#4 American Pharoah – Saying goodbye to a Triple Crown Winner, the first in 37 years, is not going to be easy. However, if he wins it will be much more easier than if he loses! Look there is no doubt he wasn’t quite 100% at the Travers, but his workouts and weight since suggest he’s BACK in a big way. I’ve said it every time he has ran this year…it always makes it easy to handicap when you know if American Pharoah shows up with his best race it won’t matter what any other horse does because he’s going to win. I believe just that once again. Here is hoping for a storybook ending for a horse that has changed the game, and brought my generation of horse racing fans something we thought we’d never see…a Triple Crown. One time Pharoah…one time!
#3 Frosted – Keen Ice is kind of the “other three year old buzz horse” at the moment, but for me I think it’s Frosted that’s coming in great and flying under the radar. Think about this for a second…Frosted has danced every dance this year and ran toe to toe with the Triple Crown winner at Saratoga basically running him into the ground and setting it up for Keen Ice to win. You would think the horse would have been exhausted afterward but that was not the case! He came back just three weeks later and dominated the Pennsylvania Derby. Also his last workout before the Classic…a bullet! This horse might be world class and we haven’t noticed because of American Pharoah. I still do not think he can beat American Pharoah, but I think he can beat the others.
#10 Beholder – It’s a mixed bag with Beholder…but her talent makes me too nervous to put her anywhere but the “Likely Winners” category. I do not like that she got a slight fever when arriving at Keeneland, and I also don’t like that she has never ran well outside of California. However, you have to look at her latest workout at Keeneland and think she’s ready to run a BIG TIME race, and that she’s thriving at that track. Plus…wow she’s been absolutely jaw dropping in all of her races this year. Her turn of foot is just incredible…sure hop she shows up with her best race. Would be great for racing.
#2 Keen Ice – That last workout has me completely sold…no question this horse has progressed amazingly. American Pharoah may have not been his best in the Travers, but it still took a hell of a race to beat him and Keen Ice did just that. Now it looks like he’s even better than that last effort…how scary is that? If this were last years classic field I think I would actually be very tempted to pick him. However, this field is just ridiculous so I stuck him in the “Exotic Plays” because I’m not sure he can run down the top horses with the pace likely not to be as swift as normal.
#1 Tonalist – Let me just say that I LOVE this horse. Maybe I didn’t pick him to win this time, but he’s as honest as they come and I’m a little tired of him not getting his due credit. I expect the same thing from him in this one as we’ve seen his entire career: A solid effort that gives him a shot in the end. I don’t think he’s quite good enough to run down the front runners, so I think their hand will be forced to try to lay a big closer this time. If he can do it from the rail and work out a trip maybe he can pull the upset.
#9 Honor Code – I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t given this horse enough credit throughout his career, and I’m probably doing it again in what will be his final race. The horse has had some problems for sure, and the job Shug has done keeping him together and getting the best out of him has been nothing short of unbelievable. At his best this is one the most devastating closers we’ve seen. At his worst he looks like a broken down old car. If we see his best it will be quite a show as he’ll be running down a Triple Crown winner and a beast of a filly, but at a mile and quarter I’m still (reluctantly) skeptical.
#5 Gleneagles – Will he take to the dirt? If so he is classy enough to be extremely competitive and even win this race. Can he do it…or is he a turf horse? I don’t think anyone knows the answer, but we all know he is extremely classy and talented. Intrigued to see what he can do.
#6 Effinex – Has a cool name and did pull off a big upset of Tonalist at Belmont over the summer, but overall I don’t think he’s fast enough to beat many of these. Who can blame them for taking a shot, but this one won’t be making an impact.
#7 Smooth Roller – This horse looks to have an excellent future, but with just four races under his belt this race will be extremely difficult for him. Was a runaway winner of the Awesome Again in a stylish effort, but that race was extremely weak for a Grade 1. Maybe one to watch for 2016…but not in the Classic.
#8 Hard Aces – Would be one of the biggest upsets in the history of racing…maybe THE biggest!