and he’s never run at Keeneland.

RELATED: Flightline seeks new heights in Breeders' Cup Classic

Happy Saver winning the 2022 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park (Photo by Coglianese Photos)

Happy Saver

Pros: Won the 2020 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) racing 1 1/4 miles and has cracked the trifecta in 11 of his 12 starts.

Cons: Faltered to fourth place when last seen in the Lukas Classic (G2) and has finished behind many of his Breeders’ Cup rivals (including Flightline) this season.

Hot Rod Charlie winning the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx Racing (Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO)

Hot Rod Charlie

Pros: Dubai World Cup (G1) runner-up is a proven entity over 1 1/4 miles and rarely finishes out of the trifecta. He recently out-dueled Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Rich Strike to win the Lukas Classic (G2).

Cons: He was beaten to fourth place in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic and typically settles for minor awards when facing Grade 1 company.

Life Is Good winning the Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park (Photo by Lauren King/Coglianese Photos)

Life Is Good

Pros: Brilliant 2021 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner has rattled off victories in the Pegasus World Cup (G1), Whitney S. (G1), and Woodward S. (G1) this season.

Cons: His lone previous try over 1 1/4 miles produced a fading fourth-place finish in the Dubai World Cup (G1).

Olympiad winning a Keeneland allowance (Photo by Coady Photography)


Pros: Five-time graded stakes winner proved his worth over 1 1/4 miles when posting a two-length triumph in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1).

Cons: Finished well behind Life Is Good, Happy Saver, and Hot Rod Charlie in the Whitney S. (G1) during the summer.

Rich Strike winning the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs (Photo by

Rich Strike

Pros: Stretch-running sophomore rallied to defeat Epicenter in the Kentucky Derby racing 1 1/4 miles.

Cons: He capitalized on a historically fast pace in the Kentucky Derby and his best efforts have come at Churchill Downs.

RELATED: From claim to fame, Rich Strike springs 80-1 Kentucky Derby upset

Taiba winning the Santa Anita Derby (G1) at Santa Anita (Photo by Benoit Photo)


Pros: Talented three-year-old posted lofty Brisnet Speed ratings of 111 and 113 when winning the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Pennsylvania Derby (G1) in comfortable fashion. Trainer Bob Baffert has won the Breeders’ Cup Classic four times.

Cons: He’s yet to face older rivals.