The main event is set for this Saturday at Churchill Downs. The Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic has drawn a field of 14 horses, plus 2 horses on the also eligible list. The stars are out for this one, which should always be the case, with this being the richest race of the Breeders’ Cup. Past winners have used this race to solidify themselves as “Horse of the Year,” which could be the case for Accelerate if he can manage to win. To win he’ll have to beat a strong cast of horses and connections. Post time for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic will be 5:44 PM ET, which will be the 11th race on the card.
Accelerate headlines this field as the 5/2 favorite after a tremendous 2018 season. He has won 5 of 6 races this year, with 4 of those victories coming in Grade 1 events. He has also won 3 races in a row, which include: The Santa Anita Gold Cup, The Pacific Classic, and The Awesome Again Stakes. Today, he has drawn the far outside post of 14, which jockey Joel Rosario in the saddle as he continues to fill in for the injured Victor Espinoza.
Trainer Bob Baffert brings a pair of horses to Kentucky with the thoughts of taking down Accelerate. Those two horses are McKinzie and West Coast. Last year, West Coast finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, before three straight second place efforts in Grade 1 races this season. McKinzie was thought to be a prime Kentucky Derby contender, before an injury knocked him off the trail. However, he came back strong from his injury, winning the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby last time out. The horses will break side by side, with McKinzie in post 6 and West Coast in post 7.
Perhaps the coolest story of the Classic is Mind Your Biscuits, who has competed in the last two runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. However, late in the year trainer Chad Summers decided to stretch his star horse out in distance, which has worked out very well. Last time out he was a dominate winner in the Grade 3 Lukas Classic Stakes, which was contested right here at Churchill Downs. Tyler Gaffalione will have the mount as Mind Your Biscuits will break from post 11.
Here is the full field from the rail out: Thunder Snow, Roaring Lion, Catholic Boy, Gunnevera, Lone Sailor, McKinzie, West Coast, Pavel, Mendelssohn, Yoshida, Mind Your Biscuits, Axelrod, Discreet Lover, Accelerate, Collected, and Toast of New York.
#6 McKinzie – Before Justify, this was the horse that trainer Bob Baffert believed could win the Kentucky Derby and talked about very highly. To me, the biggest key to this race is Accelerate and trainer John Sadler’s very poor record outside of California. Look at this year with Accelerate as a perfect example. The horse has looked absolutely unbeatable in California, but when he shipped to Oaklawn Park, he lost to City of Light in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. That is enough of a question mark for me to explore other options in this race, which led me to McKinzie. His Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby triumph was extremely strong, with the likelihood of him improving off of that race being extremely high. Bob Baffert thought he’d win the Kentucky Derby with the horse. He didn’t get the Derby, but he’s going to get the Classic.
Horses to Use in Multi Race Wagers
#11 Mind Your Biscuits – There is no doubt this is the coolest horse in training. After hitting the board in the last two Breeders’ Cup Sprints, Mind Your Biscuits will now stretch out in distance in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Not only will he try his luck here, he actually has a big chance to win. His two-turn races have been strong so far, with a second place finish in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes and a win in the Grade 3 Lukas Classic Stakes. A win here would be an amazing achievement for a horse that has already accomplished so much.
#7 West Coast – Last year’s third place Classic finisher is back to give it another shot this season. This year he started off with a second place effort in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup, which lead to another second place effort in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup. After those challenging races he took an extended break, finally returning last time out in the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes, where he was once again second. However, he most likely got a lot out of that race, which sets him up for an improved performance in the biggest race of the season.
#14 Accelerate – All things being equal, this looks to be the best horse in the race. His 5 victories this year tower over the rest of this field, with 4 of those coming against Grade 1 company. However, trainer John Sadler has had a terrible time winning races away from California, which makes this a venerable favorite. Also, he drew horribly for this event, with post 14 not being ideal in the least bit. Those are enough reasons to go against him on the win end, however, he is still a horse that probably should be used in your pick 3, 4, 5, or 6 sequences.
#3 Catholic Boy – This horse truly is something special as he is a Grade 1 winner on the turf and the dirt. His dirt victory came last time out in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, where he crushed what looked be an evenly matched field. However, the only bad news is the fact that he hasn’t raced since, while missing some training time due to a fever. His recent works suggest he is ready to roll, though, which means he must be respected in a major way.
Get full race previews and wagering strategies for all 14 Breeders’ Cup races in our exclusive Inside Track to the Breeders’ Cup Wagering Guide HERE.
#9 Mendelssohn – Let’s all hope Mendelssohn behaves better this time around than he did in May at the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. It is good that he has some experience racing in this country under his belt now, which can only help in today’s event. He is becoming a horse that is tough on the front end, which could be the case again today. The likelihood of him winning is not strong, though, which makes him a perfect underneath play.
#4 Gunnevera – He is never going to be a threat to win in top-notch races. However, he can hit the board in about any race he enters, as he simply picks off horses down the stretch that are getting tired. Expect more of the same from him today. He will drop to the back, make a move around the turn, while continuing to run hard down the lane.
#1 Thunder Snow – The “bucking bronco” returns to Churchill Downs, which is an amazing storyline to follow. In case you missed it, Thunder Snow shipped to the United States to run in the 2017 Kentucky Derby, only to buck right out of the gate and refuse to run. However, he has been solid since that race. He won the Group 1 Dubai World Cup this season, while also coming back to the United States to finish second by a neck in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. Let’s hope he behaves himself better this time around at Churchill Downs.
#2 Roaring Lion – Who knows what to expect from him as he makes his dirt debut in this very difficult spot. We know he is an absolute super star on the turf, with an impressive international resume that includes 4 straight Group 1 victories. However, we have seen European horses struggle in the Classic in the past, which makes this horse a dicey play. At the price of 20-1, though, he seems like a long shot worth thinking about. He has massive talent and class.
#10 Yoshida – He made his dirt debut a winning won last time out in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. That field left a lot to be desired, though, making this race a much bigger challenge for him. The turf is still likely to be his best surface.
#12 Axelrod – If they gave out a “most improved” award this horse would be a top candidate to win it. He got better with each race this season, which led to wins in the Grade 3 Indiana Derby and Grade 3 Smarty Jones Stakes. Last time out he was second to McKinzie in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby.
#8 Pavel – The last time Pavel came to Churchill Downs he won the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Stakes. Since then, he only has one start, which came in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic. He was second to Accelerate in that start, beaten by over 12 lengths.
#13 Discreet Lover – This hard-knocker just keeps running well in big events. In his last start it all came together beautifully, with him pulling a major upset in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. He will be hard pressed to do it again today, though.
#5 Lone Sailor – There is no doubt he has had some tough luck this year. However, he finally broke through in his last start, which came in the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby, where he won by a nose. Now he must move up in class in a major way, which will not be easy.
#15 Collected – Amazingly, the second place finisher of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic is on the outside looking in as of now. He will need one scratch to draw into the race.
#16 Toast of New York – He will need two horses to scratch to get into the race. Look for him to run on Friday in the Grade 2 Marathon Stakes.
Want to know how we are betting this race? Download our 38-page Inside Track to the Breeders’ Cup Wagering Guide to get all our betting strategies and advice for all 14 Breeders’ Cup races.