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A total of 11 horses have pre-entered this year’s Breeders’ Cup Longines Classic, the premiere race of the weekend. This year’s race seems as wide open as it has ever been; nearly every horse in the field has a chance at a piece of the outstanding $6,000,000 purse. The Grade 1 event will be contested over 1 1/4 miles on Saturday, November 2, at Santa Anita Park.
While there is not a standout in this year’s field, Bob Baffert’s McKinzie has led the Breeders’ Cup Classic media poll all season long. The 4-year-old Street Sense colt made a splash last year when coming home first in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1), but he struggled to a ninth-place finish in last year’s Classic. This season, he has two wins in six starts, including the Whitney Stakes (G1) at Saratoga two starts back. However, he is winless at Santa Anita Park this season, having finished second in three local graded stakes races.
One horse who is undefeated this year at Santa Anita Park is the Todd Pletcher-trained Vino Rosso, who shipped to Southern California in May to win the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) at odds of 4/1. Vino Rosso has won two of five starts this season, but many believe that his win total should be higher. Last time out, he crossed the wire first in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park, but he was disqualified and placed second due to interference in the stretch. Regardless of the official outcome, it is important to note that this Curlin colt has crossed the wire first in both races going 1 1/4 miles this season. His connections have been working backwards for this race ever since winning at Santa Anita in the spring.
The horse that benefited from Vino Rosso’s disqualification in the Jockey Club Gold Cup was Code of Honor, who was moved up to first after getting nosed out at the wire. The Shug McGaughey trainee has emerged as the top 3-year-old in the country heading into the Breeders’ Cup, thanks in large part to a sensational 3-length triumph in the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga this summer. He also won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park in the spring before finishing second (via Maximum Security’s disqualification) in the Kentucky Derby (G1). While he currently leads the 3-year-old male division, this start is ultra-important to his Eclipse Award chances. Several horses are nipping at his heels, including Omaha Beach and Maximum Security.
Adding spice to this year’s event is Elate, who will take on the boys after another solid campaign in the older female division. For her connections, the decision to take a shot against the boys looks like a simple one. The 5-year-old mare seems to be a true 1 1/4-mile runner; her three starts at the distance are seemingly the best of her career. As a 3-year-old, she won the Alabama Stakes (G1) by 5 1/2 lengths, then dominated back-to-back editions of the Delaware Handicap (G2) by similar margins. This season, the Bill Mott trainee has won twice in six starts while hitting the board each time.
Mott will also be represented here by Yoshida, who is still searching for his first win this season. Last year, he finished fourth in the Classic, only missing by 1 3/4 lengths. We’ve seen improved performances from him lately, finishing second in the Whitney Stakes and third in the Woodward Stakes (G1). After the Woodward, Mott opted to train Yoshida up to this spot, much like he did last year. He has trained steadily over the Oklahoma Training Track at Saratoga in his final preparations for this event.
Mongolian Groom is another horse of interest coming into the race. He has competed on both coasts this year and picked up the biggest win of his career last time out, taking home the Awesome Again Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park. The 4-year-old colt by Hightail went straight to the front and held off a charge from McKinzie down the lane, winning by 2 1/4 lengths at odds of 25/1. He also finished third in the Pacific Classic (G1) and second in the San Diego Handicap (G2) at Del Mar this season. He seems to be rapidly improving with each start.
Speaking of Del Mar, the John Sadler-trained and Hronis Racing-owned Higher Power picked up an impressive win at that track this summer, winning the Pacific Classic by 5 1/2 lengths. These same connections won last season’s Classic with Accelerate, so it’s great to see them back with another contender here. Higher Power has won two of five starts this season. Most recently, a poor break resulted in a third-place finish in the Awesome Again. He could rebound with a better trip in this spot and has looked good in the mornings while preparing for this start.
The other pre-entries include Math Wizard, Owendale, Seeking the Soul, and War of Will.
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