Three-Year-Olds rule early Classic projections

August 16th, 2023

The Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) landscape changed when the presumed favorite, Cody’s Wish, faltered on the stretch-out to 1 1/8 miles in the Whitney (G1) at Saratoga, checking in fourth at odds-on. Bill Mott will redirect the classy five-year-old to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), which appeared to be the probable destination for White Abarrio until his 6 1/4-length upset win in the Whitney.

The 1 1/4-mile Classic distance will be a challenge for White Abarrio, who recorded three of his first five wins at a one-turn distance and took advantage of a suspect group in the Whitney after Cody’s Wish came up empty. Rick Dutrow still mentioned the Dirt Mile as an option following the Whitney, which seems highly unlikely given the state of the older horse division, and said he plans to train White Abarrio up to the Breeders’ Cup in early November.

White Abarrio would need to back up his Whitney performance, in another dirt route race, before I considered him as an expected short price in the Classic. He’s the top-ranked older horse under consideration, leading a list that includes Charge It, Proxy, Rattle N Roll, and Zandon, but I lack confidence in the lot.

Inconsistency is a common trait in the division; most are either too slow or poorly suited to the 1 1/4-mile Classic distance. As a result, three-year-olds appear poised to play a serious role in the outcome.

I expect three-year-olds to dominate at Santa Anita.

My top four Classic contenders, in alphabetical order, are Arcangelo, Forte, Geaux Rocket Ride, and Mage. And the possibility exists for another three-year-old to emerge before early November.

Ten furlongs is a better fit for prominent sophomores, and a pair of big 1 1/4-mile races will provide clarity in the immediate future.

Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage, Belmont S. (G1) victor Arcangelo, and multiple Grade 1 hero Forte, the probable favorite following his win in the July 29 Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga, are set for the $1.25 million Travers (G1) on Aug. 26. Geaux Rocket Ride, who impressively defeated Mage in the July 19 Haskell (G1) at Monmouth Park, will be favored over older horses in the $1 million Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar a week later.

With divisional honors still up for grabs, those races carry added importance, but the Classic on Nov. 4 may ultimately decide the three-year-old male championship.

I will continue to preview the Classic picture after the Travers and Pacific Classic.