A 3-year-old Breeders’ Cup Classic winner is not exactly a rarity; in the 30 runnings of the race since 1984, 3-year-olds have won it seven times, and the 1990s saw four sophomores make it to the wire ahead of their elders.
But none has done it since Raven’s Pass in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup, and it’s thought to take an exceptional 3-year-old to start in the United States’ richest race and teach his elders a lesson. Indeed, four who have done it—Sunday Silence (1989), A.P. Indy (1992), Tiznow (2000), and Curlin (2007)—have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. They were also voted Horse of the Year, at least in part on the strength of their Classic wins.
With a just bit more than a week to go to the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Saturday, November 1, this year, the 3-year-olds are grabbing most of the attention, occupying the top five places on Randy Moss’s Classic rankings.
At #1, Shared Belief comes to the race undefeated in seven starts. Sidelined by injury early this year, he missed the Triple Crown but returned in May with the same dominating form he showed as a 2-year-old. Finally seriously tested in his last race, the Awesome Again at Santa Anita on September 27, he showed not just speed but also guts and heart to win by the narrowest margin in his career. The winner of two “Win and You’re In” races—the Pacific Classic at Del Mar and the Awesome Again—he is your likely Classic favorite.
Moving up to #2 off his “Win and You’re In” victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on September 27 is Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist, who, like Shared Belief, is a 3-year-old who has successfully taken on older horses.
Despite two straight losses, including a defeat by Tonalist that denied him the Triple Crown, California Chrome sits at #3. Winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness buys him respect, but a sixth-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby in September, after a fourth-place finish in the Belmont, also raises questions about whether his rigorous campaign in the first half of the year has taken its toll.
Moss puts the speedy Bayern at #4. Two impressive victories in the William Hill Haskell Invitational, a “Win and You’re In” race in July at Monmouth Park, and the Pennsylvania Derby sandwiched a clunker in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August. He finished 10th that day in his only effort at the Classic’s distance of 10 furlongs. His talent is indisputable, but his stamina for the distance may be up for debate.
Rounding out Moss’s top five is Toast of New York. Based in England, “Toast” has raced exclusively on turf and synthetic surfaces; the Classic will be his first start on dirt. The most well-traveled horse in the field, he’ll be making his third trip to the United States since July, when he finished sixth in the inaugural Belmont Derby, coming up with a lung infection that explained his poor performance. He flew west again in August, this time to Del Mar, where he finished an encouraging second to a dominant Shared Belief in the Pacific Classic. Earlier this year, he went to Dubai, where he notched a 2 1/2-length win in the $2 million UAE Derby.
This group of sophomore Classic contenders is rounded out by fellow 3-year-olds V. E. Day, winner of the Grade 1 Travers, and Candy Boy, who shares a sire, Candy Ride, with Shared Belief.
Joining Shared Belief, Tonalist, and Bayern as “Win and You’re In” horses are the 4-year-old Moreno, winner of the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga in August and a son of 2004 Classic winner Ghostzapper; and Majestic Harbor, longshot winner of the Gold Cup at Santa Anita in June.
The rest of the pre-entered horses are Charles Town Classic winner Imperative; Jockey Club Gold Cup runner-up Zivo, bidding to become the first New York-bred to win the Classic; Godolphin Stable’s Footbridge; Cigar Street, who is trained by Bill Mott and whose dam, Arcadiana, is a half-sister to the great Cigar, conditioned by Mott to a win in the 1994 Classic; Big Cazanova, a Group 1 winner in South America; and Prayer for Relief.
Fifteen horses have pre-entered, with entries for the race taken at 1:00 pm Eastern time on Monday, October 27. Only 14 horses can run in the Classic; should the race remain over-subscribed, preference will be given to winners of Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races.
The Breeders’ Cup Classic will be televised on NBC in a one-hour, prime time broadcast from 8:00 to 9:00 pm Eastern time. Coverage of the Breeders’ Cup begins on Friday, October 31 at 5 pm Eastern time with a three-hour NBC Sports Network broadcast that will include the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff, and continues on Saturday with 4 1/2 hours of Breeders’ Cup racing from 3:30 to 8:00 pm Eastern time.
By Teresa Genaro