Every sport has a definitive year-ending event to crown its champions.
In horse racing, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships is the culmination of the horse racing season worldwide and the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic is the defining event of the international racing season.
The Breeders’ Cup Classic, run over 1 1/4 miles, draws a star-studded list of international runners year upon year. This year’s headline act is Accelerate, who enters the 1 ¼-mile Classic off the back of three consecutive Grade 1 wins in California.
Accelerate is set to face a strong group of challengers, including last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic third West Coast, international raiders Roaring Lion and Thunder Snow, and a whole host of talented three-year-olds.
This year the Championships are being held at Churchill Downs over the course of the 2nd and 3rd of November. Let’s take a look at the market principles:
Accelerate enters the Breeders’ Cup Classic off three easy wins in the Grade 1’s this season. He has four career Grade 1 wins, and three wins at the Classic’s mile and a quarter distance.
His one loss, to City of Light in the Oaklawn Handicap back in April, came in his only career start outside of California, so questions do remain over whether he can put it all in elsewhere in the country?
This talented, well-bred colt has shown plenty of potential in his first two starts as a three-year-old, winning the Grade 3 Sham Stakes and then taking the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes, only to be disqualified for bumping.
McKinzie was Bob Baffert’s leading Kentucky Derby contender at the start of 2018 but that plan was shelved after a hind leg injury occurred.
A patient Baffert brought McKinzie back in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby in September where he defeated Axelrod by 1 ¾ lengths and showed no signs of being off the track.
The three-year-old has won three races in a row heading into the Breeders’ Cup, the last two at the Classic’s mile-and-a-quarter distance.
In his most recent start, he returned to the dirt and scored a dominant four-length win over Mendelssohn in the Travers Stakes.
The Kentucky-bred son of More Than Ready has a haul of five wins and one second from eight lifetime starts, with all but one of those wins coming on the turf.
West Coast is winless this year at the age of four, but has three straight runner-up finishes to his name, and impressive ones at that.
Second to Gun Runner in the Pegasus World Cup, to Thunder Snow in the Dubai World Cup, and to Accelerate in the Awesome Again Stakes.
Last season he put together a string of five consecutive victories with his streak only ending when he finished an admirable third in the 2017 Breeders' Cup Classic behind Gun Runner and Collected.
Gary and Mary West’s West Coast, a two-time Grade 1 winner and the reigning Eclipse Award-winning three-year-old male, will retire to stud at William S. Farish’s Lane’s End Farm for the 2019 season.
Trained by John Gosden, the star three-year-old ships to Louisville on a four-race Group 1 winning streak.
Gosden is naturally worried about the kickback which will be a totally alien experience to Roaring Lion.
"It's a massive challenge to race on the dirt," said Gosden. "We don't want a sloppy track. That's a real acquired taste – usually the jockeys with the cleanest silks win, which tells you something.
"But it's actually not so much the surface. I've found down the years the problem is the kickback. What they do is they immediately start climbing as they're not used to it – their breathing gets interrupted. They're not seasoned to it.
"It's unknown waters, and I think it's very brave and bold of the owners. Roaring Lion is probably not expecting to get on a plane – but he's tough enough for it."
If he can handle the surface switch, he has a class advantage over most of this field.
Aidan O’Brien believes that Mendelssohn’s previous experience on the dirt will stand him in good stead for a good crack at the Classic.
The three-year-old colt has come back to peak form after failing to act on a sloppy surface in the Kentucky Derby and has run three decent races since.
In his latest run at Belmont a month ago, he was only beaten two lengths into third place indicating he could make his presence felt in the Classic.
"Everything is good with him so far. We have to be very happy with him. He has had the experience," said O'Brien.
"You try different things but it is a bit different for us from people training in America. We are training over here and going over so we do have to try and learn what does and doesn't work."
Mind Your Biscuits
The five-year-old colt, who has been more known as a sprinter throughout his career, will go after the biggest prize when he runs in the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday.
Mind Your Biscuits, who has won eight of 24 career starts with ten seconds and three third-place finishes. This year, he has two wins and three seconds in five starts.
He won the Grade 1 Golden Shaheen in Dubai for the second straight year at six furlongs and just missed winning the Grade I Met Mile at Belmont by a nose. He then placed second in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga.
Trainer Chad Summers was always convinced Mind Your Biscuits could handle that distance and the horse proved him right when he won the Lukas Classic by 4 3/4 lengths at Churchill Downs at the end of September.
Aidan O’Brien’s Mendelssohn is showing all the signs of being a Breeders’ Cup winner in the making and should give his supporters a good run for their money.
Mind Your Biscuits is showing his versatility this season and must be a great each-way player.
888sport suggests: Mendelssohn and Mind Your Biscuits (e/w).
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*