The highlight of this weekend’s Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs in Saturday’s $6 million Classic with a slated post time of 5:44 p.m. on NBC. Starting this Friday afternoon with a 3:21 p.m. post time for the Juvenile Turf Sprint, this year’s Breeders’ Cup features 14 different races over a two-day run at Churchill with a total of $30 million in prize money up for grabs.
The BC Classic features the ‘best-of-the-best’ in thoroughbred racing and this year’s 16-horse field is about as deep as it gets. I have done my best to break this race down to come up with my top three entries for a winning trifecta play.
2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic - Churchill Downs
The Classic is a Grade 1 stakes race open to three-year-old thoroughbreds and up. It has the highest prize purse of any Breeders’ Cup race at $6 million. This year’s event will be contested on the dirt track at Churchill over a total distance of 1 ¼ miles.
It has been quite a year for famed trainer Bob Baffert highlighted by Justify’s incredible run to the 2018 Triple Crown title. While that champion three-year is enjoying his early retirement, I am going with Baffert’s West Coast as my top pick to win the BC Classic. This four-year-old Kentucky-bred colt will break from the No. 7 post as a 5/1 second-favorite on the morning line odds. Veteran jockey John Velazquez has been tapped to get the ride.
After finishing third in last year’s Classic at Del Mar behind Gun Runner and Collected, West Coast is still looking for his first victory this season. Most recently, he finished second to Accelerate in the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes on Sept. 29 in a 1 1/8 mile run on the dirt at Santa Anita. The sire of Flatter was second to Gun Runner earlier this year in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park. Throw in a second-place finish behind Thunder Snow in the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup in late March and he has been right in the mix in three of the biggest races of the year.
Accelerate has been opened as a 5/2 morning line favorite to win the Classic breaking from the No. 14 post late Saturday afternoon. Trained by John Sadler and ridden by jockey Joel Rosario, this Kentucky-bred five-year-old has been a money maker his entire career. He has really come into his own this year with victories in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita on May 26 and at Del Mar on Aug. 18 in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic ahead of his most recent win at Santa Anita.
This son of Lookin At Lucky has now finished in the money in his last seven major graded events since a disappointing fade to ninth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile. He is more than capable of besting the field again in the Classic, but I have some concerns with the wide outside start at Churchill.
Coming up with a third entry to round out this trifecta pick was no small task. However, in an effort to stretch the odds a bit in a very deep field, I am going with Catholic Boy, who is trained by Jonathan Thomas and ridden by jockey Javier Castellano. He will break from the No. 3 post in the Classic at 8/1 odds on the morning line. I cashed a winning ticket on this three-year-old Kentucky-bred colt in this year’s Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga Park on Aug. 25 over Mendelssohn and Bravazo. He covered the 1 ¼ mile on dirt in 2:01.94.
In early July, he placed first in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby over that same distance on the turf track at Belmont Park. It is rare to find a thoroughbred that is this good on each surface. This pedigree of More than Ready appears to be ready to step up his game and finish in the money competing strongest field he has ever raced against.